GigaNet Annual Symposium 2007 Now Underway in Rio

The 2nd Annual Symposium of the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) is now underway in the Windsor Barra Hotel in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. About 100 scholars and interested participants from around the world are participating in the all day meeting.

Development was the focus of the first panel was on the creation of a “Development Agenda” for Internet Governance, one that draws upon previous relevant examples such as the WIPO Development Agenda, the WTO Doha Round Development Agenda, and other relevant processes. IGP Partner, Derrick Cogburn, served as moderator for the first panel, which included four outstanding papers/presentations (most of which are available on the GigaNet portal (http://www.igloo.org/giganet).

The first paper/presenter was William Drake from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Dr. Drake helped to shape the framework for the panel by laying out the overarching rationale for creating a Development Agenda for Internet Governance. He particularly highlighted the lessons learned from the Doha Round within the WTO, which focused on the better inclusion of developing countries into the benefits of global trade, including trade in services. He also raised the question about what institutional configuration within the IGF would be most appropriate for advancing this Development Agenda for Internet Governance, and suggested that perhaps a Dynamic Coalition for Development within the IGF framework might be the most appropriate way to proceed.

Next, Viviana Munoz Tellez, from the South Centre, also based in Geneva, further illustrated the potential of this “Development Agenda” approach by highlighting ten lessons from the corresponding process within WIPO. She highlighted in great detail her analysis of ten key components of the process of creating the WIPO Development Agenda, and their relevance for the IGF and Internet Governance. These ten components included: (1) building momentum; (2) conceptual framework; (3) identification of key problems; (4) leadership; (5) sustained commitment; (6) Coordination amongst developing countries; (7) prioritization and focus of initiatives; (8) the role of civil society; (9) collaboration amongst developing countries and civil society, both North and South; and (10) the strategic choice of forum for the agenda.

Deepening the analysis, Laura DeNardis, from the Yale University Law School, Information Society Project, focused her analysis on the impact of the formal and informal standards setting processes on development interests. She highlighted the potential importance of multiple devices, including multimedia handheld computing devices, for promoting and sustaining development. She illustrated the process of standards setting, including the informal market entry/dominance approach to establishing de facto standards. She highlighted the political effects on development of these processes and explored how it might be possible to get greater and more diverse development interests “at the table” during the standards setting processes. In closing, she advocated an “openness” approach; meaning that both the standard setting processes should be more open in terms of allow for greater participation – including civil society and developing countries – and that they should attempt to harmonize their processes and standards where possible.

Finally, Olga Cavalli, from the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Instituto Technologico de Buenos Aires, Argentina, illustrated the perspectives of the Latin American and Caribbean Region towards a development agenda. She used data from Telegeography and the World Bank to highlight the disparities in bandwidth and income inequalities in the world. She also asked about how to get rural considerations into the development agenda process. Interestingly, she raised the issue of telecenters, and their impact on the enabling public inclusion in formulating the development agenda for Internet Governance, and the degree to which they can be made more economically sustainable. On this latter point, she highlighted some of the successes and failures of Universal Service funds. In closing, she highlighted some of the activities to build capacity for Internet Governance, including within ICANN and their fellowships and the DiploFoundation training processes.

The audience raised important questions for the panel, including the “real” relevance of the WIPO and WTO processes for Internet Governance, the potential challenge of fragmentation in these processes, and the degree to which these multiple actors with divergent political perspectives can be harmonized and included in the same process.

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