Host country: Led high-level meeting

5 Dec 2016 16:00h - 19:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

Host Country Moderator Mr Victor Lagunes offered two main areas of discussion for the High Level Host-Led Meeting, to gather the input of officials and experts from around the world. The first topic explored the relevance of the multistakeholder model in order to deal with the challenges that the Internet poses, and the second, the important challenges that remain to be addressed.

While there were important highlights and specific points made by the panel of leaders, there were recurring themes in the analysis of the application of the multistakeholder model to the Internet, the IGF, and bodies that address Internet and policy considerations. High on the list was the need for collaborative co-operation and coordination between all stakeholders, with the multistakeholder model called not just an advantage, but an essential need and a core mission.

The multistakeholder model was seen as an essential enabler, with the need for increased relevant, local content because ‘a vibrant online content creation market brings benefits not only for local users but it can create a spring board for content creators to gain accesses to audiences around the globe allowing them to invest in even more content and drive job growth in the creative sector’ (Ms Dorothy Atwood, Sr Vice-president at Walt Disney).

The multistakeholder model was mentioned as a way to find solutions to many different divides that complicate the challenge of using improved IG policies to achieve the SDGs. These included North/South, gender, rural/urban, economic, social, and other divides. The multistakeholder model was called part of the DNA of the Internet, essential to addressing these divides.

The importance of finding a balance was frequently described, for example, in supporting continuing innovation, but within the stipulations of the UN framework; fostering development without sacrificing security to a market economy; and sharing without marginalising, among others.

Other characteristics cited were the natural affinity of the multistakeholder model to instil respect for diversity, and inclusion of different kinds of organisations; support for dialogue; collaborative work on security; understanding of user and consumer needs; and an environment that promotes a culture of innovation.

Promotion of development was noted through the use of a diverse, free and open Internet for good, where e-commerce contributes to fulfilling a country’s development goals; the opportunity to go beyond consultation, and move to consultative participation; work towards protection and exercise of human rights and freedoms, openness, and sharing, avoiding the use of power by brute force: multistakeholderism offers values that keep the doors open.

Questions abounded, as they were asked by speakers: What kinds are experts are we summoning, and how much influence do they have? How do we address challenges brought about by changes we could not even imagine earlier? What are the incentives behind the behaviours involved at all levels of IG, and how can we change the incentives to change the behaviour and response?

The multistakeholder model was described as being the nature of the Internet, not happening by accident, but building on the free and open source movement of the 20th century. As an example of the multistakeholder model, the IGF was described as offering an extraordinary menu of challenges and viewpoints, while another speaker noted that an additional value is brought by the opportunity to discuss without the need to negotiate.

Practical improvements were also thought to benefit from multistakeholder collaboration, including acceleration of the basic structure for access to the Internet and the physical structure related to provision of goods and services; a level playing field that encourages competition and customer rights; open standards as the key to maintaining one single inter-operative Internet; the need for access to devices, in addition to access to the Internet.

Multistakeholder-related recommendations were also made, noting that universities can provide spaces for connectivity and Internet availability, to reduce the digital divide; cooperative capacity building for new skills, and innovation for use of the Internet as a free, independent space; finding cautious, but urgent solutions; more and wider dissemination of best practices as examples for emulation. Other recommendations suggested: first, do not disconnect the connected – then connect the disconnected.

Local content, languages, and tools for accessibility were often mentioned as significant and indispensable concepts that benefit from multistakeholder co-operation, with IDNs providing non-latin names, and tech/academic /government and civil society co-operation on building applications and promoting local content and even production.

Examples of multistakeholder co-operation and success were numerous, with the IANA stewardship transition referred to by several speakers.

Important elements that still present challenges for what was described as connecting not only the next billion, but the last billion – even the last hundred. Among these were mentioned the critical infrastructure underlying Internet access, such as electricity; and the need to address particular challenges of access for persons with disabilities. A supportive and enabling regulatory environment, as well as regulatory reform to encourage and drive the formation of skills was emphasised.

Related areas that still need more support from Internet resources included e-health, e-commerce, growth of small enterprise, local production.

Security was a serious issue for many speakers, to be solved with multistakeholder approaches to ensure balance and diversity of viewpoints to address different challenges and concerns, with the need for standards being mentioned by several.

In addition to points mentioned in the above summary, the discussion of the second question had clear support for building skills, developing capacity, especially with what one speaker called ‘vigorous’ multistakeholder co-operation. Critical thinking, safe and secure access, encryption, and user skills were mentioned as well as the need for education in the hard sciences, especially for women in a multi-sectoral approach, not just a multistakeholder approach. It was also recognised that it is hard to predict the skills that will be necessary, but that the skills to maintain and operate the Internet system are also indispensable. Skills for multilingual engagement, online teamwork, and resources were underlined.

The audience was called upon to remember that enhancing connectivity is enhancing conditions for the SDGs for our societies, and not to be shy to say enhancing connectivity addresses the quality of life especially for women, indigenous people, refugees, and other vulnerable or marginalised groups.

While it is impossible to detail the wide range of ideas, challenges, and solutions presented, the closing by Lagunes recognised that the progress has been made, but we still have work to do as we seek a more mature conversation, recognising the responsibility of all to work with our multistakeholder resources to connect the last 100 or last 1000, and to close our gaps as we build the Internet ecosystem the new generations will live with.

by Virginia (Ginger) Paque