Open Mic and Taking Stock

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Main Session

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[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

Following the Bringing it All Together session, Mr Chengetai Masango (Internet Governance Forum (IGF)) opened the floor for questions and comments from the audience, asking them to share their views and suggestions on how to improve the organisation of the next IGF.

Questions arose from a group of young people from the Middle East and North African regions, who alerted the organisers of how, while talking about digital inclusion and connectivity, they failed to include Internet censorship by many governments. They also commented on how the views of developing countries are underrepresented at the IGF, as well as the views of women, LGBTQIA communities, the youth, and other minorities. Finally, they raised their concern that climate change issues were not addressed at all. Another audience member complimented the workshop format which proved to be a good forum for professionals coming from different backgrounds to exchange ideas and learn from one another. Many comments were made about inspiring youth to get involved in the work of the IGF, especially when it comes to discussions on the future of the Internet, with a special focus on young entrepreneurs who can come up with new solutions for existing problems.

Several representatives of the Brazilian Digital Rights Coalition used this opportunity to alert the audience about the growing surveillance initiatives of the Brazilian congress and government, and announced the privatisation of two state-owned companies who have large amounts of citizens’ personal data in their possession. Their views were shared by Mr Baron Soka (Tech Freedom, USA) who spoke of how certain authoritarian governments abuse and falsely promote human rights in order to advance their agendas at forums like the IGF. Soka encouraged the audience to counter this type of abuse.

One person complimented the IGF secretariat for including parliamentarians from many countries in IGF debates, seeing this as a move that will make future IGFs even better. Ms Natasa Glavor (Croatian Academic and Research Network) and Mr Alejandro Pisante (National University of Mexico) said that the multistakeholder approach is important for all future discussions related to the Internet. A former IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) member from Ghana suggested the introduction of a deputy chairperson to support the new MAG members next year and to help speed up some of the processes.

Another comment highlighted the problem of issuing visas to certain participants, which restricted their meaningful participation. A group of representatives of a youth organisation from Latin America and the Caribbean talked about the problems of hate speech against women and the LGBTQIA community, inviting the IGF to consider the introduction of gender neutral or at least a third gender option for the next conference.

Mr Muhammad Shabbir Awan (Accessibility Special Interest Group of the Internet Society, Pakistan) complimented the organisers for making this one of the best IGFs in regard to accessibility for persons with disabilities. He also spoke of the low representation of people with disabilities in the IT sector, asking for more scholarships for individuals with disabilities from developing countries so they could acquire skills necessary for the information and communication technology job market. His views were seconded by a representative from the Global Competence Online Project, who also stressed the importance of education for better social inclusion and the need to have more educators involved in the work of the IGF.

The session ended with panellists offering their final thoughts. Ms Daniela Brönstrup (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany) thanked Ms Lynn St. Amour (Outgoing Chair, IGF MAG) for the hard work she put into chairing the MAG. As part of her farewell message Amour stressed the importance of future financial support for the IGF Secretariat, bearing in mind the limited resources at hand. Ms Wanda Buk (Host Country IGF 2020 Co-chair, Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Digital Affairs, Poland) thanked the audience for speaking of these important issues and promised to do her best in making the role and importance of the youth more visible at the next IGF.

Ms Anriette Esterhuysen (Chair, IGF MAG) stressed how the world is unequal and so is the Internet, and that this is the context that the IGF has to respond to. The digital inclusion that the IGF strives for requires inclusive governance, as well as acknowledgement of fragmentation and inequality, and finding ways to deal with them. She shared her belief that the IGF is a space where people can learn from one another, not just a venue for people to express their views. It is also a space for learning how to create policies and regulations that will create a more inclusive Internet.

By Andrej Skrinjaric

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