Internet Governance Forum 2023 — Kyoto PREGAME

The annual United Nations Internet Governance Forum is being held in Kyoto this year, my “hometown.” It is a 5 day conference covering the following themes:

  • AI & Emerging Technologies
  • Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
  • Cybersecurity, Cybercrime & Online Safety
  • Data Governance & Trust
  • Digital Divides & Inclusion
  • Global Digital Governance & Cooperation
  • Human Rights & Freedoms
  • Sustainability & Environment

I was first made aware of the forum by Dietrich Ayala and decided to apply as an observer. Although I have been to a few international standards meetings, I have never attended an IGF before. As I am interested in internet governance (both personally and as a Fissioneer and “card carrying” member of indieweb and open source communities) I thought I would go along.

I will document my experience of course, but I thought I would put up this post in order to “pre-game” the conference and get input from you all.

I lurk in the #browsers-and-platforms and #decent-data-compliance-wg channels on the Filecoin Slack, and try to keep up with governance issues to the best of my ability (and free time). I really wish one of the lovely folks from those communities was attending and I could just play padawan to them. But since they are not, I will have to step up as best I can. in preparation, I am looking for feedback on:

  • Any specific sessions should I attend and report on?
  • What information should I bring back from this conference that will benefit our overlapping communities?
  • What opportunities should I look out for at the conference?
  • What should I avoid?
  • Anyone other than Meredith Whittaker I should try and meet? (I literally will try to get a selfie with Vint Cerf’s beard if at all humanly possible)
  • Anything else you can think of?

A primer on the IGF

The IGF has been going since 2006. Last year it was held in Ethiopia.

The mandate ‎of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) calls for discussing digital public policy issues in ‎order to foster sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet and to ‎facilitate discourse between different stakeholders.

From the EFF:

the informal nature of the IGF promotes the full and frank exchange of ideas on important Internet policy issues without the high intensity conflicts that characterize other international fora where recommendations or binding treaties are made.

Why does it matter?

While the IGF does not adopt resolutions or create any binding treaties, its importance lies in its ability to facilitate discourse between international organizations dealing with international public policies and the future of the Internet. IGF gatherings discuss proposed regulatory frameworks, potential risks, global trends, best and worst practices that been adopted or are currently under discussion around the world. Participants examine the impact of treaties and recommendations adopted in other international venues.

Structure of the conference

The conference is arranged around three major types of meetings (Best Practice Forum, Policy Networks, Dynamic Coalitions) plus some high-level meetings, regional meetings, lightning talks, and networking sessions.

The Best Practice Forum is on Cybersecurity

This year there are 3 IGF 2023 Policy Networks:

  1. Policy Network on Meaningful Access
    • Connectivity (infrastructure and business models, analysed within the framework of the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation)
    • Digital Inclusion (accessibility and multilingualism), with special attention to local contents in local languages, helping the digital transition of existing experiences
    • Capacity Development (technical skills training)
  2. Policy Network on Internet Fragmentation
    • Discussion of PNIF Discussion Paper Unpacking Fragmention of:
      • Internet Goverance and Coordination
      • Internet Technical Infrastracture
      • Internet User Experience
  3. Policy Network on Artificial Intelligence

There are 27 Dynamic Coalitions. The DCs of interest might be:

  1. Dynamic Coalition on Blockchain Assurance and Standardization (DC-BAS)
  2. Dynamic Coalition on Core Internet Values (DC-CIV)
  3. Dynamic Coalition on Data and Trust (DC-DT)
  4. Dynamic Coalition on DNS Issues (DC-DNSI)
  5. Dynamic Coalition on Environment (DCE)**
  6. Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (IRPC)
  7. Internet Standards, Security and Safety Coalition (IS3C)
  8. Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility (DCPR)

:bulb:There is also a Newcomer’s Track on the first day which I will likely attend.

Some very impressive people will be at the High Level sessions. Of note for me:

  • Taro Kono (Minister of Digital Affairs, Japan)
  • Jacinda Ardern
  • Vint Cerf
  • Meredith Whittaker
  • Maria Ressa

There is no EFF presence this year.

Sessions of Interest?

I have already highlighted a few DCs of interest, but the whole list of actual sessions is below:

You can also download the DRAFT Schedule from that page and poke around yourself.

Personally I feel comfortable going into sessions about splinternet, governance, human rights, and climate. Those are my personal areas of interest. I think with discussions of shared blocklists and the like, that the sessions on Trust might be a high priority. I can attend those, but not likely participate much unless you feed me questions (its just not my wheelhouse). Although I have highlighted blockchain above, it looks like this is more about supply chain stuff — it may not be the most relevant.

If you are interested, have a poke about, or ask me questions and I will try to respond while I continue to poke about. Once I narrow in on the topics to follow, I will subscribe to the newsgroups and try to get up to speed before attending.

Thank you for any helpful advice or kind words of support. I now have to go purchase a suit so I can be presentable at these meetings.

I checked with my EFF friend, who said EFF was planning on sending someone this year, but travel plans got nerfed by Covid and changing flights last minute was too expensive so they had to pull out last-minute. It usually makes the cut EFF-wise. My friend’s advice, having gone multiple times, was not to sweat the sessions too much, but to make time for backchannels and get invited to meals with folks you want to talk to :smiley:

I’ll check out the descriptions of streams about trust and blockchain and get back to you! Appreciate the CC/invitation to opine.

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I was going to say basically what @bumblefudge said: don’t worry too much about the official programme other than as a way to have fodder for backchannel conversations. Use your status as a local to help gather interesting people who will no doubt be interested in hearing about good places to hang out, eat, etc.!

My suspicion is generally that the loftier it sounds, the more likely it is to be bullshit. So I would have low expectations of anything about core internet values or the environment. It’s just a heuristic, I could be wrong, but in my experience the more janitorial it is the better.

Internet fragmentation is a game played by nation-states (see Underground Empire) and there is a contrarian position that it could be a good thing (see A Half-Built Garden!). Outside of esthetic preferences, one things that I would think about is how it helps/harms regular people as well as about what us technologists can do for/against it.

I’d love to hear what conversations you have; happy to think through some of them with you as they happen!

This is on my list already, but thanks for the A Half-Built Garden recommendation!

To my knowledge there doesn’t seem to be a conference attendee list, so I cannot yet list up HVTs to try and woo with local food just yet. Hopefully one will drop

We got our list of 7262 participants :exploding_head:

I guess a LOT of people wanted to come to Kyoto. (EDIT: That is “registrants”… unclear how many will actually be here in Kyoto)

Doing some slicing and dicing. Won’t share here since this is a public post.

(4226 organizations!) EDIT: Actually less than that. Lots of duplication here. But still in the thousands.

List of booths: