|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Internet Governance Forum Concludes in Nairobi, with Officials Describing 2011
Event as ‘Biggest and Liveliest’ Since Inception
NAIROBI, 30 September — The sixth Internet Governance Forum (IGF) concluded today with secretariat officials describing it as the biggest and liveliest since the institution’s inception as more than 2,000 experts and users attended the meeting at the United Nations offices here.
Speaking at the concluding press conference, Forum representative Chengetai Masango said participation in the conference halls and online had been far greater than that of the 2010 event. “Participants who could not come to Nairobi were able to follow the discussions online in real time,” he said, adding that many of the questions raised had come from Internet users from countries such as Brazil, Burundi, New Zealand, Rwanda and the United States.
“This year’s Forum captured the Internet as a medium for positive change and human development,” he said, adding that the 2011 Forum had demonstrated its unique way of giving every voice equal importance. Civil society and Government representatives had taken turns to help steer public policy on Internet governance.
Describing the high attendance, he said 125 Governments had sent representatives, estimating the regional distribution of participants as: African Group, 53 per cent; Western Europe and Other States, 29 per cent; Asian Group, 11 per cent; Latin American and Caribbean Group, 4 per cent; and Eastern European Group, 3 per cent.
He said the Forum’s Remote Participation Working Group had established hubs in 47 locations, providing the means for more than 823 people who had not been able to attend the meeting to participate actively and contribute to discussions. A total of 38 remote participants/panellists had participated via video or audio and approximately 2,500 connections from 89 countries had been made throughout the week.
The entire meeting was webcast, with video streaming provided from the main session room and audio streaming from all workshop meeting rooms. All main sessions and workshops had real time transcription, and the transcripts and video of all meetings had been made available through the Forum’s website. That arrangement had allowed remote participants to interact with the meeting in real time. The main sessions were organized to maximize the opportunity for open and inclusive dialogue, as well as the exchange of ideas among all stakeholders.
Parallel to the main sessions, 122 workshops, best practice forums, dynamic coalition meetings and open forums were held around the Forum’s main themes and its broad mandate.
The opening ceremony saw the formal handover of the sixth Internet Governance Forum meeting to the host country.
In his opening address to the meeting, Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, thanked the Government of Kenya on behalf of Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, for their warm welcome and generous hospitality. He said the continuing growth of the Internet, across all technology platforms, reinforced the need for open policy dialogue that brought all stakeholders together on an equal footing. He stressed the critical importance of the Forum’s development themes, saying they opened the opportunity for the Forum to contribute to and shape the development of the “Rio+20” process on sustainable development.
Alice Munyua, Chair of the Kenya Internet Governance Steering Committee, speaking in her capacity as acting Chair of the meeting, said the country was “delighted” to be the first host of the IGF in sub-Saharan Africa.
Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications, embraced the spirit of the Forum and described the transformation that had occurred in the availability, quality and uptake of Internet services. New fibre-optic cables had created an abundance of international connectivity, investments by operators had seen the coverage of networks reach across the country and the rapid development of world-class innovative services, such as mobile money, had not only helped Kenyans in their everyday lives, but also placed their country on the global map of innovative economies.
Samuel Poghisio, Minister for Information and Communications, emphasized Kenya’s commitment to a vision that would see Internet access guaranteed for all on the basis of a more open and transparent society. That 2030 plan presented a national vision of Kenya as a fully-fledged information society and an economy where the Internet fostered innovation and entrepreneurship, he added.
Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, described the work of that organization and its Member States on cyber–security, child online protection and climate change.
Kalonzo Musyoka, Vice-President of Kenya, highlighted the Government’s commitment to reaping the benefits of the Internet for all and to using it to build a more open and transparent Government. He also stressed the Government’s commitment to enhancing access to the Internet and information, reaffirming the importance of access to knowledge, information and connectivity as the pillars of human development.
In keeping with the Forum’s traditions, the meeting outputs will not be formal recommendations, but multi-stakeholder dialogues, which will inform other international processes, particularly the domestic-policy issues of all those concerned with Internet governance.
The multi-stakeholder community from across varied perspectives brought into focus a common concern for Internet safety, a concept that expanded the debate and the need for policy development beyond the call for cyber-crime treaties and into a multi-stakeholder dialogue where all could benefit from synergies, whether on the protection of children and the vulnerable online, or on ensuring the safety of the Internet itself.
All speakers celebrated the numerous ways in which the phenomenal growth of access to the Internet, as well as the content and knowledge it disseminates, had advanced human development.
Internet Governance for Development (IG4D)
Development issues have been central to the Forum from inception — the confluence of technical change, new economic opportunities and social change has propelled Internet governance issues to the centre of debates on development. The just-concluded session aimed to consider the specific examples of global Internet governance issues that may have particular relevance to development.
The debate highlighted the significance of Internet governance, not as a fringe activity, but as a core element of the development agenda linking new forms of access, economic development, innovation as well as new freedoms and human rights.
The meeting focused on the question “Is governance different for the mobile Internet from the wired Internet?” with the Session Chair noting the issue’s particular importance to developing countries where the mobile Internet connected individuals and businesses to services, markets and information previously beyond reach. Kenya provided a clear example of that with mobile services having brought sophisticated financial services into the hands of many of the “unbanked” previously lacking access.
Today, about half of all Internet users and one seventh of the world’s population had moved to mobile and, according to a recent industry survey, mobile broadband subscriptions would reach and estimated 3.8 billion people, or about half of world’s population by 2015. Another report predicted that traffic from wireless devices would exceed that from wired ones by the same year. To date, the mobile Internet has been possibly the fastest growing technology in history; no other technology had reached as many people and been as widespread so quickly.
Reacting to that introduction, participants noted that, given the high mobile penetration in both developing and developed countries, a key development issue was that the mobile Internet was now becoming more robust. When people were connected, they should be protected against the failure of the system they had come to rely on for critical life-affecting services, such as banking, health, and education.
Participants heard that the next stage of mobile Internet would be 4G and technologies such as LTE (Long Term Evolution), which provided increased speeds up to 10 times those of their 3G predecessors, and increased security, which was important to the robustness and trust that speakers had earlier identified as critical to positioning the mobile Internet at the centre of people’s lives. However, despite many positive aspects of mobile technologies, the audience was reminded that the wired Internet was still important. The massive bandwidth made available to East Africa from submarine cables connected the subregion to the world at very high speeds, opening new opportunities and a new world for its people.
Access and Diversity
The session on access and diversity sought, through multiple paths, to explore the ways in which access to the Internet could be understood as a human right. Those paths opened a rich, wide-ranging and vibrant debate involving panellists, delegates, and remote participants.
At the beginning of the session delegates were reminded that access to information was a human right, as was freedom of expression; it was also noted that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights had recently called for access to the Internet to be treated as a human right.
The next Internet Governance Forum will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia formally offered to host the 2013 event.
Transcripts of all the main sessions and workshops is available on the Internet Governance Forum website: www.intgovforum.org.
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