So the first day of the first Internet Governance Forum is over, thank goodness. I clearly look like hell, cause all my old friends from the WSIS walk up to me and say, “Hi Rik, good to see you! Man, you look like hell.” Here are some of my highlights that I can summon from my jet lag adled brain…
Rik’s Highlights of Day 1:
- Level of Participation:
A thousand or so registered participants, although not more than 500 or
so could have been in the plenary hall. Looks like not much civil
society participation, particularly from developing countries, but it’s
of course hard to get an exact count. Folks that I know are here: Social Science Research Council (me), CONGO, APC, CPSR, GLOCOM, Friedrich Boell Foundation, the Internet Governance Project, Ford Foundation, IT for Change, and dozens and dozens of people with the Diplo Foundation.
Notable VIPs in the house: Internet technorati Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn;
Konstantinos Karamanlis, Prime Minister of Greece; Nitin Desai, Special
Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for Internet Governance; Yoshio
Utsumi, Secretary-General of the ITU; Viviane Reding, European
Commissioner for Information Society & the Media; Guy Sebban,
Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Remote Participation: Despite unreliable wifi that goes in and out like
a breeze from the Aegean Sea, there are a few channels for ITC-enabled
remote participation, from webcasting, to live chat, to discussion
forums, to RSS aggregators and email submissions. They are even
posting full English transcripts after the sessions! Not bad for a
- Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus: I caught the tail-end of the civil society
Internet Governance Caucus meeting in the afternoon. One interesting
issue raised by Bill Drake of CPSR is what our position should be in
regards to these multi-stakeholder “dynamic coalitions” that are
supposed to be initiated at this first IGF conference. In his view,
the “multi-stakeholder” part is a limiting factor that will lead to
only the most lukewarm, broadly acceptable coalitions being formed. If
some NGOs want to form a coalition on freedom of expression or privacy,
which governments and the private sector are unlikely to rush to join,
should we feel limited by the multi-stakeholder bit?
Multi-stakeholder Circus: Kenneth Cukier of The Economist didn’t
moderate the packed “multi-stakeholder” panel in the afternoon as much as he lion-tamed
it. With 14 panelists,(largely from governments despite the
“multi-stakeholder” bit) and a full house of several hundred people,
Ken threw questions around like a whip, going from mobile phone
penetration in the developing world to reforming ICANN in a heartbeat.
He called for questions from the audience and then fired them off to
panelists in rapid succession. It was a daunting task for any
moderator and he handled it with style. It didn’t really work in the
end though, with people leaving after three hours of this wondering
what the point was.
Evening Reception: The first day ended with a very nice reception
hosted by the Greek government at a beachside resort hotel.
There was all the accountrementes of an elegant event: free flowing
wine, ice sculptures, candle lit cocktail tables, hustling waitstaff
everywhere. I have to say that the food was just not very good. Then
again, it was free, so it’s pretty silly of me to complain. But then, I
- Tomorrow’s Agenda: There are two main sessions on the broad themes
of “Openness” and “Security” in the morning and afternoon. There are
also a host of parallel workshops, one of which I’m speaking on
entitled “IG for Participation.” Hopefully I won’t look like such hell
tomorrow. Then again, I’m already up at 4AM, so it’s likely.