While the Internet Governance Forum has allowed policy makers, industry players, academics, and the IT community to congregate, the annual conference has seen increasing participation from young IT professionals and from a greater diversity of backgrounds.
One of them is Shreedeep Rayamajhi, a blogger and activist from Kathmandu Nepal who wears his heart on his sleeve. He spoke about the Internet being a rich source of options and opportunities and an open forum for Internet users in Nepal, enabling the exchange of new ideas, business and social contacts, and other transactions.
Shreedeep cited an example of a Facebook campaign launched to assist a constitutional crisis, called "Nepal Unites", where politicians responsible for revamping the constitution were encouraged by an SMS campaign to remain in the country (instead of travelling) in order to speed up the constitution review process.
Then there was Cintra Sooknanan, the youthful head of the Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter, who shared how Internet users were able to enjoy and contribute to a wide range of online services both from local and international sources, especially through TTConnect, an e-government portal.
Both talked about challenges their home countries still faced amid the Internet era.
Shreedeep noted that Nepalese Internet users could do with lower prices and standardization of Internet services and policies, pointing to voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) which is still illegal in the country and freedom of expression as key issues. For instance, a newspaper editor was detained under the Electronic Transactions Act for sharing a story on a industrialist's private life, he said. Shreedeep himself received threats and believed he was physically attacked over views he made online.
On the other hand, Cintra cited the low broadband penetration rates in her home, in particular to those residing in rural or fringe communities. She believes the Internet will serve as a key driver to transitioning Trinidad and Tobago to a knowledge-based economy through more synergy, multi-stakeholder dialogue, and by focusing on moving Trinidad and Tobago from consumption to the creation of digital content and online presence.
Shreedeep's hope for the future is to see access fees going down, while rural access increases, as well as improved infrastructure and policy engagement for young people.
This is a future I look forward to, too.