Shaping the Internet's Future

Internet Society-Chatham House Collaboration: How Is Consolidation Changing the Internet?

For the past couple of years, here, at the Internet Society, we have been thinking about Internet consolidation. After releasing the 2019 Global Internet Report: Consolidation in the Internet Economy, we understood our limitations and the complexity of the issue. To this end, we decided to partner with Chatham House and reach out to the community of researchers and academics, seeking their input to learn more. This resulted in a long process to create a special issue of the Journal of Cyber Policy, including more than 40 proposals for articles, various peer-review cycles and many edits from the authors.

The selection process was tough. We had to weigh in a broad range of ideas and perspectives, which touched virtually all aspects of the Internet economy. And while hard choices had to be made, we are also confident we made the right ones. The level of quality, creativity, and interest that is incorporated in each and every research paper is truly outstanding. For this we are also grateful for the amazing support we have received from our community in spreading the word, for submitting proposals, and to the broad range of experts who have participated in the review of the final articles.

What this process has confirmed, and which we hope to reflect in the diversity of the articles in the journal, is that the topic of Internet consolidation is not a straightforward issue. In fact, it spans across many issues, making it impossible to see it as a single thing. This is consistent with the Internet – it is not a monolith, but a compilation of technologies, services, and actors – all contributing their part to the larger whole.

In this light, Internet consolidation can be seen as a phenomenon that is best described, as Jari Arkko expresses it in his article, as “…the process of the increasing control over Internet infrastructure and services by a small set of organisations.” But to the extent this constitutes a concern will vary depending on where you sit, where you look, and the nature of the service in question. For example, and which you can read more about in the special issue, concentration and consolidation in parts of the infrastructure like Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) have vastly different implications than consolidation in the run-time supply chains of applications.

As the Internet Society’s CEO, Andrew Sullivan, discusses in his guest editorial to the special issue, it seems clear that “while consolidation presents serious legal and social issues, it only sometimes presents an issue for the Internet itself.” And while a few hypotheses emerge as to when that may be the case, it’s also evident that consolidation as a trend requires a much closer look on a case-by-case basis. Recognizing these nuances has never been more important as policymakers and others are grappling to understand how the Internet is evolving. The decisions we make today, or the lack thereof, will inevitably have consequences for the Internet’s success in the future.

We hope that this special issue will illustrate a breadth of perspectives, both in terms of consolidation trends in different parts of the Internet, with regards to possible ways forward, and as a catalyst for an interdisciplinary research agenda.

We urge you to go read the papers, whether you are an academic, policymaker, or just interested in keeping the Internet open for everyone. The Internet Society has secured open access to this special issue. We hope they inspire you to continue asking the difficult questions.

Read the Journal of Cyber Policy Special Issue: Consolidation of the Internet.

Shaping the Internet's Future

Pacific Report to the Dynamic Coalition of Small Island Developing States in the Internet Economy

2019 was an active year for Pacific involvement in the Internet economy. What we have demonstrated is that originating from small island developing states (SIDS) in the Pacific does not restrict one’s opportunity to become a leader within large international organizations like ICANN, which manages and allocates domain names and IP addresses globally.

I was very honored that my colleagues from the ICANN At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) elected me to be their Chair for 2019, and again for the upcoming year. It has enabled me to use my organizational management skills which I did by distance learning from Rarotonga through Massey University in New Zealand.

My Cook Islands colleague, Pua Hunter, was also elected at the recent ICANN meeting as regional co-chair for the Government Advisory Committee (GAC). She is already the chair of GAC’s Underserved Regions Committee. Such leadership roles have also been achieved by others from SIDS in other Internet-related organizations, which goes to show that being from small islands does not mean that we will go unnoticed if we are prepared to be active in our commitment to improving our regions.

The Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC) received a boost at the elections last year, when four former PICISOC Board leaders returned to the Board to rejuvenate and boost its membership. The Board re-established PICISOC’s website and started populating it with local articles about successful ICT-related activities, including the achievements of successful women in ICT.

One notable success was Branicia Itsimaera who recently graduated from the Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand with a Bachelor of Computing Systems degree. She is the only woman working in the ICT sector on her small island of Nauru. This is not an easy achievement in anyone’s world but when you come from a SIDS and you are a woman, this is particularly significant.

During the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held in July in Vladivostok, Russia, PICISOC was represented by two Board members, Anju Mangal from Fiji and myself from the Cook Islands. We picked up a new recruit, James Ah Wai from Samoa, who although a first-time attendee of any IGF event, took to his speaking tasks like a duck to water. He came from a background of general interest in Internet Governance, and soon after his return to Samoa took on the role of president of their newly-formed Samoa Information Technology Association.

One significant event for school students from 11 Pacific Island countries was their participation in the FIRST Global Challenge, an international Olympics-style robotics event established three years ago to encourage children to pursue science and engineering careers. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Samoa finished first among the Pacific Islands contingent with a ranking of 26 out of 193 countries, and Cook Islands came second among the Pacific participants in a very creditable 30th place for their first time in the competition.

Another development in the Cook Islands was the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology. This is a joint collaboration project of the Government of India and the Government of Cook Islands to offer specialised training programmes in the field of ICT to the citizens of Cook Islands, where each programme is customised to meet the needs of the local business community. This is a major move forward for international collaboration where the outcomes of the support are specifically beneficiary-country-centric.

Read the original article on the Cook Islands Internet Action Group.

Shaping the Internet's Future

Indian Community Making the Right Connections

In the lead up to last month’s Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Singapore, IETF 106, the India Internet Engineering Society (IIESoc) held its third annual Connections conference in Kolkata, India.

This pre-IETF event aims to increase participation in IETF discussions from the Asia-Pacific region, specifically India.

Like the years before it, this edition of Connections had four technology tracks across two days; the themes of which – IoT, security, routing, and research – were chosen with the audience and location in mind, given Kolkata is a major research hub in India. As such, there was record participation, with a large number of local students attending the event, many of whom were excited to learn about, discuss and contribute to the work being considered in the IETF and how they can contribute to this group.

The Importance of Being Involved

A feature of past Connections events has been the participation of IETF working group chairs and RFC contributors attending en route to the impending IETF conference. This year was no different and we were grateful to have former IETF chair, Fred Baker, who presented the keynote and shared his journey at the IETF during the meet and greet session.

The number one lesson that I took from he and other long-time IETFers was to start with the mailing lists and find your niche in the community. The IETF covers so many different technologies and protocols, you’ll be overwhelmed if you try to follow it all.

One presentation that received a lot of attention was that of local researcher, Bimal Roy, who shared his insights about the open areas in future research, consolidating the current issues in Internet communication. He too, talked about the importance of participants, no matter their experience, being engaged with the global Internet community through mailing lists and attending forums such as the IETF. This led to an interesting discussion on getting support to attend IETF and other related events.

Usually, employers fund attendance but it is a challenge to prove the significance of participation in standards development for many small- and medium-sized companies. Fortunately, the IETF is held at least once a year in the Asia-Pacific region, which makes it possible to self-fund travel and accommodation. There are also fellowship opportunities provided by the Internet Society. Several previous fellows shared their experiences and how they first got involved in the IETF.

Paul Wilson from APNIC also highlighted how APNIC and other RIRs are helping in this area through fellowships to regional events. As a previous APNIC fellow, I can attest that the opportunity is really rewarding and has opened so many doors for my career, in both technical and non-technical areas. I’ve found that being involved improves your chances to connect with and ask questions of the experts and find solutions to technical problems in your current work.

As an IoT developer, my interests have always focused on the development of protocols but attending APNIC 48 exposed me to the policy areas of the Internet which is important to understand, particularly surrounding the allocation of Internet resources. Following my APNIC fellowship, I successfully organized a Youth Internet Governance Forum aligned with India Internet Week, which gathered huge traction from the India youth community.

Empowering the Next Generation

To ensure continuous engagement with the community, IIESoc holds smaller events throughout the year, which focus on continuous engagement with standards development. One such event is “RFCs We Love,” where technical community members gather to share information about their favorite RFCs. All the events are broadcast live and also uploaded to YouTube to cater to remote attendees.

IIESoc is also inviting the next generation of leaders to contribute and elevate their knowledge through volunteer community engagement and taking the RFCs We Love event to every university working on research and development.

As a result of the continued efforts of IIESoc, we are seeing participation from new members of the industry. Venkatram, who manages the India R&D Team at Syntiant Corp. says that Connections helped him to share the challenges he and his team face in productization due to a lack of standards. Also, referring to standards from time to time has helped him and his team to complete the development cycle more efficiently with fewer iterations, enabling earlier product launches.

This article appeared first on the APNIC website.

Events Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Fourth Annual inSIG Boosts India’s Capacity to Shape the Internet’s Future

Earlier this month, the fourth India School on Internet Governance (inSIG2019) was held in Kolkata on 15-17 November, expanding its network of leaders and professionals active in shaping the Internet’s future.

With support from sponsors, 50 fellows from various academic, cultural, and regional backgrounds participated in inSIG2019. Through panel discussions, workshops, role plays, and group activities the three-day school covered a myriad of topics related to the Internet, boosting participants’ understanding of the complexity of Internet Governance and its importance in the future of the Internet.

The sessions covered fundamental topics like the history, principles, and status of the Internet. The hurdles around online safety, human rights, online radicalization, and cybersecurity were extensively examined and many perspectives were brought out which were thought-provoking and ingenious. Status and challenges of emerging technologies, content regulation, and the multilingual Internet were also discussed widely, and valuable feedback and inputs were provided by the participants.

The importance of the multistakeholder model of Internet Governance was stressed upon, and the Dutch approach to Internet Governance was presented in which Arnold van Rhijn spoke about how a collaborative consultation with multiple stakeholders reduces future friction in policymaking.

The event had global experts from Internet-related organizations such as APNIC, CISCO, ICANN, IETF, the Internet Society, and SFLC, representing various stakeholders such as academia, law, civil society, government, technical groups, and the private sector. The multiple outlooks from these varied organizations gave this event a holistic view of Internet Governance issues.

This year, inSIG2019 was a part of the India Internet Week, and had two Day 0 events: the Second YouthIGF India and the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise Triple-I Workshop. The YouthIGF India brought together about 150 young people from all across India to deliberate on various Internet Governance challenges and plan for enhanced youth engagement in policy discussions. The Triple-I Workshop, facilitated by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, brought together top experts in security with participants from industry, civil society, government organizations, and the technical community to examine ways to improve the security of the Internet and the trust of its users.

Overall, inSIG2019 was well structured and rendered a great balance between the technology and policy aspects of Internet Governance. The well-rounded knowledge and insights provided the foundation for establishing a strong alumni network of Internet leaders and practitioners who will leverage the inSIG platform for further contribution and collaboration.

InSIG was established in 2016 and previous schools events were held in Hyderabad (2016), Trivandrum (2017), and New Delhi (2018). inSIG2019 was organized through a partnership of four Internet Society Chapters of New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Trivandrum. The event was supported and sponsored by NIXI, Facebook, the Internet Society, APNIC, ICANN, Neustar, APASA, and MediaNama.

The fifth inSIG, is scheduled to be organized during October-November 2020 in Mumbai.

Internet Governance Public Policy Shaping the Internet's Future

Lessons Learned from the Multistakeholder Process in the Philippines

In 2018, we began collaborating with the Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to develop the country’s National ICT Ecosystem Framework (NICTEF), a successor to the Philippine Digital Strategy for 2011-2016.

The DICT, like all Philippine government agencies, is mandated by law to hold open consultations as a means of improving transparency and encouraging public involvement in the policymaking process. But it took this initiative further by ensuring that NICTEF is fully reflective of the needs and priorities of different sectors across the archipelago. For one year, the DICT led capacity building workshops, focus group discussions, writeshops, an online public survey, and regional consultations in each of the country’s major island groups, localizing the multistakeholder approach in the process to reach important and difficult decisions.

The NICTEF is now an authoritative guide on the Philippines’ digital ecosystem, and a roadmap to harmonize and coordinate the country’s ICT programs. The multistakeholder process adopted by NICTEF has been documented in a case study, offering other countries in the region a reference in developing public policies that are forward-thinking, inclusive, and suited to the needs of a steadily-interconnected world.

Below are some of our key takeaways from the process:

Develop and clearly present a value proposition to ensure that the multistakeholder process is productive and outcome driven.

In invitations and announcements, it is helpful to clearly specify to stakeholders why they should participate and what they would gain from their involvement in the policymaking process. This would help organizations identify appropriate representatives to take part in consultations and enable them to prepare their inputs.

Build strategic and sustainable partnerships for the implementation of a collaborative, multistakeholder model.

The multistakeholder model needs to be a continuous and sustainable process rather than a one-time initiative. For example, the DICT found it effective to initiate discussions with the policy and planning division of other government agencies. This division is most likely to be familiar with the overall direction, as well as the deliverables of each ministry, and would be able to provide guidance on possible collaboration and relevant divisions that may be tapped to contribute to the NICTEF.

Conduct face-to-face consultations at the regional level to hear from the countryside and harder-to-reach stakeholders.

Working with its regional and provincial offices, the DICT conducted public consultations across the country to reach out to each island group and accommodate different levels of development, priorities, and perspectives.

Tailor the multistakeholder process to the culture of the country.

In many Asian cultures, individuals tend to be reluctant to speak up when senior or governmental personnel are in the room. There is therefore a need to offer multiple ways for individuals to voice their concerns, even anonymously through surveys.

Focus on the entire ICT ecosystem, not just what the government or the ICT sector is doing.

A crucial part of ICT policymaking is identifying existing gaps in different sectors where policy interventions might be useful. To reach individual companies and organizations, DICT engaged with industry and professional bodies, such as the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators and the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines. Discussions and consultations were open to all and were announced online on government websites and social media sites.

Previous ICT policymaking exercises focused on governmental efforts in the ICT sector. NICTEF, however, is a national framework for the entire ecosystem of stakeholders to work collaboratively. It represents what the people of the Philippines collectively want for the country, and within this framework, the role that government can play.

Read A Multi-Stakeholder Model in ICT Policymaking: Case Study from the Philippines.

About Internet Society Community Networks Community Projects Growing the Internet Shaping the Internet's Future

Celebrating a Successful Chapterthon 2019!

We are incredibly inspired by the collaborative projects brought to life by our Chapters for the 2019 Chapterthon, the global contest in which Internet Society Chapters develop a project within a set timeline and budget to achieve a common goal for the development of the Internet. This year’s theme was “Connecting the Unconnected” – because every last person on the planet is part of having an Internet for “everyone”, and we won’t rest until each person has the option of choosing to be connected.

Internet Society Chapters from all corners of the world developed innovative solutions that will continue to serve as inspiration for communities everywhere working to connect the unconnected. At the end of the contest, each project presented a three-minute video about the project specifics and its benefits to the community. Winning projects received a prize.

See how they addressed this global issue through local community initiatives!

Announcing the Winners!

1st Prize (USD 3000)
US New York Chapter
First Annual NYC Mesh Installathon: This project aims to mobilize a large team of volunteers on a single day to expand the NYC Mesh community network to at least six new locations, and connect underserved areas of New York City.

2nd Prize (USD 2000)
South Africa Chapter
Qokolweni Wi-fi Hotspots: This project will provide hotspots for small underprivileged communities that require an Internet connection to communicate and to learn.

3rd Prize (USD 1000)
Ghana Chapter
RADIONET: This project aims to create an information access system for local communities, in their own language, by providing an FM broadcast system where rural communities cannot get access.

Watch the recap of the three winning projects!

A big thank you to our Chapters for your important strides towards connecting the world – one community at a time!

Inspired by the work of our ISOC community? Become a member or get in touch with us directly:

Stay tuned for next year’s Chapterthon under ISOC’s Grants & Awards.

Image ©Chris Gregory

Building Trust Shaping the Internet's Future

Peace and Cyber Hygiene

It doesn’t immediately make sense, does it: the terms peace and cyber hygiene in the same breath. Still, there is a reason why these two come together at the Paris Peace forum this week. That reason is simple though. Cyber hygiene – taking basic and common measures to secure software, devices, and networks – reduces the attack vectors that can be used by criminals and state actors alike. Cyber hygiene will reduce the odds that your network is seen as a belligerent actor just because it has been hacked by others. Cyber hygiene helps to create a more trustworthy and secure environment where people can go about their daily business in confidence that nothing dreadful will happen to them. It is one of the tools in the toolbox of confidence-building measures that enable peace.

Supporters of the Paris Peace Call, which was launched at the Peace Forum last year, are committed to working together to, among other things, “improve the security of digital products and services as well as everybody’s ‘cyber hygiene.’” The Internet Society has joined with a significant number of states, companies, and organizations to sign the Paris Call.

The topic of cyber hygiene is not new to the Internet Society, but at the Paris Peace Forum three activities stand out.

Cyber Hygiene and Global Normative Behavior

The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace explicitly talks about Cyber Hygiene. It proposes two norms that are related: the Norm to Reduce and Mitigate Significant Vulnerabilities and the Norm on Basic Cyber Hygiene as Foundational Defense. These two norms read, respectively:

  • Developers and producers of products and services on which the stability of cyberspace depends should prioritize security and stability, take reasonable steps to ensure that their products or services are free from significant vulnerabilities, take measures to timely mitigate vulnerabilities that are later discovered, and to be transparent about their process. All actors have a duty to share information on vulnerabilities in order to help prevent or mitigate malicious cyber activity.
  • States should enact appropriate measures, including laws and regulations, to ensure basic cyber hygiene.

The first norm calls upon the many actors that are involved in the day-to-day operation. The second calls upon on states’ role to provide the policy and legal environment to foster cyber hygiene.

The final report of the GCSC, in addition to proposed norms, provides a set of principles to approach cyber peace and stability and a number of recommendations.

The Internet Society has long promoted the idea that improving the security of the Internet is a responsibility of those that operate, design, and use the network. There are many endeavors that help improve the Internet’s security and of cyber space in general. Which is the context for the next two activities.

Using Technology to Strengthen Cyber Hygiene

We joined CyberGreen, the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, the Global Cyber Alliance, and Microsoft in an initiative to promote existing good practices that could help address the growing set of attacks that lever vulnerabilities have existed for a significant time. The initiative brings together those that help drive the adoption of essential measures to defend against avoidable dangers in cyberspace. Measures include adoption of the Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) and the deployment Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC).

We hope that over the coming months and weeks others will join in the effort of promoting the Paris Call’s cyber hygiene principle and add to the list of good practices that aim to increase the security and safety of our global online environment.

Please see the Tech Accord for more information about this call.

Collaborative Efforts towards Cyber Hygiene

Getting to a secure and trustworthy Internet is complex and multifaceted. It calls for tailored approaches that, depending on the context and the nature of the subject, involve different stakeholders. In any case collaboration seems to be the vital ingredient for success. During the Peace Forum we pitch examples of two endeavors that address different issues but lead to a more secure cyberspace: the collaborative approach to face the growing set of challenges in IoT Security, and the Mutual Agreed Norms on Routing Security (MANRS) that pertains to the very fabric of the Internet itself.

We have written extensively about MANRS, but if you want to know more see Let me focus here on the IoT developments.

The collaborative work on IoT takes place on many fronts. The Candadian Multistakeholder process on Enhancing IoT security has produced an extensive report around:

  1. A shared set of definitions and benchmarks around the security of Internet-connected devices.
  2. Shared guidelines to ensure the security of Internet-connected devices over their lifespan, including the development, manufacturing, communications, and management processes.
  3. Recommendations to inform national policy related to IoT security in Canada.

It’s set into motion work by the government and the community to tackle the challenges with insecure IoT deployments.

In addition to the Canadian Multistakeholder process on Enhancing IoT security, the Internet Society’s French Chapter has worked with AFNIC, ANSSI, ARCEP, CINOV-IT, Conseil National du Numérique (CNNum), La Quadrature du Net, Nokia, and Pôle Systematic Paris-Région to explore strategies to strengthen the security and protection of personal data in IoT. Their report will be launched soon. The developments in Canada and France do not happen in isolation. Similar activities have been launched in Senegal and Uruguay.

In order to bring together the experiences from these initiatives we have helped to establish an innovative platform. The IoT Security Policy Platform is made up of national government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in this space, that draw on the strength and expertise of all stakeholders to develop solutions to protect both people and innovation online. By the cross pollination of ideas, practices, and experiences, the platform can aid harmonization of various approaches and speed up the development and deployment of the measures. As far as I know, this is a unique approach.

The Internet Way

The Paris Peace Forum brings together leaders from across the world with an interest in peace and stability – in the context of a digitized society. It starts with the realization that the Internet is not a thing but rather a result. A result that reflects the values of sharing and collaboration for the greater good. Making the Internet, and all that is connected, more secure must be done in the same spirit. The Paris Call on Cyber Hygiene expresses not just a common goal, but vision. Much like the Internet itself, a large and distributed set of collaborative efforts will get us there.

Shaping the Internet's Future

The Invisible Internet

Editor’s Note: Fifty years ago today, on October 29th, 1969, a team at UCLA started to transmit five letters to the Stanford Research Institute: LOGIN. It’s an event that we take for granted now – communicating over a network – but it was historic. It was the first message sent over the ARPANET, one of the precursors to the Internet. UCLA computer science professor Leonard Kleinrock and his team sent that first message. In this anniversary guest post, Professor Kleinrock shares his vision for what the Internet might become.

On July 3, 1969, four months before the first message of the Internet was sent, I was quoted in a UCLA press release in which I articulated my vision of what the Internet would become. Much of that vision has been realized (including one item I totally missed, namely, that social networking would become so dominant). But there was a critical component of that vision which has not yet been realized. I call that the invisible Internet. What I mean is that the Internet will be invisible in the sense that electricity is invisible – electricity has the extremely simple interface of a socket in the wall from which something called electricity is provided reliably and invisibly. Well, the Internet is anything but invisible as yet. Its interface often includes a clumsy, sometimes tiny, keyboard, using a small screen displaying characters that may be smaller than my aging eyes can accommodate and applications that incorporate navigation tools which are clumsy, nonstandard, and frustrating.

Such an invisible Internet will provide intelligent spaces. When I enter such a space, it should know I entered and it should present to me an experience that matches my privileges, profile, and preferences. These spaces can be any location on earth, i.e., my room, my desk, my automobile, my fingernails, my body, my favorite shopping mall, London, or even the Dead Sea. Moreover, I should be able to interact with that space using human friendly interfaces such as speech, gestures, haptics and, eventually, brain-to-Internet interfaces. Indeed, what I am talking about is characterized by a pervasive global nervous system across this planet. The Internet will be everywhere and it will be invisible.

Technology is moving us forward toward such an invisible Internet as we deploy the Internet of Things in our physical space. It takes the form of embedded devices consisting of sensors, actuators, logic, memory, communications, microphones, speakers, cameras, and displays. This is where physical devices disappear into the infrastructure. Moreover, we are also beginning to deploy intelligent software agents acting on our behalf, and customized to our desires; they provide alerts, information, suggestions, and act on our behalf. They could also be useful in enforcing the privacy policy we expect to be applied to us when we access web-based services.

We recognize that such an environment is a highly distributed network of intelligent devices and agents and we may well see the application of blockchain-distributed ledger technology to help implement this invisible Internet.

What will the Internet look like in another fifty years? Explore the Global Internet Report and learn how you can help shape the Internet’s future.

Image of Leonard Kleinrock with the Interface Message Processor at UCLA’s Boelter Hall, where the first message was sent ©Tsutsumida Pictures

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Meet Three APrIGF 2019 Fellows

The Internet Society, APNIC, and Coordination Center for TLD .RU sponsored 20 fellows to the 10th Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF 2019) held in Vladivostok, Russia in July. Let’s meet three fellows from Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Singapore as they share their experience at APrIGF 2019, as well as their interests and future aspirations.

Shah Zahidur Rahman, Technology Business Consultant, Bangladesh

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the American International University-Bangladesh and have many technical course certifications. Currently, I am a technology business consultant for small- and medium-sized enterprises and startup companies. I have also been mentoring youths in the Youth4IG coalition to become further engaged in Internet Governance issues. I have been an active member of the Internet Society Bangladesh Chapter since 2014. I am also a member of the Bangladesh School of Internet Governance Programme Committee and Fellowship Committee, the Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum, and the ICANN Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group and Non-Commercial Users Constituency. Additionally, I am a former fellow of IETF, APSIG and APAN.

This year at APrIGF 2019, my main interest was in one of the six subthemes on Emerging Technologies and Society, and here are some of the key things I learned from participating in the sessions. First of all, without good governance, technology innovation can harm individuals and societies. Secondly, a multistakeholder approach is important for good governance. Thirdly, consumers are one of the stakeholder groups: they have a say in the governance of the Internet and can make demands, such as for greater transparency and accountability, or for Internet of Things security. Security is not just a technical issue that the technical community can address alone. There are many non-technical issues that can only be resolved with the cooperation of multiple stakeholders. Moreover, emerging technologies such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are developing at a rapid pace. We need to consider the ethics of these technologies and ensure that algorithms are free from biases for the global good. I am pleased to be a member of the drafting committee for the APrIGF 2019 Synthesis Document, which is expected to be published in October.

Sein Ma Ma, Network Engineer, Myanmar

I hold a Bachelor of Engineering in ICT and am currently working with an Internet service provider in Yangon. My interests lie in the areas of Internet Governance, digital inclusion, and community development, and I am eager to broaden my involvement in the Internet Governance ecosystem. I am involved in restarting the Internet Society Chapter in Myanmar, and I have been engaging with representatives from the Internet Society, APNIC, ICANN and Internet stakeholders in Myanmar. I am an alumni of the APNIC44, APAN45, APIGA2018, APSIG2019, and APAN48 fellowship program, and in 2018, I was a part of a committee to evaluate the fellowship applications for APNIC48. I am also a member of Youth4IG: Asia Pacific’s first and only youth coalition that engages in Internet governance.

The Asia-Pacific region is the largest in the world and it is indeed very diverse. Yet, the Internet binds us together in that diversity. The APrIGF that united almost 300 stakeholders from around 40 countries, with over 100 speakers taking part in the three-day event, has enriched my knowledge about multistakeholderism in Internet Governance. Even the fellows were from different stakeholder groups – academia, civil society, government, the private sector, and the technical community – and not just from different countries. To quote Rajnesh Singh from the Internet Society, “let’s all work together to continue keeping the Internet safe and secure, in a space that can be used for the benefit of humankind.”

Sebastian Hoe Wee Kiat, Student, Singapore

I studied at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. In Paris last year, I served as a Youth@IGF fellow. I also served as a Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Scholar in the Harvard Asia Conference in Kazakhstan, and I was recently selected as the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust Scholar for the upcoming London Summit. My interests include championing mental health and persons with disabilities, social justice, law, Internet governance, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and I aspire to serve my country and community in the social-legal sector. I also hope to improve my Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).

As a social work practitioner, I was thrilled to attend the APrIGF workshop on Child-Led Research on Promoting Safer Internet. Working together with instructors from the Guangzhou Growth Sky Social Service Centre, 22 brilliant young researchers shared their findings on promoting safer Internet from children’s perspectives in eight Chinese cities. I congratulated the young delegates on their successful research presentation and gave them encouragement and feedback on improving their research. The next steps would be reaching out to more children in the Asia-Pacific region, and including children and young persons’ voice in our Internet governance work. Young people ought to be empowered, heard, and included, so that they can thrive and succeed in being positive agents of change in our communities.

I participated in a number of other sessions to discuss legislations related to Internet Governance, such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill in Singapore, and the need for youth empowerment and participation in Internet Governance. In Singapore, we have the SG Youth Action Plan to envision the future of Singapore in 2025. Youths like myself can contribute to the action plan, and Internet Governance is one area to be included in the youth action plan. Youth have an important role to play in enhancing our Internet Governance landscape, and I am delighted to serve as a member of the drafting committee for the APrIGF 2019 Synthesis Document. I hope my experience will encourage young Singaporeans and youth in the region to contribute to our united quest for a more open, safer, and inclusive Internet.

Thank you to all of the APrIGF 2019 Fellows for taking time to share your thoughts! Because of space constraints, we weren’t able to publish all of your submissions, but we look forward to seeing how your work continues to help shape the Internet’s future.

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Looking the GIFCT in the Mouth

The recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was notable because of the attention it paid to the climate of the planet Earth. A different set of meetings around the UNGA was about another climate: the one of fear, anger, and violence swirling about the Internet.

It was only last March that a man (there is only one accused) shot dozens of people in a pair of attacks on Muslims at prayer. The shooter streamed the first 17 minutes of his attacks using Facebook Live. The use of an Internet service in this event, combined with general concern about how Internet services are being used for terrorism and violent extremism, resulted in the Christchurch Call.

There is some reason to be optimistic about the Christchurch Call. Rarely have governments worked so decisively or quickly, together, to take on a global social issue. At a side meeting in New York at UNGA, some 30-odd additional countries signed the Call; more than 50 countries have signed on. New Zealand has led this while insisting that governments cannot tackle the issue alone, and has tried to involve everyone – through an Advisory Network – in decisions that are bound to affect us all.

There may nevertheless be reasons to be more cautious than optimistic. The same side meeting announced the “overhaul” of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). GIFCT (usually pronounced “gif-cee-tee”, with a hard g) was established by some large social media companies in 2017 in order to cooperate in efforts to address “terrorist content” found on the companies’ services. The definition of “terrorist content” has shifted over time, and is now referred to as “terrorist and violent extremist content” in order to make clear that not all of the targets are members of identifiable terrorist organizations. Regardless of these details, GIFCT sounds like a marvelous idea, and it has the potential to be a worthwhile effort. There is, however, a great deal of work that needs to be done to ensure that GITCT does not simply become a mechanism for some large companies to lock in their existing advantages.

The first issue with GIFCT is that, while it claims to be an Internet forum, it actually isn’t. It’s a forum for large social media platform companies to share their content filtering techniques in order to find certain kinds of content and remove it from the participating platforms. Social media platforms are not the Internet, and the architectural features that they generally share are not shared by every other service on the Internet. Of course, nobody except terrorists want terrorist content on social media, so it is probably a good thing for social media companies to collaborate in doing something about that content. Yet most social media services are designed with a central authority that controls the flow of content, and many other services on the Internet are designed to resist such centralization. The techniques that work for one kind of service will not work for all.

In addition, it is not merely that the mechanisms that fit most social media services are a poor fit for other kinds of Internet activity. It’s also the case that the operators of large social media companies have a real interest in blurring the distinction between their services and the Internet. No matter how well-meaning, the companies in question have an interest in supporting regulation that makes their platforms’ architecture a permanent feature of the whole Internet. If governments start adopting regulation of the Internet that favors the GIFCT approach, then the design of social media platforms will become a permanent feature of what we can do with the Internet. That shuts down future innovation, including innovations that might be more resistant to viral violent content in the first place. This is part of what makes the GIFCT restructuring announcement in New York so worrisome: it was announced approvingly by the governments who sponsored the Christchurch Call, as part of their ongoing program.

It is frankly weird that governments appear to be so comfortable with GIFCT, since the restructured organization has settled on a governance model that puts participating companies completely in charge. The four founding members of the GIFCT get permanent board seats, and other participating tech companies may also be on the board that makes all the decisions. Neither civil society, nor the technical community, nor governments, nor platform users, nor anyone else ever gets a say in how the GIFCT will work, what content will be covered, and so on. Such participation is relegated to an advisory committee with membership from government and the wider society but without any obvious teeth. That committee is also supposed to be small enough such that the real diversity of opinion is questionable, especially since it is entirely unclear how the committee is supposed to be populated. What is clear is that, in the end, only tech companies will have any ability to influence any decisions of GIFCT. It is correct for President Macron to keep calling this a “new multilateralism.” Multilateralism always depends on only certain stakeholders being involved. This new multilateralism basically outsources the solution to the problem of undesirable content to a consortium of industry players, which will be inevitably dominated by the largest companies in the industry due to the resources they have to put into this.

Setting aside the miserable governance story, the very approach of GIFCT rests on the principle that stamping out this undesirable content is both possible and efficacious. In fact, there is some reason to suppose that trying to stamp out unwanted messages backfires – that it further radicalizes people already radicalized. So, paradoxically, by weakening protected communications and filtering content, global leaders risk bolstering terrorists, rather than deterring them. And of course, even the best filters are imperfect: they miss content that should be filtered and they filter out content that should not have been filtered. They also have side effects: those working to protect journalists or prosecute war crimes are gradually finding that the evidence they used to rely on is all disappearing due to content filters. So, the fundamental activity of GIFCT is at best a half measure on the way to a healthy online environment; and, the activity might actually make things worse. Predictably enough, these problems are all supposed to be solved by the magic dust of Artificial Intelligence, but nobody can say how that will work.

As if that were not enough, the GIFCT has always been controversial in part because it looks like a solution to a problem without actually addressing the roots of that problem. Mere tech fixes to social problems almost never work, and the linked issues of terrorism and violent extremism are unquestionably social problems. The tech fix offered is to try to suppress undesirable content. The social problem appears to be rooted in the ways that current social media platforms both entice and reward users. It is at least possible that terrorist and violent extremist content “goes viral” because of a design feature of platforms. Perhaps their advertising-based operation, which requires user attention, makes them especially good at amplifying horrific content. Yet tackling that issue might have negative effects for the business models of the companies involved in GIFCT – the ones who will appoint all the voting board members of GIFCT. Without a countervailing voice in its governance, there will be no way for GIFCT to take on this issue credibly. There isn’t even a promise that the companies involved will abide by the GIFCT decisions – just that they’ll contribute to it.

Defenders of the new GIFCT organization design would point to the number of (new) working groups, which might be able to make recommendations to do something other than just filter content. But ironically, even here the GIFCT refresh might turn out to hinder as much as it helps. Since GIFCT is being turned into an institution separate from the social media platform companies, access to data that might have been possible while working within a given social media company will now have to be handled like all other data requests from researchers. Due to increased (and desirable!) efforts around privacy by social media companies, such data requests are today harder to satisfy than they used to be. So, even though the new institution will be dominated, if not controlled, by the platform companies, it appears likely to have the data-access disadvantages of being a separate entity.

There is still time to prevent these pitfalls. To do so requires reverting to the habits that brought us so many of the benefits of the Internet. Instead of the “new multilateralism,” which has brought us this institution of dubious legitimacy and questionable effectiveness, it is necessary to ensure wide and meaningful consultation with the rest of the Internet. A problem where everyone has a stake is properly addressed through collaboration. This means, in practice, the now-maligned, but still-serviceable approach of a multistakeholder institution. To achieve this, the GIFCT advisory panel can be made more useful through meaningful and binding commitments to organizational transparency: make the board of the GIFCT work in public and let us all understand what it is doing, and use the advisory panel to supervise that. This will also probably mean that “transparency reports” that are entirely defined, created, published, and audited by the same organization will need to end in favor of something at least as robust as modern accounting methods. At the same time, governments need to acknowledge, publicly, that GIFCT, even if it turns out to work in addressing an issue on social media platforms, will never be a perfect solution and almost certainly will be a poor fit for other kinds of technology. And everyone involved needs to state clearly what works means.

We need to be alert not only to what we dislike on the Internet. For example, we can certainly prevent the sharing of terrorist and violent extremist content by preventing the sharing of everything. That would be a pyrrhic victory indeed.

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Islamabad Chapter Brings First Internet Governance Event to Quetta, Pakistan

The 5th Pakistan School on Internet Governance (pkSIG 2019) was successfully held last month in Quetta, Pakistan. This represents a significant achievement for the Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter as it played an instrumental role in bringing the first-ever Internet Governance event to the provincial capital of Balochistan.

For those who may not know, Balochistan has the largest land area among the four provinces of Pakistan, yet it is the least populated and least developed. Only 27% of its population lives in urban areas and Internet penetration is low. Finding adequate sponsors, and more importantly, diversity among the students to participate was a critical concern. But, pkSIG 2019 in Quetta proved to be one of the best editions of this school.

Over 60 people (one-third of them female) registered for the event, including students, professionals, startup founders, speakers, and some guests who showed keen interest in the program. Following a four-week long process of registration and shortlisting, 35 students were selected for pkSIG 2019 and five were awarded fellowships. Since all the sessions were livestreamed, a sizeable audience participated online as well. (The sessions and presentations are available online.)

“It’s our fifth consecutive year conducting pkSIG – each year in a different city. But the experience this year in Quetta has been remarkable, due to extraordinary participation by university-level students and young professionals – in particular women. Such vibrant participation has not been seen in any other city of Pakistan.” — Parvez Iftikhar, ICT Consultant

pkSIG is an annual professional course that aims to strengthen the capacity of leaders from various sectors in Pakistan to engage in Internet Governance issues at national, regional, and global levels. It has become the premier capacity building event on Internet Governance in Pakistan. In previous years, pkSIG was conducted in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar.

One of the highlights of the school this year was the fact that nearly all the faculty members were from Pakistan – signifying the strength of Pakistan’s Internet Governance community.

pkSIG 2019 was supported by the Internet Society and other partners, including Facebook, National Incubation Center in Quetta, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Stormfiber, Multinet, APASA, and Ecommerce Gateway Pakistan Pvt. Ltd.

Next year, the challenge will be even greater as we aim to conduct the school at one of the highest terrains on the planet in Gilgit, which is home to more than 20 peaks of over 20,000 feet, including K2 – the second highest mountain on Earth. You are cordially invited.

Photo Credit: The Dayspring

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Empowering More Gretas: Introducing the 2019 IGF Youth Ambassadors

When 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg burst onto the global scene a few months ago, people underestimated the power this young girl would have to raise awareness and rally the world around climate change. Today, she has become a fearless advocate, boldly speaking out and holding politicians to account for their lack of action on the climate crisis. We need more Gretas.

And they’re out there.

We’re proud to introduce 30 young changemakers who make up the 2019 cohort of the Internet Society’s IGF Youth Ambassadors Program. The group is made up of 15 women and 15 men from 21 countries. This cadre of young leaders are working on many of the pressing issues affecting the Internet globally.

In November, they’ll bring their drive for change to Berlin, Germany, to take part in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). This is an annual multistakeholder forum for inclusive policy dialogue on shared principles, procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. Although not an official decision-making body, the IGF remains an important forum. Many of the world’s experts in and advocates for the Internet gather there for discussion, networking, research sharing, and best practices from around the world.

Since 2007, the Internet Society has supported nearly 400 young professionals under its two programs, the IGF Ambassadors and the Youth@IGF Fellows. This year, under the IGF Youth Ambassadors program, we are training and empowering 30 young adults, aged 18 through 30. An initial group of 150 selected applicants took a 4-week online course and were paired with dedicated expert moderators. The top 50 students proceed to the next phase, where they write a paper on an existing or emerging area in Internet Governance, drawing on what they’ve learned in the course. The authors of the best papers become our 30 IGF Youth Ambassadors.

We have no doubt these young leaders will inspire others across a range of disciplines to reinforce the sustainability, security, stability, and development of the Internet.

Many of our Ambassadors have already led some impressive initiatives, including:

  • Mohammad Atif Aleem, an Indian ICT analyst at a multinational firm, founded a start-up to empower women farmers through agritech, and co-founded an online platform for medical diagnostic tests through a mobile app.
  • Fernanda González, a software developer from Guatemala, won the first blockchain hackathon in Central America with a protocol to integrate rural students to the global economy. She is currently working on a social enterprise to help rural areas connect to the Internet and help researchers and communities gather data on water quality.
  • John Madayese, a management consultant from Nigeria, has worked on policy development and founded a pan-African non-profit platform that offers personal and career development for African youth through various symposia.

Find out more about this year’s IGF Youth Ambassadors!

We hope that some of our IGF Youth Ambassadors will raise their voices on the global stage and become change-makers – whether by championing policies in their home countries or influencing global debates to spread the benefits of the Internet.