IGF 2020 Main Session: Digital Cooperation

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Author:
Aida Mahmutovic

FIRST SEGMENT

Mr Fabrizio Hochschild (Under-Secretary-General and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on Digital Cooperation) said that the UN Secretary General’s 'Roadmap for digital cooperation' represents what needs to be done across stakeholder groups and regions. UN member states have formally recognised the need for digital co-operation. Multiple efforts are still needed to ensure access to the Internet, especially for women and girls. Statistics indicate the gender gap is widening instead of narrowing.

H.E. Mr Omar Sultan Al Olama (Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Government and Remote Work, Government of the United Arab Emirates) said that for an accelerated change it is important to ensure that the proposed strategies and roadmaps are appealing to the target audience. Goals can be achieved if we leverage both technology and infrastructure. ‘Before talking about ‘Internet for all’, we need to push for infrastructural requirements’, said Al Olama.

H.E. Mr David Sengeh (CIO and Minister of Basic Education, Government of Sierra Leone) noted that hundreds of thousands of people are going from never being connected to having high speed Internet. While this results in inclusion and opportunity, it also creates gaps in terms of skills and/or devices. The ‘Mobile First’ project in Sierra Leone is building solutions and applications so that everyone can have mobile phones and thus include as many people as possible.

There are many ways to build a framework around multistakeholder co-operation. What is important is to find a way to bring implementable solutions to action, said Ms Lise Fuhr (Director General, ETNO). The IGF is already leading the way to bring all players to the table. Parliamentarians should help more in convening conversations from the IGF and making them alive in their countries. ETNO attends the IGF because of informed discussion of all people that matter in these issues. They will continue to take part in the community.

To bridge the gap between discussion and implementable solutions, we need to share the same understanding of what the Internet is, said Mr Joseph Hall (Senior Vice President for Strong Internet, Internet Society (ISOC)). ‘The Internet is not just about technology and services. It is also about the way we network.’ The decentralised sense of the Internet needs to be maintained. Their commitment is to keep working with the ISOC community (ISOC Chapters) and projects that work for a stronger and more inclusive Internet.

Latin America lacked a strong leadership participating in the IGF. ‘This is why we started the school’, said Ms Olga Cavalli (Academic Director, South School on Internet Governance), referring to her institution. It is important to have stronger leadership in developing economies when it comes to understanding technology perspectives.

The IGF has been the source of many activities, such as IG schools, national and regional initiatives (NRIs). There is a gap with other regional and global activities that do not address what the IGF is doing.

Ms Miranda Sissons (Director of Human Rights, Facebook) said that the IGF is important because it is democtratic and plays a vital role in ensuring that the Internet remains open, inclusive, secure, and responsive to the needs of the time we live in. There are many centrifugal forces in play that pose a real threat to an open Internet. Human rights exist both online and offline. ‘Whatever we do now, we need to pay close attention to ensuring that human rights are fully protected.’ Sissons thinks that the IGF can become a central node for many of these conversations.

Facebook’s commitment remains safeguarding the open, free, and unfragmented Internet.

SECOND SEGMENT:

H.E. Mr Thomas Schneider (Ambassador, Director of International Affairs, Swiss Federal Office of Communications) said that one of the key issues of breaking the silos is bridging the gap between discussions and pragmatic solutions. ‘The IGF is predestined to be the place for shaping policies for the digital world’, said Schneider. However, discussions need to reach decision makers. He noted that the UN SG’s Roadmap contains important ways and means to make this happen.

Ms Sandra Hoferichter (Secretary-General, EuroDIG) reflected on the ways to bring the outcomes of the IGF to decision makers. ‘The input that participants gain from the IGF is underestimated.’ said Hoferichter. Some of the achievements of the IGF she noted are: (1) the global society debates on risks, challenges, and opportunities to build a sustainable digital future, (2) publishing transcripts, recording messages, which represents a huge repository of knowledge, (3) the voices of young people are always included in the conversation (4) tremendous growth of national and regional IGFs. 'We have to close the gap between the level of discussions and the level of decision-making.’

‘The world is at the critical point concerning tech governance.’, said Mr Bocar Ba (Chief Executive Officer, SAMENA Council). He called for additional efforts to include developing nations. The IGF informs policy-making power in both the public and private sector. Stakeholders in developing nations are keen to participate and collaborate.

Ms Lynn St Amour (President and CEO, Internet Matters) emphasised the lack of financial support. The IGF community has been working on many issues for a long time, and often on a voluntary basis. There is no appreciation of the benefits of the dialogues and their diversity that is taking place. IGF’s MAG also created a working group on financing. She called on everyone to raise awareness of the work of the IGF.

During the pandemic, mobile communication plays a much more important role in our daily work, said Mr Radosław Kędzia (Vice President CEE & Nordics, Huawei). Digitalisation has become a global trend, therefore global multistakeholder efforts and standards that apply to all are needed. The existing digital cooperation architecture has become too complex. It makes it hard for developing countries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and people on the margins to have their voices heard. Governance does not mean limitation, but setting up standards and basic rules.

Digital cooperation is not easy to achieve. Challenges go beyond digital. It is about working with people beyond those involved in the digital sphere, said Ms Anriette Esterhuysen (Co-facilitator - MAG Strategy and Strengthening Working Group, Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the Internet Governance Forum). Inclusivity needs to be targeted. The IGF needs to evolve, but it also needs to be effectively linked to two other groups: people & users and implementers (small business, people on the ground, technocrats). ‘The primary strength of the IGF is its bottom-up nature and it shouldn't be lost.’, Esterhuysen concluded.

Discussions are needed because good policy recommendations are built upon them. Quality informative discussions are the value of the IGF, Ms Daniella Brönstrup (Director of Digital Policy, Government of Germany) stressed. She also suggested an executive committee, in addition to the MAG, to ensure effectiveness. That high-level group would not be a decision-making body. It would support the delivery of outcomes to decision-making bodies.

Ms Bruna Santos (Internet Governance Caucus) supported the discussion around improving the IGF in front of the caucus. She recommended: (1) a stronger link between the IGF Secretariat and UN office, (2) improved communication of final messages to parliaments, (3) any changes in the process should not create duplication with the existing MAG.

In addition, the IGF should remain open, inclusive, bottom-up, and gender-responsive.