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The annual Stockholm Internet Forum opened here on Tuesday, with more than 450 participants from 90 countries calling on multinational companies to provide cheap and accessible Internet facilities to developing nations. With projections of Internet usage set to increase to three billion users in the world by the end of this year, two thirds of the users are expected to come from developing nations, particularly Africa.

Officially opening the forum, Swedish Minister of Information Technology and Energy Ms Anna-Karin Hatt said Internet had become one of the greatest global drivers for economic and social development, a process that needed to be supported by Internet providers through the provision of cheap and accessible services.

“Today, more and more people work in the Internet economy and our global economy grows ger as digital activities increase,” she said.

“One of the most important tasks that we have today is to stress how important the multi-stakeholder process has been to ensure the success of the Internet and how it contributes to prosperity and social development.

“It has been proved so many times that when Internet penetration increases, so does the GDP and economic and social development. But if we can present an even clearer link between the open Internet community and economic development, I believe that more countries will embrace the current system or Internet governance.”

Ms Hatt said Internet governance and surveillance issues were sensitive but critical aspects of Internet usage that would be best left to individual countries because of the complexity and variance of issues that were often at play.

“If surveillance should be allowed and accepted it must be transparent laws and it must be proportional to the benefits it brings in terms of reduced criminality and improved security,” she said.

“And checks and balances must be in place.”

The two-day forum looked at a wide range of issues that included the use of information communication technologies by women, Internet penetration in developing nations, particularly in Africa, managing data collection, limited Internet privacy and threat of cyber crime on nations across the world.

Source : The Herald