The availability of the Internet in conference rooms introduced the possibility for more inclusive and open international negotiations. It facilitated the participation of an increased number of civil society and business sector representatives, including those who could not, for financial or other reasons, physically participate in the meetings. Initially, remote participants could only follow deliberations passively, through web-broadcasting.
In addition to the implicit advantages for inclusion, an important impact of improved remote participation is the increased reach and influence of the conference itself and the resulting dissemination and significance for involved policy processes and projects.
During the 2007 IGF, remote participation was enhanced to include the possibility for remote participants to ask questions and contribute to discussions. Since 2009, remote participation in IGF meetings has been further enhanced through the introduction of remote hubs.
Remote hubs are defined as local meetings that take place during and parallel to IGF meetings, hosted by universities, ICT centers, non-governmental organizations, and other players who deal with Internet governance and policy issues. The organizers of these meetings project a simultaneous webcast of the IGF proceedings so that remote participants can stay informed about what is being debated. Participants can send text and video questions to be answered by IGF panelists in real-time interventions. In addition, hubs host local panels and roundtable discussions that correlate to IGF themes. Through these activities, the local hubs enrich coordination between global and local policy processes. The 2010 IGF meeting (in Vilnius, Lithuania) was followed by 32 remote hubs with about 600 participants.
Diplo offers complete support for conceptualising and deploying e-participation in international meetings. This includes strategic planning for remote hubs and workshops, guidelines for meeting organisers, and certified training for facilitators and moderators. Diplo has implemented remote participation innovations in cooperation with UNESCO and the UN IGF process.