Sep 28 2011

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Increasing our participation in the global conversation

This post examines the e-Participation Principles workshop, which is one of many scheduled during the Internet Governance Forum that is being held in Kenya from 27 to 30 September.

In our daily and professional lives, we have all used communications technology – including telephone, email, SMS, online messaging services, VoIP services – in order to participate in a variety of discussions. Those situations usually involve just a handful of people, so they are relatively easy to moderate. However, if a discussion is being conducted on a larger scale, e.g. a local community, a country, a region, or even internationally, it is critical to have a framework in place for those discussions, and more specifically to guide how people should contribute to the dialogue.

At the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which is being held this week in Nairobi, Kenya, a workshop will be held on the principles that should govern e-participation. The workshop moderator, Virginia Paque, is no stranger to the Internet Governance (IG) community.  She is known to many through the DiploFoundation, which offers several IG training programmes, and as key member of the IGF Remote Participation Working Group. In anticipation of the e-participation workshop on Friday 30 September, Virginia offers some insight into this topic and why it must be urgently addressed.

ICT Pulse: Why is it necessary at this time to have a workshop on e-participation principles?

Virginia Paque: The IGF and other processes have now shown that we can take advantage of e- and remote participation for greater inclusion in wider regional and global meetings and policy processes. We are ready to tackle the task of establishing some basic principles to aid us in guiding remote participation in the best possible way. For example, one might propose that if at all possible, e- and remote participation in multistakeholder and global policy processes should use open source tools. We can learn from the best practices others have employed around the world, from our own successes and failures, and by listening to the input from e- and remote participants themselves.

ICTP: What is the format for the workshop?

VP:  A panel of experts and enthusiasts from diverse areas will each give a 2-minute synopsis of their most important views and if they have time, a suggestion for a principle for consideration by the participants.

ICTP: I note that there are quite a few panellists. Why? Aren’t you concerned that the discussion could become a bit unwieldy?

VP: Hmm. I think an energetic and diverse discussion sounds great—it’s a brainstorm after all! We want to get some ideas out there for discussion, and provoke some new possibilities for addressing the situations that our audience will tell us about. With a limit of 2 minutes per intervention, we hope to get many diverse and concise possibilities for consideration.

ICTP:  But with such a large panel, along with the persons who will be physically attending, why is it important for even more people to participate in the workshop?

VP:  To listen, to opine, to make their voices heard. Yes, well, maybe we won’t all have time to have our say. But the Workshop Panel (roundtable) will develop a report in real time. Onsite and remote participants will be able to edit the document in real time, adding their suggestions. After the workshop, the document will remain open for editing. Interim ‘reports’ will be compiled using these suggestions, and there will be room for a wide range of positions.

We will not seek consensus, although perhaps sometime in the future, if it looks possible to achieve, we may do so. For the moment, we are looking for a diversity of ideas and approaches.

ICTP: Who should consider participating in this workshop?

VP: Anyone who is interested in improving inclusion through the use of online tools, anyone with best (and worst) practices to share, those who would like to hear about or suggest principles and guidelines for the implementation of e- and remote participation.

ICTP: Are there any specific outputs or outcomes you hoping for at the end of the workshop?

VP:  The workshop participants will produce a group document of suggested principles. Because of differences in interpretations, it may be that we have some principles and some guidelines, which we can later separate into two documents for further online work. This will form the basis for further discussion and debates towards the development of a set of principles for e-participation.

Although e- or remote participation does not seem as exciting as some of the other topics that will be discussed during the IGF, it underpins a critical element of the IGF: promoting multi-stakeholderism and diverse participation. To realise this, it is vital  we ensure that a clear and comprehensive structure is established through which persons who are not physically present at meetings can still contribute to the debate.

The workshop on e-Participation Principles (Workshop # 67) will be held on Thursday 29, September at 9:00 am Kenya time (6:00 am GMT). As indicated in our earlier post, Are we ready for this year’s IGF meeting? , there are number of options through which to participate in the discussions. For those who have the time (or are awake!), you can join the meeting via live webcast or remote hubs. Alternatively, you can join the conversations on social media, specifically:


About the author

Michele Marius

Michele Marius has a wealth of experience in the telecoms and ICT space, which has been gained in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, and in the public and private sectors. She is the Editor and Publisher of ICT Pulse.

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