Open mic and feedback session

25 Nov 2020 15:00h - 17:00h

Event report

The host, Mr Chengetai Masango (Internet Governance Forum (IGF)) opened the session by presenting statistics on this edition of the IGF: participation levels, the geographical distribution of the sessions and overall outputs, all of which are available on the IGF website. He believes this year’s statistics have been good relative to the statistics of past face-to-face IGF meetings.

All the speakers and participants of the session praised the online format of this year’s IGF and assessed it as successful. However, there were divergences as to how it should be replicated in the future, and some issues were raised in different feedback speeches.

Some speakers, including members of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), advocated for a hybrid model – with both online and offline simultaneous participation. Others proposed a ‘two-part model’, in which participants would attend a longer online version of the IGF and then meet face-to-face to discuss. Finally, others praised the benefits of an online IGF but stressed that it could be exhausting and lacking in human elements that are vital to the overall objectives of the conference.

Some participants criticised the reduced participation opportunities of the online IGF, mentioning that often the sessions resembled webinars in which the attendants could not participate because the session was closed before they had the choice to ask questions or make comments, and the interaction with speakers afterwards was less viable.

One of the issues frequently discussed was the overlapping of subjects, with several sessions discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore repeating each other frequently. On the other hand, a few subjects were said to have been neglected, such as the environmental track, which had a reduced number of sessions despite having a high interest measured by attendance.

Differences in time zones were also mentioned as a troublesome matter. Participants from the Asia-Pacific region often had to log in in very late hours to be able to participate either as speakers or listeners and this could be stressful for many.

Another suggestion was to increase the time for questions and answers in the hypothesis of another online IGF, or even of a hybrid IGF, since time management tends to be more strict in online sessions. Local participants often have a privileged position over online participants, and so for a hybrid IGF to work, a stronger moderation by both onsite and online moderators would be required.

One participant stressed how the human element is essential to the success of the IGF and that this year’s model could not simply be replicated. He stated that 2020 was an atypical year in every sense, justifying the approach adopted for this IGF, but that in regular years it could have gone wrong. Some of the reasons mentioned were how exhausting online sessions can be compared to face-to-face sessions, conflicts in schedule with other daily activities – which would not happen when one took a week off and travelled exclusively to attend the IGF.

There was also feedback related to the exposure the IGF receives outside the Internet Governance bubble. One participant stressed the need to bridge the gap between the Forum and the more mainstream press, so that many of its outcomes could reach a wider audience.