IGF 2019 – Opening ceremony

26 Nov 2019 12:00h

Event report

The ICANN58 opening ceremony took place 18 years after ICANN held its first meeting. Mr Jean-Jacques Sahel, Vice President, Europe (Global Stakeholder Engagement) at ICANN, started the meeting off by presenting the speakers.

The first speaker was Dr Steve Crocker, Chair of the ICANN Board of Directors, who shared some interesting facts about Denmark, such as it being one of the most connected countries in the world: Danish people are largely accessing the Internet through mobile devices linked to the nation’s 100% 4G cellular systems, which last year facilitated a 97% Internet penetration rate.

Crocker introduced the key topic of the ceremony: transparency. He said that the ICANN Board is increasing its transparency and that they are engaged in a pilot programme to a consider opening some of their sessions. He also mentioned that the organisation’s direction is clear and that their top priorities are to continue strengthening their technical orientation and the security of the domain name system (DNS). Crocker finished off by highlighting the work of the community towards this aim and he emphasised that empathy and mutual respect should be the basis of all discussions.

Ms Mette Bock, Danish Minister for Culture, talked about the use and importance of the Internet for Danish people. She said that the country is in the top ten of the UN ICT development index and that Danish people are the most advanced Internet Users in the European Union. She underlined the key and critical role that ICANN plays in coordinating and developing the DNS. She further remarked on the importance of new accountability mechanisms within ICANN. Bock thanked the community for their work during the IANA stewardship transition process.

Sahel then gave the floor to Prof. Henrik Udsen, Chair of the Danish Internet Forum (DIFO) & DK Hostmaster, who noted that the multistakeholder model is a vital component in creating a robust solution to many challenges that we currently face, both at a national and international level. An example is the fight against Internet crime, in which the DNS plays an important role.

The next speaker was Mr Göran Marby, President and CEO of ICANN, who started off by highlighting the power of the Internet in giving opportunities to people who would otherwise have none. However, he highlighted that users’ needs are changing and that we need to take these needs into account. He went on to share some of the actions that ICANN is taking in order to be more transparent. One of them is the recent creation of the Complaints Office as an additional way for the ICANN organisation to be accountable for and transparent about its performance. Marby explained that it will work with ICANN’s various internal complaints processes to assist improvements and collect data about complaints received across the organisation.

The last speaker was Mr David Conrad, ICANN Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, who announced that on 11 October 2017, ICANN will be changing the root zone key signing key (KSK). Before this happens, DNS operators who have enabled DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) validation must update their configurations. To assist operators, ICANN has launched a testbed for them to determine the readiness to support the KSK rollover.

At the end of the ceremony, participants were treated to a special performance by the Tivoli Youth Guard.

Organised by the IGF Secretariat at United Nations, Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2019 overarching theme this year is ‘One World One Net One Vision’.  IGF 2019 is focusing on data governance, safety and security, and digital inclusion. One core question will be kept in mind during the week: How to ensure an open and free Internet in the future?

In the Opening ceremony in Berlin, the speakers - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed over 2 400 participants.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened his speech by drawing parallels with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in their scientific backgrounds. Guterres remarked that technological developments are unfolding at a historically unparalleled speed. Today, an accessible, free, secure, and open Internet is at risk of fracturing along three intersecting lines. Guterres stated that there are still 3.6 billion people without affordable access to the Internet. Most alarmingly, among the world's 47 least-developed countries, where the Internet could have a truly transformative impact, more than 80% of the population is still offline. And the gender gap in connectivity continues to widen.  

Guterres also addressed the lack of equal access to Internet based on gender, digital divide aggravating the social divide, and issues of human rights related to the new technologies. 

Guterres stated that: "Today there is a real risk of geopolitical rupture, a great fracture of trade security and internet systems. We all are familiar with the politics surrounding 5G technologies. We are also aware of the growing efforts of some states to construct ever harder borders in cyberspace on one hand and the ever-increasing number of cross border cyber-attacks on the other,” adding that "there is an absence of technical expertise among policymakers even in the most developed countries."

He further called for to building platforms for governments, companies, technical experts and civil society can come together to share policy expertise, debate emerging technology issues, agree on some basic common principles. Guterres pointed out the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation on global commitment on digital trust and security, stating that it will be brought forward next September as Member States mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

German Chancellor Ms. Angela Merkel welcomed the participants of IGF2019  stating that IGF is valuable because it is a forum where all of the stakeholders of Internet Governance  come together to exchange experiences, ideas, and basically this is where the analog and the digital world merge.  

"... the attack on the internet connectivity, which is the basic freedom of the free, open internet, has become a dangerous tool for politics,'' said Merkel, adding that protecting the internet's core as "global public good" only works if we rethink "the governance structures of this global network, that connects all of us.'' 

Merkel called for a revision of Internet governance, ie the regulatory framework. The traditional multilateral approach as cooperation between governments must be expanded. The Internet must not and cannot be shaped by governments alone, because the issues surrounding the Internet have an impact on virtually everything - this is why we need a comprehensive dialogue with representatives from all groups, stated Merkel. 

The participants then remembered Dr. Tarek Kamel, Internet pioneer, former Minister of Communication and Information Technology of Egypt. The participants also remembered  Jimmy Schultz member of the Bundestag who worked on systematic changes in IGF by participation of Parliamentarians.

by Mili Semlani