Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Meet Three APrIGF 2019 Fellows

The Internet Society, APNIC, and Coordination Center for TLD .RU sponsored 20 fellows to the 10th Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF 2019) held in Vladivostok, Russia in July. Let’s meet three fellows from Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Singapore as they share their experience at APrIGF 2019, as well as their interests and future aspirations.

Shah Zahidur Rahman, Technology Business Consultant, Bangladesh

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the American International University-Bangladesh and have many technical course certifications. Currently, I am a technology business consultant for small- and medium-sized enterprises and startup companies. I have also been mentoring youths in the Youth4IG coalition to become further engaged in Internet Governance issues. I have been an active member of the Internet Society Bangladesh Chapter since 2014. I am also a member of the Bangladesh School of Internet Governance Programme Committee and Fellowship Committee, the Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum, and the ICANN Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group and Non-Commercial Users Constituency. Additionally, I am a former fellow of IETF, APSIG and APAN.

This year at APrIGF 2019, my main interest was in one of the six subthemes on Emerging Technologies and Society, and here are some of the key things I learned from participating in the sessions. First of all, without good governance, technology innovation can harm individuals and societies. Secondly, a multistakeholder approach is important for good governance. Thirdly, consumers are one of the stakeholder groups: they have a say in the governance of the Internet and can make demands, such as for greater transparency and accountability, or for Internet of Things security. Security is not just a technical issue that the technical community can address alone. There are many non-technical issues that can only be resolved with the cooperation of multiple stakeholders. Moreover, emerging technologies such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are developing at a rapid pace. We need to consider the ethics of these technologies and ensure that algorithms are free from biases for the global good. I am pleased to be a member of the drafting committee for the APrIGF 2019 Synthesis Document, which is expected to be published in October.

Sein Ma Ma, Network Engineer, Myanmar

I hold a Bachelor of Engineering in ICT and am currently working with an Internet service provider in Yangon. My interests lie in the areas of Internet Governance, digital inclusion, and community development, and I am eager to broaden my involvement in the Internet Governance ecosystem. I am involved in restarting the Internet Society Chapter in Myanmar, and I have been engaging with representatives from the Internet Society, APNIC, ICANN and Internet stakeholders in Myanmar. I am an alumni of the APNIC44, APAN45, APIGA2018, APSIG2019, and APAN48 fellowship program, and in 2018, I was a part of a committee to evaluate the fellowship applications for APNIC48. I am also a member of Youth4IG: Asia Pacific’s first and only youth coalition that engages in Internet governance.

The Asia-Pacific region is the largest in the world and it is indeed very diverse. Yet, the Internet binds us together in that diversity. The APrIGF that united almost 300 stakeholders from around 40 countries, with over 100 speakers taking part in the three-day event, has enriched my knowledge about multistakeholderism in Internet Governance. Even the fellows were from different stakeholder groups – academia, civil society, government, the private sector, and the technical community – and not just from different countries. To quote Rajnesh Singh from the Internet Society, “let’s all work together to continue keeping the Internet safe and secure, in a space that can be used for the benefit of humankind.”

Sebastian Hoe Wee Kiat, Student, Singapore

I studied at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. In Paris last year, I served as a Youth@IGF fellow. I also served as a Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Scholar in the Harvard Asia Conference in Kazakhstan, and I was recently selected as the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust Scholar for the upcoming London Summit. My interests include championing mental health and persons with disabilities, social justice, law, Internet governance, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and I aspire to serve my country and community in the social-legal sector. I also hope to improve my Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).

As a social work practitioner, I was thrilled to attend the APrIGF workshop on Child-Led Research on Promoting Safer Internet. Working together with instructors from the Guangzhou Growth Sky Social Service Centre, 22 brilliant young researchers shared their findings on promoting safer Internet from children’s perspectives in eight Chinese cities. I congratulated the young delegates on their successful research presentation and gave them encouragement and feedback on improving their research. The next steps would be reaching out to more children in the Asia-Pacific region, and including children and young persons’ voice in our Internet governance work. Young people ought to be empowered, heard, and included, so that they can thrive and succeed in being positive agents of change in our communities.

I participated in a number of other sessions to discuss legislations related to Internet Governance, such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill in Singapore, and the need for youth empowerment and participation in Internet Governance. In Singapore, we have the SG Youth Action Plan to envision the future of Singapore in 2025. Youths like myself can contribute to the action plan, and Internet Governance is one area to be included in the youth action plan. Youth have an important role to play in enhancing our Internet Governance landscape, and I am delighted to serve as a member of the drafting committee for the APrIGF 2019 Synthesis Document. I hope my experience will encourage young Singaporeans and youth in the region to contribute to our united quest for a more open, safer, and inclusive Internet.

Thank you to all of the APrIGF 2019 Fellows for taking time to share your thoughts! Because of space constraints, we weren’t able to publish all of your submissions, but we look forward to seeing how your work continues to help shape the Internet’s future.

Shaping the Internet's Future

Voices from the Pacific at APrIGF

The Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) was held on 16-19 July 2019 at the recently constructed Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island in Vladivostok, Russia. The theme of this year’s event was “Enabling a Safe, Secure and Universal Internet for All in Asia-Pacific,” with 22 sessions covering six sub-themes: safer Internet, cybersecurity and regulation; access and universality; emerging technologies and society; human rights online; the evolving role of Internet governance (IG) and multistakeholder participation; and digital economy.

The Board of the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC) was represented by Anju Mangal from Fiji, James Ahwai from Samoa, and myself from the Cook Islands. James Ahwai, a newcomer to the IG scene, participated as a panellist in the opening plenary on The State of Play and Outlook for IG in the Asia-Pacific and contributed a Pacific perspective. Anju Mangal, a former member of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group, moderated the closing plenary on APrIGF Multistakeholder Participation in the Global IGF.

I led a workshop, which was a follow-up to a session on “e-Government for Empowering Pacific Citizens,” introduced at the APrIGF in Vanuatu last year. This year, PICISOC Board member, Cherie Lagakali, a participant in the 2018 event and this time attending remotely, provided an excellent overview of Fiji’s new e-government website that has been developed with support from the Singaporean government. At the workshop, Anju Mangal also reported on the e-Government Roundtable “The Future of Digital Government for Sustainable Development,” which she attended in the Republic of Korea in June with Fellow PICISOC Board member Andrew Molivurae. PICISOC and participants of the workshop discussed and articulated the needs of the Pacific and the many challenges that governments of small island developing states face. They include challenges with connectivity and bandwidth, affordability of broadband, inadequate legal and regulatory frameworks, shortage of requisite human capacity, failure to use local language and content, and lack of entrepreneurship and a business culture that is open to change. With these issues to contend with, small island states in the Pacific have not been able to reap the benefits of digital development.

I also participated as a panelist in the plenary session on Digital Accessibility, moderated by Rajnesh D. Singh. For me, one key takeaway from this session was the role of governments and the budget priority they should give to accessibility issues, including universal acceptance. There needs to be more across-the-board awareness and education about accessibility issues, for building codes, as well as online, and governments have an important facilitating and catalyzing role in implementing accessibility requirements. This is more so in developing countries where national budgets are usually assigned to other priorities. In the Pacific, for example, the cost of technology development is a major inhibiting factor.
PICISOC will produce a report on the sessions, that members participated in, to the Dynamic Coalition on Small Island States in the Internet Economy as input to the global Internet Governance Forum that will be held in November 2019.

One of the unique features of the APrIGF is a Synthesis Document that is produced by a drafting committee of volunteers. Each day at the event, a Town Hall session was held where participants offered important takeaways from sessions they participated in during the day. These contributions were collated into a document under the six sub-themes of the forum, which becomes a summary of the hot topics, views, and perspectives from this event. When participants attend other similar events, they can reference the document as the views of those who attended this year’s APrIGF event.

Contributing to the success of this event were the great communications teams who were on hand in each of the session rooms. The state-of-the-art equipment at the university ensured quality sessions with clear inputs by every participant (both remotely and in the room). Real-time transcription as well as multiple screens were available – the sort of thing we can only wish for in the Pacific. But it certainly raised the benchmark and ensured that we had a great event. Many thanks to Mikhail, Leonid, and the Russian APrIGF Team for a great event and a great gala as well.

Next year’s APrIGF will be held in Nepal.

Image credit: TLD RU

Internet Governance

My Experience As an APrIGF18 Fellow

The 2018 Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) took place last month in Vanuatu. Tripti Jain, who attended as an APrIGF Fellow, shared her experiences.

This was my first experience at AprIGF, my first fellowship and also my first time as a speaker on a panel. Believe me, I was anxious and scared but thanks to the APrIGF community: organizers, members, participants and fellows, everyone made me feel at home a thousand miles away from my abode. I had one of the best learning weeks and couldn’t have asked for a better venue to learn with little to no distractions around and beautiful sunsets to watch while walking back to our rooms everyday. Fellows were facilitated with everything that we could have needed: cozy rooms, good food, articulate speakers and joyful socials every night.

One of the perks of being a fellow at APrIGF 2018 was that my learning experience began weeks before even getting to Vanuatu. All the fellows were required to participate and go through a basic course on Internet Governance by the Internet Society. This course was one of my personal favorite bits of the fellowship. I learnt a lot through this exercise. There are various terms that we use in common parlance while discussing the issues related to Internet Governance. The course helped me understand such words better, for example, the course highlighted the difference between multistakeholder and multilateral approaches. Similarly, I also understood the demarcation between the Internet and the World Wide Web, terms that we often use interchangeably.

Over a period of four days, we had opportunities to participate in multiple interactive learning sessions. My personal favorites were: How the Internet Works. In this session, we played a game where we were supposed to build a network through routers, devices and cables and learned how the Internet actually works in real time; the other session which I participated in and loved were debates on online privacy. We were divided into teams and were given topics such as, “privacy is a rich man’s problem.” Lastly I participated and thoroughly enjoyed the session on the DNS routing system. By profession I am a technology lawyer and attending four days of APrIGF’s intensive sessions not only widened my knowledge of the extent of Internet Governance but also strengthened my grasp on the fundamentals of the topic.

I was a panelist on two panels and I was representing (where I am a counsel). The panels were: “Responsibilities of Internet Platforms for Tackling Online Abuse Against Women & Other Marginalized Groups” and “Internet Restrictions/Shutdowns and How to Mitigate.” Since I was speaking for the first time as a panelist, I was nervous, but my panelists were very supportive and well-informed. We had some really interesting conversations (read our blog post from the panel: “Internet Restrictions in Asia Pacific Region and How to Mitigate“). This conference will always be very special to me, as it gave me the opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking.

If there are any major takeaways from the conference, one of them was the promotion of a well-informed discourse so that resulting policies would be effective. There were various panels where there were discussions about serious implications of the network and why it is so important to get this right. There was also a strong push towards imparting digital literacy. In this era of misinformation, when it’s hard to decipher what is true and untrue, Vint Cerf, the father of the Internet himself stated, “the best fetter for misinformation lies within us. It’s called critical thinking”.

A few final notes…

I can think of no better words to sum up my experience as a fellow at APrIGF 2018 than Penelope Douglas’ wise wordings, “Experience is the best teacher.” This fellowship taught me a lot, gave me a lot of friends and a lifelong interest in Internet Governance. The fellowship is very well structured but at the same time is very fluid. The organizing committee assigns every fellow to a buddy group who in turn reports on a particular sub-theme, but at the same time, there are enough number of people in a group which gives fellows the flexibility to attend sessions from various sub-themes.

Lastly, the best thing about being an APrIGF fellow is everyone gets to participate meaningfully. Often we attend conferences where we find ourselves just observing and not being able to contribute enough. However, as an APrIGF fellow, you have to report sessions, there are lightning sessions for fellows and town hall sessions where you can participate. Thus, the design of the platform ensures that every fellow can participate meaningfully from day one.

On the afternoon of 17th August, 2018, I boarded a ferry to the cab with a week packed in a bag. Monsoon seemed to know its place arriving to punctuate the goodbyes. Though, it was my first AprIGF and I have nothing to compare it to, but I loved every bit of it. I wish I get a chance to participate every year.

Learn more about Internet Governance and why everyone should have a voice in shaping tomorrow!

Photo ©Frederic Courbet/Panos
This post first appeared here.

Internet Governance

First APrIGF in the Pacific a Resounding Success

The 2018 Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) which was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu from August 13-16 came to an exciting close after a week of valuable dialogue on Internet Governance issues in the region.  This was the first time the APrIGF was held in the Pacific and the local hosts, Vanuatu’s Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), Vanuatu Telecommunications and Radiocommunications Regulator (TRR), and the local people of Vanuatu showed the APrIGF community what Pacific Island hospitality is all about.

The community had the privilege of having APrIGF 2018 opened by none other than the Vanuatu Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai. Also present at APrIGF 2018 and delivering his keynote address was the godfather of the Internet himself, Vint Cerf who took time to contribute in various discussions and engage with participants. With the theme of Empowering Communities in Asia Pacific to Build an Affordable, Inclusive, Open and Secure Internet, the calibre of delegates speaks volumes for the importance of such a dialogue.

Participants from all over Asia-Pacific, representing various stakeholder groups, were present to contribute to discussion and engage in the proceedings. This was the culmination of months of planning and execution by the APrIGF Multistakeholder Steering Group (MSG) and the local host.

Attending the APrIGF from the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau were Bureau Director and Chair of APrIGF 2018 MSG, Rajnesh Singh; Regional Development Manager, Naveed Haq; as well as the Internet Society’s Vice President of Global Engagement, Raul Echeberria. The Internet Society team took their time to engage and contribute in activities as well as engage with groups and individual participants at the forum. Among the participants the team was able to engage with were the 2018 APrIGF fellows, for whom the Internet Society is a proud sponsor of their program.

The fellows undertook pre-forum coaching and specialised engagement activities apart from participating in general sessions during the week as part of their program. Fellows – for many it was their first time in the Pacific – were able to share some of their thoughts about the fellowship with the APAC Bureau. Many fellows shared that this was their first Internet Governance event, and they all claimed to have gained a lot from the experience. Experience which will undoubtedly make its way back and influence others in their home countries, which was a common goal among the fellows.

Topics that received attention during the dialogue included those of cybersecurity, privacy, and of course, long-standing challenges of connectivity and affordability. Disaster resilience and recovery as well as education in Internet Governance were also among topics discussed. The establishment of cybersecurity emergency response teams (CERTS), stakeholder cooperation, and community networks were some of the potential avenues put forward to address the challenges faced. Ideas, experience, and questions about challenges were raised, making for a meaningful and productive dialogue. What transpired over the course of the week will be captured and published on the APrIGF 2018 synthesis document.

At the close of APrIGF 2018, MSG Chair Raj Singh thanked the local hosts for the gracious hospitality and support in hosting the event. Sentiments shared by Vanuatu regulator Dalsie Baniala who returned the gratitude to the MSG for choosing Vanuatu and working with the host for bringing APrIGF to the Pacific Islands.

The close of APrIGF also signalled attention toward APrIGF 2019 which is to be held in the Russian port city of Vladivostok on the Pacific coast. General manager of APTLD, Leonid Todorov, who presented on behalf of the 2019 host, was glad to announce that plans were already underway and that Russia was looking forward to welcoming the community in July 2019.

Learn more about Internet Governance and why everyone should have a voice in shaping tomorrow!

Photo ©Frederic Courbet/Panos

Growing the Internet Human Rights Internet Governance Women in Tech

Reflections on the 2016 Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum

With more than half the world’s population (and its languages), the Asia-Pacific is by far the most diverse region. Throughout history, countries in the region have had to balance influences and sensitivities related to – amongst other things – culture, religion, traditions and working norms.

The Internet world is no different, and we see great diversity within the region (and sometimes within a country!) when it comes to the Internet and the role it plays in society. The Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) is one medium through which players and actors from across the region and beyond are able to engage in dialogue and hallway conversations to debate issues, exchange knowledge, and help shape at least rough consensus on current and emerging issues.

This year’s APrIGF in Taipei was perhaps the most diverse to-date. Having been involved with the APrIGF since its inception, I was happy to see new faces in the room this year, together with a number of younger faces. New voices in the conversation are important – otherwise what we end up with are the usual suspects repeating more or less the same conversation – what I like to term “us talking about us”.

There was also an improvement in the gender balance at the event – for the first time I saw a panel discussion that had only one male! Of course there were many other panels that were male-dominated, so there is still room to do better. Gender issues were raised in many of the panel discussions, and it was good to see people openly discuss ways in which we can improve the gender imbalance that exists in many spheres.

I am of the opinion that gender issues must be mainstreamed – there is little point in having such discussion in silos. This is something we will be paying more attention to at the ISOC Asia-Pacific Bureau.

I was surprised to find that some twenty participants in the Youth IGF (held alongside the APrIGF) had paid their own way to the event. I thought this was quite remarkable – for these young persons (who were from the Philippines) to put in the effort to fund their own trip. The younger generation’s involvement in Internet governance is critical – after all they are the future. Being digital natives, their perspectives are vital – but often missing – when discussing and shaping policy. In interacting with several of them, I found them to be highly aware of topical issues and concerns, and they offered insights that I found quite valuable.

Overall, I think this year’s APrIGF was well organised, and congratulations to the host for their efforts. The visa process – always a concern for some participants – was handled well, and having an e-visa process certainly made things far easier than the usual (and often multiple) visits to Embassies and Consulates required of participants.

The synthesis document being developed will summarise the views of participants and serve as a reference document in various fora within and beyond the region.

The next APrIGF is scheduled for Melbourne, Australia most likely in the second half of 2017. I hope that is an opportunity for the “Pacific” part of Asia-Pacific to better participate in the event, and share some of the unique issues and challenges from what some term “the liquid continent”.

Photo credit (centre photo): Shuyi Guo

Growing the Internet Internet Governance

An Internet for the Next Billion … or Two

With its 1.3 billion Internet users, burgeoning ICT industries and sizable online markets, Asia-Pacific is very aware of its significance to the global Internet ecosystem—this much was evident at the recently-held Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), where some 350 participants pondered the current and future state of cyberspace. But alongside the many debates on security, multi-stakeholder approaches and Internet governance was a recurring question: In a region with 4.2 billion people, how do we get the next two billion online?

Increased connectivity will help not only build the region’s capacity to contribute to wider Internet governance discussion, alleviating its under-representation in global bodies like ICANN, but also to ease broader socio-economic problems like rural poverty and economic growth. Yet as stakeholders in Asia-Pacific have learned, there is no single remedy to the digital divide that threatens to further segment its societies. The barriers are numerous, and are just as varied as the topographies, cultures and languages that make up the region, meaning that nothing less than tailor-made solutions will work.

While Pacific island states struggle with infrastructure rollouts and small economies of scale, the likes of Hong Kong and South Korea, which top ICT readiness rankings worldwide, lament the deepening gap between the majority who enjoy ubiquitous Internet access and the remaining few, such as the elderly, who are further isolated as crucial services become available exclusively online.

For a number of countries which have begun to offer affordable access, the challenge lies in making the Internet compelling enough for people to use it. Accessibility thus acquires a different quality, and often hinges on the cultivation of local — and locally relevant — content suited to people’s everyday needs. Participants from Australia were keen to see more applications which address the requirements of the differently-abled, while those from India are counting on ones that target the bottom of the pyramid, as well as on Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) to enable its myriad linguistic communities to utilise the Internet in their native tongue.

Asia-Pacific has made significant leaps in connecting the first third of its population to the Internet, but stakeholders agreed that getting the next two people online will be a completely different story. It will entail reaching out to those who are more disadvantaged, more underserved, live in more remote areas and have even less exposure to ICT. It will involve grappling with compounding hurdles such as income- and gender-based restrictions, low literacy rates and even the absence of stable power supplies.

It is in this context that delegates at this year’s APrIGF confronted issues of equal participation and human rights online, deliberated on the usefulness of Net neutrality to developing countries, and underscored the need to make mobile—now the entry point to cyberspace for many first time Internet users—a foundational tool for Internet access. It is against this backdrop that participants advocated for open standards and open source software, which would not only make access-related initiatives more scalable and cheaper to execute, but also widen the field of possibilities for grassroots innovations.

Governments, moving forward, can play a key role in connecting the marginalised by creating policy and regulatory environments that are conducive to Internet use and investment–interventions that enable, rather than restrict online access, in the form of competition laws, fair use clauses for digital intellectual property, and universal access policies. Regardless of their source, solutions must be shared and sustainable, with stakeholders acknowledging the merits of top-down macro solutions but also encouraging bottom-up, community-based inputs and approaches, whether in creating a ruleset for an IDN, deploying wireless networks or in developing useful applications and software.

The Internet is celebrated as a borderless network of networks, but for it to be truly global, participants at the APrIGF ask that it also reflect and accommodate the richness and diversity of communities across Asia-Pacific—including those who have yet to go online.