At the Internet Governance Forum 2013 in Bali this week, I caught up with Joe Alhadeff, chair of the ICC Commission for digital economy, and who is also Oracle's privacy lead. Joe is leading 41 members of ICC Basis (Business Action to Support the Information Society) initiative under the International Chamber of Commerce, to IGF.
From a business perspective, the multi-stakeholder nature of IGF is unique--it is not a negotiation forum and positions are not pre-determined. Views are sought before policies are set in stone. Therefore, organizations like ICC BASIS consider this unique feature in governance and one that is well-suited for the nature of the Internet.
According to Joe, ICC Basis supports preserving this aspect of IGF and works to further encourage national and regional forums operating on a similar basis, as well as encourage stakeholders to take up active roles and engage in capacity building. He sees great value in the forum as an important platform for different sides to understand each other, with the IGF as an incubator and catalyst of ideas.
ICC Basis believes there remain key issues to address in the Internet era today: the issue of trust in the systems, and the need for Internet market players to build and cherish public trust which, once lost, would be hard to regain. Trust in turn encourages openness--another quality of the Internet we should preserve--which in turn leads to the desired outcome of continued exchange of ideas.
Enterprise-wise, ICC Basis views the Internet as an innovative platform, representing the digital economy and all its potential. Therefore, the free flow of information and movement of data in a manner that engenders trust is another key issue ICC Basis advocates.
Joe cited the increasing ICT enablement in all areas of business including agriculture as an example of its pervasiveness. He pointed out that the meeting and workshops formats were evolving, which include evening receptions and other informal gatherings to encourage more informal view-seeking and exchanges. And steadily, more countries are taking part in these discussions. There is greater diversity of attendees and now remote participation for people who cannot physically attend IGF, he added.
A common criticism against IGF is the lack of concrete outcomes and frustration that nothing seems to get done. However, the process is novel (and I dare say not replicated in any other international arena) but the long-term aim must be to deliver practical results even though the benefits are not always directly felt.
The critical review point in the year 2015 is thus an important date to assess whether the IGF is a format to stay (and even to be extended to other areas).