Internet Governance Forum 2022: Highlights from the Youth IGF

Youth IGF
Youth IGF Informs
Published in
5 min readMar 10, 2023

The Internet Governance Forum 2022, held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, welcomed more than 5,000 participants from 170 countries. It was focused on five themes: connecting all people and safeguarding human rights; avoiding internet fragmentation; governing data and protecting privacy; enabling safety, security and accountability; addressing advanced technologies.

United Nations Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum

These topics were largely drawn from the Global Digital Compact, proposed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to ensure the strong connection of IGF priorities with this forthcoming global framework. Youth IGF Leaders took an active part in sessions onsite and had a chance to meet decision-makers at the Youth IGF Open Forum with the European Parliament Delegation to the IGF.

The IGF 2022 was extremely important for the African continent. The forum itself was created at the World Summit on the Information Society, which was held in Africa. Since then, it has become the only UN meeting where different stakeholders from all countries are represented equally. In conversation with the Youth IGF, Anne-Rachel Inne, Director of the ITU Regional Office for Africa, emphasised that the continent is struggling with a lack of infrastructure, skills and knowledge needed to boost its digital development. The IGF is the right place for African states to discuss and find solutions to the connectivity issue and other digital gaps, said Inne. She also stressed that universities and academia should have a larger presence within both the ITU and the IGF community in the region.

Menelik Solomon, Youth IGF Leader at IGF 2022. Photo by Youth IGF

The Youth IGF Leader Menelik Solomon said that the IGF plays a big role for his country, Ethiopia, helping to increase digital literacy in both rural and urban areas. It boosts the overall participation of citizens, especially young people, in discussions about digital issues, such as digital skills, data safety, emerging technologies etc.

However, not all African countries are participating actively in internet governance. Some of them do not even have national IGFs. Sandro Bazzanella, Team Leader at the EU Digital Technical Assistance to the African Union Commission (PRIDA), said this may be due to a lack of resources, but is more likely down to a lack of political support and low interest from local communities.

The European Union is assisting African states in the establishment of national schools on internet governance and national IGFs. The aim of schools is to train people, including the young, equipping them with the necessary skills to advance the development of the local IG community. Another task is to enlist members of governments, the public sector, civil society and youth to ensure multi-stakeholder participation.

IGF 2022 in Ethiopia. Photo by Youth IGF

The Internet Governance Forum is an important platform for other countries as well. Thomas Schneider, Ambassador and Director of International Affairs at the Swiss Federal Office of Communications, told the Youth IGF that Switzerland is a big supporter of digital cooperation and a rule-based society where everyone can thrive equally. He said that the IGF helps to highlight specific digital issues relevant to people from diverse regions and make the international community more aware of them.

According to Sook-Jung Dofel, Director General at the Academy for International Cooperation at GIZ in Germany, the German government has many priorities in Africa with regard to the Global Digital Compact. These include capacity-building, providing support for digital transformation and policy development, and the use of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, etc.

The UK government, meanwhile, sees the IGF as a chance to listen to other countries, to hear about the challenges they face on their digital transformation path and to learn from them. Eva Ignatuschtschenko, Head of Digital Standards and Internet Governance in the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said that the IGF allows major economies to understand the needs of developing regions better and find ways to assist them.

The significance of digital diplomacy was highlighted by Kaja Ciglic, Senior Director of Digital Diplomacy at Microsoft, in a special conversation with the Youth IGF. She pointed out that IT has become a critical aspect of international relations. Digital diplomats at Microsoft deal predominantly with issues that touch on cybersecurity. They take advantage of fora like the IGF to try to create rules of behaviour for states and industry, and discuss digital and cybersecurity issues that cannot be solved by governments alone. One of the tasks facing digital diplomats is to translate technical information into legal and policy language. This field needs more young talent, explained Ciglic, who encouraged young leaders to discover the opportunities that digital diplomacy can bring to them.

Digital technologies. Photo by Lifestylememory on Freepik

Big progress has been made since previous Internet Governance Forums, said Pearse O’Donohue, Director of Future Networks at DG CONNECT, European Commission. Previously, the forum did not include the broader internet community, namely startups, innovators, and youth. It did not keep up with new digital technologies and the challenges they created. Today we can see bigger participation from governments in the IGF sessions, their openness and involvement in discussions with other stakeholders. O’Donohue mentioned better youth representation from various regions and backgrounds at the IGF in Ethiopia and called upon the internet governance community to ensure more young voices are present during discussions and decision-making.

We must encourage youth input to help design the internet of the future”, he said.

The Youth IGF has strong concerns relating to the issues that were discussed at the IGF 2022. A lot of them were raised during the discussion between Youth IGF Leaders and European Parliament representatives. The issues that were discussed at the IGF 2022 are of great concern to the Youth IGF.

Young people are urging the application of copyright laws to AI-generated content.

They have called for better security and privacy for their data, which is used and shared across different applications and by different parties. Cybersecurity awareness is essential for users to protect their data online and avoid falling victim to cybercrime and misinformation.

The Youth IGF plays a big part in the promotion of cyber skills and has developed a range of recommendations on this topic.

Yuliya Morenets, Youth IGF Founder. Photo by Youth IGF

Finally, young leaders are asking decision-makers to provide more support to Youth IGFs across the globe. Youth IGF founder Yuliya Morenets stresses that cooperation with the private sector is also important, especially to prepare the next generation of digital leaders.

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Youth IGF
Youth IGF Informs

Young leaders about policies & governance. Focus on online safety, cybersec skills, online fakes & all the hottest internet issues. Founder Yuliya Morenets