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

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Internet Governance Forum-USA, 2011 Review: Implications of Internet 2025 Scenarios

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Brief description:

Earlier in the day at IGF-USA, participants divided into three groups to discuss potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. At this session, moderators briefed the plenary crowd on the discussions and they and other IGF-USA participants in the audience weighed in with their observations.

Details of the session:

Building upon an experiment that had succeeded at the previous year’s meeting, the Internet Governance Forum-USA presented a set of hypothetical situations, ranging between idyllic or dystopic depending on the preferences of those in attendance. Splitting off into three groups, panelists and members of the audience discussed the pros and cons of the end results of an imagined timeline, then moved on to figure out how best either to ensure or prevent said timeline.

As a part of the concluding ceremony of the IGF-USA, the lead moderators of every respective group presented their scenario to those caught unaware by a possible destiny and pointed out what the Internet community, along with governmental and business leaders, can do to in response to the potential future.

The first, Regionalization of the Internet, revolved around a prospective world in which individuals are either in or out on the Web, blocked off from those deemed to be outside of their own government’s sphere of influence. (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_Internet_islands.xhtml.)

Andrew Mack, of AMGlobal Consulting and the session’s lead moderator, described it as, “interesting, but a bit depressing. We took the Angel of Death view on this.”

The idea of the Internet as an open highway, in this world, is replaced by one replete with tolls, as cross-regional access is limited, or in the worst cases, cut off entirely. Because of national security concerns, economic weakness, pressure from climate change and the massive new adoption rates of the “next billion” Internet users found in emerging markets, the Internet becomes a series of castles.

Some in the session actually thought the scenario fit the present more than an illusory future, and the more dire of descriptions could become the status quo within five years. To prevent it, governments were urged to be flexible and practice their own advice, industries were urged to increase their focus on the next billion users, who as of yet have no champion to advance their causes, and IGF was urged to resist the advance of ITU, the United Nation’s mass communications arm.

The second session, lead by Pablo Molina of the Georgetown Law Center, presented a more positive picture. “Youth Rising and Reigning” (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_youth_rise.xhtml.)projected a world with the youth-led revolutions in the Middle East spreading to Europe and other disaffected masses taking up the call to utilize new Internet-based technologies to assert their own independence in light of continued economic and civil strife. And though many agreed that there’s a strong plausibility of “Youth Rising …” a key distinction that strikes at its heart was made.

“The defining factor is digital literacy and mastery, not age,” Molina told the audience, bringing to earth the notion that everyone younger than 30 is an Internet messiah, and bringing to light the fact that with the right competencies and skill, even the most elderly can have an influence on the Web. And despite the positive outlook of the scenario, an important distinction was made: Bad actors will always find ways to capitalize on new advances, and inadvertently, some innocents will be inconvenienced or, at worst, suffer as a result of those ill intentions.

JULY 18, 2011 - During an afternoon session of the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011, Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, shares what was discussed during the morning "Government Prevails" scenario.

To encourage, if not the revolutionary subtext of the hypothetical situation, the political and societal awareness of the youth, all means to promote participation in political discourse were advocated, be they through industry continuing its innovative advances, governments empowering instead of reigning in their citizens, or IGF supporting the participation of more and more stakeholders to ensure all voices are accounted for. And, of course, education, coming in the form of digital literacy, is a must for the youth to have the tools to, at most, incite a just revolution, and at the least, fight for their own causes in an effective way once the Internet further integrates itself within society.

The talkback that was perhaps the most pessimistic and grimly reminiscent of the most bleak of science fiction was “Government Prevails,” led by Steven DelBianco of NetChoice. (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_government_prev.xhtml.)It depicts not victorious and noble governments deservedly beloved by its populace, but ones that, through a series of calamities, find themselves with the responsibility and power over maintaining surveillance over their entire citizenry.

Natural disasters of unimaginable magnitude and hacking sprees running rampant across the globe, in this scenario, coupled with rapid advancements in mobile and surveillance technologies, give the world’s governments both the mandates (since its presumed that they win the public trust after being the only entities capable of responding to such horrendous occurrences) and means to fulfill a vision reminiscent, albeit not quite as menacing, as that of George Orwell’s “1984.”

“I woke up this morning feeling fine, and now I’m afraid,” one member of the session said after hearing about the timeline.

Each of the elements of the prevailing government could be, as separate entities, taken as positives. Many responded warmly to the possibility of a more advanced version of London’s CCTV, scanning entire cities in the hopes of preventing crime, or smartphones that were not only mandated to keep tabs on your location at all times, but which could be used to turn in violators of strict anti-pollution legislation. But at the end of the day, it’s still a world in which the government is given the sole proprietorship of its people, with a seemingly omniscient awareness of their every little move.

To keep it from happening, the workshop decided, industries should obey the laws to avoid losing public trust, and they work together with the government to avoid the current philosophy of “government vs. private business interests.” Governments, obviously, shouldn’t grab the chance at such power and instead opt for a more open and decentralized Internet.

As for IGF? It should stick to its current duties and engage with all stakeholders, though such a future, while seemingly horrendous to Western minds, DelBianco mused, could be equally as appealing to those in countries such as Iran and China. This, in the end, illustrated one of the most evocative elements of the hypothetical exercise. Just as one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, one man’s dystopia can be another man’s utopia.

– Morgan Little

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Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 Potential-future scenario discussion: Youth Rising and Reigning

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Brief description:

IGF participants broke into three different rooms to discuss three different, possible potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. In this session, the brief description given to the discussants was: Youth Rising and Reigning describes a future in which tech-attuned young people come to dominate over an aging world in which production and delivery are dominated by young users.

Details of the session:

Among the facilitators of the discussion of the Youth Rising and Reigning potential-future scenario at the Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 at Georgetown University Law Center were Pablo Molina of the Georgetown Law Center, Chris Hemmerlein of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Kelly O’Keefe of Access Partnerships.

You can read the one-page PDF used to launch this discussion here:

http://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/Youth_Rising_Scenario.pdf

The potential future drivers of change between now and 2025 that people were asked to consider before discussing this scenario included:

  • Global economic woes and the Arab Spring move young people to increasingly become power producers and consumers of Internet content. The power of social networks becomes evident, in part thanks to their importance in crises such as natural disasters, wars and other natural and manmade conflicts, and social networking alters human relationships in profound ways.
  • Cloud computing, hyperconnectivity, the Internet of Things (all devices connected wirelessly, including cars, houses and many more) all provide benefits and raise privacy issues and these and other challenges foster the requirement of mandatory biometric IDs. Mobile devices become personal IDs and electronic wallets and credit cards disappear.
  • A new form of cyberbullying emerges. control of information flow shifts from major media corporations to gangs of powerful information leaders, and online defamation becomes common with little recourse; copyright laws crumble, new content aggregators emerge with new business models.
  • By 2015, software for real-time language translation enable a truly global communications network with real-time Internet-based information exchanges that cross all previous barriers of language and geography. This allows the tens of millions of new Internet users in China, India and Africa to make key innovative contributions to new battery technologies and other breakthroughs.
  • Growth of concerns about online safety and identity theft, coupled with viruses, malware and financial risks lead to industry and government collaboration on online safety requirements and mandated digital citizenship training in preschools and primary schools.
  • By 2025, miniaturized video is integrated into everyday life, and people record and share all of their life experiences, often broadcast live. Police access to such feeds results in fines for the breaking of laws previously unobserved – for instance, speeding and recreational drug use.

Regulation of the Internet

Molina suggested that, because of online crime, identity theft and terrorism, access to the Internet of 2025 would require biometric identification for all online users, or even a license to obtain Web privileges.

“These are things that are going to happen in about 15 years from now,” Molina said. “They are likely—beneficial or not. And we’re here to debate that.

JULY 18, 2011 - An audience member participates in the IGF-USA "Youth-Rising and Reigning" Scenario Session

Anne Collier, a participant in the discussion and youth advocate from connectsafely.org, said government measures, such as restricting children’s access to certain websites, were ineffective at solving the issue of online security.

“Identification verification is not a solution,” Collier said, referencing a 2008 government discussion surrounding an out-of-court settlement with MySpace. “Attorneys general were looking for a prescription, which they said was age verification, and another one biometric identification. They came up with a prescription for youth safety online before there was any diagnosis.”

After a review of literature pertaining to youth online, Collier said the biggest risk for youth is the presence of cyber bullies, not online predators who would pose a threat offline.

Discussant Stephen Balkam, from the Family Online Safety Institute, said it is going to be very tempting for governments in all parts of the world to resort to requiring biometric identifications to regulate citizens’ Internet use.

“The temptations are going to be so strong,” Balkam said. “South Korea has already issued national ID numbers.”

Collier added that the notion “to control is to protect” was disturbing.

Youth Involvement

Karl Grindal, a participant from Georgetown University, said “youth” was too vague a term to discuss any single age range of Internet-savvy people, and that the youth being mentioned today are in the process of transitioning to the next phase of life.

“It’s a temporal concept,” Grindal said. “Twenty five year olds turn into 45 year olds. The discussion is more directly related to people who know how to use the Internet. In the long term, that becomes all of us—not just the youth or the middle-aged people.”

In response to one of Molina’s comments about the involvement of youth in citizen journalism, Grindal said the eventual rise of citizen journalism would not be attributed solely to youth involvement.

“Citizen journalism is not the product of youth but of a culture that tries to use the technologies,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any way the youth will always rule. That group will not likely produce the majority of (Internet) content.”

JULY 18, 2011 - An audience member participates in the IGF-USA "Youth-Rising and Reigning" Scenario Session

Other participants in the discussion suggested that youth, no matter what time period in the future being discussed, would have an increasing role in the development of business, government and society because of the Internet.

William Vogt, an undergraduate student from Georgetown University and another discussant, suggested the creation of online tools to effectively involve young people in politics. One example was the creation of more online forums to give people a streamlined method of contacting their representatives, rather than calling and trying to get in touch with a secretary to leave messages. Because young people are accustomed to instant communication and platforms to express their opinions in other situations, participants said youth would expect the same type of process for political involvement.

“Right now it’s cumbersome and takes a long time to effectively contact your representatives,” Vogt said. “If we reduce those barriers, youth can participate more. They’re not going to go through a pain-in-the-ass process to do it.”

Ali Hamed of Cornell University said that between government and private sector, he believed these online tools should be produced by whoever has the most incentive to use them.

“We need to first establish who has the most to gain,” Hamed said, “and whoever has the most to gain needs to be the one to produce it.”

The discussion shifted back to considering the dangers and benefits of government involvement, regulation of the Internet and how the role of the Web and its stakeholders would shift. The majority of participants agreed that people who misuse the Web would remain determined to do so, regardless of any imposed barriers, and the leaders committed to improving users’ online experiences would see that cause through, as well.

Collier said she believed the Internet, a “constantly changing in real-time product,” gives the user, including young people, more power than ever.

“We have governments going to media companies,” she said. “We have this kind of distributed power—kind of this social contract forming.  It’s a really fascinating, fluid time where we figure out how the Internet is governed. What it serves is changing at the same time. That’s fascinating.”

– Natalie Allison

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