The Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), hosted by auDA, was held in Brisbane from 29-31 August 2023. Three other key events – Australia’s national IGF (NetThing), the Pacific IGF (PACIGF) and the Asia Pacific regional Youth IGF (yIGF) – also took place alongside the APrIGF.
National and regional IGF initiatives are important as they support multi-stakeholder discussion and enable diverse perspectives to be shared. Participation is open to all stakeholders – industry, government, academia, civil society and individual users – on an equal footing and the outcomes help inform, and sometimes influence, internet governance policy and decision-making. These forums also support national and regional contributions to the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which is convened by the United Nations. This year’s global IGF will take place in October, in Kyoto, Japan.
Organised as hybrid events, people from the Asia Pacific were able to attend without the need for travel. More than 250 in-person and 1,000 virtual attendees from 68 countries participated in the forums. The discussions were vibrant and passionate, both online and offline; within and outside sessions. Co-locating the forums also provided a unique opportunity for cross pollination of diverse views incorporating Asia Pacific, Pacific, Australian and intergenerational perspectives.
Common themes across each forum considered challenges related to Artificial Intelligence (AI), data governance, cyber security, content moderation and its implications for human rights, digital inclusion, digital rights and democracy, connectivity, digital sustainability, skills and resourcing shortages.
Discussions also placed value on the multi-stakeholder model of engagement. Specific sessions considered the need to ‘amplify’ multi-stakeholder voices in global, United Nations-led cyber and internet governance processes, and how this could be further encouraged, especially given upcoming global processes, including the Global Digital Compact (GDC).
The snapshots below provide some examples of what was covered, illustrating the diversity of discussions:
- Internet governance – what is in scope? Does internet governance refer to technical internet infrastructure or content related matters, or both? In today’s digital world, the lines between technical and content layers are blurred with both domains informing and affecting each other.
- Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) – Progress and challenges of IDN rollouts, the capacity for inclusivity and the untapped opportunity given the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Asia Pacific region.
- Data security – Internet-connected smart devices capture and collect a wealth of biometric data but we cannot reset our biometric features (e.g. fingerprint) once our identity is stolen. How can we protect ourselves better from data surveillance and identity fraud online?
- Content moderation online – The tensions between content moderation policies versus democratic values were discussed. This included concerns that content moderation could be a tool to stifle divergent voices, the capacity for emerging technologies (e.g.: facial recognition and AI) to supress information flows.
- Digital skills shortages – How we can build technology to suit the varying skills and needs of users, rather than focussing on ‘upskilling’ or compelling users to adapt.
- Digital inclusivity – “Nothing about us, without us” – highlighting the need for those most impacted to be at the decision-making table, whether this be vulnerable and marginalised people within society or donor driven capacity building initiatives.
- Digital transformation and the preservation of cultural and indigenous knowledge – Are current methods (e.g. IP rights and copyright) adequate?
- Digital technology sustainability – The importance of awareness highlighted through a toolkit to guide understanding of the ‘global journey’ of a smartphone.
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