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IGF 2019 - Fighting for a Free and Open Internet

We have another successful IGF meeting in the annals of Internet governance. Below I share a few thoughts and highlights of the event.

The German hosts were spectacular in their planning, facilities and management of the program. We were honored with two special guest speakers, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German government is showing a deep commitment to the IGF, demonstrated in both the opening remarks as well as announcing substantive future IGF resource commitments. Chancellor Merkel was passionate about the parallels of today and her youth: our existential threats of internet fragmentation are akin to the Wall she grew up beside that kept her from the rest of the world. “May you be inspired by this location, where 30 years ago, when the Wall fell, it marked the dawn of a new age.” 

And we should all be inspired. The threats to a free and open internet are very real. With far too much frequency, we read reports of deliberate efforts to restrict internet access in whole or part. We also see the internet is threatened in other ways, from efforts that undermine security and increase vulnerabilities, sweeping regulations that increase operating costs and result in higher consumer prices, lack of global cooperation, and the harsh fact that there are still billions of people without reliable, affordable or any internet access. New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, in a video intervention, made clear that without a free and open internet, we are limited in our ability to tackle real problems, including removing extremist content. 

In my capacity as co-Chair of IGF-USA, I participated in panels on cyber security and safety, emerging technologies and removing harmful content. These were informative for both learning what other regions are doing, as well as addressing their perceptions of what US companies are or are not doing. My co-Chair also contributed to a discussion on privacy, sharing our outcomes from our July event. We also represented in other NRI coordination sessions and at IGF-SA. Despite the long holiday weekend, I was happy to have so many IGF-USA steering committee members and sponsors in Berlin contributing on matters of content, connectivity, data governance and security. 

This event also marked the one-year anniversary of the Dynamic Coalition on DNS Issues (DC-DNSI). We had a robust meeting with our virtual and 80 in-person participants sharing studies from regional initiatives, reports on the low global adoption of IDNs, and the challenges to increase Universal Acceptance in the public sector. Afilias COO Ram Mohan made a critical observation that we need governments to engage and make UA a core part of their strategic plans because the private sector alone is not driving the market. DC-DNSI will continue to champion public sector UA awareness and adoption by creating materials to be used to define their unique value proposition. We aim to choose the next ‘DNS issue’ to tackle mid-2020.  

For those interested in more details on these sessions or any others, please visit the IGF website for detailed reports and access to transcriptions and videos. The Chair Report has a breakdown of attendees and session information. 

As the calendar year comes to a close, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and invigorated for the work ahead. Next week I’ll participate in a recap event sponsored by ISOC-DC at New America (Wednesday 11 December, 4:30 EST) where we will go deeper on the topics discussed in Berlin. After the new year, you can expect to hear from me as we begin to shape the 2020 event calendar for IGF-USA. For any information on joining these events, please let me know - all stakeholders are welcome! 

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the outgoing and incoming MAG Chairs. First, the industry is grateful for the long and productive tenure of Lynn St. Amour. This closes another chapter of a rich career fighting for safe and reliable internet in a truly multistakeholder approach. Lynn passes the gavel into the extremely capable hands of Anriette Esterhuysen, a former MAG member, Commissioner of the GCSC, former director of APC, and long-time participant in several other global IG fora. I’m excited to work with Anriette and with the new MAG members to create a meaningful agenda for IGF 2020 in Poland, and to advance the important topics on building a safer cyberspace, and to maintaining a free and open internet.