What is the IGF? What can we expect from it?

Internet Governance is a difficult concept to grapple with for many of us. Even those who have been keeping track of discussions on gender and the new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Naturally, people who know or who have heard about the Internet Governance Forum, are asking what this meeting is all about.

The Internet Governance Forum is a venue to discuss public policy matters and other issues related to the deployment of the internet globally. Unlike the WSIS and other meetings organized by the UN and its specialized agencies, the IGF is not a policy forum. It does not have any authority to come up with a policy document. However, broadly speaking, it could greatly influence future intergovernmental discussions.

Following are some of the objectives of the IGF as outlined in paragraph 72 of the WSIS Tunis Agenda:

1. to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet;

2. to facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body;

3. to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific and technical communities;

4. to advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world;

5. to strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries;

6. to identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations;

7. to contribute to capacity building for Internet governance in developing countries, drawing fully on local sources of knowledge and expertise; and

8. to help find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users.

In the words of one ICT activist, the IGF is a big brainstorming session on Internet Governance—which hopefully will influence future policy discussions.

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