The 16th Internet Governance Forum brought together over 10,000 participants online and in person in Katowice, Poland from 6-10 December. For the event, ICC convened business representatives from across the globe to ensure the private sector’s experience and shared views were heard.
Here are our top three takeaways from the week:
- Representation at the highest levels
Joining United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other high-level speakers, ICC Executive Board member Ralph Mupita (CEO, MTN Group) highlighted that the common denominator of the size, sector and geographical diversity of global business was the mission to support global economic and social growth. Mr Mupita underlined the key role the private sector plays in bridging digital divides worldwide and the importance of multistakeholder partnerships that support this role.
Throughout the week, business representatives participated in seven High-Level Leaders’ Dialogues and six thematic main sessions to share business perspectives on Internet governance – critical for the promotion of international trade, economic development and innovation.
ICC First Vice-Chair Maria Fernanda Garza (CEO, Orestia) joined UN Assistant Secretary-General Maria Francesca Spatolisano, Polish Secretary of State Janusz Cieszyński, Japanese Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Yasushi Kaneko and Ethiopian ICT Minister Huria Ali to speak at the Forum’s closing ceremony. Ms Garza emphasised how businesses worldwide recognise the imperative – in both moral and economic terms – to act on policy commitments to keep the Internet open, safe and unfragmented.
- Key business issues on the agenda
To provide further context, evidence and input to the main policy issues discussed at this year’s forum, ICC’s Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS) initiative collaborated with partners to host three events on priority issues for the private sector:
Data free flows with trust
The workshop Trustworthy data flows – what’s at stake and what is needed? reflected on the economic and societal value of cross-border data flows and called on governments, supported by international organisations, to pursue international and interoperable agreements, standards and principles to enable secure and responsible transfers of data across borders. The workshop underscored that this should be done in an informed way by drawing on evidence and consulting stakeholders to understand the scale and scope of the value of data flows so they can be appropriately weighed against the important efforts to protect personal data.
Universal meaningful connectivity
Participants in the session From commitment to action: breaking barriers to connectivity agreed that connectivity projects supported by the private sector, are not about delivering infrastructure but opportunity: Opportunity for information sharing, education, access to public services, commerce, investment, innovation, growth and development. The session called on policymakers and regulators to embrace innovative regulation to enable innovative technologies and new business models. Such regulation must be flexible, evidence-based and forward-looking and incentivised by investments both on the supply and demand side of technology.
The conversation in the workshop Cutting carbon in a digital world – myths and facts highlighted the role of data sharing, transparency, and standardisation to help track and reduce emissions from the ICT sector. Participants called on the ICT industry to continue reducing emissions, while also lending expertise and applying digital technologies to reduce emissions in other sectors and services.
- Conversations throughout the week
IGF 2021 hosted over 300 sessions, welcoming over 10,000 participants from 175 countries, once again creating a unique environment for knowledge sharing, best practice exchange and capacity building, and encouraging an openness and frankness of exchanges among participants. Conversations highlighted a number of policy areas for consideration, including calls for:
- Shared principles for data governance, including collection, sharing and maintenance, in order to ensure trust in data, data flows across borders and data-enabled technologies and business models;
- Innovation in regulatory approaches, that are inclusive of the needs of all stakeholders – including businesses of all sizes and sectors – respect human rights, protect consumers’ rights and are supportive of new and innovative business models;
- Transparency, understandability and accountability of technologies, the businesses that develop them and the policy and regulatory processes that govern them;
- Strengthened cooperation on cybersecurity, including on the implementation of existing norms for responsible behaviour in cyberspace, building capacity and raising awareness of existing instruments.
- Continued efforts to provide meaningful connectivity for everyone, everywhere, promote policy, technical and business solutions, and scale up existing best practices to bridge the digital divide; and
- Reinforcing the multistakeholder approach to ensure a collaborative, equitable and inclusive Internet governance framework.
Looking ahead to IGF 2022 and 2023
As a first in the Forum’s 16-year history, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed a member of the business community to chair the 2022 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG). Nominated by the International Chamber of Commerce, with broad support from stakeholders across the globe, Paul Mitchell (former Senior Director, Technology Policy and Internet Governance at Microsoft) is expected to lead the Group for the next two years, when the IGF is slated to take place in Ethiopia in 2022 and in Japan in 2023.