[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]
The Collaborative Leadership Exchange brought together the staff and participants of the different sponsored programmes to the IGF like ISOC IGF Ambassadors, Google fellows, as well as all other interested attendees to network, build relationships, exchange ideas, discuss key local and regional Internet governance issues, and explore applicable solutions.
There were two rounds of discussions encompassing key topics like the future of the Internet ecosystem, youth and the Internet, Internet and human rights, access, critical Internet resources, artificial intelligence (AI) and ethics, privacy, cybersecurity, and others, while integrating the inputs, requirements, and experiences of different stakeholder groups.
Future of the Internet
The group envisaged the vision of an unrestricted and inspiring Internet with access to all. Internet for all is possible with affordability, accessibility, and digital literacy. Trust is an important factor and it will come with a safer Internet for all. It is important to ensure that the Internet is credible and reliable. For a safe Internet, it is important to instil a sense of trust in users and limit the barriers to Internet access.
It is important to show that youth is making a difference and give them ways to display it. The multistakeholder model does not implicitly include the youth, and this often makes them feel excluded and reluctant to participate. Youth participants also experience a lack of funding resources and speaking opportunities.
They provide a solution to the connectivity gap by offering more affordable means of access to the Internet. It helps community members solve local issues, access means of education, and get information online. Community networks enable economic and social development but they come with regulatory challenges. First, setting up a community network needs approval from the governments, funding, and sustainability plans. For example, Ghana has precise land rules and acquiring lands for some ethnic groups is problematic and it involves a lengthy process. Lastly, power supply in remote areas of a country also poses concrete challenges to the realisation of community networks.
The big question was who should encrypt data and at what level data should be encrypted. Should users be able to own and encrypt their data? The group stated they noticed a lack of interest and knowledge in policymakers and lawyers regarding encryption, and that tech experts and policymakers should talk more often. Participants also discussed ways like opt-in and opt-out regulations, multi-tiered access control models where users can see and decide who can access and encrypt the data.
The group considered that data localisation requirements and cross-border data flows depend on countries’ bilateral relations. Ms Nidhi Singh (ISOC IGF Ambassador from India) said that we must address the inherent inequality which is present in the world order and in the Internet. Lastly, the audience considered that data localisation policies can be very costly to implement and can significantly impact a country’s economy. The group warned against the impact of data localisation measures vis-à-vis the fragmentation of the Internet.
Future of the IGF
The IGF has a lot of value as it is the only platform of this type. It brings together many people with varied levels of knowledge to share and learn. It is a good platform for gaining an international perspective and agenda, global issues, to form opinions, and network. But more awareness needs to be raised globally and outreach needs to be expanded to bring more people to the IGF. Group discussions stated that representation at the IGF needs to include more women and the LGBT community. The national and regional IGFs (NRIs) movement needs to be pushed to feed into the global forum stemming from national and regional levels.
While funding challenges persist, the IGF is not an output-driven organisation; they suggested rethinking its structure. They felt that a lot of the sessions presented themes that were already discussed during the previous years. They also suggested avoiding overlaps among the sessions’ schedules and topics to increase the success of the discussions.
Cross-sector impact of AI
The group discussions suggested that the understanding of AI technology varies across people and regions - especially between developed and developing countries. Developing country participants said that AI could improve education, judiciary, mobility, and could help in reducing human-generated biases. AI can be used for taxation and can be deployed in the energy sector, but a major challenge is still represented by how AI will affect the future of jobs. The group suggested that AI can also be better studied through more case studies, scenario modelling, and algorithm monitoring.
By Mili Semlani