Internet Governance Forum Support Association (IGFSA) – Informational session

6 May 2016 11:00h

Event report

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Moderator Mr Markus Kummer (Secretary, Internet Governance Forum Support Association (IGFSA)) spoke about the importance of discussing and supporting the work being done by the IGFSA, an initiative that offers limited funding for national and regional IGFs (NRIs). This initiative is led by people from different stakeholder groups, some of which are part of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and different groups involved in shaping the IGF agenda.

Ms Marilyn Cade (mCADE llc and IGFSA Executive Committee member) said the IGFSA initiative aims to support the commitment of the NRI coordinators themselves to increase the number of national Internet Governance Forums around the world. She said that over the past years, local and regional initiatives and other similar dialogue spaces have increased in almost all regions. In Africa, a unique approach emerged which has first seen the creation of many national initiatives, following by several sub-regional initiatives, and now a more recent continent-wide IGF supported by the African Union. Although the organising structures of the national and sub-regional initiatives are different from the continent-wide IGF, the initiatives co-exist in a peaceful and unique way. Other regions have taken different approaches. The IGFSA supports this kind of bottom-up diversity.

Also, depending on situation in a country or region, the issues and topics vary. For instance, in the developing countries, privacy,  access and capacity building are always a key priority, but in some developed country based NRIs, there may be more of a focus on issues like cybersecurity or the Internet of Things as access is taken for granted. She noted that the IGFSA only funds Initiatives that have met the basic requirements of the IGF itself, and are listed on the IGF Secretariat’s website. Finally, she stressed the importance of discussing Connecting the Next Billion: Phase II.

Mr Jimson Olufuye (Chairman, Africa ICT Alliance) said the IGF has played a very important role in bringing the discussion on the development and regulation of the Internet to countries where they are not talked about it and highlighted the participation and interest of more regional actors. He also said that the IGFSA is bringing good results because it allows a true multistakeholder dialogue between the civil society and the government, especially in developing countries.

Ms Avri Doria (independent researcher) stressed that forums should be used to discuss general issues, but also local issues such as infrastructure or education. She said funding should always be sought with the other actors involved. Like Olufuye, she also insisted that the participation of civil society is essential because, despite being the largest stakeholder, it is more difficult to be represented in discussions on a global level; local forums that promote IGFSA initiative are a good way to cover this absence.

Mr Tarek Kamel (ICANN, IGFSA Executive Committee member) explained that national forums are very useful because organising events of more than 200 people is very complicated and requires more resources than it is possible to spend. He also warned that the IGF is not technically an ‘event’ but a process by which it seeks to confront the different views of stakeholders, not to reach an agreement but to use those discussions as the starting point for creating public policy.

Kummer intervened to remind us that in the last few IGFs there have been many initiatives to involve different actors such as youth, the disabled, indigenous people, etc. After that, a round of questions and answers opened with most focusing on youth participation in governance, how to make the organisation of local forums sustainable, and the convenience of making alliances with governments and private companies to achieve these goals.

In a second round of interventions, panellists talked about how to support the initiative and to request funding and what are the ideal projects funded by this initiative. Kummer invited everyone to sign up to the IGFSA website to request additional information.

by Carlos Guerrero