Growing the Internet Internet Governance

Connecting the Next Billion

Connecting the next Billion is one of the central issues on the international Internet and Internet Governance agenda, and will be one of the key working themes at the next Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which will be held in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, this November.

The Internet Society considers Connecting the Next Billion as a key issue, as it relates directly to our vision. Our vision states that “the Internet is for everyone.” Of course, we are not talking about just any Internet – we are talking about a free and open Internet, one that will serve as a platform for human, social and economic development and be a tool for strengthening human rights.

This is the reason behind all our work.

Contributing to this debate, especially at the IGF, is not only our duty but it’s also in our best interest.

When we talk about connecting the next billion and everyone understands what we mean – connect new users, lower connectivity cost, create opportunities for access. The greater concern, however, is not how to connect the next billion users, but actually how to connect the last two billion.

Thanks to a combination of market forces, public policies aimed at increasing connectivity, and the work of organizations such as the Internet Society that strive towards global Internet development, the next billion should not be as difficult to connect.

This means that the question we must ask ourselves is how to connect all the unconnected people.

ISOC’s connectivity strategy is based on four pillars:

  • Infrastructure development 
  • Community development 
  • Human capacity development 
  • Influencing public policies 

Our programs allow us to make a difference —an important difference— to many people, and to connect or be instrumental in connecting many people. We cannot, however, connect the next billion or billions by ourselves.

We must continue furthering our projects and developing partnerships to achieve a greater impact. At the end of the day, we will only be able to connect billions of users if we can bring our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned to policy makers.

This is why it’s very important to work with people – particularly in governments, international organizations, and leaders of other organizations involved in development – so we can turn the lessons learned from our experiences into best practices and public policies.

This is the only way we’ll be able to grow from thousands to billions.

Our contribution to the IGF debates is in-line with the vision described above. Of course, we’ll also add information regarding our projects and the experience we’ve gained through our work.

While speaking of the IGF and our contributions to the upcoming meeting in Joao Pessao, I’d also like to note that, in addition to our involvement in content discussions, our commitment to a successful IGF in terms of the debate, and our active participation in the development of best practices at global, regional and local levels, we continue to be strongly committed to providing financial support to the IGF, both directly to the IGF Secretariat as well as to a foundation created in 2014: the IGFSA Foundation. As well as providing full secretariat and administrative support, we’ve contributed USD 50,000 this year.

You can give to the IGF too.

I invite you to continue to work together, contributing to the debate on how to connect the next billion users.

Photo: “Motorcycle & Mobile Phone” © 2014 Adam Cohn CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Internet Governance

IGF 2014 Takes Action

After many months of hard work and preparation, last week’s IGF 2014 proved to be an extremely productive one. Building on a busy and compelling agenda, the community was united in its willingness to address concrete issues, with a view to work towards tangible solutions.  

Internet Society CEO Kathy Brown, in her remarks at the opening ceremony, outlined four clear calls to action: 1) demonstrate that the IGF is essential to the future of the Internet; 2) strengthen the IGF by producing tangible results; 3) be fearless in tackling the tough, important issues; and 4) ensure the IGF belongs to everyone through broad engagement both inside and outside of the Forum.  Looking through the lens of these four calls to action, I believe that we can judge the Istanbul IGF as having been a great success, one that offers a strong foundation for IGF 2015 in Brazil.

Throughout 2014, the Internet community has proved its capacity to produce tangible outcomes within multistakeholder collaboration frameworks. Brazil’s NETmundial event was one such achievement, producing key principles and a roadmap for Internet Governance in a bottom-up and inclusive fashion.

At the 2014 Internet Governance Forum, the community faced the challenges head on with new collaborative processes designed to turn dialogue into action and numerous, substantive results: 

  • The first IGF Best Practice Forums developed five draft documents on CERTs, Online Child Protection and other critical issues. They are now open for comments, through 15 September.  New themes are now considered to feed the 2015 IGF in Brazil, including one on Privacy in the Digital Age.
  • A statement requesting the renewal of the IGF’s mandate, and its lengthening to 10 years, was drafted to send to the United Nations; the discussion and review of that draft continues online.

IGF Istanbul tackled difficult, yet important topics such as Net Neutrality and the IANA transition. In so doing, we also made significant progress in demonstrating to the world that the collective work that flourishes in a bottom-up, distributed, multistakeholder environment is the most effective way to ensure an open and inclusive Internet model. 

With an exceptionally high level of participation – nearly 3,500 participants, including 1,000 remotely – IGF Istanbul gathered leaders and stakeholders from all regions and stakeholder groups. As the IGF evolves from an event into a continued working process, it will offer all Internet users a chance to get actively involved in ongoing dialogues, such as the IGF Best Practices.  

But what happens now? The IGF is at a critical juncture. Headway made over the past week, while significant, was but the first step towards demonstrating outcome-oriented reforms and organizational sustainability. 

In order to ensure that the IGF survives and thrives, we must continue to build a collective voice, forge a collective path and focus on a collective goal: to preserve this important Forum for neutral, inclusive, global collaboration, dialogue and debate.

Looking ahead to IGF 2015, strong support of the regional and national IGFs is critical to move the dialogue forward. If we can catalyze the multistakeholder IGF model in every country, city or small village, we will build a stronger global network. And, we also want to encourage the participation of youth representatives to attend and engage in the Internet governance ecosystem.

As Internet-defining issues continue to emerge, the IGF has the potential to play an increasingly important role in the global debate on Internet governance.  Only by working together and expanding the engagement of all stakeholders, can we build, strengthen, and expand the IGF network so that every voice may be heard! 

Internet Governance

Join us in Supporting the New Internet Governance Forum Support Association to Sustain, Grow IGF

By Bob Hinden, Chair of Internet Society Board of Trustees and David Farber, Internet Society Board Trustee

On the eve of the 9th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul, the Internet Society’s Board of Trustees is eagerly anticipating the official launch of the Internet Governance Forum Support Association, an organization to support and sustain the IGF.  Despite its great success as a facilitator of open and equal dialogue, the IGF’s financial stability has been in question. The Board of the Internet Society strongly believed that it was necessary to create a legal structure to ensure that the IGF can grow and, indeed, strengthen its role. We are pleased that today at the IGF Support Association’s General Assembly meeting, a committed core of people who passionately support the goals of the IGF will formally organize to raise needed resources to sustain the global and regional efforts.

Why does the IGF matter so much?  The global collaboration that occurs at the IGF is extremely important to those of us who are committed to an open, sustainable Internet, and fostering this collaboration is a key tenet guiding the Internet Society’s Board of Trustees. Unlike some forums for debate on Internet governance, the IGF is inclusive, and anyone can participate. It’s not limited to specific interest groups; it brings all interests—including large and small governments, civil society, the private sector and the technical community—together as equals. The IGF offers a neutral and informal setting, free from binding negotiations, to examine and discuss best practice approaches to policy solutions and the Internet’s global development.

This kind of level-playing-field dialogue and debate is crucial to the Internet’s healthy evolution and advancement: if decisions related to the Internet and its future are not in the hands of the many, they will only be in the hands of the few.  And the responsibility for ensuring that balance falls to us if we want the Internet to evolve in an accessible, sustainable way.

Here’s what the IGF Support Association will do: 

  • provide funds to maintain/strengthen the IGF Secretariat and national/regional IGF initiatives;
  • seek and promote exchange and collaboration with national and regional IGF initiatives;
  • identify new sources of funding and facilitate funding of the IGF;
  • make contributions to the IGF Trust Fund administered by the UN; and
  • award fellowships for participation at IGF meetings, including preparatory meetings.

It’s important to remember that the IGF functions through support from its participants and friends. In order to continue to grow, it needs a robust and sustainable income stream. The IGF Support Association will be a channel for essential funding from individuals, companies, and foundations to ensure the IGF is the premier event for everyone interested in the Internet and its governance. The IGF Support Association is an open membership association – as its membership increases, so does its support of the IGF.

This is why your involvement in the IGF Support Association is vital if, like us, you believe that Internet governance should be directed by all of the Internet’s stakeholders.

Please join us in building a strong foundation for the IGF through your support of the IGF Support Association. For more information on becoming a member or making a donation, visit their website.