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.



讀 2019 世界經濟論壇「全球競爭力報告」和「全球風險報告」

自從把重心放在網路治理領域後,比較少去關注世界經濟論壇 (World Economic Forum,WEF)的一些報告。最近看到一些媒體、政府部門的新聞稿在慶賀台灣的全球競爭力排名已前進到 12 名,刻意彰顯自己的政績,都讓我感到十分有趣。通常排名進步有幾種可能:1. 台灣真的競爭力提升了不少,2. 其他國家/經濟體系的評分下降,3.評分的方式改變。
於是我看了自己在 2015 時所觀察歷年全球競爭力報告中的「不利經商因素」(The most problematic factors for doing business),從 2011-2012 至 2015-2016 的報告中,「政策的不穩定性」和「低效的政府官僚」一直都是台灣兩大不利經商因素。在 2019 年的全球競爭力報告裡已經看不太出來明確的項目,但在另一份報告 Global Risk Report 裡,從 2018 年起就有相關的項目。


2017年辦理了台灣網路治理論壇(Taiwan Internet Governance Forum,以下簡稱 TWIGF)後,陸續也有許多單位或有興趣的朋友加入論壇中的 Multi-stakeholder Steering Group (以下簡稱 MSG),TWIGF 今年也舉辦了幾次座談,努力讓台灣的民眾了解什麼是「網路治理」和與其相關的範疇,並持續舉辦會議讓與會者透過親身參與,體驗與了解什麼是「網路治理」和「多方利害關係人機制」。

TWIGF 在 2017 年的主題是「數位衝撞之契機 – 經濟、安全與人權之和諧發展」並將子議題分為:數位經濟、網路安全及網路人權,參與者約有兩百多人也刊登上《Global Information Society Watch(GISWatch) 2017 Special Issue - Internet governance from the edges: NRIs in their own words》,藉由此機會讓國外的讀者了解台灣網路治理的發展狀況。 網路治理論壇的精神:對話才是重點 不同於台灣習慣的研討會、座談會模式,主持人或與談人可能會準備大量的投影片向參與者簡報。TWIGF 會議裡有主持人、與談人和參與者三個角色,與會重點是主持人、與談人、台下參與者三方針對該場次主題的對話,並非與談人的個人演講;三方可能分別在不同領域裡有不同的專業,依照主席宣布的議事規則進行討論,沒有多餘的簡報與演講,在該場次 60 至 90 分鐘的對話時間裡,透過「多方利害關係人機制」找到彼此對議題的共識。對話可能包括了爭論、對談,參與者都是熟悉該議題或對議題有興趣,在彼此尊重與包容的前提下發言與討論,透過對話形成共識。


中午時間,我在查詢相關資料,回覆信件後,回頭問自己:「為什麼自己在查詢資料時,總是先從歐盟的資料著手?很多人會反應為什麼要查歐盟或 OECD 的資料而不先使用國內的資料?其他國家的研究資料不能用嗎?」

這幾年的心得是,在歐盟和 OECD 的報告裡會提供研究方法,公開告訴每個人,他們的數據來源、取得方法、怎麼推估、根據什麼政策框架,有什麼研究限制,這些公開的研究條件,都經得起外界審視和質疑,所以在檢查其合理性後,可以使用這些報告。

以區塊鏈技術運用在身分識別用途來說好了,在 GDPR 公布後,裡面的條件都規範了資料使用和流通的限制,對於喜歡不經告知就擅自挪用、交易的企業來說,使用資料的成本與門檻都提高許多,許多科技業者也質疑,在需要資料發展創新科技,如 AI 和區塊鏈,或是自主駕駛車輛,也需要大量的地理交通資訊,在 GDPR 這麼嚴謹的限制條件下,要如何發展新科技?