[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]
The session focused on the evolution of Internet governance (IG) through brief answers to four policy questions determined by the national and regional IGFs (NRIs) coordinators. Co-moderators were Ms Anja Gengo, UN IGF Secretariat, Focal Point NRIs, and Mr Benedicto Fonseca Filho, Ambassador & Director of the Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation at the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations, whose initial remarks covered Brazil's adoption of IG and the multistakeholder model in 1995.
Gengo explained what national, regional, and youth IGFs stand for and how they were founded without a mandate at the 2006 IGF. The NRIs were introduced as multistakeholder, transparent, bottom-up and inclusive. Some 37 NRIs existed in 2007, and now 111 are officially recognised worldwide. This year 70 NRIs were held successfully. She further discussed how NRIs are fed into the global IGF schedule via main sessions and coordination sessions.
Fonseca started the discussion, introducing the first policy question: Is there an impact on policies from IGF initiatives?
Brazil organised their 8th IGF and every meeting was held in a different region of the country. Topics discussed in 2018 included privacy and data protection, and discussions fed into the actual drafting of the bill.
Nigeria established a task force to review all digital policies and their implementation, which effected policies that did not exist previously. The community also has an online petition process where needed and a security policy and strategy conducted through a multistakeholder process. They have a dedicated group working on data protection and GDPR.
In the UK, the IGF includes civil society, businesses, the government, and the Internet Society (ISOC) local chapter. The group is primarily a discussion forum that does not engage directly in policy recommendations; however, it has discussions with government representatives usually present at the forum. The main topics discussed at this year's forum included privacy, data protection, and platform liability in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The second question was: What are the challenges we face while engineering/developing and implementing the multistakeholder model for discussing matters pertaining to the IG?
The Asia Pacific IGF & Youth IGF mentioned that Pacific cultures traditionally have a hierarchic approach that poses challenges to the public, as well as a large gender divide. Barriers that confront youth due to lack of capacity is also a challenge.
In Colombia, the main challenge to the MSH approach is to involve the private sector and to facilitate active contributions from the public in discussing policy. Another challenge is is that the same stakeholder may have several voices; for example, a single civil society organisation cannot represent the entire civil society. From academia's point of view, the largest challenges are the lack of capacity in Internet-related public policy discussions and poor participation of various faculties in public and private universities. Challenges to youth are in funding and lack of capacity. Civil society's major problem is reaching people in remote and rural areas.
Italy IGF hosted their first Youth IGF on day zero of the 2018 national IGF. They received 22 workshop proposals through a bottom-up process. Sustained funds, increased awareness, involvement of high level government officials, and more tools and platforms for spreading IG topics and collecting results from the debate were main points made.
In Japan, challenges are scalability and engagement. New technology-driven policy issues are discussed through thematic policy groups within the forum. Another challenge is piquing national and regional interest in these topics. In Japan, no traditional NRI format is used, so it should be introduced, so the NRI can act as a communication point between other NRIs and the global IGF.
Portugal hadits eighth IGF in October. However, many stakeholders do not show interest in IG and the IGF, which makes it difficult to attract active participants. The perceived difficulty of IG, scalability, and engagement are main challenges.
For Chad IGF, awareness-raising and engagement at the IGF proves to be a challenge, even though meetings have been organised since 2015. The IGF Chad has created a local organisation with 23 members with representatives from ministries, regulators, and academia and is organising training sessions to build capacity regarding IG topics. Involving the private sector also proves to be a challenge.
Spain IGF celebratedits 10th anniversary, focussing on new and emerging technologies such as blockchain, connected cars, and technology governance. Another focus is developing light and flexible approaches to govern new technologies.
Question three was: How can we improve the implementation of the multistakeholder model on the national and regional levels?
Ukraine IGF also celebrated the10th anniversary of their national and youth IGF. The aim and challenge continues to be to engage the general public. As ways to overcome, it was suggested to place emphasis on security, digital rights, a free and open Internet, and attracting journalists and human rights defenders.
SEEDIG promotes the multistakeholder model and the added value it can bring to policy-making processes, in several ways: through annual meetings, in which SEEDIG strengthens platforms for stakeholders to discuss pressing and controversial topics; through capacity development, starting with youth and others who can become ambassadors in promoting the multistakeholder model as well; through road shows that talk to stakeholders locally, supporting efforts to coalesce around topics of interest; through improving our outcomes, choosing specific topics to work on and promoting policy recommendations for SH in the region.
The Argentine IGF sees that connecting NRIs is relevant to enhancing the multistakeholder model in South America. Transparency and accountability are not embedded in related institutions. Raising the profile of the national IGF is another priority so that the initiative does not become obsolete in policy discussions, especially theme-based discussions.
Belarus organised its third IGF with 500 participants. The primary challenge is to overcome the perception that responsibilities regarding the Internet belongs only to the technical community. Other challenges are developing the local IGF community and ensuring support of the government.
Armenia IGF had their fourth meeting with a focus on awareness-raising and capacity-building. The meeting resulted in the creation of schools of IG directed at young people. These schools proved rewarding in increased and more meaningful participation at the national IGF. The IGF fostered collaboration with Georgia by sharing processes, agendas, and speakers.
For France IGF, the main issue was ensuring the participation of all stakeholders. A hackathon solved operational problems by tasking each workshop to make concrete proposals for the digital future. Publishing the IGF and the concept of IG, and promoting the multistakeholder model, were priorities. IGF France also sought to link national IGFs to each other and bring local specificities to the global level.
In China, the China IGF has seen the democratisation of the Internet. The country's current goal is to increase living standards. The IGF is in favour of a collaborative, multistakeholder approach. A platform for sharing and co-operation is much needed, but the current NRI session format is not a suitable platform. Another great challenge is securing funding to maintain these platforms.
The fourth policy point was: MSH model on a global level: current status and recommendations for improvements.
For the African IGF, aglobal government is not needed, but a global governance is required. The UN worked as a federation of governments; however, this has been changing slowly since 2002. In calls regarding the future of the IGF, the recommendation was made that it should be truly multidisciplinary. The French President's remarks that the IGF should be on the highest level of UN processes were reiterated.
EuroDIG made recommendations for improvement, suggesting that the context and image of the term 'Internet governance' itself poses a challenge. The language needs modification for better engagement. The economical, technical, and human components of IG need to be highlighted better. Inclusion of all stakeholders is crucial, but it is also important to consider the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder. Collaboration between NRIs and promoting concrete examples are important as well.
USA IGF highlighted its different nature, pointing out the plethora of resources, think tanks, and technical corporations. Another challenge pointed out is that posed by the lack of the private sector's interest. Changes to the IGF and the multistakeholder model need consideration while protecting core values. More inclusion, meaningful participation is needed.
Fonseca underlined the need for government involvement.
IGF Russia believes thatthe multistakeholder model is the best way to govern the Internet. Technology can counter cyber-threats, but co-operation of governments, international organisations, and civil societyis needed to ensure this. Better communication is needed. Russia is open to dialogue, as can be seen though the country's active participation in the UN and the UNGA processes. The role of government needs to be bolstered.
Comments and questions from the floor included:
IGF Benin: We need to think about who the Internet belongs to, since at times the private sectors assume they do not need to participate because it does not involve profit. Can the multistakeholder model survive if we cannot restore trust?
Uganda IGF: Mentioned that most negativity stems from the involvement of government, which does not mean government should not be involved. They should have greater involvement in IG topics and processes in order to make better decisions.
Australia IGF:Are planning to start a regional IGF and commented that perhaps rebranding the term Internet governance may be needed.
Uruguay IGF:National IGFs need to consolidate for increased impact and outreach.
Croatia IGF:The Croatian IGF hosted high-level government officials for the first time this year, which was a welcome development.
Turkey Youth IGF :Mentioned the lack of streamlined approaches when organising and communicating youth IGF efforts. With 14 officially recognised youth initiatives, no communication passes between them when organising sessions on the global level.
The session concluded by stating that the discussion on improving the effects and activities of NRIs must continue. In addition, more detailed inputs are needed from NRIs, since current time limits do not allow this, especially for online participants. A detailed report that includes input from online participants will be prepared and published.
By Su Sonia Herring