Highlights from Day 0
Although officially not part of the IGF programme, Day 0 was packed with sessions, which we summarise below. A few announcements also marked the day.
The Just Net Coalition launched its Digital Justice Manifesto: A Call to Own Our Digital Future to facilitate civil society and social movements dealing with trade, labour, development, the environment, and other issues. The World Wide Web Foundation launched its Contract for the Web – a set of nine principles, mostly related to human rights and inclusion – following a first draft in July. The German government officially pledged €1 million for the IGF over the next three years; a welcome support that will hopefully encourage others to follow suit.
Infrastructure and emerging technologies: Overcoming the hype
As the Internet continues to evolve and converge with other technologies, we have to ask: Is the underlying infrastructure robust enough to support new services and applications? The Domain Name System (DNS), for example, is increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and measures have to be taken on a continuous basis to protect its security and stability, while also ensuring its openness and global reach.
There is a lot of hype around emerging and advanced technologies – blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), 5G – and the promises they hold. But for these promises to become reality, many elements need to come together. The deployment of 5G requires investments and regulatory support; the success of the IoT is very much dependant on security issues; blockchain needs to prove its usefulness in more areas (e.g. digital identity, automatising contracts). As for AI, we have heard it many times: It can improve people's lives and help solve some of humanity's most pressing problems. But how do we make this happen?
First, more people need to be empowered to use AI tools, and to develop new ones. Schools need to focus more on making sure that the young generations have AI-related skills, from coding, to the ability to manipulate large amounts of data and the capacity to think across silos. Capacity development at the local level is also crucial: communities need to be enabled to make use of AI to solve local problems. And let us not forget about the gender inclusion issue: There is space for more women to participate in the development of AI.
Then, we have to look at whether the benefits of AI are/will be evenly distributed across the globe. Does the Global South, for example, have the same chances of benefiting from AI as the North? Most likely not, but assistance from developed countries and international organisations can help. For instance, the UN Global Pulse and the FAIR Forward Initiative of the German Society for International Cooperation are supporting countries such as Kenya and Uganda to develop national strategies for AI and other advanced technologies.
It is encouraging that more and more governments understand the potential of AI and are willing to take steps towards ensuring that their countries explore this potential, as recently demonstrated by the 2019 Sharm el Sheikh declaration, focusing on the African Digital Transformation Strategy on AI and emerging technologies.
What about the challenges associated with the growing use of AI in online services? This starts with understanding the challenges properly. Take algorithmic decision-making: more research needs to be carried out to understand the related risks, including those related to bias and discrimination. Promoting more awareness among users can help everyone understand what automated decision-making entails; being more transparent about how these systems work; and developing ethical and rights-based regulatory approaches, are also required.
Cybersecurity: Dealing with the scale of cyberattacks
The scale and urgency of cybersecurity is clear: In Germany alone, 50 to 100 million attacks take place every day, resulting in annual losses of over €1 billion.
The security of emerging technologies, such as 5G, is of particular concern. So is the robustness, comprehensibility, and functionality of AI deployed in companies, particularly in the airline and automotive industries, and in healthcare, where the safety of AI is critical.
New services and technologies, like the IoT and AI, create enormous pools of data and metadata about users, generating string digital footprints that can be used and analysed by third parties without the knowledge of users. Children’s digital footprints can be misused for harassment, bullying, or identity theft. In addition, kids’ online behaviour is shaped by the illusion of being safe in the ‘online playground’.
In the discussions, suggested measures included global standards for security, due diligence processes, quality parameters to monitor the compliance of safety rules, and encryption for data protection. Regulatory policies need to be flexible, in the form of a ‘light touch’. Safer use of the Internet requires digital inclusion and digital literacy skills, which would develop digital competences such as managing online identities and privacy, avoiding bullying, and developing empathy online.
Ethical considerations need to be addressed differently. For instance, government-issued labels and certificates to AI-enabled technologies could help reassure consumers that products are safe. To support this, a certification and technical standards to classify AI-enabled technology would need to be developed. Some countries, such as Canada, however, place more emphasis on universally accepted human rights rather than ethics (which may differ across cultures).
Are companies reporting their vulnerabilities? While there has been relative progress over the last decades, reports are limited due to concerns over business interests. This could be improved by creating trusted processes for submitting and managing vulnerability reports.
Cybersecurity requires multistakeholder action and participation. In addition to adopting and implementing laws, governments have an important role in building security awareness, and in supporting the participation of least-represented actors in multistakeholder processes like global, regional, and national IGFs. Civil society organisations can help shape public opinion that may lead to bottom-up pressure on governments and public institutions.
The role of whistleblowers is very important as well, although their legal protection needs to be strengthened. The private and technical sector are implementers of many cybersecurity activities. They also contribute to evidence-based policymaking by providing information and expertise on cybersecurity to governments and the general public.
Collaboration among different stakeholders – such as through the TechAccord, the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, or the Digital Trust Forum – can foster community building and problem-solving in which common interests are pursued.
Human rights: Making younger voices heard
How to ensure that human rights are upheld, while maintaining a secure online space, and fostering innovation, has been one of the perennial issues discussed by the digital policy community, including during yesterday’s discussions. Concerns over the human rights implications of emerging technologies, newer practices such as micro-targeting, and increasing threats for children, led speakers – including young IGF participants – to launch calls for more decisive action.
Reflecting on the right to privacy, participants reiterated the users’ right to be in control of their data. The right to data portability – the ability of users to move their data from one service provider to another when switching services, and enshrined in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – is still facing challenges in implementation, due to lack of awareness, and the lack of interoperable standards among service providers.
Protecting children’s rights in the digital age requires more attention. Rights such as access to information, freedom of expression and the right to be heard are as (or more) important for children as they are for adults. In the eyes of children and young adults, the Internet carries many advantages, including easier communication, access to education, and opportunities to exercise their rights. But they admit they face difficulties in fully understanding data protection rules and online dangers, if they are not explained in simple language.
The voices of young people are less heard in Internet-related decision-making processes. And they face barriers to participating effectively in digital policy discussions. Decision makers have a responsibility to involve young people, including those from different and underrepresented backgrounds, in meaningful and measurable ways across policy processes.
Government interference and censorship, blocking of access to social media, and the introduction of social media taxes are highly problematic to freedom of the press. Solutions include empowering media networks to stand against censorship, and allocating international funds to support such movements.
The launch of the book Towards a Global Framework for Cyber Peace and Digital Cooperation: An Agenda for the 2020s, which gathers over 60 contributions in response to the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, led speakers to emphasise the need for actionable follow-up to the Panel’s report.
Legal and regulatory issues: A matter of jurisdiction and enforcement?
The global nature of the Internet is at odds with national jurisdictions, resulting in conflicts between laws that make it difficult for service providers to operate across borders. More interoperability is needed between national legal and regulatory frameworks.
As current mechanisms are insufficient in dealing with the conflicts of laws in an effective and timely manner, potential solutions could include adopting new international agreements or establishing an international body to deal with differences in national jurisdictions.
But regulatory challenges come from other places as well. Balancing different values and interests is never an easy task for regulators: Protecting both privacy and security or handling hate speech while preserving freedom of expressions are just two examples. Enforcing regulations in an effective and efficient manner requires more attention, as emphasised by stakeholders from many regions, such as the EU, USA, and the African countries.
Development issues: More concrete action is required
Digital inclusion, as the key development challenge, must be addressed holistically in the context of the Agenda 2030’s commitment to assist developing countries.
The need for digital inclusion is linked to economic exclusion, which predates the Internet, and to structural inequalities. Today, the offline and online worlds are closely connected and cannot be addressed separately. Digital inclusion is also conditioned by content available in local languages and dialects.
The workforce needs to acquire new digital skills - at every level, formal and informal education, as well as life-long learning – to be able to transition to the emerging digital economy. This includes education and training in big data and AI, and gaining interdisciplinary and soft skills.
As a concrete suggestion to connect the next billion and underserved communities, 10-20% of the annual revenue of the private sector could be directed to investment in access and infrastructure. Local and national policies should support community networks as a way to provide affordable access. Digital inclusion gains additional relevance in the case of natural disasters where lack of connectivity and access could affect human lives.
What if the Internet is considered as a commons? Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Barcelona, Spain have spearheaded this approach with success. Such an approach – and similar ones – can also help address political mis-information and politicisation on the Internet.
Additional facilitators for a truly inclusive digital world are social enterprises, community ownership models, and forms of cooperative infrastructure.
Digital public health issues were raised during discussions on Internet pharmacies, developing digital health standards for interoperability across jurisdictions, and the allocation of the Internet top-level domain .pharmacy.
With regard to capacity development, an Internet Governance repository – possibly in the form of a wiki, with subject matter experts to ensure quality – was proposed as a solution to ease newcomers into the world of digital policy, and to assist those seeking information on various digital policy areas.
Economic issues: Data governance in focus
Very few sessions covered economic issues on day 0. Some discussions emphasised the role of digitalisation in promoting economic growth, reducing unemployment, and enabling the achievement of SDGs. Others reflected on data flows as key for the digital economy to expand further, and for small and medium-sized enterprises SMEs to thrive.
SMEs would also benefit from policies that experiment with new solutions, tax laws that favour investments, more efficient government services, modern immigration laws to attract the brightest minds, and an educational system that fosters creative thinkers and stirs a desire for entrepreneurship. In the case of Germany, SMEs also prefer to have their data located in the country, making it easier to enforce privacy and security norms, for example. Some also argue that keeping data in the country leads to a need for more data centres, and thus, more jobs.
Insufficient attention is being paid to policies that promote access to financial services and financial inclusion. Kenya is a successful example of accessible finance, with 50% of the GDP transitioning through mobile financial services.
Openness can facilitate economic growth, especially for new online services. Open standards and data are key components for the sharing economy and interoperable business models. Policymakers play a key role in creating an enabling environment for the growth of the digital economy. Over-regulation needs to be avoided; companies need to be able to try new business models.
Preserving the Internet’s core values and principles
While the future of the Internet and its governance is expected to be prominently discussed this week, this was already among the issues discussed on Day 0.
Will we manage to preserve the Internet’s core values, such as openness and human rights-based values? The main challenge, now and likely in the future, is in the global application of principles and values, given that they are often understood differently across the globe.
This begs the question: If international frameworks of human rights are not implemented consistently at the global level, can we expect Internet principles to be?
Towards a more robust governance architecture
Can the multistakeholder model of Internet governance be improved? Do we need more or less regulation to deal with Internet-related issues? There seems to be more agreement that cyberspace does need to be subjected to some form of regulation. Governance, if handled carefully, need not diminish one’s freedom.
Governance is most effective if carried out in a multistakeholder fashion, making sure that all relevant actors contribute to policy-making processes. Citizens, for example, need to be empowered to contribute to the governance of the Internet. The contribution of academia, tech communities and the private sector is equally important. Ultimately, the multistakeholder approach is seen as a key to ensuring that the governance of the Internet is trustworthy and representative of society.
International cooperation on digital policy matters needs to be strengthened as well. More parliamentarians are needed to contribute to the global debates, as legislators often deal at the national level with issues that are being discussed globally. And maybe new mechanisms can also be designed. The German economic minister, for example, suggested the creation of an ‘Internet 20 group’ – a multistakeholder advisory group for digital ministers and heads of state to help foster a common understanding around shared problems.
It is often said that the IGF itself needs to include more stakeholders and more diversity. And while NETmundial managed to achieve some level of multistakeholder agreement on Internet governance principles, the question of what’s next remains: Five years later, what is being done to implement those principles?
From the IGF corridors
The IGF is a bazaar of ideas, concepts, and, unavoidably, gossip. With free (and excellent) coffee and meals, IGF corridor discussions have already intensified.
The future of the IGF is of concern of many. Will the Panel’s proposal for an IGF Plus work, or do we need an IGF Plus + Plus, requiring many substantive changes?
The Internet Society’s decision to sell the .org registry is dominating many discussions. Is this simply a step intended to ensure the Internet Society’s financial sustainability for the future, or a departure from the core spirit and values of this organisation?
Diplo’s humAInism project is attracting interest. Could this be because of the very popular t-shirts? (And did you get yours yet? Visit us at the booth!)
Day 0’s Most Prominent Issues
Although yesterday’s sessions were officially part of the pre-programme at the IGF (also known as Day 0), there were substantive discussions regarding cybersecurity, human rights, and development issues. So what does the data reveal?
Diplo’s Data Team analysed most of the discussions on Day 0, and found that sociocultural and development issues were the most dominant topics, with 20% and 19% of all sessions discussing topics related to these categories respectively
Economic-related discussions ranked lowest, as only 5% of all sessions dealt with issues regarding e-commerce, the future of work, and more. This does not mean that the rest of the IGF 2019 days will be as bleak. Developments such as Uber’s ban in London, announced yesterday, will grab the attention of many experts.
Going deeper into individual issues and interdisciplinary approaches - such as the multi-stakeholder approach - was by far the most dominant topic of the day. Discussions on trust in the digital space were also quite prevalent.
Privacy and data protection, sustainable development, and capacity development were just as popular - these issues were covered in the High-Level sessions throughout Day 0, and are expected to retain their prominence throughout the week.
What's New at IGF 2019
The 14th Internet Governance Forum, themed One World. One Net. One Vision, officially starts today (Tuesday, Day 1). What stands out at this year’s IGF, and what should we keep on our radar?
This week in Berlin, the Internet governance community comes together to discuss some of the most pressing issues related to the use and evolution of the Internet. Hosted by the government of Germany, the IGF is attracting more interest than ever before with over 5000 ‘approved participants’ this year.
Last year’s IGF in Paris was an unusually short one, spanning only three days. The forum is now back to its traditional format: A Day 0 for pre-events and four full days with dozens of workshops, main sessions, open forums, dynamic coalition meetings, and more. This means that there’s more to catch up with (and here’s how to do that). What else is new?
High-level participation: Guterres and Merkel at IGF2019
In line with the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, the IGF is convened by the UN Secretary-General. Yet, last year was the first year that the Secretary-General attended the meeting in person. You may recall António Guterres opening the forum with French President Emanuel Macron. In Paris, Guterres also encouraged the community to reflect on how the IGF could have a greater impact in Internet governance, and reiterated his and the UN’s support in the ‘ journey towards a prosperous, safe and fair digital future’.
The UN Secretary-General will open the IGF this year together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s a strong signal for the IGF to have the meeting start on such a high note, and to have day 0 and day 1 packed with so many high-level sessions.
Bringing parliamentarians to the table
One key stakeholder group that has been rather absent in recent years comprises members of national parliaments. Since parliaments are the entities responsible for enacting laws dealing with Internet-related issues, having parliamentarians engaged in discussions can certainly help inform law-making processes.
This year, the host country has put considerable effort into bringing the IGF to the attention of parliamentarians. Many MPs are joining the Berlin meeting with a main session dedicated to discussions on Internet-related legislative processes.
Three main themes
There have been many calls over the years for the IGF meetings to be more focused. To respond to these calls, the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) has tried a new approach by identifying three main themes following a call for issues launched at the start of the planning process:
- Data governance
- Digital inclusion
- Safety, security, stability, and resilience
Most of the IGF workshops and sessions address these three themes. For each of these themes, there is an introductory session to set the scene for all the discussions happening throughout the week, and a concluding session to reflect on these discussions.
Is this approach effective? The programme certainly looks more focused, albeit still quite broad. ‘Safety, security, stability, and resilience’, for example, includes sessions dealing with the security of the Domain Name System (DNS), 5G and trade, Internet of Things security, online disinformation, hate speech, child safety, confidence building in cyberspace, cyber norms, digital sovereignty, etc. The meeting itself and the summaries and reports that follow should tell us more about the content, depth, and focus of the discussions.
Towards an IGF Plus?
Earlier this year, the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation released a report which, among other provisions, recommends that the UN Secretary-General facilitate ‘an agile and open consultation process to develop updated mechanisms for global digital cooperation’ (Recommendation 5). The report also outlines three possible models for strengthened digital co-operation, one of them being an IGF Plus mechanism to ‘build on the IGF’s strengths’ and ‘address its current shortcomings’.
Recommendation 5 and the IGF Plus model will be the focus of a main session in Berlin. The session is framed as an open consultation with the IGF community, and participants from all stakeholder groups are invited to share their views. These will then be reflected in key messages to be submitted to the UN Secretary-General.
This session will certainly be interesting to follow. Do stakeholders find the IGF Plus model feasible and useful? What would it take to put it into practice (from stakeholder support, to funding)? If implemented, will this model indeed act as a catalyst for enhanced digital co-operation? Some answers have already been provided in response to an online public consultation process co-ordinated by the IGF Secretariat. Some of the contributions note that the main advantage of the IGF Plus model (over the other two proposed mechanisms) is that it builds on an existing structure; stakeholders are already familiar with this platform, which also has ‘plenty of learnings [sic] that can inform what needs to change and how’.
Efforts towards broader inclusion
One recurrent criticism of the IGF is that it needs to focus more on bringing to the table voices that have been traditionally less represented. This year, some new efforts have been made in this direction, as a travel support programme was put in place to allow more stakeholders from developing countries to participate in the meeting.
The Youth IGF Summit which took place on day 0 is also worth mentioning. Organised by the German Informatics Society, with the support of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, the forum welcomed over 100 young people from around the world, and created a space for young people to voice their concerns and recommendations.
KEEPING TRACK OF EVERY DISCUSSION: OUR JUST-IN-TIME REPORTS, BRIEFS, and APP
As usual, the IGF week will be busy for everyone, whether we participate in Berlin or online. The schedule is jam-packed with simultaneous sessions, making it difficult to digest the discussions.
The GIP Digital Watch observatory and DiploFoundation have teamed up with the IGF 2019 host country and the Internet Society, with support from the Swiss authorities, to provide just-in-time reporting and help everyone keep up with the discussions in Berlin. Here are the tools you can use:
- Reports from most IGF sessions are available within hours of their conclusion on our dedicated page – dig.watch/igf2019. We are also producing IGF Daily Briefs (the one you are reading now is the first issue) summarising the main themes of the day alongside topic analyses, data mining, and visualisations. A final report, published after the IGF meeting, will include a thematic summary of the discussions. Our content is complemented by natural language processing, run by Diplo’s AI Lab, and data analysis by Diplo’s Data Team. AI and data are aiding the work of our experts to provide you with the most topical insights.
- You may be used to our paper daily briefs, from previous IGFs. This time, we’ve replaced paper with a mobile app: download our 'DW Just-In-Time reporting' app (available on the and on ), where you can read session reports and Daily Briefs on-the-go.
- If you’re in Berlin, visit us at the booth, and follow us on twitter.com/GenevaGIP for additional material.
Data Analysis: A Look Back at Previous IGFs
The IGF is in its 14th edition since 2006. An analysis of IGF historical data, focusing on participation at each meeting, as well as the topics and issues discussed, shows that many trends have emerged.
Diplo’s Data Team analysed public IGF records, including over 1300 transcripts and 22 000 public participant entries from 2006 to 2018.
The highest number of participants hail from...
This interactive map shows the geographical distribution of participants for all previous IGFs. Out of more than 16 000 participants, the vast majority come from the host countries of annual meetings. Overall, the US has had the highest number of participants for all 13 IGF meetings combined (2 061 participants). This is expected, given the amount of tech companies and institutions based in the country. The top five also includes: Brazil (1580), Mexico (1194), Kenya (1035), and India (878), which have all hosted annual IGF meetings.
The most represented stakeholder group is...
A quarter of the participants in all 13 IGF meetings so far have come from civil society, with government delegations in close second place (23%). On the other hand, the low participation of the media sector (3%) and intergovernmental organisations (5%) illustrates high discrepancies in stakeholder representation. Participants from the technical and academic communities represented 18% of participants, while the private sector represented 14% of participants.
If we look at the distribution of participants by stakeholder group year-by-year, we notice that civil society has been consistently been the most represented group over the past five years, followed by either governmental delegations or the technical community. This explains the ongoing calls for more participation from the private sector, as well as for strengthened engagement from all stakeholder groups.
Gender participation over the years
IGF participation has progressed from a 27% female participation rate in 2006 to a 46% female participation rate in 2018. It is a significant and positive shift for the IGF, considering that the tech industry and digital policy fields are generally male-dominated.
The majority of female participants have come from the USA (841), whereas Brazil and Mexico are in second- and third-place with 591 and 522 female participants respectively.
Among the top 5 countries with the most female participants, only the USA was consistent each year. The UK landed within the top five 11 out of 13 times.
The most dominant issue is...
IGF meetings usually cover a broad range of topics, fitting into one of the seven baskets in Diplo’s taxonomy of digital policy issues. For the past 13 years, the development basket was the dominant one, with almost a quarter of all sessions having had a focus on development issues, such as access, the digital divide, sustainable development, and inclusive finance. Human rights-related issues were featured as the main topic in 18% of all sessions - closely followed by technology and infrastructure (16%). Sociocultural and cybersecurity issues had equivalent coverage (14%). On the other end of the spectrum were legal and regulatory issues and economic issues with 9% and 6% of all sessions respectively.
Don't Miss Today
Internet Governance and Digital Cooperation
10:00 – 13:00 CET | Convention Hall II & online
During this three-hour session, participants will be able to share their views on the report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, released earlier this year. The Panel’s fifth recommendation will be in focus, suggesting the development of updated mechanisms for digital co-operation, and the proposed IGF Plus model. The main points raised will be summarised in Messages from the IGF community, to serve as input into the Secretary-General’s process on digital cooperation.
14:00 – 15:00 CET | Convention Hall II & online
This year, the IGF will be officially opened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In 2018, the opening speeches of Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron were quite strong: both leaders called for a strengthened IGF and for new forms of co-operation in the Internet governance ecosystem, that encompass both multilateral and multi-stakeholder approaches. What will the opening speeches be about this year? Follow the session to find out.
GIP briefing: Internet governance in November 2019
13:00 – 14:00 CET | Online
As the IGF unfolds, join us online for an overview of the most recent Internet governance and digital policy developments, including the UN’s resolution on cyber norms, and Uber’s ban in London. We will look at major trends over the past month and discuss their possible impact on developments in the coming months. Also included will be updates from the ongoing discussions in Berlin. Register for the briefing.