Why should businesses care about Internet governance? 

  • 2 October 2023

The 18th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) will be held in Kyoto, Japan from 8-12 October focusing on the development of an open Internet that leaves no-one behind.

More than a year into her appointment as a member of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Leadership Panel, ICC Chair Maria Fernanda Garza will join United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin, and other global leaders to speak up for an open, trusted and interoperable Internet.  

Ahead of the Forum, we sat down with Ms Garza to learn more about her role on the IGF Leadership Panel, what to expect at this year’s forum and her outlook on the Internet governance landscape. 

As a member of the IGF Leadership Panel for a year now, what insights on global cooperation and Internet governance can you share with us?  

I was appointed as a member of the Leadership Panel at a key moment for the future and evolution of Internet governance, as we look ahead to the deliberations on the Global Digital Compact at the Summit of the Future, and the forthcoming 20-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). I believe we all agree the Internet has become a prerequisite to social-economic development, international trade and innovation. Preserving its open and inclusive nature is paramount to ensure that its benefits are accessible to all. This is important to me personally given my lifelong dedication to advocating for small and medium businesses in my home country, Mexico, and across the globe. I firmly believe that the key to achieving these goals lies in establishing effective policy frameworks, that enable the uptake of digitalisation, incentivise innovation, and not only promote, but actively foster cooperation among all stakeholders. After my appointment to the IGF Leadership Panel by the UN Secretary-General, we were tasked with sharing our expertise and vision on the most pressing policy issues. In response to this call, with fellow members of the panel, we have put together the “Internet We Want’’ paper, capturing our vision of the desirable characteristics of the Internet. The paper will be released at this year’s Forum in Kyoto. I am very much looking forward to discussing it with the IGF community. 

What are some of the emerging key topics of discussions that you believe will have a significant impact on this year’s event? 

With close to 5 billion Internet users globally, compared to 1 billion two decades ago, one of the primary challenges we face is ensuring that the Internet remains adaptable, while maintaining its unique open, decentralised and interoperable nature.  

This includes connecting the remaining 2.6 billion users, to bridge the digital divides between and within countries, and maintaining an Internet that is fundamentally centred around human rights and values. I believe we will see four key topics that will take centre stage during our discussions.  

As we find ourselves at the midpoint review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global community is falling short of reaching our agreed objectives. Digital adoption has emerged as a powerful ally in transforming the quality of life worldwide and has the potential to bring the 2030 Agenda back on track. I expect discussions at the IGF to zoom in on the opportunities driven by inclusive access to digital technologies and innovation as a pragmatic strategy for revitalising the SDGs. At ICC, we firmly believe in the unique potential of ICTs and digital technologies to foster sustainable development and will be bringing this message to the IGF. 

I also expect deep conversations on data governance, especially the trust in data and cross-border data flows. Despite its core role in facilitating economic activity, social development and innovation, mistrust in data continues to grow. The expertise of all stakeholders coming together at IGF is essential to get the data governance policy framework right, allowing the benefits of data to be accessible to everyone, everywhere, while fostering trust in their management, sharing and transfer across borders with strong commitments to security and privacy.  

ICC has contributed global business evidence to the development of principles for trusted government access to personal data held by the private sector, as well as policy recommendations to enable the trusted flow of non-personal data across borders.  I am looking forward to delving deeper into these topics at this year’s Forum.   

I am also looking forward to discussions on the implementation of guidelines and principles on the use of AI and how IGF stakeholders see the role of the global community.  

Last, but not least, taking place after the preparatory ministerial meeting on the Summit of the Future, IGF 2023 will be a valuable opportunity for policymakers to hear from the global multistakeholder community, as they move towards the drafting of a Global Digital Compact (GDC). The Compact should reaffirm the need for an effective multistakeholder governance model to be at its core and build on the nearly two-decade legacy of the IGF.  

In your view, how can business effectively engage with civil society and governments in shaping policies that impact the Internet ecosystem?  

For almost twenty years, ICC’s BASIS initiative has played a vital role in facilitating discussions and sharing best practices to shape Internet governance policies from a business perspective. This has been achieved largely through collaboration at the IGF which has been a unique platform to exchange views and include under-represented voices to engage on Internet governance discussions. Our consistent participation in the IGF demonstrates our commitment to shape an open, trusted and interoperable digital economy. 

ICC at the IGF  

ICC, through its Business Action to Support the Information Society (ICC BASIS) initiative, has been the leading voice of the private sector at the multistakeholder forum since its inception in 2006. This year, ICC BASIS will organise four sessions and facilitate the participation of its members in the High-Level Leaders and Main Session tracks organised by IGF. The sessions will be open to all IGF participants joining onsite, or online, broadcasted live. 

Learn more about IGF and Internet Governance. 

Register here for the 2023 IGF and learn more about what we have in store at the ICC BASIS sessions here. Make sure to visit the IGF webpage to add our sessions to your schedule!