Internet Governance

The First Armenian Internet Governance Forum: The Lessons Learnt

The ISOC Armenia, together with international and local partners, hosted the first-ever national IGF in Yerevan last month. The event was overwhelmingly successful, attracting some 200 participants from the local and regional Internet communities.

Several members of the Armenian chapter are well plugged in with the global Internet community and frequent visitors to global Internet governance events, which certainly made it easier to draft a compelling agenda and to attract international sponsors and participants. However, one cannot underestimate the time and effort it takes to organise a gathering.

 We would like to share the top three lessons learnt from the Armenian IGF experience:

1. Multistakeholderism

The ISOC family strongly defends and believes in multistakeholderism in Internet governance. But it is not always easy to effectively implement multistakeholderism with limited resources. ISOC Armenia engaged the Ministry of Transport and Communication and local businesses from the very beginning on a partnership basis. This meant that these partners took over the organisation of certain sessions and provided speakers or moderators across the agenda. Also, the Ministry and local businesses facilitated the invitation process within their respective communities. Of overall participants, 30% were from the private sector, 18% from civil society, 17% from the technical community, 8% government, 8% academia, and 19% did not mention their affiliation.

2. Regional best practices

ISOC Armenia together with its international partners invited regional stakeholders from government, business, civil society and technical community to attend the ArmIGF. During the event, we heard views from Georgia, Russia, Serbia and Kyrgyzstan on various policy and development questions related to the Internet. The regional stakeholders discussed a possibility to create an educational platform to facilitate the exchange of practical experiences on common challenges such as security. Sharing best practices can help identify regional synergies and ultimately accelerate Internet development.

3. Maximising resources

Starting an event from scratch can be a daunting experience – it requires a budget, people and time! ISOC Armenia secured external funding from various sources:

ISOC Armenia is one of the few ISOC chapters with dedicated staff.  To be fully staffed for the IGF, the chapter team launched an informal Facebook group to recruit interested students as volunteers. This campaign worked and seven enthusiastic youngsters helped during the event. Afterwards, 3 of them became members of ISOC Armenia. The challenge will be to make this effort at least partially self-sustaining over the following years.

Lianna Galstyan from the Armenian ISOC chapter will share further insights to the Armenian IGF at the global IGF in João Pessoa, Brazil. We encourage you to attend and contribute to this IGF Initiatives MasterChef workshop on national and regional IGFs on 12 November!

ISOC’s local Internet governance event toolkit, launched earlier this year, provides further guidance on how to set up your first national IG event.

Internet Governance

Indian Internet Governance Conference: A Multistakeholder Success Story

On 04-05 October, the Internet Society was honored to be a co-organiser of the first-ever Indian Internet Governance Conference (IIGC). Organized in the multistakeholder spirit of the Internet Governance Forum, the IIGC was an unequivocal success – stakeholders from across the local Internet community came together for a spirited discussion on a host of challenging Internet policy issues including hate speech, cybersecurity, the role of the International Telecommunication Regulations, rural broadband deployment, and the future of the press. Through it all, it was heartening to see the Indian government playing a key role in the discussions – at times offering the government perspective but also displaying a genuine desire to hear and learn from the community.

The Internet Society joined with FICCI and the Indian ICT Ministry to organize the IIGC in part because we believe that India has an important role to play in the international dialogue on Internet governance, particularly in major upcoming negotiations at the ITU. Unfortunately, recent international proposals by the governments of India, Brazil, and South Africa to create a new body within the United Nations to coordinate global Internet policy have caused some to question India’s support for the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. So we viewed ICT Minister Kapil Sibal’s speech to the IIGC in which he declared, “The
position of government of India is clear — we are on the side of freedom of expression” to be a clear step forward for India in the right direction. We are further encouraged by commitments by the Indian government during the IIGC to continue this model of open consultations on Internet policy.

Clearly, there are many complex and difficult Internet policy issues facing Indian policymakers. For example, India is grappling to find the appropriate balance between public safety, cybersecurity and freedom of expression online, particularly in the wake of the unfortunate incident that took place recently as a result of false warnings being sent via text message to a particular ethnic population, triggering panic. Connectivity costs also remain too high for many in rural India and there is a continuing challenge of finding ways to promote e-literacy among populations for whom literacy rates are still low. Finally, India’s approach the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunicaitons (WCIT) remains a work in progress.

It was also encouraging to see the diverse and passionate voices that engaged in the discussions at the IIGC across a variety of topics, as well, the position of Industry, who emphasised the need to keep Internet issues out of the ITRs, and the need for continued multistakeholder dialogue and consultations.

We at the Internet Society hope that the constructive discussions at the IIGC underscore the importance of an open, transparent and inclusive multi-stakeholder approach and is used by government to solve these, at times complicated, Internet policy issues. The Internet Society is committed to remaining engaged and supporting these types of local efforts to ensure that collaboration and support continue focused around these important topics.

Sally Shipman Wentworth