Netizen's Guide to the Internet Governance Forum

The Internet Governance Forum is a multi-stakeholder forum where people from all over the world – from government, industry, the technical community and civil society – come together to discuss the Internet's future. The Sixth Annual meeting officially kicks off on Tuesday morning in Nairobi, Kenya. A number of pre-meetings will be held all day on Monday.

The IGF is set up for remote participation, so you do not need to be in Kenya physically to follow the discussions or to ask questions and make your views known. Before the start of each day, IGF staff will post remote participation links for each conference room so that you can participate remotely through the conference's WEBEX system. (Click here to see if your computer is compatible with their system.)

The Monday pre-meetings:  Several interesting and important meetings will be held on Monday and four of them are open to everybody on the Internet. Two of them have made their schedules publicly available and promoted them:

  1. The Association for Progressive Communications meeting on access as a right. (10am-6pm Kenya time). Why attend? Click here for the invitation flyer and click here for the full run-down of the day's discussions. Also see APC's briefing paper on priorities for this year's IGF and other short papers on key IGF discussion themes. The final panel of the day, a Roundtable on the State of Internet Rights (17:15-18:15 local time) will be held jointly with the next group. A guest blogger from APC will be reporting from the meeting here on GVA later this week.
  2. Global Internet Governance Academic Network (Giganet) annual symposium. (also approximately 10am-6pm) Many of the papers or abstracts are available for download. See for instance Arresting the decline of multi-stakeholderism in Internet governance by Jeremy Malcolm; The legality of internet blackouts in times of crisis. An assessment at the intersection of human rights law, humanitarian law and internet governance principles by Matthias Ketteman; and Upholding online anonymity in Internet governance. Affordances, ethical frameworks, and regulatory practices by Robert Bodle.

The main conference: So many sessions, which ones to join? At any given time, several different meetings, workshops, and plenary sessions are held concurrently. The IGF organizers have posted the schedule as a rather unweildy Excel file here. Fortunately, other participants have taken the time to post the schedule in more digestible formats. The Diplo Foundation‘s e-Diplomacy project has an online list of sessions and schedule. The indefatigable Tim Davies has also created a social media page aggregating all tweets, blogs and photos posted by participants. The official hashtag, by the way, is #IGF11.

If you want to get involved with a global community of people working for Internet users’ rights whose work extends throughout the year, be sure to join one or more of the “dynamic coalitions.” Examples include the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (meeting on Tuesday from 11-12:30 Kenya time) and the Freedom of Expression Coalition (Wednesday 4:30-6pm).

Many participating organizations have posted lists of the workshops they are organizing or participating in on their websites. Those interested in sessions related to activism, human rights and free expression on the Internet may want to check out session listings by the APC (scroll down below the jump), the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Global Network Initiative, and the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, among others.

Kieren McCarthy of dot-nxt has also created a handy practical guide to this year's IGF, with his top session picks. He observes that while the opening session on Tuesday afternoon has “far, far too many speakers,” it will nonetheless be interesting “given all that is happening in the Internet governance world.” No doubt, speeches from Hamadoun Toure (ITU), Neelie Kroes (EC), Janis Karklins (UNESCO), Larry Strickling (US), Rod Beckstrom (ICANN) and Vint Cerf (Google) not be uniform in their visions for the Internet's future.

For those interested in truly doing their homework on the IGF and the current global impasse over Internet governance, see Jeremy Malcolm's post on IGF Watch: Where to develop Internet policy: ITU, G8, OECD or an empowered IGF? Also see his previous posts on twists and turns of the IGF's five-year history.

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