A major United Nations summit on the information society due to take place in December could be the spark for international talks on regulations covering cyberspace and encompassing tax, freedom of speech, intellectual property rights and privacy, the secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said Monday.
Yoshio Utsumi hopes nations attending the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) will agree on the need for an international legal framework for cyberspace, he said in an interview with IDG News Service. "These issues are big issues in my opinion. Without solving these issues, the free, secure use of cyberspace will not be possible," he said.
"We need a common framework or regulatory regime because [the information society] is borderless, and we have to create this new framework," he said. "I am not intending to solve any specific problem with this conference but to [get agreement on] a shared view that we have to solve the problem of [issues such as] taxation, cybercrime or confidence in the Internet."
He was speaking at a three-day conference that began on Monday in Tokyo and brings together representatives of governments, private companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from across Asia. It is one of a number of regional events being held in the run-up to the second preparatory meeting for the WSIS conference. The preparatory meeting will take place in Geneva in February.
Utsumi hopes a commitment to work on such a framework will be included in the declaration of principles and action plan that will come out of the WSIS conference, he said. He does not envisage discussion on specific issues taking place at the conference, rather that the event will be a spark for later talks.
"Maybe, for example in the case of taxation, [the action plan will say] let's solve the problem by such and such a date in the discussion of such and such meetings," he said. "I don't know how well the summit will be able to make an action plan. If it is very detailed I will be very happy but if the summit cannot go into detail then it becomes very abstract."
Utsumi is due to repeat his call for work on a legislative framework for cyberspace at a keynote speech to be delivered on Tuesday, according to a draft copy of the speech obtained by IDG News Service.
A draft of the final declaration of the Tokyo conference expresses support for Utsumi's position. It notes the need for governments to create an appropriate legal, regulatory and policy framework "based on due consideration of human rights in areas such as privacy, security and consumer protection while also maintaining economic incentives and ensuring trust and confidence for business activities." The draft also calls for the creation of a forum for resolution of disputes alongside traditional judicial proceedings.
The draft adds support for intellectual property rights and the need for increased awareness of information security issues.
The final version of the declaration is expected to be approved on Wednesday as the conference closes after a round of discussion on Tuesday afternoon.