[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]
In the IGF for Beginners session, Mr Chengetai Masango (Programme and Technology Manager, IGF) answered questions from the audience, especially those geared towards newcomers. He made it clear that the purpose of the IGF is to ensure a community-driven process, with support from the IGF Secretariat to provide a framework to achieve this objective. He mentioned some of the most important inputs from various bodies that participate in the IGF.
Masango noted that one of the most valuable recent inputs is the the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s Report, in which there were several recommendations in regard to improving digital governance. New proposals such as IGF Plus were put forward, and are to be examined further in terms of feasibility and implementation.
Explaining the community-driven mechanisms of the IGF, Masango used the process of putting forth a proposal as an example. An entity can propose any given idea to the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and if the MAG agrees with the proposal, the IGF Secretariat establishes the resources to do a report. The other option is to create a Dynamic Coalition, which entails teaming up with two other stakeholders and working together to do a report. In that case, the IGF Secretariat would provide some support services.
On the inclusion of the private sector within the IGF, Masango noted that one of the most direct ways to participate is to apply to join the MAG, which has a 33% annual turnover rate and has new nominations mid-year. As part of the MAG, actors can help drive IGF activities. A private-sector actor could also participate by applying to the resource persons list on the IGF website. At IGF workshops, it is stipulated that one has to build a multistakeholder panel and it can sometimes be difficult to find a private-sector representative. The resource persons list is often used to locate experts on a particular topic. Lastly, the private sector can also participate within the IGF by submitting proposals to the MAG, or by building Dynamic Coalitions.
As participation from developing countries has been historically low, the IGF has made a lot of efforts to increase participation and this year, with the help of the German government, it has supported developing countries through the creation of a travel fund. Participation has increased this year, with many new participants coming from Africa.
The IGF has also made efforts to increase participation from the government sector, especially at higher levels (i.e. ministerial). After some decreases in government participation, the IGF has experienced substantial success over the past three years - especially at the higher levels.
While there are around 120 national and regional IGFs, there needs to be more effort put into so-called remote regions. This year, the IGF started a programme to provide small grants to small and developing states so that they can better participate. Tools such as Zoom are now being used to give local, national, and regional initiatives an easy and free way to participate. Masango also stressed that the IGF can host mailing lists to lessen the financial burden for smaller initiatives.
Mansango concluded by mentioning that the IGF Secretariat is approachable and that inclusion and greater participation are crucial for future success.
By Darija Medić