IGF 2016 Lightning Session

December 6 was the official first day of the Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara. Team libraries participated in Assessing the Role of Internet Governance in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the lightning talk on Finding the Balance: Access to Knowledge and Culture Online which was organised by IFLA.

The session on the right to access the Internet in Latin America saw an interesting discussion about whether this could be seen as a human right. Participants mentioned interesting examples, such as Mexico's introduction of a constitutional right to Internet access, and the recognition of access as a human right by Costa Rica's Constitutional Court. The library delegation highlighted the need for more secure spaces like libraries where people can feel safe and free to use the Internet.

The main session on the Internet Governance Forum and the Sustainable Development Goals heard comments from all of civil society, business society and government, reflecting the diverse point of views within the Internet ecosystem. Despite the tendency of actors to discuss issues within their own stakeholder group, all agreed on the value of access of information. Civil society representatives in particular underlined the need to to focus not only on tools, but on people:

Are we going to talk about Internet Governance or about Information Society Governance? Because the first forces us to talk only about business models, and we need to focus on people and their needs too.

We also discussed local content and increased access to high-speed broadband as a way to achieve the SDGs. Participating librarians highlighted the key role of libraries in ensuring access to knowledge and access to information, which in turn help progress towards achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals. We discussed the situation of people in countries where the Internet is creating exclusion. The library delegation took the opportunity to highlight the importance of combating corruption and the lack of transparency in many countries through libraries.

In the lightning session on copyright and access to knowledge and culture, we reviewed the needs of libraries with Michelle Woods, director of the Copyright Law Division at the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and stressed the need to work on copyright issues from the perspective of maximising access.

Jesus Lãu talked about the importance of collaboration on the Internet, citing the example of Wikipedia. He argued that sometimes, the barrier to access to information, at least from a university perspective, is the high cost of susbcriptions which can result in information-poor students.

Chris Wilson from 20th Century Fox underlined the desire of the industry to provide access to this content, while in parallel, a lively Twitter conversation focused on markets (and the absence of them), piracy and people's needs.

The difference in focus between the entertainment industry, which thinks about "consumers", and libraries, which talk about users" or "readers", was noteworthy. These are just words, but the concepts behind them are very different, and perhaps explain why we use very different language and ideas. The point is: How can we understand one another and work together to have the best world possible?

The Internet Governance Forum 2016 Library Diary is written by three associates of the IFLA International Leaders Programme: David Ramírez-Ordóñez, Jonathan Hernández Pérez, and Mandiaye Ndiaye.