Lessons Learned in Kenya

14/12/2011

This year, three representatives of civil society organizations of the LACNIC region having to do with the Internet participated in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that met in Nairobi (Kenya), organized by the United Nations in order to discuss the current challenges faced by Internet governance.

This was the sixth global meeting of the Internet Governance Forum promoted by the United Nations; the core topic around which discussions revolved was the importance of the Internet as a catalyst for change and a promoter of freedom, development and innovation.

The Latin American delegations invited to Nairobi were selected during the Pre-IGF meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago. These representatives had the opportunity to participate in the global meeting and exchange experiences with members of civil society organizations from around the globe on issues such as computer security, freedom of expression, critical Internet resources, and Internet governance.

“WE ARE NOT ALONE”. Jorge Bossio, executive director of Regional Dialogue on the Information Society, said that, in his opinion, the Internet Governance Forum is “one of the few arenas available for open dialogue that have been created and continue to function”.

He highlighted the fact that, although thanks to the platforms that were specifically implemented to that end he has participated remotely in prior editions of the forum, “clearly there is a lot of knowledge and many experiences that cannot be transmitted via teleconference: the conversations before and after each session, the raised hands for which there was not enough time, the meeting that was cancelled but was nevertheless held thanks to the interest expressed by participants, the conversations on the long daily bus ride through the outskirts of Nairobi…”

For all of the above, Jorge has said that “there is great value in getting to know those who are working from their governments, companies and organizations to make the Internet a valuable tool for humanity and recognize among them those with whom we have shared long but entertaining and interesting discussions on mailing lists, forums and Twitter… “It’s you! Nice to meet you!”

“The Internet governance agenda is very broad and, to a certain extent, overwhelming. Knowing that you are not alone, that there are thousands of individuals willing to contribute their time and share a space to try to solve –or at least to try to analyze– the main problems relating to Internet development and its impact on society helps us return home with the desire to continue moving forward”, added the executive director of Regional Dialogue on the Information Society.

HUMAN RIGHTS. Eleonora Rabinovich, director of the Freedom of Expression Program at the Association for Civil Rights, also participated in the Nairobi meeting sponsored by the region.

She noted that the IGF “offered multiple points of view on Internet governance and regulation”. Among others, she highlighted “the need to include the human rights perspective, ensuring their validity within this framework. This is why, for an organization such as the Association for Human Rights, the possibility of participating in this forum was extremely rewarding.”

The Forum allowed Eleonora the opportunity to exchange experiences with various stakeholders, to learn, and to contribute to discussions from a “human rights perspective, particularly with our focus on freedom of expression and access to information.”

BETWEEN URGENCY AND COMPLEXITY. After his Nairobi experience, Hugo Carrión of the Ecuadorean NGO Imaginar noted that Internet governance “is increasingly less a topic to be discussed exclusively by governments or analyzed solely by the academic elite”.

He qualified his participation at the Forum as “an unforgettable experience” for one who represents “a group of civil society that aspires to understand how information and communication technologies, particularly the Internet, affect people’s everyday lives.”

Hugo highlighted “the huge diversity of topics as well as the depth of the contents that were covered” which “showed the complexity and urgency of the work that must be done”. He added that “this work is not only the responsibility of those such as governments who are responsible for public policies, but also of each Internet user who must learn that the information society poses new rights and obligations”.

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