Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

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Internet Governance Forum – USA, 2011 Lee Rainie keynote: Understanding Users’ Views

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Brief description:

Lee Rainie, founding director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, gave a morning keynote talk at IGF-USA 2011. Pew Internet is a non-profit, non-partisan “fact tank” that studies the social impact of the Internet. Since 1999 it has published more than 250 reports examining how people’s Internet uses influence their families, communities, health care, education, civic and political life and workplaces. All of this work is available for free at http://www.pewinternet.org.

Details of the session:

The grass, it appears, isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. In the case of the American public’s perception of various Internet issues, there’s a notion that while individual digital access and experiences are progressing swimmingly, the conceptualization of the Internet as a whole is strikingly more negative.

This break in perception is dubbed “I’m OK, they’re not” by Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. As the lead of the non-partisan, self-proclaimed “fact-tank,” focused on reports gathering information on attitudes and activities online, Rainie sits at the heart of this contradiction.

JULY 18, 2011 - Lee Rainie from PEW Internet was the keynote speaker for the Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011.

In his keynote address at the Internet Governance Forum-USA, Rainie noted the persistence of “I’m OK, they’re not” throughout all aspects of society.

“It is a pretty common phenomenon in people’s evaluations of the world,” Rainie said. “They like their own congressman, but they don’t like Congress. They appreciate the school their children attend, but they think the education system is a mess. Our findings show they think their own use of the Internet is beneficial, but they are worried that others are not doing good things online and not getting good things out of their Internet use.”

A stagnant, thriving web

Accompanying these observations, Rainie cited statistics hinting that the standard perception of the Internet has reached a user saturation point, at least domestically. The number of Internet users in the United States has remained stagnant since 2008, never moving outside of the range of 75-79 percent. Broadband access has fluctuated only between 61-66 percent. The use of basic e-commerce has remained at about 70 percent of Internet users. And the blogging community has sat around 14 percent since 2007.

That’s not to suggest that stagnation in the Internet’s domestic reach and in certain areas of the digital world speaks for the web in its entirety.

“At the same time, other metrics show growth in some online behaviors,” Rainie said, listing social networking, job searches, video use, online phone calls and online banking as areas with particularly strong growth trends.

In addition, mobile access has continued to grow, with a recent Pew poll indicating that 59 percent of Americans are connected either through a smartphone or a laptop, and 25 percent of smartphone users use their device as their primary access point to the Internet. Along with mobile growth comes the emergence of location-based services, with 6 percent of Americans online using check-in services, 9 percent allowing location awareness through social media and 32 percent of cell phone owners providing locational data in exchange for directions or recommendations.

Happiness is a warm modem

With the emergence of new digital entry points, public experiences with the Internet remain positive.

“In terms of their own use of the Internet, they don’t seem to have concerns about the way things are proceeding. To the degree that any ordinary users think about governance issues,” which Rainie admitted is probably not great, “they like what they have and they probably wouldn’t want it messed with.”

The individual, in his/her own immediate sphere, is pleased with the Internet. But there’s a paradox lurking alongside this placidity. Rainie’s keynote was, after all, titled, “I’m OK, They’re Not.” While studying American attitudes during the 2010 midterm elections, Pew found a series of inconsistencies.

A majority agreed that the Internet exposes people to a wide range of political views, but they find it difficult to disseminate those views and to discern which are true and which are false. A majority find the Internet makes it easier for them to connect to those with similar political views, but they also believe it provides a larger, and perhaps disproportionate, stage for those with radical views.

From this public belief that individual Internet experiences are positive, but can take a turn for the worse when drawn out to the whole of society, Rainie outlined three couplets of American, and arguably global, desires.

They want liberty and security. They want transparency and confidentiality. And they want free expression to be allowed to flourish, with concern paid to tolerance and civility.

The bipolarity, of sorts, is a clear implication for IGF and its hopes for multistakeholder discussion bringing about a universally-beneficial future for the Internet.

“The appeal of the Internet to most users comes from the panoply of possibilities it brings to their lives,” Rainie said, and the role of IGF is to figure out how to reconcile the duplicitous opinions of users and the multitude of stakeholders to ensure that appeal endures.

– Morgan Little

Written by andersj

July 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Internet Governance Forum-USA, 2011 Opening Remarks

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Brief description:

The opening plenary session of the third IGF-USA featured general remarks from Pablo Molina CIO of the host institution, Georgetown University Law School, Chengetai Masango, a representative of the United Nations Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum, and Ambassador Philip Verveer of the U.S. State Department.

Details of the session:

JULY 18, 2011 - Ambassador Phil Verveer, US Coordinator for the International Communications and Information Policy, address the audience, highlighting the importance of internet governance and IGF's multistakeholder approach.

U.S. Ambassador Phil Verveer emphasized the importance of keeping the Internet free of what he called “intergovernmental controls” across continents so that ideas and information can continue to flow openly and freely at IGF-USA. Certainly, he said, it’s the U.S. view that the Internet not be used as a means of oppression or repression.

“It’s equally clear that we—all humanity—are better off if the Internet remains as it is, free of intergovernmental controls,” Verveer said. “In the view of the United States this is critically important. (An open and free Internet should be) open to new ideas and uses and to the kinds of organic change it has served so well and also free of censorship and other tools of political oppression.”

Verveer said intergovernmental controls involve Internet lag times and attempts at coming to a consensus about important issues, which ultimately results in locating the “lowest common denominator.” And all that is inconsistent with today’s version of the Internet, he said.

An excess of rules and regulations, too, are problematic because of the fretful future they could bring.

“There’s a great danger that we’re going to end up in a situation where some administrations can claim the assistance of all other administrations with respect to things like censorship and greater political control that we in the United States feel very, very strongly should be avoided.”

One way to avoid unnecessary rules is through communication, and that’s where the Internet Governance Forum, a multistakeholder organization, enters the picture, said Pablo Molina, campus CIO and AVP of Georgetown University.

“Communication is a fundamental human right,” Molina said.  “The ability to communicate with others and exchange information is critical for human development.”

Individuals who send and receive money across borders and immigrants who use the Internet to bridge the gap between their foreign and origin countries must rely on communication, he said.

And with communication comes the right to education, according to Molina. More and more students and professors are working at colleges and universities form other parts of the world and opening up countries to engage in international initiatives, Molina said.

JULY 18, 2011 - Panel members for the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011 opening plenary session (L-R), Ambassador Phil Verveer, Pablo Molina, Marilyn Cade and Chengetai Masango, each addressed the participants to kick off the day's events.

These important initiatives is why the private sector, all countries, governments, private organizations and academia are all on equal footing while at IGF, said Chengetai Masango, United Nations Secretariat of the IGF, who discussed the history of IGF during his opening remarks and will speak later in the afternoon about the national Internet Governance Forum this September in Kenya.

This allows for open and honest discussion without the fear of something being held against a speaker because no policy decisions are made at IGF, he said. Instead it is a chance for people to learn, share and bring back new ideas to help shape their various groups.

Some have criticized IGF’s approach as a soft form of government, yet Masango stressed the forum is meant to spur discussion and open dialogue to increase cooperation in the technological field.

“The Internet is the largest and most successful cooperative venture in history,” Verveer said.

And it has produced many multistakeholder organizations, including ICANN and IGF, with many more cropping up every year.

Marilyn Cade, chief catalyst for IGF-USA, welcomed more than 100 members of civil society, academia, government and the private sector to the third IGF-USA and laid out the busy day ahead.

“We focus on IGF-USA by taking a national perspective with a global view,” Cade said. “And you will see that in the workshops and sessions today.”

The workshops and sessions will focus on youth Internet stereotypes, regionalization of the Internet, cloud computing and the changing landscape in the domain name system.

To read more about the global IGF, click here: http://www.intgovforum.org/

- Anna Johnson

The opening of IGF-USA 2010

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In the opening ceremony of the IGF-USA 2010, Judith Aren, Pablo Molina, Markus Kummer and Ambassador Philip Verveer welcome all to the conference and begin with opening remarks.

Brief description:

The opening plenary session of the second IGF-USA featured general remarks from leaders Judith Aren and Pablo Molina of the host institution, the Georgetown University Law Center, and from global IGF leader Markus Kummer and Ambassador Philip Verveer of the U.S. State Department.

Details of the session:

One highlight of the opening session of IGF-USA 2010 came when Markus Kummer, the executive coordinator of the United Nations-facilitated global Internet Governance Forum, reviewed the creation of many national and regional IGF initiatives. In the past few years the movement has spread to now include eight regional initiatives, such as the East African IGF, and 15 national IGFs. (Click here for links to these: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/regional-and-national-igfs)

“It’s just proof that in many countries people feel the need of discussing the issues in multistakeholder situations,” Kummer said.

He emphasized the importance of discussing these issues nationally and regionally, not just globally.

“Global coordination cannot work if there is no coordination on the national level,” Kummer said. “This is particularly true in developing countries where quite often the Internet has developed outside the sphere of governance. It is particularly important that these initiatives happen in developing countries so they realize the importance of understanding the discussions with these multistakeholders.”

Pablo Molina, chief information officer at Georgetown University Law Center, said such Internet governance talks should continue, especially in the United States. He noted that one in every five U.S. university students has taken a class online.

“It was once said that all that’s needed to have a university is a library and a printing press.” Molina said. “I would argue that today, all is needed is the Internet and a savvy community of faculty, staff and students.”

The IGF is a place where businesses, civil society, government, academia, technologists and researchers can discuss current topics and issues and the positive evolution of the Internet. Kummer called it a “soft” governance approach, offering a way for people learn from each other how best to improve working with the Internet, tackling problems not through treaties, but through best practices.

Marilyn Cade (At podium) opens the day by introducing some of the panelists.

“The Internet itself obviously is deployable for both positive and negative purposes,” said Ambassador Philip Verveer of the U.S. State Department. “The positive is on exhibit here in the program today.”

Verveer said the positives of the Internet include the spread of knowledge and efficiency and the challenges include threats to cybersecurity and to children online.

“The IGF has been criticized for not producing concrete results, as a UN meeting normally produces some sort of resolution, however you usually pay a price for getting there,” Kummer said. “[In the IGF] we focus more on the substance, and by not having a negotiating framework, it allows for free dialogue.”

The United Nations will be deciding later this year whether to extend the mandate for meetings of the global IGF past the initial goal of having five annual sessions. “I am very optimistic the UN is going to extend the IGF and hopefully without any changes,” Verveer said.

Kummer said the majority of the people who have been involved in the IGF process to this point have expressed a desire to keep it as a non-negotiating platform, while others want to change the parameters, maybe to move toward some form of negotiating platform. Some people have said that if there are not major changes in the way it operates the IGF should not continue. The UN may make some suggestions about the future direction of IGF if it is to be continued past the fifth meeting, which takes place in September, 2010, in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“The question is will it be a simple ‘yes,’ or will it be a ‘yes’ but with certain conditions attached,” Kummer said.

-Rebecca Smith and Sam Calvert, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

2010 IGF-USA at Georgetown Law Center in DC July 21

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The second IGF-USA will take place July 21, 2010 at the Georgetown Law Center, in Washington, D.C. The one-day event will offer expert panels and workshops on important global Internet governance issues, as well as a plenary session on the continuation of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum.

If you are interested in receiving information about the upcoming IGF-USA join the community today.

The Internet Governance Forum USA (IGF-USA) is a multistakeholder effort to illuminate issues and cultivate constructive discussions about the future of the Internet. It provides a domestic forum in the US to engage civil society, government, technologists, research scientists, industry and academia, helping to create partnerships, coalitions and dialogues that demonstrate best practices and help move policy forward.

Written by andersj

May 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm

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