Strengthening capacities in international internet governance

21 Dec 2017 11:15h - 12:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The session was opened by Ms Susan Teltscher, head of the Human Capacity Building Division at the ITU, who provided a succinct overview of the aims of the session: identifying needs and gaps in capacity development in Internet governance. She referred to the ITU study published on the topic, which was completed at the beginning of the year by two experts under the lead of DiploFoundation. The session moderator, Ms Constance Bommelaer, senior director of global Internet policy at ISOC, clarified that this effort is part of a broader engagement to reassess and constantly test the methodology to best serve the communities. One challenge she identified focused on the beneficiaries of the capacity development programmes: are we reaching the right people? Bommelaer stressed the need to reach the next communities, by inviting and encouraging the participation of new people.

Discussing the findings of the report, Teltscher pointed out that there are numerous organisations working on capacity building in the field, in particular focusing on technical knowledge and cybersecurity. She said the study had concluded that academic programmes mostly address legal issues. Importantly, the report looks at both demand and supply sides, mapping what is out there and what can be improved in the future. Among the findings and recommendations of the report, she stressed several take-aways. First, there is a need to distinguish between introductory, intermediary and advanced levels of training programmes, based on the needs of participants. Second, training providers need to target different audiences, which could also be better reflected in the format of the learning programme. Third, more attention should be given to e-learning and online tools and the possibility of offering multilingual content. Forth, the human rights perspective should be applied across all areas covered. Finally, Teltscher pointed out that the ITU online academy brings together the organisation’s activities in the field and works to take on board the recommendations of the report.

Ms Tereza Horejsova, director of Project Development at DiploFoundation, focused on the main gaps and needs of developing countries, which face limitations in terms of size, language, priorities, and resources. The availability of neutral capacity development and training activities is often underestimated. Longer training programmes are needed, combining also an immersion phase that allows participants to actively engage in meetings and events. At DiploFoundation, this is done by starting with online learning, further engaging in practical policy research and finally via policy immersion. The elephant in the room – paying for capacity development – needs to be addressed: good capacity development activities need high resources for high quality. To conclude, Horejsova highlighted the need for more syncronisation among the organisations active in capacity building and praised the work of leading organisations such as the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, the Internet Society (ISOC), ICANN, the ITU or the South School on Internet Governance (SIIGs).

Ms Olga Cavalli, co-founder and academic director of SSIG, provided examples from their experience with the school, which started in 2008. The aim of the programme is to enhance the participation of Latin American and Caribbean stakeholders in all Internet Governance debate and participation spaces, building a group of fellows as diverse as possible. To ease participation, simultaneous translation in Spanish, English and occasionally in Portuguese has been available since the beginning. Since 2012, this has been complemented by video streaming. A book about the experience of the last 10 years will be launched soon, entitled Internet Governance in the Americas. Among the features that are most appreciated by the participants were the expert connections and the fact that communities and networks remain active beyond the event.

Mr Khaled Koubaa from ICANN, talked about the training programmes provided in recent years for developing countries, in order to close the technical gap among the members of the Governmental Advisory Committee. This is done in order to avoid the ‘lost in translation’ situation that was observed in the past. Four more workshops of this kind are planned for 2018. In Tunisia, where the first school of Internet governance was held this year, there was a merging of this experience with the national IGF, allowing the newcomers to put into practice what they had learned at the school. He stressed the need for mixing theory and practice and the need for strengthening coordination in Internet governance capacity building among the different players with limited resources.

Mr Tracy Hackshaw, director of the Trinidad and Tobago Multistakeholder Advisory Group, mentioned his participation in the capacity development programmes of all the institutions represented on the panel. His list of priorities included: access and accessibility, digital literacy, local content production, digital inclusion and full participation in the digital economy. The reliability of the critical infrastructure is of key relevance to small island states that can be easily affected by one single attack, be it natural and man-made. The ambassadorship and mentorship programmes still need to improve the link between learning and practical involvement for meaningful participation. More can be done for the latter, including shepherding people into the programme they are funded to attend: it is not enough to have a separate youth session, there is a need to mainstream the youth perspective into the agenda of the event.

The discussion that ensued mentioned the creation of the Dynamic Coalition on Schools of Internet Governance, established on Day 0 at this IGF, as well as the special interest groups within the ISOC chapters and the growing opportunities to participate online in many meetings. 

By Roxana Radu