Working Together to Build a Global Internet

September 10, 2014

9th Annual Internet Governance Forum
Istanbul, Turkey – Sep. 1-5, 2014

I spent the past week in Istanbul, Turkey, attending the 9th Annual Internet Governance Forum, which was established by the UN Secretary-General in 2006 to foster the growth of the global Internet.  Over the course of the week, representatives from MPAA member companies and I participated in a host of workshops, events, and meetings large and small.  My biggest takeaway was that all 3,500 participants — governments, academia, the tech community, industry, and civil society — agree on more than I imagined. Yet we have a lot of work to do.

Importantly, there is community-wide consensus on the most pressing issues. We are all in favor of promoting economic development, for example, and supporting local jobs. Online threats continue to rise, increasing the urgency to work together to address cybercrime, including malware and botnets that spread viruses and spam. We agree digital literacy is important. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, regardless of country of origin, which led to heated discussions about freedom of expression and online privacy.  We all support joint efforts to increase broadband capacity.  And who isn’t in favor of creating a trusted online environment, which includes safeguards to protect against financial fraud and identify theft, as well as protect the safety of our children  (e.g. John Carr’s blog: “A safe, secure and sustainable internet and the role of stakeholders.” )

The global Internet community also strongly supports cultural diversity and agrees that promoting the development of local content is essential for continued growth.  The good news is that user-generated content has exploded as a result of social media sites and the development of digital technologies. Films and television programs in native languages that reflect local culture are also in demand.

This is an area where MPAA members can help. Creating content and telling stories is our business. Indeed, the next award-winning narrative might be one told through the eyes of an African child or a woman from the Middle East.  Increasingly, our members are entering new markets and hiring local writers, actors, and directors. These investments have been a big win for local communities: more high-quality jobs plus content that is culturally relevant to the local population.

Building on this theme, MPAA member companies are sponsoring more training programs and providing skills transfer opportunities for local artists and creators.  We are also developing relationships with local producers.  We invited Turkish film and television producers to attend IGF for the first time and were pleased to hear about Magnificent Century and other hit shows that are wildly successful all over the Balkan Region.

We commend the IGF Mulitistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) for recognizing the importance of developing local content and identifying it as an important subtheme for the 9th IGF in Istanbul.  In many ways, it is the demand for great content that is the driving force behind the digital ecosystem.  I was impressed by the attendance and participation in several related workshops, such as Building Local Content Creation Capacity: Lessons Learned and Creating an Enabling Environment for the Development of Local Content.  We shared our experiences and learned from others. For example, we learned that the highest percentage of online Nollywood content is consumed outside the country. This is not just because Nigerian ex-pats are hungry for Nollywood content (although that helps), but because most people in Nigeria don’t have access to broadband infrastructure.

Getting back to where I started, fostering the growth of the global Internet is in everyone’s interest.  If people in Nigeria can’t access Nollywood content online, they can’t access online Hollywood content either.  The same is true for Bollywood content in India, where broadband population penetration is less than 2%.

The content industry has been working with the technical community and other stakeholders to accomplish our shared goals. But clearly there is much more work to be done.