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Internet Governance Forum: a Trend or a Necessity?

28 August 2015

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Participants at the training of trainer's workshop in Ouagadougou; July 2015

Stakeholder engagement and Operations Manager, Africa

The Tenth Internet Governance Forum will be held from 10 to 13 November 2015 in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. This large annual worldwide event has been held every year since its first edition on November 2006 in Athens, Greece. Growing from 1,200 participants over the years to 2,374 registered participants in the last edition in Istanbul, including 1163 online participants, interest in the event and Internet governance has been increasing globally. Participants represent civil society, governments, the private sector, the technical community and international organizations such as ICANN.

Global awareness of Internet governance has started gaining traction over the years with more engagement from regions around the globe as people became more aware of gravitas of the issue, especially as the Internet continues to be an integral part of all our lives; a necessity even.

In Africa, work has been underway to increase awareness across the continent on the subject matter. We recently concluded a training of trainers on Internet Governance that was held from 27 to 31 July 2015 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. During the five days of the workshop, international experts shared with twenty participants from 13 countries the major issues related to Internet governance in order to give them more knowledge that, in turn, will enable them to train others. The history of the Internet, Africa and the future of Internet governance, the Internet Ecosystem, issues and challenges of international Internet governance, technical issues (protocols, management of critical resources), global initiatives (01Net, NETmundial, NETmundial Initiative), the digital innovations and e-governance were the main topics covered during the training. A roundtable held on the last day of the training allowed participants to discuss the key actions that could enable Africa to have champion(s) on Internet Governance matters.

Since the inception of the Internet Governance Forum, there have been global events on a yearly basis with recommendations released at the end of each, which address key Internet issues of concern, to which no country is bound, but is highly recommended they address them. The same scenario is repeated at all these meetings both on regional and local levels. The jury is now out to gauge the overall impact of the IGF series and to seek options for its continuation after the tenth round in Brazil.

We think there could be another approach to these meetings – especially at the national level – to create more concrete and tangible results. We believe the constraints are not the same for players worldwide. Different regions, even countries, have different needs and circumstances. Global forums may shed light on the issues and conclude with high-level recommendations on a global level, but it is up to regional and local initiatives to tailor them to their own needs. This is where we need to ask ourselves how a forum on Internet Governance on a national level can contribute to the improvement of infrastructure, content and technical skills nationwide. We believe that these national forums should allow for truly effective participation of all local actors/stakeholders, and allow for concrete recommendations from which action can be implemented and gauged frequently. A country should not organize a forum on Internet Governance only to be on the list of those who did it! The forums on Internet governance must not just be part of ongoing trends, but part of addressing the necessities of present-day life – a fast and robust Internet for all, at an affordable cost. They should continue beyond the physical meetings, build upon the recommendations presented and contribute to the development of the Internet for the benefit of all stakeholders.


Yaovi Atohoun

Yaovi Atohoun

Stakeholder Engagement & Operations Director - Africa