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The substantive agenda of the first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum
Summary of the discussions and contributions
The preparatory process for the Convening of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) started a broad-based discussion on the substantive agenda. This paper aims to produce a short synthesis of the discussion as well as the contributions posted on the IGF website (http://www.intgovforum.org). It is an attempt to give a cumulative overview of all statements and contributions made with the aim of facilitating the discussion at the next round of open consultations, scheduled to be held in Geneva on 19 May 2006.
First round of consultations
At the first round of consultations, held in Geneva on 16-17 February 2006, participants were invited to list the top three policy issues they would like the first meeting of the IGF to address.
After the consultations, a short synthesis of the public policy issues discussed during the meeting and also reflecting responses to a questionnaire was released by the IGF Secretariat (http://www.intgovforum.org/brief.htm).
This synthesis included:
Contributions submitted in March and April
Based on the call for comment, a total of 43 contributions were submitted by governments, private sector, civil society, the academic and technical community as well as intergovernmental organizations. The contributions addressed a wide variety of public policy issues. Many of them included not only a description of a public policy issue, but also included an expanded discussion on the importance of the issue, the actors involved in the issue and an explanation of reasons why the issue should be included in the agenda of the first IGF meeting.
The emerging consensus, originally reported after the February consultations, that the IGF needed to maintain an overall development orientation was reinforced by many of the contributions. One proposal – by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) - recommended that the major issues be combined within a framework of a development agenda on Internet governance.
Capacity building was the most frequently addressed issue. It was presented not only in terms of the growing consensus for its priority in enabling meaningful participation but also as a specific policy issue. When looking at capacity building it was pointed out that access to education, culture and knowledge was a recognized human right. Other authors pointed out the necessity of fostering the ability of all stakeholders from all countries to participate in the process of Internet governance. The discussion of capacity building also extended to consideration of technical standards and the need that they be developed in such a way as to not hinder capacity building. One contribution offered concrete programs that could be explored to foster open educational resources that could be made available over the network. The Coordinating Committee of Business Interlocutors (CCBI) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in their contribution suggest focusing on capacity building as the basis for progress on all other issues in the IGF and as an essential element to effective Internet governance.
The next four issues had similar levels of support and were the next most frequently discussed in the contributions:
On the issue of privacy and data protection several contributions discussed the evolving concept of digital identity. It is predicted that these new technologies will allow a greater degree of public trust once policy deliberation has clarified the benefits and risks of on-line life. Another issue discussed under this category concerned protection of the privacy rights of Internet users and website owners. Several of the contributions brought out the linkage between privacy and data protection and governance and human rights.
The next issue concerned spam. Frequently the discussion of spam was combined with discussions of other network problems such as viruses and phishing, as spam is the major vehicle by which such security risks are delivered to Internet users. Because of this linkage, the issue was closely allied with the issue of cybersecurity by many of the contributions. The importance of finding a solution for these problems focused on the need for a safe and reliable Internet. It was also mentioned that if the Internet is not secure, or if a large percent of email consists of spam, viruses and phishing attacks then users will not trust the Internet, which in turn will decrease the usefulness of the network.
Issues involved in freedom of expression and human rights were also a major focus of the statements received. Some of the issues that were brought up include content policies and filtering as well as the relationship between intellectual property rights and access to knowledge.
Another frequently discussed issue involved the transparent and equitable management of critical Internet resources.
To a lesser but still substantial extent, there were other issues that were proposed for the first meeting of the IGF in Athens.
Two contributions recalled the Open Regional Dialogue on Internet Governance (ORDIG), which had carried out a survey of stakeholder views on Internet governance priorities throughout the Asia-Pacific region. This project of the United Nations Development Programme’s Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP) was conducted in 12 major regional languages. The survey, the largest to date on Internet governance, received over 1,200 responses from 37 countries and representatives of all major stakeholder groups. The contributions recall that the following issues emerged as top priorities in the Asia-Pacific region: connectivity and access, multilingualism, spam and viruses, and cybercrime,
A number of issues were mentioned by a small number of contributors. These issues included:
Several contributions made reference to the public nature of the Internet and of the need to explore issues of public interest, the public domain, public infrastructure and the public good in the context of the Internet.
Preliminary Conclusions and Questions
A cumulative listing of priority issues since the beginning of the preparatory process would appear to confirm the top issues listed in the first synthesis paper. Capacity building, spam, cybercrime, privacy and data protection and multilingualism appear to be the most frequently mentioned items. It should also be noted that the Group of 77 and China in their submission put a great emphasis on issues related to the access to the Internet, such as international interconnection costs and the affordability and availability of the Internet, as well as issues related to bridging the digital divide.
There are a few open questions however that the meeting on 19 May 2006 may wish to address.