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Friday 17 September 2010

• The Internet Governance Forum concluded today in Vilnius, Lithuania after four days of meetings and discussions involving a broad range of stakeholders. More than 1,900 participants from 107 countries attended, the largest participation of all the five IGFs. Delegations from 79 governments were represented along with participants from the private sector, civil society, the Internet community and the media. More than 600 people participated remotely from more than 30 registered hubs as well as individuals. There were 35 remote panelists.

• The emerging issue of cloud computing and the way forward for Internet governance were discussed in the main sessions. Other events on the closing day included 17 workshops, as well as regional meetings, and ‘dynamic coalitions’.

Emerging issues: cloud computing

• Cloud computing was designated as the theme for the ‘emerging issues’ session in Vilnius. This session looked at the issue from both the policy and the technical perspectives and explored the possible Internet governance considerations of cloud computing.

• The chair of the session Professor Algimantas Juozapavièius asked people to imagine a world with technology on tap where we can access computing services on demand from any location without worrying about how these services are delivered and where they are hosted. This vision he said was becoming a reality and could be revolutionary, enabling small and medium sized business in particular to enter the market without upfront costs and to operate entirely without a large IT department. As an emerging issue he said cloud computing present lots of challenges to be resolved.

• In the first part of the session participants acknowledged that there were different opinions about what was the cloud and how it could be used. One definition suggested it meant programming the whole infrastructure of the Internet and providing that as a service, others said it included web-based email services as well as data storage and processing. The cloud could be seen as a shared resource or as something that might lead to computing power becoming a utility like electricity which could be plugged into on demand.

• Concerns were expressed about market dominance by the most powerful IT companies, how cloud computing might worsen the digital divide, the use of open standards, the hidden costs of cloud computing and standards for cloud service providers. There was a warning that cloud computing was a disruptive technology that would change how we process information and challenge existing regulatory paradigms.

• The discussion looked at the benefits of cloud computing such as the savings from economies of scale offered by the cloud, and the drawback including concerns about data security and privacy and interoperability were discussed. It was argued that the cloud could offer governments the opportunity to use information technology resources more efficiently.

• Another issue discussed in the session was the environmental impact of cloud computing. It was reported that data centre energy use globally is now one per cent of global electricity consumption and could rise to two per cent this year.

Taking stock of Internet governance and the way forward

• The final session in the afternoon took stock of the evolution in the overall Internet governance landscape since the first IGF meeting in Athens in 2006. Participants were also looking ahead at Internet governance over the next five years leading up to the ten-year review of implementation of and follow-up to the outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2015.

• There was a call form more youth engagement at the IGF. One young person described how youth issues were often discussed solely from an adult point of view, instead of youth discussing the future of the Internet as equal stakeholders with all other participants.

• Speakers commented on how discussions had changed in the five years of the IGF meetings. It was now seen as more balanced and more cooperative between the different stakeholder groups. More stakeholders were engaging with the IGF and the number of participants from government, private sector, civil society as well as the academic and technical community had increased.

• The multi-stakeholder nature of the IGF was praised by several participants from different stakeholder groups and the usefulness of the open exchange of ideas was widely supported. Human rights too had become a more important issue in the IGF process over the five years. Several speakers mentioned the important role of the national and regional IGFs.

• One participant from civil society saw the IGF as an international space for open exchanges on matters of public policy affecting the Internet alongside the regional and national process but if it were to continue there was a need to make the outcomes more visible and tangible without compromising its non-binding and non-decision-making nature.

Other events

• Workshops held today examined the following issues among others: Internet for youth; protecting women’s rights on the Internet; civil registry cross-border data exchange in Europe; use of Latin and Native American languages on the Internet; child online protection in Latin America; why we need an Open Web and local language content and digital inclusion.

• One ‘Dynamic Coalition’ meetings was held on gender equality which aims to ensure the gender perspective is included in the key debates around Internet governance issues, such as content regulation, privacy, access, freedom of expression among others. Several regional meetings were also held.

Closing session

• In the closing session the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Internet Governance Nitin Desai said it was not clear when the IGF was set up, how it would evolve. He pointed out that cloud computing and social media, discussed as emerging issues this year and last, were not even on the horizon when the IGF first met in Athens.

• One of the most important successes he thought was how the multi-stakeholder approach had worked with different groups learning to talk with one another and adjust to the new environment.

• The IGF had had a concrete impact he said on the issue of people with disabilities, also on child protection issues. Another important change was in the development of national and regional IGFs. He hoped some of theses changes had helped to make the Internet a more friendly, safer, more accessible medium for people in the world.

• Chairing the closing session on behalf of Eligijus Masiulis, Lithuanian Minister of Transport and Communications, was Rimvydas Vastakas, Lithuanian Vice Minister of Transport and Communications. Speaking on the Minister’s behalf, he said the last four days had seen very fruitful discussions and he hoped that by building on the experience of the previous four meetings that this year’s IGF could be described as the best so far.

• Other speakers at the closing session were from the all the different stakeholder groups that are part of the Internet Governance Forum process.

• A report on the future of the Internet Governance Forum will be considered by the General Assembly during its 65th session. In his report the Secretary-General recommends the extension of the mandate of the IGF for a further five years. The report also calls for additional funding to increase participation in the IGF from developing countries, and to increase support for capacity building for Internet Governance in developing countries.

• The Government of Kenya has offered to host the 2011 meeting, should the IGF mandate be extended.


Anne Thomas, UN Information Officer
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