On the sidelines of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2013, I had a chance to catch up with Constance Bommelaer, senior director for global policy partnerships, Internet Society, who has also been involved with the Multistakeholder Advisory Group which handles the programming for IGF.
The Internet Society appreciates IGF as it creates space for the community to discuss internet issues. It has noticed that over the years, the issues being addressed have increasingly included the critical and difficult issues, not just the superficial ones. This has led to healthy and considered discussions over issues such as surveillance, human rights, cybersecurity, child safety.
According to Constance, the IGF has also seen a deepening of the discussion — with more regional and national participation and increasing willingness of the business community and the policy makers to come together. At the Internet Society level, 32 fellows and chapter delegates were flown out to Bali this year to bring broaden IGF participation.
If IGF stays relevant and keeps building on its success, the case for renewing its mandate come 2015 will be irresistable. There are some challenges to the future of the IGF to overcome — the continued emergence of countries to host the IGF, donors to step forward, support from the United Nations and the challenge to openness.
In the Internet Society's view, the challenges to the Internet revolve around the central theme of openness — communities, technologies and governance — whether it is access, censorship, cybercrime, human rights or privacy and it advocates open internet standards.
The most significant of these challenges today must be government surveillance. Lynn St. Amour, Internet Society CEO, speaking at the IGF High Level Leaders Meeting spoke of government sanctioned surveillance activities being a major threat to trust which 'threaten to disrupt natural economic and social interactions that are the foundations for sustained global prosperity'.
The continued discussion over these issues at forums such as the IGF can only bode well for the Internet.