Neelie Kroes, the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, gave a speech at the World Wide Web Conference 2012 in Lyon, France. In the speech she called on both governments and people to be ready to approach and protect the openness of the web.
Kroes managed to touch on just about every divisive subject and question currently facing the internet. She comes down on the side of openness on the issue of consumer choice. She sees how, time and again, “walled gardens” on the internet have failed and how needless they are. She opposes net neutrality and doesn’t think ISP’s should be able to limit the web in any way.
Kroes sees openness as inevitable, but also sees the obstacles to that goal:
“The benefits of openness are clear. And when it’s as simple as an oppressive government trying to turn off the Internet, it’s clear that we need to do what we can to prevent that.
“But in other cases, achieving openness is not always so straightforward.
“Sometimes the problem is ancient, pre-digital rules that we need to cut back or make more flexible. Other times, openness actually flows from strengthening regulation.
“And sometimes it’s not about changing the rules at all, but about changing a mindset. People need to realise: they don’t have to look backwards to the constraints and habits of the past; they can look forward to the open opportunities of the future. But that can take time.”
Though Kroes is worried that putting too many limitations on the web could stifle “innovation and discovery,” she was careful to cover her political bases on the privacy issue. She stressed that “openness does not come at the expense of privacy or safety.” She believes that rights, responsibility, and the rule of low exist online as much as they do in our normal lives.
Kroes seems sincere in her desires for openness, and she has been campaigning for open standards in all kinds of industries for a while now. She even has a YouTube channel filled with speeches on openness. So what do you think? Does she have the internet’s best interests at heart or is she making a smart, populist play for political gain? Let me know in the comments section below.