This blog is based on the speech held by Raúl Echeberría at the opening of the 5th African IGF in Durban, South Africa, on 16th October 2016.
My colleagues at the Internet Society and myself have already attended many of the national and regional IGFs that are being organised across the world. And it is amazing to see all the energy around those initiatives and how we have created a new way to discuss and to deal in an open and multistakeholder manner, with things that are very important for our societies.
I have been involved in IGF since its inception. In particular, I was involved in the work in the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) from where the recommendation of creating this forum came up, and the negotiations at the Summit in 2005.
Eleven years later, we can say that the IGF has been very successful; we have created something very useful, a real innovation in international governance. This is impressive. What is even more impressive is the large network of national and regional IGFs that have been created. This is very important because most of the policy making happens at the local level, so the closest we can bring the open and multistakeholder discussion to where the policies are discussed, the best to ensure that we take advantage of all the expertise and knowledge that it is available across all stakeholders groups.
Taking advantage of that diversity is the only way to be sure that the outcomes of the policy debates will fit the needs of our societies.
There are two things that impact our discussions:
One is the adoption in 2015 of the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s not new for most of us that the Internet is the vehicle for achieving other goals, goals that are the human, social and economic development. But the SDG offer a sound basis for a common understanding about that.
Now it is much more visible that Internet development is a horizontal issue to all the SDGs, that it is impossible to achieve the SDGs without taking advantage of the new technologies. We are not talking just about increasing the number of people connected, but about how to use the Internet for accomplishing the goals of education, healthcare, creating jobs, etc.
This gives us a much more tangible framework for a meaningful discussion.
The second thing is the successful transition of the IANA functions oversight.
This is important for two reasons:
- Because it was a very successful example of how we conducted community-based, open, transparent and bottom-up processes and we produced the expected outcomes . . . and we did it on time.
- We can now focus on other important matters that are the ones related to continuing promoting meaningful access to all the people.
Those who are here today, spending a Sunday on Internet Governance discussions, we are here because we share something. We care about what we do.
We care about the Internet, but we also care about people.
This is our work. We have to connect the unconnected because this is essential, but we also have to continue to build an Internet that contributes to reducing inequities, to give opportunities to those who have not had enough opportunities, an Internet that helps to improve people’s lives, an Internet of opportunities.
This African Internet Governance Forum surely will be one important step forward for achieving that objective.