Thursday, November 15, 2007

IGF 2007: Emerging Issues session and the need for “IGF for Dummies”

Much was said and debated at this session, and what was said covered a diverse range of issues. One observation: (as one would expect in a multi-stakeholder environment) different groups push different issues from technical to non-technical to social responsibility to policy to something somewhere in-between (and outside!).

Talking to some IGF delegates who were “rookies” and some with non-technical as well technical backgrounds, they do get a bit bewildered/confused about what happens at IGF. I think what is missing is an “IGF for Dummies” session, run just prior to the official IGF start to bring folks up to date, as apart from the usual suspects at IGF there are also a whole bunch of people who tend to walk around in somewhat of a daze from room to room, and who may not see and hear what they thought they would. Some may say this can be done locally/regionally, and whilst this is important, the “IGF for Dummies” session is important for those people who actually end up attending IGF.

IGF 2007: ISOC Visibility @ IGF Rio

This year ISOC was highly visible at IGF (and yes I am happy!). In the “Village Square” ISOC had the premium booth and was pretty much the first thing anyone entering the section saw. The 11 ISOC Ambassadors were given lanyards (good one Kevin) to hold their security IDs and this meant we stood out with our white lanyards with ISOC logos blazing on them. As far as I know, the ISOC Ambassador group has been active in various sessions, manning the ISOC booth, as well as networking and talking to people present here.

Congratulations to ISOC HQ for the initiative, and I hope it was valuable to all concerned.

IGF 2007: Consumer Protection and Data Breach Notification

I was a Panellist for this session on Day 3. When I was first approached to be on this panel, I had some idea of the background surrounding the issue, but only when I read through some of the literature provided by the organisers did I get a real appreciation of how grave the issue is, indeed it is potentially a disaster waiting to happen. When we add the attempts to get the next 1 billion online to the mix, the ramifications are potentially even worse. As Hank Judy pointed out, there is a lot of software out there which is pirated and therefore unlikely to get security updates and these machines are highly susceptible to nasty use and abuse.

This week the EU announced a new proposal for data breach notification, which applies to systems connected to publicly available networks. It goes without saying that the next billion coming online, a majority of which are from the developing world, will face substantial data breach issues as they embrace e-commerce and the use of online technology to effect financial and other transactions. It is possible that in the rush to embrace technology, and in the absence of appropriate legislation, some security measures may be overlooked, paving the way for massive data breaches and possible theft of financial and other information. This adds to my earlier stated security concerns with the next billion coming online. Its not only the next billion online, but also a new billion vulnerable online.

I hope that the IGF pays attention to these wider issues related to Internet development, and more attention is paid to such “under the radar” issues. Kudos to David Satola and Henry (Hank) Judy for organising the session, and its a pity the IGF Secretariat allocated what was a lousy time slot (in the face of numerous open slots published in the agenda). I hope David and Hank continue to work on this for the IGF and further work is done at IGF Delhi and beyond. I also hope that consumer protection issues (related to electronic transactions, storage, etc. in particular) become an important part of national policy formulation in developing and emerging countries. This was also evident by comments from the audience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

IGF 2007: Governance Frameworks for Critical Internet Resources

I was on the panel for this workshop and though, in my opinion, the theme of the workshop was quite clear, the discussions that ensued got fragmented into a discussion on the old ICANN debate. Of course some do say that the Critical Internet Resources theme is a veil for the old ICANN debate. My final comment on the panel was “The Internet is a dynamic beast and Organisations and debates must also be dynamic in nature. In response to the call for institutional competition for ICANN, I would really like to know how exactly this may be implemented, and I fear this will lead to yet another never-ending debate. I would rather we expend our energies on what already exists and try and make that better, rather than attempting to re-invent the wheel”.

IGF 2007: Dynamic Coalition on Access & Connectivity for Remote, Rural and Dispersed Communities

I was involved in the organisation of this workshop and it turned out to be a rather good session, though we had some logistics problems in the beginning with Videos that did not start playing and microphones that did not work.

The session started with a presentation by Janna Anderson from Imagining the Internet on a survey they carried out at IGF Athens and it was interesting to hear comments that were relevant then, and continue to be relevant now.

This was followed by commentary from Dr. Vint Cerf on some of the Access & Connectivity challenges in different regions and some possible solutions.

Dr Cerf’s comments led into a panel discussion on Digital Inclusion issues and the role Government, Private Sector and Civil Society can play. The Panellists were a diverse group representing Private Sector, Government and Civil Society. Examples of Government-Private Sector success stories were presented by Guillherme Saraiva from Comcast Brazil. We were honoured to have the Hon. Gunnar Hökmark, Member of the European Parliament, on the Panel and he offered some perspectives on the role of Governments in creating enabling environments and the value of regulatory reform. Hakikur Rahman from ISOC Bangladesh represented the Civil Society voice on the Panel, having been involved in ICT development for over 20 years. He presented some perspectives on how Civil Society is also an important part of delivering ICT for development, in particular in rural communities.

The ensuing audience interaction was also very valuable with some great examples being provided of access and connectivity initiatives around the world. One example was of India deploying 100,000 ICT centres for e-Government initiatives, and efforts in the Dominican Republic to introduce computers to village communities which has led to an explosion of computer use with more villagers investing in computing technology. One other comment I found of interest was by Arun Mehta of India who said that technology exists for disabled access to ICT, and this in itself is a practical way in which to provide exposure to ICT for an illiterate population - people may not be able to read and write, but they can speak and understand speech, which is what systems developed for the blind do by delivering an oral version of what is on the screen.

We had a peak headcount of around 85, and this was very encouraging. We hope to further build on the Dynamic Coalition and start planning early for IGF Delhi.

Monday, November 12, 2007

IGF 2007: IGF Delhi 2008 Dates

The dates have been announced by the Indian Delegation as 8th to 11th December in New Delhi, India, and the five themes from this year will continue.

Update: Venue for IGF 2008 is going to be the Taj Palace Hotel

IGF 2007: John Klensin @ Opening Session

We just heard from John Klensin, where he gave a brief overview of Internet development, and emphasised that the problems today are not necessarily all new - they have existed in one form or another for some time. He also stated that multi-lingual content on the Internet has existed for a while (with Japanese Kanji in use since the 1980s), and that criminal elements tend to use technology more efficiently then the rest of the world, and using the Internet for stalking, criminal activity, pornography is just a mere extension of the existing (non-virtual) world. I can’t say I disagree.

IGF 2007: And we are away!

IGF Rio has kicked off!

The usual roll call of guest speakers is ticking along. In the opening session, there was some reference to the old ICANN/DNS Adminstration story, but it was good to see some of the guest speakers picking up on this, and re-stating what the focus of IGF should be, and highlighting that all present should expend their energy on the more pressing global issues such as getting the rest of the world online.

It is also somewhat interesting that a large number of the speakers are stressing on different issues (which collectively equate to the various IGF themes) , and I guess this is based on their priority areas.

In terms of numbers, there appears to be less in the room, then there was at IGF Athens, but people are still arriving.