IGF 2016 – Portuguese Youth Ambassador

Portuguese Youth Ambassador, João Pedro Martins, recently had the opportunity to attend the annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Mexico. Here he shares his experience.

From 5-9 December 2016, I had the opportunity to participate in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a global annual forum where representatives from various sectors meet to discuss the future of the internet. This edition of the meeting took place in the lovely city of Guadalajara, Mexico.

It's important to explain that my preparation for the event began a few months earlier. After participating in an internet governance webinar organised by Insafe with the support of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), I became somewhat more aware of the role that some organisations currently have. I also realised that the theme I focus on, as European Youth Ambassador for internet security, was more than relevant to internet governance (IG). So I become more interested in this topic and decided to apply for a participation call at IGF 2016.

Youth@IGF came from a partnership between the Internet Steering Committee in Brazil (CGI.br) and the Internet Society. It was launched last year and brought young people from Latin America and the Caribbean to the IGF 2015 in Brazil. This year, the initiative was extended to the rest of the world, allowing me to apply for it. The programme began by selecting 200 young people and training them on IG topics over the course of four weeks. The most participative - about a quarter of the initial candidates - were finally checked and received their respective scholarship which included air tickets for the event destination, accommodation and food support during the IGF stay. I was one of those selected for the scholarship and I can say that those intensive weeks of training were truly useful for my experience at IGF.

The invitation to participate in the Portuguese Forum for the Information Society - Internet Governance came about in a parallel way, which was excellent as it allowed me to take another step towards entering and understanding this complex environment. The results of this Forum were presented at the IGF in Guadalajara and served as one of the examples for countries wishing to implement national or regional IG forums in the future.

Passport renewed and tickets reserved, I finally left for Mexico. The event is accentuated by many simultaneous sessions. Each theme did not have overlapping workshops, but following various issues throughout the day proved to be an agenda-management puzzle. Another aspect to be mentioned was the rather informal and open format to the sessions. In these, I had the opportunity to intervene, question or just comment on the topics under debate, which made my experience at the IGF even more enriching.

Overall, there were so many themes and each was so different that I do not risk determining the most relevant ones. There are, however, some recurring aspects that are important to mention, such as the slow implementation of the IPv6 protocol, or the always-hot discussion on data privacy and security. Regarding emerging topics, I had the opportunity to follow the debate around the Internet of Things (IoT). Personally, I found some of the arguments mentioned in the workshops quite pertinent, as IoT brings new challenges to all areas of the internet.

What about the role of young people in this? Throughout the IGF, I discovered that, in addition to the Youth@IGF, there are more projects involving young people in IG, funded by different entities that influence the internet ecosystem. It was discussed whether young people should be an interested party or an intervener, or whether their undefined role would not be an advantage to allow more disruptive participation in the discussions. It was agreed that these initiatives of young people should be brought home, to the country, to create the maximum cooperation and debate at a more regional level. In this assumption, the idea of the creation of a Youth IGF in Portugal was raised and, maybe even, joining younger people from other communities of Portuguese speaking countries to this initiative.

IGF 2016 ended on 9 December 2016, stating that the next edition of the event will take place in Geneva, Switzerland… closer to all the young Portuguese who decide to join me and become an active voice of youth and the next generation of digital leaders!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids Portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.

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