PICTFOR at the Internet Governance Forum #IGF11 in Nairobi

Internet as Catalyst for Change

The 5th Internet Governance Forum is presently underway here in Nairobi.  It’s the most important event of the year for internet governance and is the culmination of a great deal of preparatory work and meetings following from last years highly successful Forum in Vilnius.Issues under discussion include cybersecurity, internet architecture, privacy and  cloud development.  Critically, and led by Kenya, there has been much constructive debate about how to close the digital divide in respect of the developing nations.Here, you can participate remotely in all sessions.  Or if you’d simply like to watch, all events are streamed continuously.  You can follow the Twitter stream and contribue to many of the discussions directly; and you can make suggestions to attendees about the points they might raise in any session.  Additionally, if you use hashtag #pictfor you can get immediatly in touch with the Chair of PICTFOR, Alun Michael MP and Vice-Chair (Chair, Digital) Eric Joyce MP.Alun and Eric have already contributed to discussions on the main floor and in workshops;
Alun will next be on a panel today at 1630 – if you check the extensive calendar, you’ll see the subject is Best Practice in Local and Global Policy Dialogue; there’s more information on that in the on-line programme, which is very extensive.  Alternatively, you’ll be able to find the meeting by following the pictfor hashtag. Following that meeting, Alun and Eric will be taking part in a side-meeting of the  Commonwealth Internet Government Forum.  The emphasis will be upon how Commonwealth countries can work together to both improve access and contribute to even better internet governance across the world.  As it’s a side meeting, it won’t be on-line, but feel free to tweet and we’ll get your points on the agenda.Do contribute – the internet’s for everyone.

Some words from Dominique Lazanski

I recently attended the Internet Governance Forum ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Governance_Forum)   in Nairobi, Kenya.  The IGF (as it is known) is a multi stakeholder forum for discussion and dialogue on pretty much all issues relating to the Internet and the web. It was my first experience attending this event and I walked away with a few interesting insights.

I attended the event on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce in London. I was a part of their business representation to the event. It was great to see  Ed Vaizey our digital minister, Lord Richard Allen who also works for Facebook, Alun Michael MP and Eric Joyce MP who are the Chair and Vice-Chair respectively of Pictfor. It was good to have a number of friendly faces about as I navigated the plenary, the workshops, the social events and the difficult task of getting taxis to and from everywhere.

Though my remit was focused on business representation, I quickly discovered that governments were represented the most, followed by non-governmental organizations and civil society groups. I didn’t realize until a few days in that business at an IGF is a relatively new phenomenon and the bringing together of a truly multi stakeholder meeting is only a few years in the making though the event has been taking place since 2006. It was a fascinating mix of people from all over the world and in all types of organizations none the less.

The overall mood of the conference was a positive one, though discussions about the direction and purpose of the IGF in the future was clearly the main topic of discussion outside of workshops and events.  The IGF is a non-binding conference meaning there is no treaty or bilateral agreements throughout the event, but several countries have made alliances to work towards more government control of the Internet. China an Russia proposed the ‘International Code of Conduct for Information Security’ while Brazil, India, and South Africa have called for an UN based global body to making binding decisions about the architecture and policy of the Internet. Both proposals have yet to be fully defined, but in the coming months we will be hearing more about these two proposals.

The workshops were where the details of Internet and web issues took place. It was clear to me what was a ‘hot topic’ across the globe. All of the web site blocking workshops were packed as were the mobile cloud ones and even the workshops based on growth and development. In my experiences, the child safety online workshops and the net neutrality panel were both lacking interest and attendees. I also attended a number of Internet architecture workshops including those on IPv6, domain names, email, and privacy in the cloud.  All I found to be incredibly informative.

What did I take away from my few days at the IGF? It is clear that issues we are dealing with here in the UK – like web site blocking and the emergence of the mobile cloud – are topics that are being dealt with around the world. Emerging economies are worried about web site blocking because they can’t access US or EU computer equipment sites because they are in countries, like Nigeria, that have a high rate of Internet fraud and are often blocked entirely by other countries. Or the EU is concerned about the emergence of the mobile cloud without a regulatory framework because it is moving so quickly. But what is interesting about all of these situations is that the UK is not alone in grappling with new and emerging Internet issues. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of that when mired in the day to day policy work. We are not alone in facing these issues and forums like the IGF do indeed help to bring together people for discussion and possibly some solutions.

Head of Digital Policy
The TaxPayers’ Alliance

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