The 2018 Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) took place last month in Vanuatu. Tripti Jain, who attended as an APrIGF Fellow, shared her experiences.
This was my first experience at AprIGF, my first fellowship and also my first time as a speaker on a panel. Believe me, I was anxious and scared but thanks to the APrIGF community: organizers, members, participants and fellows, everyone made me feel at home a thousand miles away from my abode. I had one of the best learning weeks and couldn’t have asked for a better venue to learn with little to no distractions around and beautiful sunsets to watch while walking back to our rooms everyday. Fellows were facilitated with everything that we could have needed: cozy rooms, good food, articulate speakers and joyful socials every night.
One of the perks of being a fellow at APrIGF 2018 was that my learning experience began weeks before even getting to Vanuatu. All the fellows were required to participate and go through a basic course on Internet Governance by the Internet Society. This course was one of my personal favorite bits of the fellowship. I learnt a lot through this exercise. There are various terms that we use in common parlance while discussing the issues related to Internet Governance. The course helped me understand such words better, for example, the course highlighted the difference between multistakeholder and multilateral approaches. Similarly, I also understood the demarcation between the Internet and the World Wide Web, terms that we often use interchangeably.
Over a period of four days, we had opportunities to participate in multiple interactive learning sessions. My personal favorites were: How the Internet Works. In this session, we played a game where we were supposed to build a network through routers, devices and cables and learned how the Internet actually works in real time; the other session which I participated in and loved were debates on online privacy. We were divided into teams and were given topics such as, “privacy is a rich man’s problem.” Lastly I participated and thoroughly enjoyed the session on the DNS routing system. By profession I am a technology lawyer and attending four days of APrIGF’s intensive sessions not only widened my knowledge of the extent of Internet Governance but also strengthened my grasp on the fundamentals of the topic.
I was a panelist on two panels and I was representing SFLC.in (where I am a counsel). The panels were: “Responsibilities of Internet Platforms for Tackling Online Abuse Against Women & Other Marginalized Groups” and “Internet Restrictions/Shutdowns and How to Mitigate.” Since I was speaking for the first time as a panelist, I was nervous, but my panelists were very supportive and well-informed. We had some really interesting conversations (read our blog post from the panel: “Internet Restrictions in Asia Pacific Region and How to Mitigate“). This conference will always be very special to me, as it gave me the opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking.
If there are any major takeaways from the conference, one of them was the promotion of a well-informed discourse so that resulting policies would be effective. There were various panels where there were discussions about serious implications of the network and why it is so important to get this right. There was also a strong push towards imparting digital literacy. In this era of misinformation, when it’s hard to decipher what is true and untrue, Vint Cerf, the father of the Internet himself stated, “the best fetter for misinformation lies within us. It’s called critical thinking”.
A few final notes…
I can think of no better words to sum up my experience as a fellow at APrIGF 2018 than Penelope Douglas’ wise wordings, “Experience is the best teacher.” This fellowship taught me a lot, gave me a lot of friends and a lifelong interest in Internet Governance. The fellowship is very well structured but at the same time is very fluid. The organizing committee assigns every fellow to a buddy group who in turn reports on a particular sub-theme, but at the same time, there are enough number of people in a group which gives fellows the flexibility to attend sessions from various sub-themes.
Lastly, the best thing about being an APrIGF fellow is everyone gets to participate meaningfully. Often we attend conferences where we find ourselves just observing and not being able to contribute enough. However, as an APrIGF fellow, you have to report sessions, there are lightning sessions for fellows and town hall sessions where you can participate. Thus, the design of the platform ensures that every fellow can participate meaningfully from day one.
On the afternoon of 17th August, 2018, I boarded a ferry to the cab with a week packed in a bag. Monsoon seemed to know its place arriving to punctuate the goodbyes. Though, it was my first AprIGF and I have nothing to compare it to, but I loved every bit of it. I wish I get a chance to participate every year.