Business backs Internet Governance Forum

  • 10 December 2009

Business has shown support for the continuation of the multistakeholder Internet Governance Forum (IGF) beyond its mandate of 2010 in its current format.

Speaking on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce initiative Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS), Art Reilly, Senior Director of Cisco Systems and BASIS member, underscored the benefits of the annual gathering. “Those with seemingly incompatible views have found common ground through greater understanding,” he said. “This approach ensures movement on substantive issues and is progress.”

Mr Reilly made his observations during the closing ceremony of the 2008 IGF on 6 December in Hyderabad, India.

This year’s Internet Governance Forum was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address issues such as: affordable access, the creation of a multilingual Internet and international domain names, free flow of information, the balance of security, privacy and openness, child protection, and critical Internet resources. The IGF included four days of discussions and workshops.

Some critics of the IGF see no value in a forum with no decision making powers. But Mr Reilly stressed that it is precisely because of this structure that business, governments, the technical community, academics and civil society can discuss openly and candidly to exchange ideas and best practices.

“Business sees no benefit to the stalemates of entrenched positions and word-smithing on very narrow issues that would occur if the IGF were focused on time-consuming negotiations of a text,” he said. “That would greatly undermine the many benefits we have identified.”

Mr Reilly said that many newcomers to the Internet Governance Forum had expressed surprise at the number of considerations identified in the discussions. He said that though benefits of the IGF were difficult to measure, the exchanges were valuable and left delegates with insights and new perspectives to apply back home.

The Internet Governance Forum is an outcome of the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society which took place in 2005. In the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, governments asked the United Nations Secretary-General to convene a new forum for policy dialogue. The aim of the forum was to discuss issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the Internet’s sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development.

ICC BASIS members have actively contributed to and participated in the IGF since its inception to raise awareness of what business wants and needs to continue contributing to the development of the information society, particularly through more informed policy choices.

The importance of the IGF was also reflected in participant attendance. Close to 1,300 participants from more than 90 countries attended the event despite terrorist attacks in Mumbai just one week before.