Internet Governance Forum: Open Standards, A2K and Conclusions

The first Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is now over after two more rather busy days. Time for some recap, some announcements, and some conclusions.

Wednesday, 1 November: day 3

The big news in the morning of the third day was the formation of another IGF Dynamic Coalition, this time on Access to Knowledge and Freedom of Expression.

Dynamic Coalition on Access to Knowledge and Freedom of Expression

The initial group of this IGF Dynamic Coalition consisted of: IP Justice, Google, Council of Europe, CPTech, Sun Microsystems, Yale Law School Information Society Project, Franklin Pierce Law School, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the IP Academy of Singapore and of course the Free Software Foundation Europe.

As the Dynamic Coalition is an invention of the IGF, one of the project’s first tasks was to gather some thoughts on structure, governance and issues. Given that Google is one of the partners in this initiative, you can find the current draft online here.

There will be more information online soon, meanwhile if you are interested in this Dynamic Coalition, there is a mailing list online.

Main session on “Access”

After some meetings with governmental representatives of Brazil and other UN member states, it was time for the main session on “Access” which was transcribed loosely in its entirety and is available online.

The session was rather long (3hrs) and had too many panelists, most of which was spent discussing about low-level infrastructure issues, but occasionally coming to higher-level issues, such as access for people with disability, education, political aspects and even software patents.

While the format was certainly far from perfect, it was possible to point out the importance of Open Standards, including the recently formed Dynamic Coalition, the problems with Digital Restrictions Management, including a pointer to DRM.info, briefly mention the work of FSFE Team member Alex Antener in Malawi, the SELF project, and the Dynamic Coalition on Access to Knowledge.

In short, it seemed worth the time to inform a large audience of people about projects that FSFE has been involved in, and it allowed me to even make a point about software patents towards the end; specific thanks to our friends from the FFII for raising that question.

Thursday, 2 November: day 4

After day 2 and 3 saw the press conferences for the Dynamic Coalitions on Open Standards (DCOS) and Access to Knowledge, Thursday started with the workshop on Open Standards, immediately followed by the workshop on Access to Knowledge and Freedom of Expression.

Both workshops had good attendance, in particular from Brazil, which made its support visible by sending representatives to both. But other countries also stepped up and declared their interest in participating in these workshops. Representatives from Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia and Sudan declared their interests in the DCOS, and more are likely to follow.

The Access to Knowledge workshop likewise attracted significant interest and participation, and representatives from countries like India entered the discussion vividly, so we hope they will also participate in the work online between meetings. If you wish to join the Access to Knowledge mailing list, you can do so here.

Wrap-Up

The first Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was clearly struggling to find itself, and this was apparent in some parts of the main session in particular. At the same time, the workshops and Dynamic Coalitions that were formed have brought a real impulse into the process, providing incentive and opportunity for people to work together who would otherwise never meet in such ways. So overall, things look promising.

On the downside, this summit was very much dominated by Microsoft, which not only was present in the operating system of every computer in the internet cafes, the logos in the backgrounds of many beamers and on the main IGF website in form of Microsoft Word documents and the request for video testimonials in Windows Media Format.

Indeed, given that Free Software and the internet go hand in hand, enabled each other and were mutually seminal to their rapid growth, it seems strange how much Free Software was marginalised during this Internet Governance Forum. It will be a challenge to the organisers and the Free Software Community to improve things during the next Internet Governance Forum in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Another perspective

Many other conclusions and summaries can be found in the press, but my favorite is that of Kieren McCarthy of The Register: “IGF: The good, the bad and the psycho cleaners.”

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About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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