Joao Pessoa 2015: Internet Society IGF Ambassador Experience

The 2016 Internet Governance Forum 2016 will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico from 6th — 9th December. With preparations being made, discussions taking place and documents being contributed to, this is the report of experience I had with being part of the Internet Society’s IGF ambassador’s program to IGF 10 in Joao Pessoa, 2015.

Members of the 2015 Internet Society IGF Ambassador program. (Source: Kasek Galgal)

Contents

1 — Introduction

1.1 — Internet Governance

1.2 — Why ISOC? And Why IGF?

1.3 — ISOC IGF Ambassador Program

2 — Ambassador Profile

2.1 — Background Information

2.2 — ISOC Affliation and Involvement

2.3 — Interests and Involvement in Internet Governance

3 — The IGF Ambassador Program

3.1 — Pre-IGF: Program Discovery and Preparation

3.2 — The IGF

3.3 — Post-IGF: Consolidation of Experiences and Looking Beyond

4 — Summary

5 — References

1. Introduction

The Internet has transformed human society in the most profound way in recent history. The way human beings interact, share ideas, trade and do more has been revolutionised since the creation of the Internet. What was once confined to the academic and military community has now gone mainstream and is very much an integral part of the world as well as we know it. As such, how it is governed and managed is of great importance.

1.1 Internet Governance

According to the Internet Society, Internet Governance is a broad term that is applied to many activities in different aspects of the Internet — from the very technical to the social and economic. All of which contribute in various degrees in shaping the future of the Internet and also maintaining its core principles that have made it what it is today (ISOC). Being a network of many networks, the Internet does not belong to any one single entity and hence, the multi stakeholder governance model was adopted by the UN mandated Internet Governance Forum (Kleinwächter, 2007).

1.2 Why ISOC? And Why IGF?

With the vision that the “Internet is for everyone”, The Internet Society is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the Internet as a tool in improving lives and making the world a better place. ISOC’s mission is “to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world” (ISOC). ISOC was part of the civil society multi stakeholder group taking part in discussions at the IGF in Joao Pessoa Brazil from November 10–13, 2015.

But why ISOC and why the IGF? The purpose of the IGF is to provide a forum for policy dialogue on issues relating to the governance of the Interent. Civil society represents a large proportion of those with a vested interest in the Internet and ISOC represents that with their commitment to society. And as a major representative of the civil society multi stakeholder group, it is imperative that ISOC has a presence at the IGF.

1.3 ISOC IGF Ambassador Program

ISOC’s IGF Ambassador program is part of its Next Gen Leadership program. It was designed to expose emerging Internet leaders from various sectors to high level discussion on issues relating to the internet. And to promote ISOC’s vision among emerging leaders that the Internet is for everyone.

2. Ambassador Profile

Name: Mr. Kasek Ishmael Galgal

Nationality: Papua New Guinean

Occupation: Academic

ISOC Chapter: Pacific Island Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC)

Area of Interest: Internet Governance for Development, Blockchain Technology

3. The IGF Ambassador Program

The Internet Governance Forum is the biggest meeting on the IG calendar. I was humbled to receive the opportunity to attend and share what I had to. This is my account of the program and what I took out of it.

3.1 Pre-IGF: Programm Discovery and Preparation

I first joined ISOC while in uni and doing a lot of work with open source technologies and developed a passion for the open Internet. I supported the vision that the Internet is for everyone and it is a tool to improve lives and make the world a better place. I joined ISOC’s PICISOC chapter and (being a Pacific Islander from Papua New Guinea) began following discussions on the mailing list which is where I discovered the a lot of opportunity to build knowledge within the space I have just gained an interest for. Such opportunities included fellowships, online courses and others, some of which I had the privilege of taking part in.

I later read a post on the mailing list about the Ambassador program and was encouraged to apply. I was humbled to receive the ambassadorship with the support of those within ISOC. It was made clear to me that my selection was made to ensure a diverse participation in the ambassador programme and least represented groups such as small island developing states had a presence.

The preparation phase was excellent, and credit to ISOC for the great coordination. Programme coordinator Mr. Niel Harper was there every step of the way in guiding ambassadors and preparing them for the IGF. Each Ambassador was assigned to an expert within the field to act as a mentor leading up to the IGF and beyond. My mentor was Dr. Avri Doria who was excellent and shared a lot of insight which I am privileged to have had had the opportunity to be given access to such prominance within the Internet Governance space.

Logistics was a little challenge for me coming from a small Island which is pretty for from just about everywhere else. But again, credit to the team at ISOC who handled things very well. And for taking on the challenge of bringing together those from the more remote corners of the globe, not just the easy ones.

3.2 The IGF

From my part of the world it took almost three days to get to Brazil for the IGF. The logistics all worked out just fine. All ambassadors were received by the ISOC team in Joao Pessoa on Sunday, November 8 ahead of the first day of the IGF. The organisation of the IGF itself was excellent and credit to the organising committee and the host for doing an excellent job.

Joao Pessoa, Brazil (Source: Allan Patrick, Wikimedia Commons)

On the initial day the ambassadors took part in a collaborate leadership exchange workshop which in my opinion was a great way to hear from everyone and to get the ball rolling. I went in with the intent of gaining as much as I can in my area of interest in Internet Governance for development but also in gaining the from the unique experiences of others in other aspects of Internet Governance. And also to gain exposure to such a high level discussion involving the best in the field and to hopefully pick their brains if the opportunity arises to speak to some.

My most memorable discussion was with the godfather of the Internet Dr. Vinton Cerf. Despite having a busy schedule at the forum, he took out time to have a talk and offer his wisdom on the internet and issues relating to small island developing states. All of which I am privileged to have taken in and will be keen to pass on. My mentor Dr. Doria was also kind enough to talk with me over coffee and share her thoughts on the topic and also to make me aware of avenues in which to further myself within the field and also how to best contribute to the greater good. All of which I find invaluable and will be looking to apply them.

The sessions I was most interested in were on those relating to development such as zero rating, net neutrality, relating to education and a session on small island states. I was also interested in a session on blockchain technologies (technology behind bitcoin) as I was conducting research on it in my home country and how it might benefit our economy if it becomes mainstream. I had the opportunity of speaking to the panelists afterward and they were quite interested in the work I was doing and got invited to a blockchain workshop in Sydney, Australia to speak on a panel.

Among issues most discussed were those relating to net neutrality, zero rating, freedom of expression and access among others. In terms of zero rating, I noted most participants having reservations about Facebook’s internet.org and potential negative effects. It was quite a hot topic. There was also a lot of talk on countries that suppress freedom on expression on the internet and where we stand on that. Those topics have not become relevant in my country yet but it was interesting to note should we ever encounter such.

Apart from the exposure and all the experiences and knowledge gained, I believe at the heart of everything we do are human beings. And I believe one of the most important things about the meeting was being able to meet people and being able to make connections with others doing similar the things as you are and being able to share ideas and network. I was truly blessed to be able to meet other young ambassadors as well who are champions in their own right doing great things back where they come from. It was a truly inspiring experience.

3.3 Post-IGF: Consolidation of Experiences and Looking Beyond

After the IGF, I had a lot of time to think about the experience on the long trip back home. There was a lot to digest and equally as much to do after the being given such an opportunity. It had opened more doors for me.

Meeting Vint Cerf at the IGF (Source: Kasek Galgal)

One such opportunity was having to travel to Sydney and speak on a panel on blockchain technology after being offered to opportunity to do so at the IGF by blockchain experts Primavera De Filipi and Constance Choi from the Coalition of Automated Legal Application (COALA). I was to speak on the panel relating to the ethics of blockchain. It was a great opportunity to speak out on how such revolutionary technology could affect underprivileged communities.

My involvement with ISOC was also reinforced having interacted with ISOC staff and other community members. The IGF Ambassador Programme is part of a three-part NextGen Leadership Programme. The other two phases are an online course on Internet Governance and a fellowship to the Internet Engineering Task Force meeting. Since the Ambassadorship, I have completed the online course and have one more phase to complete the NextGen Leadership program. Also as a result of the experience and exposure I received, I decided to stand for board of the Pacific Islands Chapter, PICISOC. In December 2015, I was elected as a board member and I look to use my experience to serve the people of the Pacific Islands and the wider community.

I look to further my work in Internet Governance and hopefully make a career out of it. This is because as countries like mine are becoming increasingly connected, the need for good governance of our Internet will become more apparent. My plans for the future are to further my education and contribute back to the Islands and to the world within the space of Internet Governance.

4. Summary

There was a lot the happened during the IGF and a lot was learned and taken back. And a lot has happened since. It would not be possible to summarise it all.

My impression of the IGF itself was that there is a lot happening and a lot of information to digest. The Internet is a very large space. I felt some issues got a lot more attention than others. The topic of net neutrality and zero rating came up in many discussions. Freedom of expression was a topic that came up a few times. Civil society had a good presence at the IGF and hence issues of interest to society would be brought up. For which I was impressed as it was not dominated by large organisations and the discussions were very open.

For the ISOC IGF Ambassador Programme, I can only say thank you. It was an excellent experience and I gained so much from the opportunity. The programme is well set up and does not shy away from the challenge of bringing together those from far corners of the planet. And I am one example. I could write a whole paper on the logistical challenges of getting to Brazil from my small island — dealing with immigration officials that have never heard of my country and having to learn enough Spanish and Portuguese to get me by (thanks to the Internet again). Full credit to ISOC for taking up the challenge of building up new leaders.

My only recommendation would be to prospective ambassadors and emerging leaders. The one thing I will take back from the IGF and apply in just about everything is just two words I was told. On the morning of the first day, I went for a walk on the beach before getting ready or the day. I met a gentleman who was a facilitator of one of the meetings. He gave me two words of advice for my time at the IGF and that was to “be bold”. If there is someone you would like to talk to, don’t feel intimidated by their stature, most are always willing to talk. And if there is something important you want to bring across in a discussion, say it because most people are happy to hear new perspectives just like you are.

5. References

“About the Internet Governance Forum”, Internet Governance Forum. Retrieved 14 April 2015 from http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/aboutigf

History of internet Governance. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2016, from https://www.internetsociety.org/history-internet-governance

Kleinwächter, W. (2007). The Power of Ideas: Internet Governance in a Global Multi Stakeholder Environment. Marketing für Deutschland.

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