IGF 2017 Recap: Why Open Internet Matters for Democracy

CIPE, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) launched a framework for internet openness at the 12th annual United Nations Internet Governance Forum. (From left to right: Mark Nelson, CIMA; Sarah Moulton, NDI; Daniel O’Maley, CIMA; Chris Doten, NDI; Morgan Frost, CIPE; Anna Kompanek, CIPE; and Maiko Nakagaki, CIPE.)

In snowy, cold mid-December, my colleagues and I found ourselves in Geneva, Switzerland attending the 12th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a United Nations-sponsored global multi-stakeholder forum on internet governance. This was the second time CIPE attended the conference (read a recap of last year’s forum), and we were very busy at this year’s forum. Over 1,000 attendees representing governments, the private sector, civil society, and media gathered to discuss the current state of the internet, and what the future holds.

Over the course of four days, sessions covered trending issues like cybersecurity, data privacy, emerging technologies (Internet of Things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, fintech), digital economy, and the challenges of tech and human rights. Above all, many of the sessions highlighted the need to keep or make the internet more inclusive and reflective of our rich cultures and societies. CIPE and its sister organizations, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), articulated exactly this point throughout the conference.

For the past year, CIPE, NDI, and CIMA have been leading a joint initiative to identify and promote internet norms and principles essential to democratic governance. To empower citizens to know how their fundamental rights to speech, assembly, and association apply in the digital world, we crowdsourced from our partners and created a framework for internet openness, A Democratic Framework to Interpret Open Internet Principles.

At the IGF, we officially launched the principles, as well as led several sessions relating to the intersection of democracy and open internet:

Ensuring that the internet remains both open and accessible is necessary to strengthen democratic engagement, enable equal participation in the market economy, and promote social accountability. We delivered this message at IGF 2017 to a multi-stakeholder audience, and CIPE and our partners will continue our work in 2018 to bolster the linkage between democracy, freedom of expression online, and internet openness.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

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