The 2020 Internet Governance Forum – the first one to take place fully online – has just wrapped up its first week. Here is a quick look back at some of the relevant discussions – and ideas for engagement for the coming days!

The first week of the virtual Internet Governance Forum (vIGF) 2020 was dedicated to introductory and pre-events, open forums, and sessions organised by National/Regional IGF Initiatives and Dynamic Coalitions – open groups of stakeholders from various sectors working together around a defined issue or theme.

This fully-virtual format offers many opportunities for new stakeholders curious about the IGF to find out more about the Forum, and try out listening and participating. Anyone interested in finding out more about this platform can take a look at the Orientation and Newcomers session, as well as the IFLA Get Into Guide for libraries.

The first week saw many engaging sessions and discussions that could be of interest for the library sector. For example, did you know that UNESCO is launching a Dynamic Coalition on ROAM-X (Rights, Openness, Accessibility, Multistakeholder governance, and Cross-cutting factors) Internet Universality Indicators? This is a framework that help assess the state of internet development, infrastructure and policy at a country level – and it includes several indicators relevant for libraries, from public access to ICT skills and literacy. We will be following closely the next steps in the application and awareness-raising around ROAM-X.

In another session, the Alliance for Affordable Internet offered an update on their current work and a preview of the 2020 Affordability Report. Public internet access in libraries and similar facilities is a recognised and important element in the effort to ensure affordable connectivity, and it is of course worthwhile for libraries to keep track of and engage in policy discussions around this topic.

These are just a few of the events taking place over the last week which may be of interest to libraries worldwide. Others include a session featuring speakers from European Safer Internet Centers to discuss children’s safety and wellbeing online during the pandemic, and many others. And of course, this was the week that saw the 2020 session on the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries take place!

Equitable access to content, particularly at a times of crisis, was at the heart of this year’s session. To examine key questions around access to digital resources, the panel brought together speakers from the African Library & Information Associations & Institutions, the Gigabit Libraries Network, the Internet Archive and Electronic Information or Libraries, and IFLA.

The panel examined various stakeholders’ responses to support access to information and content during the pandemic – from practical measures to power access (innovative ways to share library connectivity, digitisation, models of lending, access and discovery of digital materials…) to policy changes and frameworks that can facilitate this.

Some of the recurring themes and key takeaways include:

  • the importance of library connectivity infrastructure and skills-building for library staff to help deliver equitable access to information in times of crises;
  • innovative and emerging solutions – from TV White Space powering connectivity to controlled digital lending – that can help ensure access;
  • the need for supportive intellectual property policy frameworks and measures. Here, ebook – especially digital textbook – pricing and access models are among the key relevant issues.  

The session also offered a first look at a new draft instalment of the DC-PAL report on the role of libraries in broadband policies. The new chapter looked into several country case studies to examine how library connectivity and public access policy interventions can be successfully implemented, and the impact they can achieve.

A look ahead to next week

Apart from the Opening Session – which can offer more insights on key current Internet Governance questions and issues at large – what are some of the IGF events worth keeping an eye out for libraries in the coming week?

  • The Local Content Best Practice Forum session on Monday 9 November, which IFLA will join to discuss the role of libraries in preserving heritage and relevant local materials – and offering equitable access with the help of digital tools.
  • The Dynamic Coalition Main Session on Wednesday 11 November, where different stakeholders will have a chance to discuss leveraging ICT and the internet for COVID response and socioeconomic recovery after the pandemic. This session will offer an opportunity to examine how libraries can help deliver on both digital inclusion and supporting education.
  • And finally, IFLA and the Partnership for Public Access (P4PA) will host a networking event on Wednesday 11 November focusing on the recent Call to Action and Library Connectivity Pledge. Tune in to share your ideas, thoughts and experiences on supporting digital inclusion through public access, discuss ways to overcome political and policy barriers, and network with the diverse members of the IGF community.

Registration for the vIGF2020 remains open throughout the coming week. We hope to see you there!