Bringing It All Together

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Main Session

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[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

The co-hosts and community representatives of the IGF reflected on the work done during IGF 2019 – the largest IGF so far, which introduced a few innovative elements (such as the focus on three main themes).

Co-hosts, Ms Daniela Brönstrup (Deputy Director General, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany) and Ms Lynn St. Amour (2019 MAG Chair), noted that the 2019 IGF set a few positive records. It gathered the highest numbers of stakeholders, more than 100 legislators from over 50 countries, and was for the first time structured around three main themes: data governance; digital inclusion; and safety, security, stability, and resilience. St. Amour stated that without dedication from the entire German government, IGF 2019 would not have been as successful. Mr Rudolf Gridl (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany) said that having the multistakeholder high-level meeting was a significant breakthrough. Germany’s support for greater participation from the public sector was also reflected in the work of parliamentarians from around the world, who participated in the IGF and produced significant messages in the 'Jimmy Schultz Call’ document.

An interlinkage between the work of parliamentarians, the high-level meeting, and the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (HLPDC) allowed the discussions on the  IGF Plus model to advance, Gridl said. Mr Fabrizio Hochschild (HLPDC) added that the panel’s recommendations were met with positive feedback. Constructive criticism revolved around potential overlap in high-level consultation processes introducing the IGF+.

The IGF 2019 focused on three themes. Mr Ben Wallis (MAG member) presented the conclusions of the first track on data governance: a need remains for greater international cooperation on cross-border data flows; data is an important resource for achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) but a lack of human-centred data governance slows the process; and ethics and fundamental rights play a role. A balance must be set between extracting knowledge that can be used for good and knowledge that can be used to infringe on the fundamental rights of people whose data is collected.

Talking about the thematic stream on digital inclusion, Mr Paul Rowney (MAG member) remarked that digital inclusion is an umbrella term and includes access, affordability, infrastructure, local content, multilingualism, skills, education, jobs, social inclusion, and governance. The workshops identified differences in needs, gaps in digital skills and access to digital jobs, since many in the Global South and in marginalised communities are still denied the opportunity to be digitally included. Digital inclusion should focus on meaningful connectivity as opposed to connectivity alone. Many community network operators create access, but the real task is turning it into accessibility and meaningful tools for users.

The workshops within the theme of security, safety, stability and resilience identified seven main conclusions. Ms Sylvia Cadena (MAG member) said that the discussion addressed issues in defining and implementing the regulatory frameworks, community standards, terms of service, and cyber norms. The resulting conclusions are: 1. people before profit; 2. The future of the Internet is a shared responsibility;  3. make clearer and more concrete definitions; 4. preserve a safe space for disagreement and dissent; 5. education about rights and responsibilities should be complemented with effective technical training; 6. as technology continues to evolve, interoperability becomes crucial; and 7. multistakeholderism must stay.

The best practice forums (BPFs) addressed cybersecurity, gender and access, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and artificial intelligence (AI), and local content. The  BPFs on cybersecurity worked on understanding cyberspace norms. Mr Maarten Van Horenbeeck (Lead expert for the BPF on cybersecurity) noted the five main conclusions. First, norms are collective expectations for what we see as proper behaviour for an identifiable group. Second, despite the growth in norms initiatives, areas of agreement and convergence remain. Third, we can learn from technical norms that are easier to measure, and apply those lessons to less tractable problems. Fourth, during the IGF, it was proposed to scrutinise norms implementation in case studies to evaluate the effectiveness of norms. Lastly, a relatively small number of agreements were developed within multistakeholder places, but the majority were developed by single stakeholders groups.

The BPF on gender and access centred their discussions around cultural norms and barriers for gender and nonbinary persons to enter the digital economy, the new narrative needed, how capacity building should appear to ensure meaningful participation. Ms Maria Paz (MAG member) agreed with the digital inclusion track that access must be meaningful. For this, we also need to create new business models that include safe spaces for women and nonbinary people. New business models have to challenge negative input in order to prevent further structural discrimination of vulnerable groups. Paz also reflected on the significant global data gap of the less represented communities. There is insufficient data regarding the participation of women and non-binary people in the gender economy.

Mr Carlos Afonso (MAG member) summarised the work of the BPF on local content.  In 2019, the BPF explored how the Internet, open source, innovation, and digitalisation could be used to protect linguistic diversity, local cultures, and heritages. The BPF stressed the need for tools that stop the illusion of local specificities in the name of global majority. Local assets and knowledge should be protected and digitised in a way that does not enforce dominant biases. The global community should take better care of creating efficient policies that preserve local indigenous languages and enable active participation of speakers.

Ms Concettina Cassa (MAG member) gave an overview of the BPF on IoT, big data and AI. Building on work carried in 2019, the BPF looked into how these technologies could be used to achieve positive policy outcomes. The output document offers examples of opportunities and applications of IoT, big data, and AI, in areas such as achieving the SDGs, improving cybersecurity, and enhancing smart cities. It also gives an overview of policy challenges associated with these technologies, including in terms of enhancing trust in these technologies.

By Jana Mišić

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