The auDA team recently attended the 18th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was held in Kyoto, Japan, from 8-12 October 2023. The IGF is an annual event hosted by the United Nations that is open to all stakeholders – industry, government, academia, civil society and individual users – to progress discussions on key internet governance issues. The theme of this year's IGF was "The internet we want – empowering all people."
Here, we highlight some of the key takeaways and insights from our involvement.
The future of internet governance
The future of internet governance was a significant topic of interest at the IGF, with multiple sessions covering the Global Digital Compact (GDC) and the 20-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+20).
These intergovernmental processes have the potential to significantly change the internet governance system. During the IGF, auDA emphasised the importance of the multi-stakeholder nature of the internet governance system at every opportunity. You can read more on our thinking in our blog posts on the GDC and the WSIS+20 review.
auDA was also invited to participate in a workshop hosted by the United States, the European Commission, Kenya and Japan, to identify how governments can best work with the multi-stakeholder community to advance the Declaration on the Future of the Internet. The Declaration is a commitment signed by 67 governments to promote a positive vision for the internet.
The IGF program included a high level panel on WSIS+20 and main sessions on the GDC and on the future of digital governance. auDA was represented by Internet Governance and Policy Director, Jordan Carter, in the future of digital governance session and Specialist Policy Adviser, Annaliese Williams, in a town hall organised by the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) on the WSIS+20 process.
Addressing internet fragmentation
Internet fragmentation was another key topic at the IGF. It can be considered in three broad categories:
- Fragmentation of the technical layer of the internet – different internet standards are applied in various jurisdictions resulting in an internet that is no longer interoperable
- Fragmentation of the application layer of the internet – different jurisdictions have varying access to applications that operate on the internet, creating differences between how people use the internet
- Fragmentation of internet governance – different regulations and laws are applied to the internet across jurisdictions, resulting in varied experiences for internet users around the world.
Each of these types of fragmentation have the potential to reduce the benefits that flow from an open, global internet. Jordan and Annaliese spoke at sessions related to internet fragmentation, with a focus on unified internet governance, emphasising the need to avoid division in the digital space.
Balancing the risks and opportunities of Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI was covered at a range of sessions at the IGF, including a high level panel introduced by Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida. Prime Minister Kishida highlighted the transformative potential of generative AI to accelerate innovation but noted there are risks. He discussed the Hiroshima Process on Generative AI, a framework by G7 nations seeking to develop coordinated approach to AI governance.
Other speakers generally agreed with the Prime Minister’s sentiment, noting AI holds significant opportunies but well-considered safeguards will help manage risks. Digital literacy was noted as a key non-technical solution to mitigate some risks associated with AI, in particular mis- and disinformation.
Environmental, Social and Governance
Environmental, social and governance topics were also prominent at the IGF in Kyoto. A high level panel convened to discuss how technology and innovation can revitalise the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The panel noted only 15 per cent of SDG goals are on target for achievement. Digital technologies were recognised as an opportunity to accelerate performance against the goals.
The IGF’s main session on sustainability emphasised the need to foster a sense of responsibility across the digital sector to support environmental action. The panel recognised that collaborative efforts that involve government, business and civil society stakeholders, among others, will be crucial to make a difference. Top Level Domain operator, DotAsia, launched its 2023 EcoInternet report during the IGF, to stimulate multi-stakeholder discussions about the environmental impact of the internet.
Conversations on the auDA Internet Governance Roadmap
The forum provided an opportunity for auDA to seek feedback from the global internet governance community on the auDA 2023-25 Internet Governance Roadmap.
We were pleased to receive positive feedback on the Roadmap and its calls to action. We look forward to further engagement on our Roadmap as we work to enhance the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance. A summary of the Roadmap is available on the .au blog.
auDA was also pleased that at the IGF, Jordan was appointed to the IGF’s Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), which contributes to the program and schedule of the IGF meetings. His appointment reinforces auDA's commitment to actively contribute to the global internet governance landscape.
The IGF provided an excellent platform for the internet community to engage, share insights and actively contribute to shaping the future of the internet. auDA was pleased to contribute as we continue our work championing an open, free secure and global internet.
You can watch sessions of interest on IGF YouTube channel. For more on auDA’s work on internet governance, read our 2023-25 Internet Governance Roadmap and our blog on the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), which we hosted in August 2023.