On May 4, President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj delivered opening remarks at the Fifth Annual Freedom Online Conference, hosted by the current FOC Chair – Mongolia. The Freedom Online Conference is scheduled to take place in Ulaanbaatar on the 4th and 5th of May.

In his remarks, President Elbegdorj noted:

I am truthfully delighted to host you in my country, in our capital city. I think this is the most exciting conference I have ever opened. Online freedom is a very pressing issue. My country is truly proud to be one of the founding members of this Freedom Online Coalition. We know that this Freedom Online Coalition is a well positioned, inter-governmental and multi stakeholder institution. I think this is indeed a really timely established institution.

Now I would like to recall some numbers. These numbers are very revealing. In Mongolia, we have 3 million people, 2 million internet users and more than 34 thousand kilometers of fiber optic lines. In my country, there are 5 million mobile phone users, mobile subscribers and of which 1.5 million are smart phone users. I remember that in my early childhood, in order to make a phone call we had to go to the postal office. In order to make an ordinary phone call to friends or relatives we had to go sometimes to our neighbors who had a phone set. In order to make a phone call to other countries we had to go prior 24 hours or 48 hours to the Central Post office. This was just 25 years ago.

I was born and raised in a herdsman’s family. It took almost 24 hours when we had to go to hospital and see a doctor. We had to take an additional horse to bring the doctor. But now it takes a single phone call. If you have got high fever you can call a local doctor and ask for medical treatment.

The world has completely changed. Just as I am speaking here, within only a minute, already 5 hundred thousand pages have been viewed, 47 million instant messages have been sent, 12 million LEDs have already been displayed, four hundred thousand tweets have already been posted, 4.3 million pieces of Facebook content have been shared and 8 million messages have been sent on Facebook. Books and other actives worth hundred and sixty million dollars sold at within a minute. Within a minute, 4 million searches have been made in Google and 138 thousand hours of video have been watched on YouTube. This is really amazing.

We all know that online freedom has no owner. Online freedom is a global commodity. Online freedom has not come from outer space. It was sown by human ingenuity. We have to enjoy this valuable commodity all over the world. Internet did not come to this world by accident, but it came by desire as a global structure. I am sure that human intelligence can handle the challenges that we are facing in terms of online freedom.

We shall not forget and shall always strive for more openness, more innovation and more collaboration. I know there are many legal issues and security challenges in terms of the cyber data, cyber media and cyber communications. Even the most open countries and open governments become paranoid with online freedom. I think there is some kind of global warming going on in online hemisphere. Online freedom is an essential and inseparable part of the universal human rights. National security should never be deployed as an excuse for politically motivated restrictions whose real purpose is to restrict freedom of expression. Even in my country, from time to time we see some similar examples of conduct. It is said that there are some Ministers became victims to defamation and that some people were criticized and even some of them sued for court.

Despite all, we have to pursue and to be persistent with the openness of internet and the global technology. We have to continue to use it. In terms of the Government, in my opinion, we have to consider human rights when handling the online freedom issue, we must maintain the rule of law and we have to uphold for the principles of transparency. These three things are the priority essentials. As an individual or an internet user, people should take responsibility for their steps. Secondly, the moral imperative is very essential. Your children may see what you have posted on internet or Facebook. Thirdly, creative collaboration is a very central issue. You can solve any problem through creative collaboration.

Problems can be addressed through the power of freedom and democracy not through the Government. We must provide more power, opportunities and right to speak to the people. When people enjoy more rights and freedom they tend to become more creative. Hence, when they become more creative they become more responsible. Today people are becoming more knowledgeable, and when they become more knowledgeable they become more demanding. As such, the government should be more responsive to the people aspirations and be consistent with the rule of law. You must invest in human capital.

I think that democracy is a learning process. But how can you learn if you suppress freedom of expression. People have the right to be suspicious and express their concerns. The beauty of our society is in providing of this opportunity to our people. We shall continue to protect this right.

There are many challenges in issue of online freedom and I would like to remind three of them. Today it is in fact very easy to organize social movements but it is truly hard to win it over. I was one of the organizers of the democratic movement that took place 26 years ago in this country. All the social movements of 1990’s succeeded, but most of these movements, for instance, the so-called the Arab Spring of 2000’s eventually failed. When we organized the democratic movement, we had only one TV station, a radio station and six newspapers. Governance of this country that existed 20 year ago very much differ from and the one that exist today. Social movements of the 2000’s have managed to change the ruling class, only. But it did not change the society. The society and the people were already changed.

I think the government is like a computer hardware that never changes. Whilst people are similar to computer software which quite often changes. You cannot solve today’s problem by utilizing yesterday’s tools. Now I will show you one of the first mobile phones. Today, mobile phones are becoming much smaller, smarter and user friendly despite their increased functions. But the governments tend to grow larger, become more sluggish and more distant. In 2013, I have introduced an initiative “From a Big Government to a Smart Government”. I see today’s information technology and new technology advancements as a partner for development.

Online freedom has become an essential part of human, social and economic development. The third, when people become more knowledgeable they become more demanding. Hence governments should be more open and you have to count on that. A country will benefit from online freedom. Online freedom, information technology is our partner. Governments should not see information technology advancement as a challenge. I used to say and stick to it now: “Do not rush to take drastic actions restricting online freedom”. The online world has its own healing system. Don’t try to bring harmful laws or decisions that may restrict online freedom.

I would like to call on all the heads of states and leaders of other countries to accept this reality, learn to live with it and support it. I am truly looking forward and expect great outcome from this conference. We know that the United Nations will have this issue on high agenda and that there will be numerous good initiatives related to implementation of online freedom. Mongolia should become the champion initiating good ideas for protection of online freedom. I think there should be a global act on virtual freedom. We must begin drafting this act. As online freedom is an inseparable part of the universal human rights, human life and society advancement. Thank you for your attention.