So the first day of the first Internet Governance Forum is over, thank goodness. I clearly look like hell, cause all my old friends from the WSIS walk up to me and say, “Hi Rik, good to see you! Man, you look like hell.” Here are some of my highlights that I can summon from my jet lag adled brain...
Rik's Highlights of Day 1:
- Level of Participation:
A thousand or so registered participants, although not more than 500 or
so could have been in the plenary hall. Looks like not much civil
society participation, particularly from developing countries, but it’s
of course hard to get an exact count. Folks that I know are here: Social Science Research Council (me), CONGO, APC, CPSR, GLOCOM, Friedrich Boell Foundation, the Internet Governance Project, Ford Foundation, IT for Change, and dozens and dozens of people with the Diplo Foundation.
- Notable VIPs in the house: Internet technorati Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn; Konstantinos Karamanlis, Prime Minister of Greece; Nitin Desai, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for Internet Governance; Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the ITU; Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society & the Media; Guy Sebban, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce.
- Remote Participation: Despite unreliable wifi that goes in and out like a breeze from the Aegean Sea, there are a few channels for ITC-enabled remote participation, from webcasting, to live chat, to discussion forums, to RSS aggregators and email submissions. They are even posting full English transcripts after the sessions! Not bad for a first effort.
- Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus: I caught the tail-end of the civil society Internet Governance Caucus meeting in the afternoon. One interesting issue raised by Bill Drake of CPSR is what our position should be in regards to these multi-stakeholder “dynamic coalitions” that are supposed to be initiated at this first IGF conference. In his view, the “multi-stakeholder” part is a limiting factor that will lead to only the most lukewarm, broadly acceptable coalitions being formed. If some NGOs want to form a coalition on freedom of expression or privacy, which governments and the private sector are unlikely to rush to join, should we feel limited by the multi-stakeholder bit?
- Multi-stakeholder Circus: Kenneth Cukier of The Economist didn’t moderate the packed “multi-stakeholder” panel in the afternoon as much as he lion-tamed it. With 14 panelists,(largely from governments despite the “multi-stakeholder” bit) and a full house of several hundred people, Ken threw questions around like a whip, going from mobile phone penetration in the developing world to reforming ICANN in a heartbeat. He called for questions from the audience and then fired them off to panelists in rapid succession. It was a daunting task for any moderator and he handled it with style. It didn’t really work in the end though, with people leaving after three hours of this wondering what the point was.
- Evening Reception: The first day ended with a very nice reception hosted by the Greek government at a beachside resort hotel. There was all the accountrementes of an elegant event: free flowing wine, ice sculptures, candle lit cocktail tables, hustling waitstaff everywhere. I have to say that the food was just not very good. Then again, it was free, so it’s pretty silly of me to complain. But then, I just did.
- Tomorrow’s Agenda: There are two main sessions on the broad themes of “Openness” and “Security” in the morning and afternoon. There are also a host of parallel workshops, one of which I’m speaking on entitled “IG for Participation.” Hopefully I won’t look like such hell tomorrow. Then again, I’m already up at 4AM, so it’s likely.