Increasing the Caribbean’s presence in Internet Governance
Although Internet Governance issues have been actively discussed across the Caribbean region for several years, this has not necessarily translated to the region having a clear presence at global meetings. Here we outline key reasons why, and what might be some of the burning issues to be discussed at the next regional meeting.
This month, from 21 to 23 August, the 13th annual Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (CIGF) will be held in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. The CIGF always precedes the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which this year will be held in December, and so functions not only to foster regional Internet Governance (IG) efforts, but also to build consensus on issues and/or positions that will be discussed at the global meeting.
One of the core principles associated with IG is that of ‘multi-stakeholderism’, that is wide participation in the governance/decision-making process, not by just governments, but also the business sector, civil society, and even special interest groups. It should thus be no surprise that the theme for this year’s CIGF is Building Caribbean Capacity in Internet Governance, in order to widen the pool of voices that are heard and contribute to the regional position. Further, it is crucial that the Caribbean has a stronger presence in the global IG discussions, which is not just limited to IGF, and which Nigel Cassimire, the CIGF coordinator, for event organiser, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), recently emphasised:
The Caribbean needs to make its mark in the evolution of policies and systems that can enable the digital economy, and for this reason, we need to develop Caribbean expertise in IG…. through the hosting of these events, there has been an increase in Caribbean participation in these Forums and processes around the world.
Multi-stakeholder participation is often a challenge, as many people are not only intimidated by the concept of ‘Internet Governance’, they also believe that they do not need to participate – others will do so. However, what is overlooked is that the continued development, and even survival, of the Internet depends on continued cooperation and consensus on issues, as the video clip below highlights. Further, as we, as individuals, become even more dependent on the Internet, our unique needs and challenges, especially as Small Island Developing States and in the Caribbean, should at the very least be tabled, and considered, in global discussions.
What is new is Caribbean IG?
The IG framework that has been guiding efforts in the Caribbean has been in place since 2013. It comprises six strategic areas, outlined in Table 1, that were “recommended for urgent Internet governance policy development for the Caribbean” (Source: CTU).
The strategic priorities areas are sufficiently broad that they may not need frequent updating, as most emerging issues can be easily subsumed under one of the areas. However, at last year’s CIGF, which was held in Belize, the discussions focussed on areas such as:
- Security and privacy
- Net neutrality
- Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6)
- Data protection
- Computer Incident Response Team (CIRTs)
- The Internet economy.
Although an outline agenda for this year’s CIGF has been published, the actual topics that will be discussed have not yet been shared. Nevertheless, it is likely that the conversation on most of the above issues will continue, bearing in mind,
- the changing position of the United States on net neutrality, due to the new administration and new head of the Federal Communications Commission
- The real and growing concern about cybersecurity, and the extent to which individual countries and the region as a whole are equipped and prepared for the broad range of threats that are becoming increasingly pervasive, difficult to avoid, and even more difficult remedy, and
- The growing calls for easier electronic commerce frameworks within the region, which is critical for the Internet economy to develop in the region.
Are there any other burning issues that the next CIGF should address? Do let us know in the comments section.
Image credit: Beshef (flickr)