The USA IGF Kicks off with the youth session!

The Youth IGF USA was the preliminary event to the Regional USA IGF. It was divided into three sessions. The first on Internet Governance, the second on the state of affairs at IGF-USA 2022 and the last on how youth can stay involved.

There were many questions raised throughout the event that we have summarised below:

  • What does internet governance mean?

Everything that we do to interact with the Internet is Internet Governance. Every time we use a search engine or use a DNS server, we take part in Internet Governance. It is a journey, that all people share, regardless of our path or our background. We have the goal of achieving a secure and open internet, but to get there we must share and listen to all voices.

  • Which actors govern the internet, and who are the most effective?

The Internet is very different from other sectors, unlike manufacturing or pharmaceutical, we don’t have an oversighting body to control all steps. The closest we have to a centralized governing body is on the lowest level of the internet, the infrastructure, where ICANN decides over name domains. The upper levels are maintained by businesses, subjected to national laws. However, seeing that most of these companies are American based, we can argue that the US runs the internet, and it is moved partially by its interests. The model raises a lot of questions, such as effectiveness, the right path for all, and who decides what is right and what is wrong.

  • How do we keep the internet global, and support cooperation over fragmentation?

Fragmentation touches many different levels of the Internet. We can start over who has access to the internet and focusing only on this variable, fragmentation is getting smaller by the second. We can also look at domain names, in this case fragmentation gets bigger and bigger as more people join the Internet.

Even though fragmentation tends to have a negative connotation, we can have positive fragmentation. For instance, the EU has certain laws like the GDPR to ensure that their citizens and their rights are secure. On the other hand, the removal of content or the limitation of information creates a great risk of harmful fragmentation. Connectivity and the free flow of information without virtual and physical barriers are the best way to avoid having a fragmented internet.

  • To address issues of fragmentation and connectivity are we looking at the right form of governance? What opportunities are there to expand and include other groups like young people?

There is always room for improvement. “Multistakeholder” is a very hollow word unless we practice it daily. The key factor it to get new voices and new perspectives, otherwise it becomes the same group of people, with the same ideas and the process stops. By getting new inputs, we can learn and share new challenges to achieve success.

The route for a more robust Internet is having a strong local internets, that can cooperate with other local internets, but that is tailored to a certain region, and is governed by the people in that region democratically.

  • How would you structure internet governance to meet global needs?

We need to listen to all voices and avoid having a system where the loudest is always the one who gets the attention. We need to have input from big companies and smaller businesses and communities to create a solution that meets all needs.

  • What issues on internet governance are the most important for the next decade?

The issues of the Internet change very quickly. Where first we saw cybersecurity as the biggest threat to the system, the paradigm has changed, and misinformation has stolen the spotlight. Disinformation and fake news have become the biggest problem to democracy, health, etc. The only solution to this problem is a complete change in how we look and operate the Internet.

At its root the Internet shares the same problems as politics. For instance, the US fomented the creation of big global companies that now compete with its institutions for power.

  • What is missing from internet governance?

The most important thing missing is time, we have many sessions and events going on at the same time, and that means that we need to focus on one specific area and miss out on many other. Another issue is the need for a mentor that guides newcomers to find their passion and the areas they want to invest time on. Finally, there are so many diverse topics that no one can know about all of them, so sometimes it can be discouraging and overwhelming for newcomers not knowing the slang or the people to connect with to learn more.

  • How can young people be more heard inside the community?

Most of the cases, to be heard you need to be involved politically, and help democracy be stronger by participating and not listening to the voice of «one person doesn’t matter». It is important to listen to other people and inform ourselves in the relevant digital areas so we can all discuss together.

We broke the first barrier, that is being at the same space. By being together we can begin conversing with relevant stakeholders and keep on pushing to being heard. To be heard we need to reach the people, and through the IGF we can have a space where we can reach these people and become a part of the community.

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