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Mr David Ng, Director of Community Development, DotAsia, started the session by highlighting the need to accommodate remote participants to ensure the sustainability and inclusiveness of discussions at the annual and regional IGFs. Narrowing in on the youth especially as well as people from developing countries, he mentioned that the cost of attending the IGF is often a challenge especially when it comes to travelling and accommodation. The session was to explore, therefore how to make remote partition sustainable in a way that attracts attendance and participation by those who cannot attend physically.
Taking her turn, Ms Yannis Li, Director of Corporate Development DotAsia, outlined the outcome of a survey which was circulated about a month before the IGF. She mentioned that only 32 responses were received, which makes it not representative enough. However, for the purposes of the session, she went through the 10 questions to serve as a guide for the breakout discussions.
Ng mentioned that the idea behind the research was to gather inputs and themes around which to have a discussion on ways to break the barrier to remote participation.
To simplify the group discussions which lasted for 30 minutes, Ms Bianca Ho, of Net Mission Asia, suggested that the issues raised by participants in the research as barriers limiting remote participation be divided into three categories: organisation, motivation and time zone issues, and capacity building.
Ms Renata Aquino Ribeiro, professor and researcher at EI Consulting, moderated the group that discussed the issue of capacity building. This part looked at what skill sets and tools online moderators must know to participate effectively. It was suggested that organisers partake in the training for moderators so they will be equipped to engage remote participants. They also suggested experimentation with different remote participation tools to ensure they are familiar with the usage.
Ho coordinated the discussions on organisation. This considered whether the workshops actually factored the inclusion of remote participation, whether a remote hub was planned, and whether there was an identified moderator for the remote sessions. In recapping their session, the integration of online chats or discussions with what happens in the meeting room was suggested. Participants want to see a visual display of the discussions and comments by remote participants in the meeting room. The online moderator should be dedicated solely to the online participants, to engage them in the discussions and ensure better coordination so they don’t feel isolated.
Ng handled the discussion on motivation and time zone issues. Outcomes suggested that awareness creation in the university communities, awards of certificates of participation, and inclusion of remote inputs in workshop reports could be an incentive for youth to engage in remote participation. They also suggested that to overcome the barrier of time zones, workshop proposals should take into consideration their target audience and consider the times that will favour them.
Remote participants were moderated during the breakout session by Ms Ginger Paque and Ms Hailey Yang. The remote participants mentioned that even in a workshop to encourage participation, they still felt left out. They suggested that proper engagement by the moderator could improve the remote experience.
Ng concluded the session by acknowledging that remote participation has always been a challenge and all the inputs as well as the experience from the workshop would be documented and presented to the IGF Secretariat to help improve remote participation in the IGF in future.
by Jacob Odame-Baiden, Internet Society Ghana