More than 2,000 stakeholders from business, government, civil society, the technical community, and academia gathered in Geneva, Switzerland December 18-21 for the 12th Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The four-day conference featured wide-ranging discussions under the overarching theme, “Shape Your Digital Future.” USCIB Members joined global business colleagues under the aegis of ICC-BASIS in urging that the IGF continue to serve as a forum for mulitstakeholder discussions about Internet governance issues and as an incubator of ideas and best practices about how to most effectively address opportunities and challenges in the digital ecosystem.
ICT Policy Committee Chair Eric Loeb, senior vice president, international external and regulatory affairs, AT&T, provided the business perspective on Internet governance issues in a special high-level thematic session, “Shaping our Future Digital Global Governance,” which officially opened the IGF. Paying tribute to the late Joseph Alhadeff, former USCIB board member and ICT Policy Committee vice chair, Loeb highlighted how Alhadeff approached Internet governance with collegiality, collaboration and empathy, with an eye to solving immediate problems but not losing sight of where we need to be. “In this spirit, the IGF facilitates working together across respective and varied interests to achieve progress and share issues,” said Loeb told the standing-room-only opening plenary.
USCIB members and USCIB Vice President, ICT Policy Barbara Wanner made important contributions on leading topics of this year’s nearly 200 IGF workshops. Wanner who spoke on the panel, “Navigating Gender and Youth Challenges: Telling Stories about Women, Technology, and Creation,” emphasized the role of both governments and business in ensuring that the digital gender divide is bridged.
“One of the largest barriers to many women and youth in terms of entering the digital system has to do with culture,” said Wanner. “A government cannot simply have on the books policies that ensure equal rights. They have to follow up and see that the laws are properly implemented and effectively transcend cultural mores that can hold back women of all ages. I have been very inspired by the various initiatives pursued by USCIB members aimed at developing STEM skills and coding by young women to enable their involvement in the digital economy. Going to the heart of my topic, though, I would say that business also is keenly aware of the importance of enabling generational exchange as a means of bringing more youth and women into the digital ecosystem.”
Additional topics discussed during the IGF included digital trade, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and the “Internet of Things.” Additionally, the OECD’s Going Digital project was featured in a special session, which enabled USCIB members to reiterate points of support and concern offered by Business at OECD (BIAC) at the November meeting of the Committee on Digital Economy Policy.