Internet Governance Forum takes stock and looks ahead

  • 9 February 2010

Preparations for one of the most important, Internet-related policy events of the year kicked off today in Geneva. ICC and its Business Action to Support the Information Society initiative voiced the business perspective at the first round of Internet Governance Forum (IGF) open consultations, aimed at laying the groundwork for the next forum due to take place in Vilnius, Lithuania later this year.

Consultations not only focused on the agenda and format of the upcoming forum, which will be held on 14-17 September, but also took stock of the previous gathering in Egypt last November. ICC BASIS recommendations for the 2010 IGF included improving remote access in the interests of increased and more diverse participation, as well as identifying emerging issues that merit inclusion for discussion.

At the consultations today, ICC BASIS called for continued efforts for the forum to highlight regional, IGF-related activities. “Internet governance requires the attention of all stakeholders,” said Ayesha Hassan, Senior Policy Manager and Executive in charge of Information and Communication Technologies Policy. “Sessions on regional initiatives give insight into how initiatives are being organized. Not only do they highlight emerging regional priorities and experiences but they are also a way of enabling the views and experiences of stakeholders around the world to penetrate through to the global level.”

In 2010, as the world cyber population reaches 1.73 billion, getting internet governance right is more important than ever. Convened under the aegis of the UN Secretary General, the IGF is a one-of-a-kind international platform that welcomes frank and open discussion on governance issues from all interest groups including governments, business leaders, the technical community and civil society. Last year the forum took place in Sharm-el- Sheikh, Egypt and attracted over 1,500 participants.

The IGF in Egypt underscored the importance of the Internet as a vast resource with enormous potential to raise living standards around the globe. Discussions focused on how tapping into this network of networks, can help us find solutions to many of the challenges we face in today’s face-paced global economy.

Shaping enabling policies, and establishing the right legal and regulatory environment are pivotal to Internet and infrastructure access. While these issues featured on the agenda of the IGF in 2009, ICC BASIS recommended that they are addressed in a main session on development at the next forum. “We would like to see the session focus on policy implications, informed policy choices, best practices and how challenges in these areas have been overcome,” said Heather Shaw, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology Policy, United States Council for International Business.

Ms Shaw formally submitted reflections on behalf of ICC BASIS members around the world. The contribution also called for cloud computing to be included in the emerging issues session of the next forum. It was suggested that discussions could help define what the cloud is and is not, outline the novel solutions it offers and raise other security solutions and policy issues.

For the first time the IGF in Egypt featured a formal consultation on the continuation of the forum, whose original five-year mandate terminates at the end of this year. At the open consultation today, ICC BASIS strongly reiterated business sentiment that the demise of the IGF could impede the ability of the Internet to drive economic growth and improve societal benefits.

“In less developed countries, connectivity has a direct correlation with positive social and economic changes,” said Subramanian Ramadorai, Vice Chairman, Tata Consultancy Services and Chair of BASIS. “The have’s and the have-nots of the world have differing needs but the IGF has catalyzed communication between all stakeholders. It contributes to more informed policymaking that is a prerequisite for progress.”

Herbert Heitmann, SAP’s Chief Global Communications Officer, and Chair of the ICC Commission on E-Business, IT and Telecoms said: “Discontinuation of the IGF or changes to its founding principles could be seriously detrimental to the future of Internet development and expansion. We were encouraged that the overwhelming majority of 2009 IGF participants officially expressed support for its continuation. Those who suggested radical changes were clearly in the minority.”