Auckland, New Zealand was the main hub for InterCommunity 2015. The global nature of the event meant that it needed to be held over two timeslots to accommodate timezone differences. The ISOC team in Auckland, together with the Board of Trustees, were up bright and early for an 08:00 A.M. kick-off for Session 1, which catered to the Americas and parts of Africa. Session 2 started 10 hours later at 06:00 P.M., this time for Asia, Europe and Africa. The hub activities itself were held as a part of NetHui Day 0, an annual event that discusses Internet-related issues in New Zealand. Interaction between the hub and the various interactive nodes around the world (as well with viewing nodes) was very good and there was some great commentary and exchange of ideas. Individual remote participants were likewise able to interact via chat and social media. InterCommunity had some 2,300 registrations from some 141 countries, demonstrating the global community that the Internet Society is. It was a milestone achievement for the organisation in being able to connect with its membership and stakeholders around the world.
Asia-Pacific had four nodes during InterCommunity 2015, each representative of a sub-region: The main global hub Auckland (Oceania) and interactive nodes in Bangalore (South Asia), Hong Kong (East Asia) and Manila (Southeast Asia). In addition to these, there were multiple viewing nodes set up in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. These interactive nodes held roundtable discussions on a specific topic of local relevance prior to the cross-over to the main hub in Auckland.
In Bangalore, a local session was held to discuss local concerns on net neutrality, centering on the importance of equal access, as well as the opportunities and threats that it carries. The controversial zero rating practices that prompted debates on the issue, and the impending regulator report on the subject has made India the center of Internet governance discussions recently. The panel shared different perspectives on how with the help of the Internet, India could bridge its own digital gaps. It was recognised that the Indian public interest would be best served by developing a more holistic policy framework that reflects the country’s aspiration to become a digital society as laid out by the government’s “Digital India” strategy. Recognizing the Internet’s far-reaching impact on the country’s future and society while also acknowledging the continued lack of understanding of its potential, the experts further recommended that future Internet policies and those relating to its application be widely discussed and that consultations with broader groups be held.
The Hong Kong node, hosted by the ISOC Hong Kong Chapter at Cyberport 3 had over 40 participants in attendance. It held a pre-InterCommunity panel discussion on Collaborative Security, which had panelists from the University of Hong Kong, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Hong Kong and the Professional Information Security Alliance (PISA) Hong Kong. The discussions revolved around cybersecurity and ISOC’s collaborative security initiative, and generated interesting views on themes like transparency and trust.
Meanwhile, the Manila node gathered stakeholders to discuss Internet connectivity in the Philippines—currently a topic of investigation by both the Senate and the Congress ICT Committees. Internet in the country has been ranked among the slowest and most expensive in Asia by online firms such Akamai and Ookla. Panelists from civil society, the regulator and the telecom incumbent noted that ICT has yet to make its way to the government’s investment priority plan. And while there is abundant international bandwidth flowing into the country, and a sufficient number of ISPs to provide last-mile access, domestic backhaul network remains a restricted space and provisions are needed to allow more players in this middle mile market.
Participants in the Manila node are anticipating the enactment of new legislation that can help to create a more conducive environment for broadband expansion, such as the new Competition Act and the Department of ICT bill. They have also called for amendments to existing, and in some cases, antiquated laws amidst a fast-changing communications landscape, including the Public Telecoms Policy Act of 1995, and the Radio Control Act of 1931, which currently governs spectrum allocation in the country. The regulator, along with other stakeholders have likewise proposed the set up of a universal access fund and identified spectrum user fees, from which the government earns $44.4 to $66.6 million a year, as possible resources for public investment in infrastructure, particularly for underserved areas.
From Nepal to Sri Lanka to Singapore and all the way down to New Zealand, the Internet Society’s first truly global meeting was a roaring success, with social media abuzz with comments from Asia-Pacific, which can be found using the hashtag #icomm15. To the ISOC community—our chapters, members, partners and supporters—in the region, and to all of you who participated in this one-of-a-kind event, thank you for making it happen, and thank you for making it great.