IGF-USA 2012 Afternoon Plenary Discussion: Defining the Future for Internet Governance – Meeting Evolving Challenges
Brief session description:
Thursday, July 26, 2012 – This major session of the opening plenary of IGF-USA discussed the current state of play with various proposals ranging from the WCIT, the UN Commission on Science and Technology and Enhanced Cooperation, areas where more government may be called for from their perspective or strong improvements in “governance.” Panelists offered a range of perspectives about government and governance.
Featured participants in this special session included Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for public policy, AT&T; Chris Wolf, partner and Internet law expert from Hogans Lovells; Danny Weitzner, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House.
Details of the session:
As Chris Wolf of Hogans Lovells said, the ghosts of Internet past, present and future were part of the final plenary discussion on “Defining the Future for Internet Governance: Meeting Evolving Challenges” at IGF-USA Thursday at Georgetown Law Center.
Wolf dubbed himself the “the past guy” and remembered a time he was considered a pioneer in knowledge of the Internet and how it was evolving in its early years. The trio of panelists defined the future for Internet governance and the evolving challenges citizens face.
There’s been an enormous amount of growth and development during the Internet’s short life, noted Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of public policy at AT&T.
“I think the true strength of the IGF, as we talk about every year, is its ability to self-improve,” he said. “And, for all of us, from a bottom-up way, to help innovate and change the process each and every year.”
IGF introduces new topics and builds on those addressed the year before. The IGF is not just a “talk shop” that meets once a year, Brueggeman added.
IGF needs to keep broadening the participation and the process, including peers in more developing countries. More remote participation and adding numbers has been a success in the meetings, Brueggeman said. The discussion needs to keep evolving at IGF-USA and on a global basis. Pressure is growing to show that it doesn’t have the same discussion year after year.
Brueggeman said those involved in IGF should do a better job of capturing the impact of the multi-stakeholder process and show the value of it to those who don’t come to the meetings and those who will never come.
Sustainability is a real challenge, though he has seen an enormous amount of progress. A few years ago, organizers and attendees were debating whether there would be an IGF the following year. Now, they debate what to build around the one-day conference.
Danny Weitzner of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – Wolf called him the “ghost of Internet future” – highlighted three things that are already happening.
“We are at the middle of a multi-stakeholder explosion and the question is how to actually help make sure it’s directed and productive and doing the right things,” Weitzner said,
The second thing: He said Vint Cerf has eloquently pointed out that the Internet is now being actively used by more than 2 billion of the 7 billion people in the world, adding: “Attending to that is going to tremendously important in the future.”
And his final point: “We are in an era of just inevitable and irresistible transparency. Sometimes even governments, sometimes companies, sometimes even civil society groups take refuge in un-transparent un-institutional activities because it’s often easier, it’s often safer. But I think we’re learning over and over again in a variety of different institutions that we’ve got to learn to embrace transparency, we’ve got to learn to make it work for us and that resisting it is a mistake.”
Top-down rule-making does not always lead to innovative solutions. The Internet keys into collective intelligence and is best served by the multistakeholder model of governance, Weitzner said.
Although there are many important issues to address as the Internet evolves, Weitzner said he thinks the real discussion that’s going on is to make sure the Internet’s open environment can raise its accessibility to move from 2 billion users to 7 billion.
— Ashley Barnas