“What would the Internet be in the next 20 years?” This was the main question that was raised during a recent technology invitation-only forum celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Internet in the Philippines, hosted by Judith Duavit-Vazquez, the first Asian female board member of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
While the rest of the Philippines celebrated achievements of what the last 20 years were for the country’s Internet infrastructure, leaders of the national government, business sector, and academic institutions opted to take a visionary view of the Philippine Internet, with emphasis on its challenges.
The Philippines connected to the Internet on March 29, 1994.
At the forum “Anticipating the Next 20 Years of the Philippine Internet,” pundits took on higher-level issues that are beyond just mere local link speed. The high-level event dealt more on policies governing the management, deployment, business and legal-ethical considerations of the Internet infrastructure in the country and how it relates to the rest of the world.
Vazquez, who is also referred to as the “Godmother of the Philippine Internet” opened the event saying, “Today we celebrate not an experimental dial-up to no-where in 1994, but the 2014 Global Internet: An ecosystem of vertical dependencies that cut across real estate, power, telecommunication networks, data centers, virtual address directories unseen to the human eye under watchful stewardship of multi-stakeholders… content providers and consumers. Users, we are all.”
Vazquez, a long-time board member of GMA Network Inc. and founder/ chairman of PHCOLO Inc., underlined the complexity and multi-facetedness of the global Internet. “In a brief 20 years, unprecedented in communications take-up history, the Public Internet has one and a half billion users today. Four and a half billion to go… It can no longer be simply about the small letter “i” the individual. The complexity… multifacetedness of this global man-made domain of links and electronic equipment requires the leadership of WE.”
She emphasized this by quoting Admiral Hank Bond of the US CyberCom, ”Technology is evolving faster than institutions are able to cope, creating a myriad of issues.” What was e-commerce, is emerging to be e-friction. It is time to talk.”
The event was composed of three fora. The first was “Internet Governance.” Judith introduced the history of ICANN, the global governing body of the Internet. “ICANN is a non-profit USA based for mutual-benefit organisation that was created in 1998 by the Clinton Administration to assume certain Internet functions then directly under the US Department of Commerce. Today, ICANN manages the sensitive and critical IANA Function under oversight of the US Government’s NTIA.”
This panel included Kuek Yu-Chang, ICANN Vice President for Global Stakeholder Engagement (Asia Region), Jia-Rong Low, ICANN Head of Strategy and Initiatives for Asia Pacific and Sanjaya, Deputy Director General, Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), the A-P region’s Internet Numbers Registry. At this track, and through four intriguing slides, Kuek underlined the boundaries of ICANN and APNIC governance to the logical layer of the Internet. “We do not write or manage policies on content,” he emphasized. “Nor do we touch the physical layer.”
Vazquez said that the goal of the forum is to bring into a single room a cross-section of leaders in Philippine Internet policy-making, business, socio-economic development and media- representing public interest.
“A quality conversation is sparked by the right questions. Today, we set aside individual interests in favour of a national Internet agenda quest for the Philippines.”
One of the questions raised was on the supposed “USA ownership” of the Internet. As explained by Kuek Yu-Chang, there is not one organisation that has absolute control over the Internet. Instead, a multi-stakeholder partnership composed of those in business, government, private organizations and academe enable the global Internet to thrive as a single infrastructure. “In fact, 130 organisations coordinate to permit the Internet’s seamless technical layer.”
Kuek’s statements are timely as the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under the US Department of Commerce, has announced its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to ICANN, with emphasis on the roles played by NTIA in: The coordination of the Internet’s domian name system (DNS); procedural role in administering changes to the authoritative root zone file and its overall stewardship.
Sovereign law and enforcement
Significantly, the sensitive issue of “Sovereign Law and Enforcement in the Open, Global, Free and Public Internet” was tackled in the second forum with the Philippine Cybercrime Law and Data Privacy Act taking center stage.
This high-powered forum was chaired by Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban (ret). with Rep. Susan Yap, House of Representative, one of the authors of the “Cybercrime Prevention Act” and author of the “Data Privacy Act”; Police Senior Superintendent Deputy Director Arnold Gunnacao, Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group; Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Cyber Crime lead; and Drexx Laggui, an acknowledged Information Security authority in Asia-Pacific.
Chief Justice Panganiban made a compelling analogy of the Internet to “time.” Underlining that time and the Internet have similar characteristics of being unseen to the naked eye with common globally accepted characteristics, yet user controlled. He made note of the push-back to Internet related laws by saying, “Opposition is an important facet of democracy.”
He also stressed the dilemma that the Internet is not fully understood even by the government. “It’ll be hard to control something that nobody understands. Like AIR. However, I hope to see more people getting involved in making policies that protect individual liberties without holding back the growth of the Internet.” This was seconded by PSPT. Gunnacao who said that it is difficult to secure a police warrant from a judge or gather evidence around a computer-related crime. “Education is key to cyber crime. We need to educate our judges and crime fighters.”
Congresswoman Yap clarified that the law itself was a reaction to what was happening to the public, particularly those who have been attacked online. She stressed that while there are abuses on the Internet, there should be people who must step in to protect the rights of others.
Asec. Sy noted the growing number of cybercrimes in the Philippines. “There is at least one legitimate complaint reported to the DOJ daily,” he said. “On the concept of regulation of the Internet, I submit that this should be taken in proper context. As individuals, we exercise regulation or control in everyday lives, we diet, etc. Without this control, we would not be a success.”
Drexx Laggui said that he is a participant in the formation of the DOJ Forensics Manual, which is underway. “The challenge of cyber is the large cost in time and equipment needed to investigate and collect evidence.”
Business of digital
The third forum was “The Business of Digital”. This was kicked off by Christopher Mondini, ICANN Vice President for Global Business Engagement. He presented an insightful ICANN commissioned study by the Boston Consulting Group entitled “Greasing the Wheels of an Internet Economy.”
The panelists, which included top executives from such companies as ABS-CBN, the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Company (PLDT), and PhilWeb Corp, spoke about the changing landscape of e-commerce in the Philippines and what are needed to ensure that growth would benefit all sectors of society.
Juan Victor Hernandez, First Vice President of PLDT ALPHA Enterprise, said building a digital network infrastructure would not have happened if it wasn’t for the increasing demands of companies. But while many companies use the Internet for corporate communication, there are still many companies who are still unable to change and adapt to technology.
Hernandez said that young entrepreneurs must take the lead in ensuring that digital commerce in the country prospers. “If I am to imagine a future, it would be outside of our offices; it’s going to be those young ‘millennials’ who are able to utilize the Internet for business.”
A question from the floor on the impact of business ethics to the Philippine Internet drew response from Dick Chiang, president of DCOM, the Digital Commerce Association of the Philippines. He said that his own firm Dragonpay, an alternative online payment company, was itself a victim of bad business practice.
“Our entire website, processes and documents were copied by a nascent competitor. There are new sites that peddle goods, not to deliver them.”
Michael Palacios, president of IMMAP, the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines cited the importance of basic business education and networking to young entrepreneurs. “Our organisation connects web players to digital advertisers. Trust is an important element to the Internet.”
Donald Patrick Lim, ABS-CBN Chief Digital Officer, said that one’s success in doing business using the Internet is based on scale. Having done digital marketing for many of ABS-CBN’s businesses, Lim said having that link between the market and the service is a goal in itself.
“A digital strategy has a physical component,”Judith seconded Donald’s advice to Philippine ‘Netrepreneurs’.
“The Internet is a single global platform. Therefore, it is assumed that a viable business on the Internet has scale and a large audience. I would advice burgeoning entrepreneurs this: Strategize and do beyond the Philippine local market. At the very least include overseas Filipinos and the ASEAN Region.”