Our week with the global Internet community
A BLOG FROM VIVIEN MAIDABORN — TUMU WHAKARAE | CHIEF EXECUTIVE — INTERNETNZ •
In late August, I led a delegation of InternetNZ Council and Staff to the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF). I want the learnings from the forum to shape our work in making the Internet better for Aotearoa.
Titiro whakamuri kia anga whakamua — Look to the past in order to move forward
This whakataukī, or proverb, speaks to Māori perspectives of time, where the past, present, and future are viewed as intertwined, and life as a continuous cosmic process. The strength of carrying one’s past into the future is that ancestors are ever present, alongside the living, as well as within the living.
A cluster of conferences — Brisbane hosts the Asia Pacific Internet community
The city of Brisbane was teeming with Internet experts, with the Australian Internet Governance Community Forum ‘NetThing’, Asia Pacific Youth AP Regional IGF, and the Pacific Internet Regional Governance Forum all on at the same time. This created a great environment for conversation, insights, and culture to interweave within all the groups.
APrIGF was the second conference focussed on Internet governance I’ve attended, and my first in the Asia Pacific context. I had four members of the InternetNZ Council and three InternetNZ staff with me. Whetū Fala from Council and Whitiaua Ropitini – InternetNZ’s Acting Chief Adviser, Māori also represented us at the Pacific Islands Regional Internet Governance Forum. Their presence and contributions were received with excitement and appreciation. At the NetThing day, an inaugural Fellowship was announced for Indigenous Leaders on Internet Governance and Policy. Whetū and Whitiaua created rich opportunities for dialogue and kōrero with this group about how they would like to have impact in the Australian Internet governance community.
Clockwise from top left: Dr Jenny Fraser, Susan Beetson, Brenda Wallace, Whitiaua Ropitini, Rory Chapman, and Whetū Fala at the Pacific Islands Regional Internet Governance Forum.
Multi-stakeholderism and our discussions on the future of Internet governance
A recurring theme and focus of discussion at APrIGF was on improving the processes associated with multi-stakeholder deliberations, which are inherent to Internet governance. I summarise these process improvement discussions as: inclusion, access, and whose voice we value (and whose voice we do not) in the Internet governance community. I was heartened by the insights I heard about the need for Internet governance to focus on minimising harm and maximising openness and inclusion.
The questions that come up at these forums always provide food for thought. Here are some that resonated strongly:
- In a multi-stakeholder environment, what can we teach each other across business, civil society, technical community, and government?
- How do we influence our governments’ policies and regulation?
- How do we, as a region, influence policy for the Internet at a global level?
- How do we move beyond trust, and in particular trusting the Internet and the platforms and services we use through it, and into an exploration of accountability?
- How do we confront the challenge of inclusion and disability rights in the context of our meetings, and on the Internet generally?
I also heard a deep question and plea for us to focus on human-centred design for the Internet. And that we need to use our influence as people involved in Internet governance to lead this. We need a collective awareness of the consequences of innovation that could marginalise, exclude, and belittle people, especially groups who are already marginalised.
Me (Vivien Maidaborn), Cheryl Seeto — Head of Policy Programs - Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands at Meta, Paul Wilson — Director General of APNIC, and auDA’s Internet Governance and Policy Director and former InternetNZ CEO, Jordan Carter.
My discoveries about the multi-stakeholder approach and the key things to build on from here
There was a lot of discussion about how the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance must be supported and defended. There are a couple of significant inter-governmental processes coming up in the next two years, where the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance will be up for debate. There are huge implications for the Internet if Internet governance were to become multilateral, rather than multi-stakeholder. There is a sense of urgency and mobilising action on this, from government, to the technical community, to civil society.
These processes are the development of a Global Digital Compact, to be agreed at the United Nations Summit of the Future in September 2024, and the the twenty-year review of the 2003-2005 World Summit on the Information Society — colloquially known as ‘WSIS+20’ — due to take place in the middle of 2025. If you’re interested, have a look at this excellent article, which explains the history and issues surrounding these processes, and the UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief. The Brief offers a first idea of the principles, objectives, and recommendations that could feature in the Global Digital Compact.
auDA have also published their Internet Governance Roadmap, which speaks to concerns about changes to the multi-stakeholder model on which Internet governance is based.
In terms of the IGF itself, both the beauty and the frustration of this forum was summed up by an attendee who said: “The IGF is for decision makers, not decisions.” I remain entranced by this statement. It gives us the impetus to increase creativity, diversity of voice, and to support the emergence of new possibilities. It also gives us time to sit with complex issues without rushing to find answers.
It wouldn’t be a conference without a few great presentations. This one from APNIC illustrated their position in the ‘Internet ecosystem’.
What’s next? Kyoto IGF 2023, the continued exploration of multi-stakeholderism, and a conference in Wellington!
The Internet Governance Forum in Kyoto in October will provide the next opportunity for us to talk about the multi-stakeholder Internet governance context and explore actions the multi-stakeholder community globally want to take, and we will be bringing these ideas home to discuss further in our own multi-stakeholder environment.
I’m also pleased to let you know that one of the two 2024 APNIC conferences will be held in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) from 30 August–6 September 2024. This will be a significant conference for the technical community of Asia Pacific, and a great opportunity for people here in Aotearoa. The importance of the technical community’s input into Internet governance will be a big topic of conversation at this conference, too.
The technical community’s point of view on these important issues is beginning to be seen in different places, and this blog — co-authored by three extremely experienced leaders, Sally Costerton, Paul Wilson, and John Curran — explains the industry’s obligations.
Left to right: Brenda Wallace, Joy Liddicoat, Whetū Fala, Me (Vivien Maidaborn), and Jodi Anderson
At the end of the APrIGF forum, Paul Wilson from APNIC closed by saying that when WSIS agreed to the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance 20 years ago they did not invent it, but rather discovered it by looking at the Internet and describing what worked about it as a unique working global system.
All the reasons for supporting a multi-stakeholder approach remain today, and over the coming months, InternetNZ will be using this wisdom from our past to guide us in responding to UN calls for a different model of Internet governance.
And that brings me back to my whakatauki:
Titiro whakamuri kia anga whakamua — Look to the past in order to move forward.