[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]
The host-country-led workshop welcomed several distinguished speakers from various stakeholders, and outlined the importance of the multistakeholder approach to Internet policy. There were over 3000 applications to participate at the IGF this year, out of which almost 50% were from civil society, 20% from government, 17% from the private sector, and 14% from the technical community. Over 50% of all the applications came from the Latin America and the Caribbean.
The session emphasised the key underlying values of the Internet. Each of the speakers made a clear link between Internet governance and the UN SDGs. Several Mexican experiences of the transformative potential of the Internet in society were outlined by the local host, mainly related to open government and open data.
First, the five goals of IGF 2016 were outlined: it will be a harassment-free experience, treating every community member equally, allowing all parties to be listened to, offering good will among participants, and requiring ethical and responsible behaviour. Mr Viktor Lagunes from the President’s Office, the Director-General for ITCs responsible for the implementation of Federal Public Policy in terms of e-Government, and an honorary Co-Chair of the IGF MAG, reminded us that Mexico believes in a multiple stakeholder model for Internet governance, and that the core values of the Internet remain openness, freedom, resiliency, safety, and decentralisation – all of which are fundamental for enabling inclusive and sustainable growth, which is directly linked to 2030 SDG agenda.
Ms Lynn St Amour, Chair of the IGF MAG, thanked Mexico for support of efforts to renew the IGF mandate, thanked UNDESA, and thanked the IGF Secretariat, which has far too few resources. She made a retrospective of the WSIS process and the Tunis Agenda, and defined the IGF as an open, neutral, and multistakeholder forum that brings all stakeholders together as equal. St Amour reminded us that the IGF is an extra-budgetary UN project which relies on voluntary contributions and donations rather than on UN member fees. It has moved from an annual forum to ongoing dialogue through intersessional work including four best practice forums, dozens of dynamic coalitions, and soon to be 78 regional IGF initiatives. Innovations have been introduced, such as improved capacity building, new session formats, enhanced online participation activities, and newcomer tracks. St Amour also made a clear link with the SDGs, explaining that it embraces many components of the multistakeholder model as well.
Mr Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google and one of the founding fathers of the Internet, outlined what policy tasks are still ahead of us. The broad Internet governance agenda follows the fundamental properties of the Internet, and includes security, privacy, reliability and interoperability, freedoms, and particularly safety. He emphasised the importance of trustworthy electronic commerce and digital signatures for enabling rich commercial environment. Jointly developing standards allows permission-less innovation and creates conditions for competition through interoperability. Efforts for universal access, such as by the Global connect Initiative by the State Department, the World Bank, and the IEEE; Project Loon by Google; or those of business magnate Elon Musk to put thousands of satellites in low orbit should be supported. Cerf referred to the recent DDoS attack against Dyn and the increasingly insecure products – especially connected devices; he suggested that end-to-end authentication through encryption would increase trust in communication among devices, and called for ethics and social norms that would require companies and programmers be responsible for the software they write, which may become particularly important with the emergence of artificial intelligence.
IPv6 is still at 15% penetration, he warned, though mobile technology uses it increasingly. Cerf cautioned that, even though ‘we may think that bits don't wear out’, there is a need to ensure preservation of digital content over a long period, such as hundreds of years. This requires interoperability of technologies through time (i.e., making software and hardware that can access old formats of data). Similarly, we need stable long-term identifiers, different from the current concept of domain names which can change owners (causing some content to be lost and inaccessible). Increasing loads of misleading information online should be addressed, according to Cerf, through norms for production and distribution of content that speak about the quality. Not least, Cerf turned to creating an interplanetary Internet as work already under construction: he stressed the importance of new and open source standards, and expressed hope that norms will be agreed for each spacecraft, once retired, to remain a node in the interplanetary backbone.
Ms Alejandra Lagunes, National Digital Strategy Coordinator at the Office of the President of Mexico, repeated that the Internet needs to remain a free, neutral, safe, open, resilient, and decentralised space. She provided Mexican examples of ways Internet governance could contribute to the SDGs. A 'Prospera Digital' action plan is helping individuals to improve their living conditions, such as health and education, thanks to the centralised exchange of information with government services. It looks at using technology to transform government (‘hack the bureaucracy’, as she wittily put it), and make government a platform that can trigger innovation and development – including through open data that can help new business to develop.
Ms Ania Calderone, General Director of Open Data at the Coordination of National Digital Strategy, Office of the President of Mexico, added that it is not sufficient to create open data policy with a platform to build knowledge if the citizens do not use the data. She gave examples of how open data were useful for protecting citizens against the hurricane, comparing prices for stationery for children, encouraging competition, and assessing the quality of air in different places in Mexico. They also presented the Gov.mx platform for digital participation of citizens allowing access to the most used public services 24/7 from any device. Lagunes emphasised the need to enhance connectivity, inclusion, and digital skills, while preserving freedom of expression, universal access, security of information, and privacy.
Ms Kathy Brown, President and CEO of the Internet Society, described the IGF as a ‘bazaar of ideas’. She underlined that the Internet architecture should remain global, open, inclusive, and a tool for connection, communication, and collaboration. Yet what is needed is enhanced trust – a global trusted Internet everywhere for everyone. Brown pointed to Goal 9C of the SDGs related to increasing access to ICT and providing universal and affordable Internet in least developed countries by 2020, and reminded that, while the Internet Society and others are helping communities around the world such as in Mexico, India, and Sri Lanka to build community networks and strengthen human and technical capacities, to fulfil this goal there is also a need to connect these community networks in small villages to a backhaul or backbone. This includes business rules for engagement of the providers, as well as smart use of spectrum management. In addition to access, Brown also emphasised the importance of safety. At the end, she announced that over 90 youth activists are at the IGF within the Internet Society’s Ambassador Programme, with support of the Government of Mexico, the CGO, NIC.mx, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and other partners.
Mr Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval Diaz, Governor of the State of Jalisco, reflected on what he called the '4.0 revolution' in which innovation is not just a trend but has a transformative potential for society. The government should realise its role to engage more with citizens, in order to know what is happening and what the needs are – for eradicating poverty, enhancing education, and introducing greater transparency within government financial affairs. He noted that privacy is what millennials are least interested in; instead, they have moved beyond individualism and are interested in transparency and participation. Jalisco is building on this and partnering with universities, government, and the private sector in building a Silicon Valley of Mexico in the form of a Digital Creative City that will develop individual competences, research, creative industry (taking registration of patented trademarks into account) and take advantage of young talents.
by Vladimir Radunović