Debate about IGF 2017 – Shape Your Digital Future!

With Julie Ward I host the discussion on priorities and expectations for 12th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum in Geneva.

Platforms like the IGF are a crucial venue for open and collaborative multistakeholder dialogue that will help shape the future of the Internet.

In support of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development this year’s main sessions focus on:

  • Gender inclusion and the future of the Internet
  • Creating an inclusive workforce in the digital economy
  • Empowering global cooperation on cybersecurity for sustainable development & peace
  • Local interventions, global impacts: How can international, multistakeholder cooperation address Internet shutdowns
  • Encryption and data flows
  • One main session will be dedicated to the work of national and regional Internet governance initiatives (NRIs).

The IGF facilitates a common understanding as to how Internet opportunities can be maximized and addresses risks and challenges that arise. It is also a forum which gives developing countries the same opportunity as wealthier nations to engage in the debate on Internet governance and facilitates their participation in existing institutions and arrangements.

It is important to engage with the next generation of Internet users many initiatives reach out to include young people. Programmes like the Youth IGF YOUthDIG or the SEEDIG Youth School offer opportunities for peer learning and meaningful participation, but also on the national level there is great encouragement to give a voice to the youth and invite them to participate equally in the debate.

After eleven years and with a renewed mandate until 2025 the IGF is indeed now the best place to kick start a discussion or to organize pressure towards decision-making bodies to find solutions for emerging issues.

I believe that it is a valuable platform, which allows us the freedom to imagine the future of the Internet through multi-stakeholder dialogue and develop better-informed policy recommendations.

During the recent IGF in Guadalajara (December 2016), this was demonstrated, inter alia, by the sessions on Internet Governance and trade negotiations. Nobody disagrees that trade, and in particular, eTrade is a key element of the future of the digital economy. Arrangements among nations are needed. But so far, Internet negotiations and trade negotiations are based on two very distinctive political cultures. Internet Governance discussions are based on open and transparent bottom-up processes where all stakeholders are involved in their respective roles and on equal footing. Trade negotiations take place among governments only behind closed doors with big private sector players in a strong lobby position.

We see a very dynamic process where — from a political-legal perspective — a broad variety of different regulatory, co-regulatory or self-regulatory regimes emerge, co-exist and complement or conflict each other. The system as a whole is decentralized, diversified and has no central authority. However, within the various subsystems there is an incredible broad variety of different sub-mechanisms.

There is no “one size fits all” solution. The specific form of each sub-system has to be designed according to the very specific needs and nature of the individual issue.

The “do-not-harm” principle becomes more important than ever. It means that whatever a governmental or non-governmental player will do on the Internet has to take into consideration its direct or indirect consequences for not involved third parties as well as the unintended side-effects for the system as a whole;

For many speakers in Guadalajara, the failure of ACTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) is the result of this clash of cultures. The good thing in Guadalajara was, that all stakeholders — governmental trade negotiators and their opponents from consumer protection organizations, business people, and technical experts — had a chance to present their views, their perspective and their expectations and everybody was listening to everybody;

Such openness and transparency is one key element to identify the areas of common interests and to find solutions which balances legitimate but conflicting interests in a way that at the end of the day all parties can live with it;

As well as more Innovation needed on the Road towards 2025!!!