IT for Change at the 2008 Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

The 2008 Internet Governance Forum(IGF) was held in Hyderabad, India, between 3-6 December with the  overall theme 'Internet for All'. IT for Change (ITfC), along with the Alternative Law Forum, the Centre for Internet and Society, the Delhi Science Forum, the Free Software Foundation and Knowledge Commons, sent an open letter to the IGF about the importance of addressing key public interest and policy issues in global Internet governance on this occassion, as so far the forum had failed to do so.

ITfC co-organised three workshops for the 2008 IGF. The first one was organised in collaboration with the Brasilian government and focused on 'Enhanced cooperation - What was meant by the Tunis agenda, and what is its current status'. The Tunis agenda spoke of the need for ‘enhanced cooperation’ for global Internet policy making. There are different views about what exactly is meant by this term, and what processes will/can constitute ‘enhanced cooperation’. The  workshop aimed at debating the meaning and the multiple possibilities of this term, through wide participation of all stakeholders in the multi-stakeholder spirit of the WSIS. 

A second workshop, titled 'Internet for all - Exploring a rights-based approach', explored the meaning of a rights-based approach to Internet for all, analysing related concepts such as e-inclusion and ‘universal service’. The aim was to assess whether such an approach could provide the basis for Internet policy in this area.

The last workshop held by ITfC was on 'The role and mandate of the Internet Governance Forum'. Even though these had been set out in general terms at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), various interpretations of this general statement had been put forward and continued to be debated amongst its stakeholders. The 2008 IGF represented the midpoint in the initial 5-year term of the IGF after which the whole IGF process was sought to be reviewed. It was therefore pertinent to

  • review how the IGF had fared till now vis-à-vis its mandate, and whether any structure and/or substance corrections were needed for the remaining part of its initial 5-year mandate;
  • consider what were the emerging views on post-2010 arrangements for the IGF, if one was at all needed.

ITfC contributed to the Gender and Internet Governance Dynamic Coalition, whose statement was presented at the main session titled 'Taking stock and moving forward'. The statement summarises the importance of taking a gender perspective when exploring the issue of 'Internet for all'.

ITfC also chaired the Dynamic Coalition on the Framework of Principles for the Internet which aimed to understand, influence and contribute to the processes of making international laws, conventions, treaties, etc. in the area of Internet Governance – both of the soft law and hard law varieties – incorporating the multi-stakeholder principle.

Anita Gurumurthy intervened in the closing ceremony of the meeting advocating for the need to take a rights-based approach to the Internet for it to be really inclusive.

Before the Hyderabad meeting, IT for Change had also taken part in the IGF open consultations which took place in Geneva in September 2008 to discuss the agenda and programme of the 2008 IGF. ITfC's contribution, 'Is ‘Enhanced Cooperation’ a legitimate topic for discussion at the IGF?', argued for the need to discuss the idea of enhanced cooperation as part of the fundamental democratic rights of the IGF participants to know about what was happening on ‘enhanced cooperation’, and to contribute to the shaping of its structure.

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