Things have kicked off here in Istanbul at this, the 9th Internet Governance Forum. On Monday, on what’s known as the ‘Day 0’ the focus was on evaluating the NETmundial process with the output document taking centre stage. The meeting was well attended and saw a number of interesting discussions. The preliminary results of a survey of participants conducted by Diplo, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), showed positive feelings about the overall process. Yet there were also some gaps in the clarity of procedures for preparing drafts and final documents, inviting improvements. The NETmundial Initiative led by WEF was also discussed. It was unclear to many what its goal is, and yet it was generally agreed that it should be given a chance, while observing how (and if) it can feed into and help the IGF process.
While the high level event organised on by Turkey, the host country, gathered a number of ministers, the impression was that some of them left before the actual opening of the IGF. The opening session, howe ver, did attract high level representatives of various governments as well as of other stakeholders, with some voices calling for greater involvement of governments, not only the ministries in charge of IT/telecom but also of economy, education, health, etc.
The orientation session and those sessions that set the scene were the informal launchers of the IGF before the afternoon official opening. In a changed (and likely improved) format, the two sessions aimed to (1) help newcomers map the process behind the IGF and its mandate and link with other IG processes, and (2) help participants to map the main topics on the agenda of the IGF2014.
Net neutrality was debated within the Dynamic Coalition, as a forerunner to the main session on net neutrality which takes place in the afternoon of Day 2. This is expected to map the technical, economic, and human rights challenges and open issues, and hopefully move discussions towards greater convergence of opinions as a feed in to the IGF in 2015 in Brazil – in which net neutrality is considered a principle of high priority also enshrined in Brazil’s recent national law on the Internet ‒ Marco Civil.
While most of the organisational aspects are well taken care with, the burning issue remains a very weak (often unusable) Internet connectivity at the venue, which reminds us that the IGF should pay more attention to ‘walking the talk’ and make sure the Internet is not only available at the meeting, but moreover integrated into the process in various ways, including social media reporting, communications and coordination of session preparatory groups during the meeting, etc. This is not possible without a stable Internet connection throughout the venue for all participants.