IGF 2009

2009 IGF Egypt Survey
Should the IGF mandate be extended beyond the five-year term?

Imagining the Internet conducted a video survey of IGF-Egypt participants, recording formal interviews with 43 people who were willing to take credit for their responses to five questions. The convenience sample of responses to the question “Should the Internet Governance Forum be continued past its five-year mandate? - share the primary reason for your answer,” was gathered at random from among the 1,800 or so people attending the 2009 event. Use the video viewer on this page to sample a selection of representative answers to the first question asked in the five-question survey.

>Question One: Continuing IGF
>Question Two: Hope for the Internet
>Question Three: Concern for the Internet
>Question Four: 20 years from now
>Question Five: Internet in one word

The written content on this page is a brief sampling of just a few partial quotes from the many responses recorded. To get an accurate representation of all responses in full, watch all of the videos. Each clip is brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to less than 2 minutes.

All of the people surveyed responded in support of the extension of the IGF; this reflects the general consensus of views expressed in pre-conference formal statements and in the formal conference sessions. Most people noted that the open discussions conducted at IGF are important because people can speak freely about the challenges and opportunities of the Internet.

Peng Hwa Ang, a global leader in Internet governance issues who has been involved throughout the World Summit on the Information Society process, said, "It surfaces issues before the issues loom too large. You get a sense of what the issues are as they are coming up. And second, you want to know who the people are. [IGF] brings together people and issues to talk about these things before they get too large." He's among many experienced IGF veterans who say there should be some useful conclusions drawn at the meetings - that the result should be more than a broad discusssion. "People want a sense of direction in terms of resolving issues," he said. "It doesn't have to be decision-making, but it should have some sense of leading to a solution."

Akram Chowdhury, a member of Parliament in Bangladesh, said, "It should be continued. Many of the agendas have not been settled yet."

John Wilbanks, a vice president for Creative Commons, said, "It's important to have a venue for open conversations about Internet governance that lets multiple classes of stakeholders get together to have a conversation in public that's transparent, accountable and ongoing."

Ferry de Kerckhove, Canada's Ambassador to Egypt, said, "It's a multistakeholder forum and the only one that brings together all of the various people engaged, and it is in a very informal format as opposed to strictly governmental structures, so to me it's the ideal place to have a real exchange of views and ideas."

Anupam Agrawal, a member of the Internet Society in India, observed, "After four years of IGF, a rough consensus on various topics has started to emerge. If we want to carry forward this momentum, I think IGF should be there. A lot of people are talking about deliverables... but this is one of the forums where best practices have started to emerge, so it cannot be - you don't have a proper document that is a deliverable - but a lot of best practices have been shared, which is an outcome or deliverable of the IGF."

Fouad Bajwa, a member of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group from Pakistan, said, "IGF is an open space where people from developing countries like me can come and share our issues with regards to the Internet and I feel this space has been very successful and I would like to see IGF continue."

Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International, an Internet governance scholar who was elected co-coordinator of the Internet Governance Caucus late in 2009, said, "Although the IGF isn't perfect, the political environment now is less conducive to recreating the IGF if we needed to do so - because of the termination of the Joint Project Agreement between the US government and ICANN - so there's less urgency from other countries to have an alternative vehicle for discussion of Internet policy. If we didn't have IGF it would be too hard to recreate it, so we need to work with what we've got and try to improve it."

Emmanuel Edet of Nigeria's national ICT development agency said IGF allows developing nations to have a voice. "It has provided an opportunity for people from all over the world to speak concerning the management of the Internet... As economies evolve into knowledge and information economies, the Internet is becoming an invaluable resource to attain a lot of the developmental goals to which countries set for themselves. Managing the Internet is necessarily a very important issue to be discussed. Based on that, the IGF should continue. It actually gives people an opportunity to express themselves - say what they like and what they don't like - and also learn from others regarding best practices. It provides an opportunity for people to network and find common solutions to the problems across the world."

While most survey respondents indicated that IGF should continue without stipulating that it has to begin to offer formalized outcomes in the form of some sort of documentation or decisions, a few people did say they desire formal results. Elina Noor of the Multinational Partnership Against Cyberthreats said IGF should continue "on condition that it actually has some concrete good coming out of it - it shouldn't be continued just for the sake of continuation, because if that happens it's only going to continue to be a talk show."

Edet said, "Many people actually think that a major disadvantage of the IGF is that it is not a decision meeting but I am of the opinion that that is a major advantage. This is what the UN calls 'multistakeholder' diplomacy. Civil society, who have never been citizens of world politics, have been given an opportunity to sit at the same table with governments, with academia, with many other interest groups, including individuals who have actively participated in the development of the Internet, as well as the private sector... taking decisions might be a disaster. The opportunity for people to express themselves is a good thing for the IGF. Yes, I would like to see some changes, but not in the area of decision-making." 

Robert Guerra, a director for Freedom House, said, "Part of the success of the IGF has been to bring different people together... so they can share ideas, so they can work together, and it's a way to build trust amongst the community. It's been really successful. There's been a lot more interest in the topics that are discussed here... The issues are getting a lot more complicated, and it's important for a community of trust to be built and kept. My fear is if it weren't renewed and the issues get more complicated we would go back down the road of a shouting match. The other reason is that the IGF keeps this in a space where it is accessible to everyone. One of the options that is being presented by some of the governments is that it go back into the UN, and the UN is only governments, so then it would be subject to the politics of governments in the UN and really exclude everyone else. The Internet is for everyone, and so the discussions about the Internet should include everyone."

Virat Bhatia of AT&T in India said, "The IGF is providing a platform for multistakeholder dialogue of the kind that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world... There would be a big void that would be left, and so there is a need for such a forum - which is not formal and yet allows for views to come in. The IGF has evolved tremendously since it began, but there are two significant pieces that need to be added on to the evolvement process. One is that some of the stakeholders from the emerging economies are missing, mobile operators... The second is the format of IGF ... is sort of scattered all over the place and there's some duplication, so it's outstanding work, but it's just the structure of the workshops and presentations need to improve for better utilization."

Bruce Schneier, chief security officer for British Telecom, said, "Any forum like the IGF which brings together governments and industry and civil society, NGOs, is a good thing for the world... This sort of forum should continue. I think it's very valuable."

Interviews were conducted by Andie Diemer, Shelley Russell, Drew Smith and Eugene Daniel, researchers from Elon University's School of Communications, under the supervision of Janna Anderson, associate professor and director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon.

>2009 IGF Egypt Survey home

A project of the Elon University School of Communications
All rights reserved. Contact us at predictions@elon.edu