Opening ceremony | IGF 2022

29 Nov 2022 08:15h - 09:45h

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The 17th Internet Governance Forum is officially open in Addis-Abeba, Ethiopia, with the leading theme Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future articulated around five main streams: connecting all people and safeguarding human rights; avoiding internet fragmentation; governing data and protecting privacy; enabling safety, security, and accountability; and addressing advanced technologies, including AI.

After more than ten years from the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in 2005, where the mandate for the IGF was established, the IGF returns to the African continent shedding light on the challenges and opportunities of digital technologies and innovation in the continent. While the digital divide for access and connectivity remains an obstacle, as only one third of the African population has internet access, important innovations and developments have been achieved through, for instance, e-commerce activities. The African digital landscape is changing and we need digital technologies to support the change towards a more sustainable future. Important actions to reach this goal can be divided into the following steps: avoid internet fragmentation; provide digital skills for everyone; govern data; enable safety, security, and accountability; harmonise regulations to reduce connectivity barriers; engage the private sector; and implement digital technologies that mirror inclusivity, representation, and accessibility.

This year’s IGF looks at the future of the digital ecosystem and how to make it resilient, sustainable, and inclusive. Thinking about the future of the digital ecosystem must include a human-centred approach that works toward the achievement of a sustainable future. Indeed, digital technologies should be seen as tools for empowerment that lead to an Internet United and a digital future as one community where all actors have an important role to play, including especially the youth.

A framework for further discussion of the future of the internet could also be addressed through three main questions: Why? What? And how to transform? To this end, the four fundamental principles of UNESCO, R.O.A.M., for the digital age can lead the way. The internet should be Rights-based, Open, Accessible to all, and nurtured by Multistakeholder participation. And with a focus on accessibility, it is important to notice that the next big generational change of the internet is to make it more inclusive and accessible for people who do not speak English. 

Finally, the internet is a system of trust, and trust comes from technical coordination governed by a multistakeholder model. Discussing the future of the internet means realising its potential through identifying opportunities and risks. Accountability and agency mechanisms are, therefore, needed in the internet ecosystem to achieve its full potential through safety, security, privacy, utility and accessibility, affordability, resilience, and operational sustainability.

All these aspects are also at the core of the Global Digital Compact, expected to be approved during the 2024 Summit for the Future. It identifies ‘shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all’ and resonates with the 2022 IGF themes that will lead the discussion throughout the week, touching on digital connectivity, avoiding internet fragmentation, providing people with options as to how their data is used, application of human rights online, and promoting a trustworthy internet by introducing accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content.

By Stefania Grottola


The session in keywords

IGF 2022 Opening ceremony