IGF 2017 highlights need for greater dialogue

Recently I participated remotely in my first Internet Governance Forum — IGF 2017 — which was held at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland from 18 to 21 December.

From the comfort of our offices and homes, I (along with 1,660 other remote participants) was able to listen to and participate in a range of multistakeholder discussions surrounding emerging technologies and Internet governance-related issues on the theme of Shape Your Digital Future!

Gaps between technical communities and policy makers

Dialogue is an important component of the multistakeholder model — multiple parties come together to contextualize a problem and resolve it through information exchange. That said, it is difficult for different groups to let go of preconceptions.

In some sessions, there were participants that were solely of the opinion that policy is the first priority, and that technical problems can’t be stated in the policy or explained to people.

These people need to think widely; they also need to have the ability to translate what people want in policies and adjust them accordingly. That said, it is difficult to translate opinions from technical communities to policy makers, which only strengthens the need for clear communication and dialogue.

Gaps between developed and developing economies

The Internet has become a commonplace utility for many. In my home, Taiwan, Internet penetration is among the highest and most affordable in the world. However, for many people the Internet is still a luxury.

I found from participating at the IGF that this gap, between developed and developing economies, brings with it varying priorities:
  • Developed economies talked about trust, cybersecurity, governance and policies, surveillance, ethical issues, and emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things and Blockchain.
  • Developing economies talked about infrastructure, rights to access the Internet, affordable Internet, quality education, as well as human rights and safety issues.
Needless to say, the discussion about the Internet has evolved from the haves and have-nots, which is why such multistakeholder mechanisms like the IGF are important for planning for the future development of the Internet. Different stakeholders sit together to discuss and find the solution, and people can learn from each other and consider other people’s perspectives, needs and experiences.

Language may be the largest barrier

More than 2,000 participants from 142 economies, representing all stakeholder groups and regions, attended IGF 2017 in person.

The IGF provides translation services to allow attendees — in person and remotely — to understand speakers so long as they speak in any of the six UN official languages: English, Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish and Russian — most sessions were in English.

Although this allows a large majority of people to easily share and understand each other’s views, it does impact the experience of those whom such language is a second or third language, particularly those from Asia Pacific economies. Some topics are difficult enough to explain in your own language let alone trying to interpret their meaning for another language.

Obviously, it would be great to get more people adding to the dialogue in their native language, but how can we make it more convenient?

Besides inclusion of language, respect for religion, culture and customs is also important to encourage people to share their opinions.

I learned how to work on the Internet

IGF 2017 wasn’t all about listening to discussions. I was able to participate in working groups, including the NRIs working group. It was a great experience to collaborate with people (whom I’ve never met in different economies and time zones) on working documents, and discuss issues on mailing lists and in online meetings.

Wish for more people to join IGF

It is difficult for young people in Asian economies, particularly students, to sit with government officials and talk about Internet or government policies — it can be overwhelming and they may feel they do not have enough experience to share.

At the closing plenary, Jianne Soriano said, “Being young is not a disadvantage, it is a strength.” It’s great that the IGF understands the need to include the opinions and ideas of younger people in discussions that are ultimately shaping their future.

This message is something that I’m looking forward to taking back to and implementing at the Taiwan IGF, and to hopefully encourage more younger participants to IGF 2018.

This article is published on APNIC Blog. Robert Mitchell, the editor has edited it.



新加坡 Smart Nation 初探

在陸續的聽了一些關於新加坡 Smart Nation 相關計畫的介紹(研討會、網路新聞)及資料收集後,看看台灣目前的作法,寫下一點點心得。

先自一些線上調查來看,聯合國2014年對193個成員國所做的的電子化政府評比中,新加坡的電子化政務(EGDI)是在前三名,電子參與(EPI)也是前十名;世界經濟論壇今年初所完成的全球資訊科技報告(Global Information Technology 2015)中也提到新加坡的網路就緒指數(Network Readiness Index)在所調查的143個經濟體中排名第一。這些評比成果都顯示新加坡在電子政務上、基礎建設上都相當完善。

新加坡的 Smart Nation 很明確的定義出 Smart Nation 是要解決問題,對象是「人」。他們找出了要解決的問題:人口老化、教育、交通、資源的問題,針對這些問題擬定了要解決的作法,例如為了解決日後人口老化所衍生的健康照護問題,他們建造智慧住宅,對住戶的生活習慣收集資訊、分析日常行為,如果有一些行為是反常的,可能就會進一步的通知或實地查訪。對於某些人來說可能會覺得隱私被侵犯,但這是最有可能解決獨居老人發生意外而無人及時救援的方案之一。





之前參與了第8次的火箭聊天室,講者Roy Lin提到了:「當大家在提到『智慧城市』四個字時,想到的多半是:智慧停車、智慧燈柱、智慧巴士...等項目,多是以科技發展的角度,卻沒有自設計師的立場出發,也沒有人想過是要以『智慧』的方式來處理城市生活裡所面臨的各種問題。」不斷反思這段話。

打造智慧城市並不是談如何拿到ICF(Intelligent Community Forum)的智慧城市評比,更不是拿裡面的評量標準拿來當作是施政的KPI,若要讓居住於其中的市民有感,應該要先找出都市中需要被解決的問題,例如利用政府開放資料找出都市中的閒置空間,實際去探訪這些閒置空間的規劃是被作為停車場、公園或乾脆荒廢的一塊地,又或是透過資料視覺化來顯示城市的脈動,藉此可以在未來進行商圈規劃或是都市更新發展等。有些國家如新加坡便是與日本合作智慧節能系統,鼓勵國內的新創研發,投資海外的創新研發,並應用在國家發展中,以期讓人民的生活更便利。