What is Internet Governance?

What is Internet Governance?

[Internet governance is] the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles,  norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.

The definition was made by the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) in 2003. During the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) the UN Secretary General commissioned the multistakeholder working group, WGIG, to identify and define the public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance. The WGIG report proposed recommendations on the process to follow on Internet governance policies including the creation of an Internet Governance Forum (IGF). 

What is the Internet Governance Forum?

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was established by WSIS in 2005; with the first global IGF held in Athens in 2006. The IGF has no decision making powers and is intended to serve as a discussion space that gives developing countries the same opportunity as wealthier nations to engage in the debate on Internet governance. Its purpose is to provide a platform where new and ongoing issues of Internet governance can be frankly debated by stakeholders from civil society, the business and technical sectors, governments, and academia. Participation in the IGF is open to all interested participants and accreditation is free. Ultimately, the involvement of all stakeholders, from developed as well as developing countries, is necessary for the future development of the Internet. It brings about 1500-2200 participants from various stakeholder groups to discuss policy issues relating to the Internet such as understanding how to maximize Internet opportunities, identify emerging trends and address risks and challenges that arise. The IGF works closely with the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries.

The global IGF is held annually, usually in the final quarter of the year. In 2015 the IGF took place in João Pessoa, Brazil. The 2016 IGF will take place in Guadalajara, Mexico, December 6-9.

For a standalone document on the IGF please see the brief produced by the IFLA International Leaders (Word PDF

What is the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries (DC-PAL)?

Dynamic Coalitions (DCs) are informal, multi-stakeholder, issue-specific interest groups that work during the year in preparation for the IGF event. In 2011, IFLA and Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) organised The Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries. These two organisations represent the interests of hundreds of thousands of public libraries, and millions of users, in all countries at the IGF. DCs are open to anyone interested in contributing to their discussions. During the IGF, DCs are given a time slot to host a session, and report on their progress and plans.

Why is it important for libraries to participate in the IGF?

Public libraries, as public access points to the Internet, are on the agenda of the IGF as a cross-cutting issue on a number of IGF key themes (e.g. Internet Governance and Development; Access and Diversity; Security, Openness and Privacy, Youth). The IGF is an opportunity to create a dialogue between library representatives, policy makers and the other stakeholders participating at the IGF on the potential of libraries in major policy areas related to Internet and development such as access to information, education, security, openness and privacy.

Public access is an increasingly important issue as the Internet access provided by libraries helps fulfill several targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Access to information is key to global sustainable development.

Why do I need to participate?

It is important for a participating librarian to be aware of IFLA’s  position on Internet issues, and have the professional “tools” to be a strong library advocate. Below is a checklist to help one prepare:

  • Gain support of your library organisations or library associations/societies before attending—these agencies make the strongest representatives.
  • Check to see if your national or regional association has a position on role of libraries in the information society.
  • Identify your goals for participation. For instance: library advocacy, dissemination of IFLA positions, partnership searching, getting necessary knowledge and skills.
  • Read IFLA's positions on Internet Governance, the Principles on Public Access in Libraries, the role of libraries in Information Society, development, freedom of expression and freedom of access to information, and copyright.
  • Formulate your talking points, for example:
    • Libraries are public institutions where access to ICTs creates digital inclusion and offers opportunities for all
    • Libraries meet the critical information needs of their communities, including access to  educational, legislative, health, ecological, municipal, business, tourist information
    • Libraries can be key partners in the  development of e-government services
    • There are more than 230,000 public libraries in developing and transitioning countries. These are logical, existing access points for ICTs already embedded in a country’s infrastructure. More details on the role libraries can play in development can be found at our Libraries and Development webpages.
  • Look at the background documents on the WSIS and IGF websites.
  • Investigate ways of participating in the IGF preparatory phases particularly through regional or national IGFs (see below).

Are there IGF events in my country?

In addition to the annual IGF meeting there are also several national and regional IGFs taking place throughout the year. These events give librarians an opportunity to engage in Internet governance debates within their own local contexts. They are a good way of getting involved at a smaller level and offer access to representatives from governments, businesses and civil society groups who have interest in the way the Internet is developing. IFLA strongly urges librarians to consider attending their national IGFs to understand the Internet governance situation in their own countries.

Regional IGFs, such as the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) are bigger events with more contributing stakeholders. Both national and regional IGFs feed recommendations to the main IGF which are reflected in the programme and agenda. IFLA aims to send library representatives to the regional IGFs, and strongly encourages national library associations to participate in the national IGFs.

We have compiled a list of information resources that are useful for understanding and explaining how libraries and internet governance are connected. They can work as a basic toolkit to support your attendance at IGFs.

The main IGF website has a list of national and regional IGFs taking place during the year.

Remote participation

The IGF has been working since its inception to became a fully accessible event through live streaming of all its sessions (an average of 200 workshops) and the live streaming and transcript of the main sessions (opening and closing ceremony, thematic main sessions).

The remote participation includes the possibility to actively participate at the sessions, from intervening with questions to remote moderation of the workshops. An interesting initiative for libraries is the possibility of hosting remote hubs where all interested people who cannot attend the IGF can watch the webcast together and send questions (via text or video) that will be answered by panelists at the IGF. In addition, hub organizers can hold debates to discuss the themes introduced at the IGF from their local perspective.

Details on remote participation and hosting remote hubs are usually posted to the main IGF website in advance of the annual IGF meeting.

Last update: 30 August 2016