Internet Governance - feedback from the 2009 IGF in Sharm el Sheikh

26 January 2010 Author: EIFonline

The EIF breakfast debate on Tuesday 26 January focused on feedback from the Internet Governance Forum in Sharm el Sheikh. Catherine Trautmann, MEP and EIF Governor, and Head of the EP Delegation to Sharm el Sheikh, was the first speaker of the morning and provided context to what had been discussed during the Forum.

A major outcome of the recent IGF is that a majority of governments, except China, believe that the IGF as a multi-stakeholder platform is successful and should continue. Since this was the final meeting in a cycle of 5 years within IGF, Mrs. Trautmann explained that there is a unique opportunity now to lay the foundation for the IGF of the next 5 years. 

She emphasized that this is the moment for the European Union to provide topics and contributions, and recapped some of the topics that were at the top of the agenda during Sharm el Sheikh: identity and privacy versus security, net neutrality, cloud computing, the Internet of things, multilingualism, city domain names, green ICTs, child protection. Mrs. Trautmann also mentioned that there is support for holding a next IGF in Kenya and referred to a meeting of the European chapter of IGF (the EGF) in Vilnius in March of this year.

She also addressed the evolution of ICANN and its competences, saying that ICANN in the eyes of the European delegation should be confirmed as a private organization, and that from the perspective of the EP delegation, there is no need for a new organization.

Alice Munyua, Coordinator at Kenya ICT Action Network - East African Internet Governance Forum/Kenya IGF, was the second speaker of the morning. She began by saying that the East African region has for a long period of time not been on the map for broadband Internet access. Kenya wanted to reverse this trend and take leadership to bring the east African countries into the information society and into the IGF, she said. This is why the East African Internet Governance Forum was set up.

One of the aims is to balance cyber crime, and to benchmark how the region is doing in comparison with other countries. The East African IGF discusses (local) issues that are typical for the region like access and development. The most important issues in EAIGF are different from the ones encountered outside the African region, she explained. For example, country code top level domains still need to be properly dealt with. Kenya is probably most advanced is this area. Getting good models for managing TLDs and cybercrime is key to the discussions and the future of the Internet in the region. Language is also an important issue, given that there are 45 languages in Kenya alone. Managing electronic waste is slowly starting to get on the agenda as well, as is consumer protection in the light of the increasing access numbers. 

Mrs. Munyua advocated the need for policy to create the right legal environment. She mentioned that as of 2009, there has been a program to target policy makers, to make them understand and contribute to the Internet governance processes. This is a must, if effective legislation is to be put in place. At the same time, politicians in the region need to understand the multi-stakeholder system of IGF, and the uptake is relatively slow in her view.

Kenya hopes that in the new IGF, if it is decided to continue the Forum, there will be a more concrete role for the regional IGFs, and to have more representation in the development of the IGF program. She also made a plea for developing funding for regional IGFs via the local private sector, and to ensure that democratizing Internet is seen as a priority. EAIGF also supports the ICANN changes with a focus on how the institution can become more international than it has been in the past.

Frédéric Donck, Director European Regional Bureau of the Internet Society was the last speaker of the morning, heading the new regional bureau of ISOC. He mentioned that ISOC is a strong believer in an Internet ecosystem, and that IGF is important in that system. He commented on the logistics of Sharm el Sheikh, saying that it was great there was an increase of sessions, but advocated shorter meetings and a more concise format and reducing too many simultaneous sessions. 

Another comment referred to a perceived need to create a more stable platform for remote participation, and to promote this possibility. In addition, IGF should ensure that non native English speakers can understand what is being said through better translation services and native speakers realizing that they should slow down during their speech. Mr. Donck observed that the content and the level of discussion is now more mature, which also means that more time is needed to come to conclusions in workshops. 

In his closing remarks, he mentioned that there may be a need for a new IGF format to facilitate deeper understanding. Perhaps it would be an idea to have a driving theme each day, he said? The afternoon could then be used as a main session to report about the inputs from the workshop in a plenary format. For the future Mr. Donck suggested as a theme: Internet Governance for Sustainable Social and Economic development for the next five years.


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