The NetMundial, held in São Paulo, Brasil, 23-24 April 2014, wasn't a “business as usual” Internet governance meeting, but was borne out of outrage about mass surveillance and the economic espionage revealed by Edward Snowden.
President Dilma Rousseff of Brasil called the meeting to try to shift the terms of the debate and the governance status quo. She invited the world to come to São Paulo to do two things:
1. Forge new principles to underpin Internet governance
2. Create a Roadmap for future Internet governance mechanisms
The Brasilian government also organised a parallel event called ArenaNetMundial at the São Paulo Cultural Centre to engage activists, students and interested people of São Paulo, which also took on an ambitious social media consultation and outreach effort.
In total, there were more than 1480 participants, including representatives of 70 governments. I was one of the 12 Thoughtworkers fortunate enough to attend. Our team participated at both the NetMundial and ArenaNetMundial centres. We participated in three of the four sectors the meeting was divided into: private sector, technical and academic community and civil society.
The end result? While we did not reach consensus among all nations about the best way to govern the Internet—a global commons and public good—this meeting made clear the pervasive concern about the danger that surveillance poses to the sovereignty of countries, the rights of peoples and the free flow of flourishing and diverse culture.
Thoughtworks Chairman and Founder Roy Singham explained, “NETMundial marks a turning point–people from all over the world stood up united to claim the Internet as our own and voice a collective determination to make the Internet safe for future generations to learn, create and share information with their human right to privacy guaranteed.
“Although two days is not nearly enough time to recalibrate relationships in cyberspace, both between states and citizens as well as between states themselves, NETMundial has ignited the conversation about protecting the transformative gifts of the global Internet, which is still under very real existential threat.”