In just over a decade, cyberspace has completely changed the way we live and work. Access has grown from 16 million internet users in 1995 to nearly 2 billion today, more than half of whom are in developing countries. On November 1st and 2nd, we will be hosting the London Conference on Cyberspace. The first of its kind, it will be a high profile event attended by the Foreign Secretary, Hillary Clinton, and high level delegates from over sixty countries.
The rapid development of a globally networked world offers enormous opportunities as well as challenges. When he announced the Conference, the Foreign Secretary said “We have a shared responsibility to address the challenges presented by the networked world…It is vital that cyberspace remains a safe and trusted environment in which to operate. This can only be done effectively through international cooperation, engaging both the public and private sectors.”
Concentrating on five themes, economic growth and development, social benefits, cyber crime, safe and reliable access and international security, the conference will be an opportunity to discuss the many issues surrounding cyberspace with high level diplomatic and private sector partners as well as representatives from academia, NGOs and members of the public.
At Autumn Conference this year, Liberal Democrat members endorsed the policy paper on Stimulating Growth in the Digital Economy. As described in the paper, we have long stood by the belief that “…Information Technology has the power to transform our society by empowering citizens, improving and extending services, creating new businesses and enabling innovation.” The excellent paper, work on which was led by my colleague Julian Huppert, also sets out how we will be working to reform legislation to avoid unnecessary curbs on freedom of expression.
I also have a personal interest in this area.
As part of my work in the Foreign Office, I chair the Human Rights Advisory Sub-Group on Freedom of Expression on the Internet. This is a group of NGOs, academics and industry representatives who meet to discuss how the Foreign Office and wider government can work to tackle issues and concerns surrounding the subject. The last meeting in early October discussed how we can work for a safer and more resilient cyberspace without compromising our individual liberties and freedom of expression.
I will be attending the conference with great interest and look forward to chairing a panel and attending various events. The wider cyberspace community will also be able to take part in the debate by contributing their views in the run up to and during the Conference to help inform the discussion at the Conference. You will have the opportunity to ask senior representatives from government, business and civil society your questions and our team of digital rapporteurs will put a representative selection of the questions to the speakers and chairs of the panels during the London Conference on Cyberspace.
To ask a question or make a comment, visit the Foreign Secretary’s Facebook page or tweet us using the hashtag #LondonCyber and our dedicated twitter account @LondonCyber. For more general information on the conference, please visit the Foreign Office website.