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Internet Governance Forum blueprint revealed

Category : Internet governance ยท by May 24th, 2006

It’s finally out: the way the [tag]Internet Governance Forum[/tag] – the first ever global talking shop for dealing with the Internet – will work has just been outlined from Geneva.

The four-day meeting from 30 October to 2 September will be held in Athens. The first day will have an opening ceremony in the morning, and a general session in the afternoon.

Then the second will deal with two topics: the morning given over to “Openness” and the afternoon to “Security”. The third will be the same, with “Diversity” in the morning, and “Access” in the afternoon (see my previous post for more details). And the fourth and last day will comprise of reviews of the work done at the meeting, plus a Chairman’s summing up, and a open-mic session. And then a closing ceremony.

The official call for contributions has been put out and you have until 15 July to get them in.

How will the meetings work? The key word is “flexible” apparently. Presentations, plus panels and floor discussions. I like this: “Each session should be as interactive as possible and devote a large portion of its time to interaction with the meeting attendees.”

The main sessions – general sessions – will be web-cast and have real-time transcription plus translation in the six UN languages. The actual content will include:

  • Awareness and levels setting
  • A description of the scope of the topic
  • A survey of the state of the topic and of what needs to be done
  • A discussion of the topic in regard to the cross cutting issues of development, capacity building and freedom of expression.
  • Sharing perspectives on issues in the topic.

Workshops will cover any other related Internet matters – and “any subject on Internet governance can be scheduled for a workshop” – excellent news for those that want to discuss ICANN and freedom of speech and open-source software.

I like this too: “Each delegation and all stakeholder groups will be given the opportunity to record a five-minute statement that will be broadcast in a loop at various locations in the venue.”

And I like the promise of full wireless Net access, plus instant messaging for remote participants, plus a daily blog report produced during “recap and review” sessions at the end of each main session.

I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised. This sounds an extremely intelligent approach to the whole issue and gives everyone a say. The only thing it is lacking, which I think is a major sham and I hope someone will step in to offer, is an online meeting place in the same way that everyone at Athens will physically be in the room.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding. It could be that governments try to swamp meetings; that workshops on contentious issues are shunted off into impossible rooms; that instant messages from outside are ignored; that meeting chairman only choose pre-agreed speakers; and that only favourable and anodyne blog posts are referred to.

But that requires careful co-ordination, so if the citizens of the Internet want to make sure that the [tag]IGF[/tag] lives up to its promises, well, then you’re just going to have to make it impossible by getting involved.

I feel oddly optimistic about this. I’m sure it will pass.

[I've done a quick piece for The Register on the news.]

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