The EIF virtual debate organized on 3 February 2021 focused on the take-aways of the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) which was hosted online by the United Nations between 9 and 17 November under the overarching theme Internet for human resilience and solidarity and around the four main thematic tracks: Data; Environment; Inclusion; Trust.
The debate, moderated by EIF Director-General Maria Rosa Gibellini and hosted by MEP and EIF member Lina Gálvez Muñoz, discussed the take-aways together with the following speakers:
- Mattia Fantinati, Member of the House of Representatives, Italian Parliament, newly elected MAG Member
- Lise Fuhr, Director General, ETNO
- Esteve Sanz, Head of Sector, Internet Governance and Multi-stakeholder Dialogue, DG CNECT, European Commission
- Giovanni Seppia, External Relations Manager, EURid
- Sandra Hoferichter, Secretary General, EuroDIG
Lina Gálvez Muñoz MEP touched upon the main topics that characterised the IGF 2020, stressing the centrality of the main topic 'Internet for human resilience and solidarity', the object of important discussions and files at the European Parliament. The same goes for global digital cooperation which became even more important in the last year, as well as the access to the internet for everyone.
The environmental issue was of great importance as well, going hand in hand with the high energy consumption of the digital sector. This was also the first year ever, stressed MEP Muñoz, that a youth summit was held, giving to the young generations the opportunity to integrate the discussion with relevant issues such as the access to the internet for human development, the digital divide, the side effects of the digital transformation. Another important point was the Parliamentary Roundtable organised to discuss how to build trust in times of Covid-19. Finally, the IGF published some recommendations and suggestions to the way forward which, assured the MEP, will be taken into account.
Mattia Fantinati stressed the fact that without the internet, no country could have survived the crisis; for this reason, digital cooperation has become a crucial topic to be discussed. This is why the IGF is important, as well as the parliamentarian track and the multi-stakeholder approach.
According to MP Fantinati, the IGF needs more strategy and to be strengthened; from here comes the idea of creating an IGF+ to involve stakeholders throughout the whole year and culminate then with the Forum, involving also young people. The IGF needs stakeholders because the internet is something that involves us all. Nevertheless, Mr. Fantinati stressed the importance of the parliamentarian group as a crucial stakeholder to be involved in the next IGFs. Parliamentarians from all over the world will in fact contribute to the multi-stakeholder approach.
Lise Fuhr brought to the stage ETNO’s experience and, more broadly, the contribution that the telecom sector can bring to the current challenges. Ms. Fuhr stressed the fact that the IGF is not only an opportunity for stakeholders to make their voices heard, but also for decision-makers like parliamentarians to go back home and make the change happen. As presented at the IGF by her colleague Sarah Gazanfari, telcos play a crucial role as enablers for greening our society and economy, this is why ETNO has strongly welcomed the European Commission’s strategy to advance on the European Green Deal which has the potential to make Europe the global leader on the fight against climate change and digital solutions are critical in achieving the sustainability goals.
According to Ms. Fuhr, it is through digitalization that we help other industries to become more productive, more modern and greener, and even if during the IGF discussion last year an important point was raised on rebound effects – a concern that the gains in efficiency can encourage greater uptake – by reaching climate and sustainability targets through digitalization, "we will outweigh these rebound effects."
Esteve Sanz stressed the strong commitment of the European Commission to the multi-stakeholder model of the internet and technology governance, to its defence and evolution for it to become more effective and more inclusive. "We have a Roadmap for Digital Cooperation we are very happy about" – declared Mr. Sanz – "in particular with what concerns the architecture of internet governance and the IGF+: we would like a more strategic, more focused, more ambitious IGF.”
The European Commission is working within the MAG to reflect upon the IGF model, and this is generating very good ideas, in particular on the 1) creation of a tech envoy within the UN system (in charge of implementing the Digital Cooperation Roadmap and enabling multi-stakeholder networks) and 2) the potential creation of a high-level body within the IGF system (that could be in charge of bringing to the IGF table the big internet governance decision-makers to openly and democratically discuss their policies with the global multi-stakeholder community).
Giovanni Seppia focused on the Dynamic Coalition on Data and Trust that EURid launched in 2020 in order to encourage proactive intervention and also effective industry self-regulation to raise standards of data quality and combat poor data and disinformation, as well as raise levels of public trust in the internet. The reputation of the internet has, in fact, experienced some ups and downs throughout 2020, with many disinformation campaigns and scandals which diminished the confidence of the regulators and members of the public in the effectiveness of the industrial self-regulation. "We wanted to have a specific and concrete focus on the actions about data and trust around the covid-19 pandemic" declared Mr. Seppia.
He stressed how interesting this new Dynamic Coalition is, which is planning its very first meeting in March, focusing on data, content-related issues such as disinformation or AI-enabled profiling. A real Dynamic Coalition that wants to open to broad talks about the importance of relying on sound information and how sensitive it could be to spread misinformation across the different networks.
Sandra Hoferichter believes that the year of the pandemic has made very clear why digital cooperation is needed and why we need a forum for open exchange to discuss how we would like to shape our digital environment. She focused on the outcomes of the IGF Strategy Working Group where different key working areas of improvement where outlined when discussing the IGF+ model: inclusiveness, strategy, impact and sustainability, in order to increase participation from the global source, in particular from least developed countries and small island developing states, governments, business sector and the youth.
In order to make the IGF more impactful, the working group suggests to adopt a more consistent issue-driven approach to the IGF program development; strengthen, develop and integrate the IGF intersectional activities, consolidate the integration of national legislature through the parliamentarian track, consolidate liaisons with decision-making bodies and strengthen the communication of the outcomes.