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Surfing the High Tide - Look back at the Internet Governance Forum 2013 in Bali

by Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen
Published on: 04.11.13
Source: eigener Bericht

K├╝ste vor Bali, Indonesien

To Surf, but not to Sink

Bali is famous for its beaches, and surfers from all over the world are looking for the challenging waves at the coasts of the Indonesian island. Not only forces of nature make surfing a hazardous adventure, but also on the internet dangerous waves may threaten the users. This was the topic of the eighth Internet Governance Forum held from 22. - 25. October 2013 in Bali.

The Elefant in the Room

With a plea for a stronger collaboration of all stakeholders the eighth IGF ended in Bali. A pre-conference was held in advance of the event, organised by the United Nations, because otherwise the more than 135 sessions and workshops would not have fit into the tight schedule of the usually four-day conference. More than 1.500 participants from 111 countries debated over five days the current developments in the area of the internet. Surveillance of the internet and its consequences were in the focus of many discussions - the elephant in the room was used as a metaphor for the activities of the NSA. On the next to last day of the IGF the disclosure of the wiretapping of the mobile communications of many heads of state worldwide - among them also Angela Merkel - fueled the conversations and led to the declared intent to avert such surveillance and monitoring in the future by all available means and effort. Government's interference in the privacy of citizens and assaults on their integrity and security shall not be tolerated because trust is one of the basics for unfolding the internet's full potential for the development of societies. The approach of the Brazilian government to improve the privacy of internet users and achieve more autonomy of Internet Governance was discussed controversially on the IGF panels as well as in many bi- and trilateral talks and also online. It remains to be seen what will be the outcome of the official invitation to ICANN - the umbrella organisation of Internet Governance - to come to Rio de Janeiro in April 2014 to discuss the Brazilian proposals for more safety and security. It can be taken for granted that further interferences in privacy will be revealed in the future.

The Net Community Closes Ranks

Surveillance of the internet - be it legitimate or illegal- has bereft the internet of the nimbus of providing a space for the freedom of speech. The gravity of the situation and threat to civic rights have made the Internet Governance Forum this year more than ever an intensely used platform for debate of the current developments. It seemed that in Bali the old battlefields were abandoned, because everybody knows that no one can win the game on their own. Transparency, liability and responsibility were claimed by a broad alliance of stakeholders from civil society, government, and industry in tune with academics and the technical community. Achieving an accessible internet where future users and innovators can safely and securely reside was set as an objective for the next twelve months. At national and regional IGFs in between it should be worked towards making this postulate become real and not stay a lip service. On June 12th and 13th the European Dialogue on Internet Governance -EuroDIG, that is the European IGF - is scheduled to take place in Berlin. Here the debates for the next global IGF, planned to be held in Turkey in September 2014, will be prepared. Simultaneously the so-called WSIS +10 review process organised by UNESCO and the ITU will take place in order to assess the achievements towards the objectives of the World Summit on Information Society from 2013 to 2015. Apparently enough tools are at hand to cope with the challenges and utilise Internet Governance to maximise the positive and minimise the negative activities on the internet to create a safe, secure and tolerant cyberspace, as Dr. Ashwin Sasongko , Director General of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of Indonesia, reminded his audience in the closing session.

Internet Governance Forum in Bali




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