IGF in Athens – Day One

Vint Cerf at IGF in AthensI thought that maybe you would like to see some brief notes from day one at the Internet Governance Forum here in Athens.

Opening Session excerpts (transcript here)

Kofi Annan‘s message about the IGF, read by Nitin Desai: The forum is entering uncharted waters. New forms of global collaboration. Its so important that is impossible that governments will not enter into the debate. Voluntary cooperation, not legal compulsion is what the forum is about. Mutual learning, emergence of new partnerships.

Yoshio Utsumi – ITU – The Internet has now become a central part of everyday life, and cannot be treated differently from other things at the same level of impact on human activity (!).

Vint Cerf – 30 years ago we could never imagine we would be in Greece discussing the future of Internet with a packed room of representatives from all parts of the world… Writing domain name in the characters of non-Latin languages is a problem. Global inter-operability must be supported especially at this time when new languages are entering the network. It is technically necessary to permit only a selected set of characters to work as the identifiers.

Viviane Reding – EU – The very essence of freedom is under attack. Freedom is sometimes seen as disrupting by those who want to impose their beliefs… Multi-lingualism is central in a space where each user becomes a content creator. It is very important to open this debate using many languages.

Bob Kahn – Healthy competition of ideas was our best companion while developing the Internet. The attributes of this open collaboration was part of the network architecture right from the start. Important contributions we made were not only technical. Many social processes were created as well.

The afternoon session
[transcripts here] was the one where a new set of ‘experimental logistics’ were put in motion. Markus Kummer presented the novelties: ‘permanent interchange between panelists and audience, some auxiliars [registrars] will be taking notes about people who want to manifest in this space; IM can be a good way of asking questions; people will be following the blogosphere and will report about relevant participation.

For me the event showed a kind of unrehearsed freshness. It was clear that the ‘multi-stakeholder dialogue’ was a challenging experiment to all involved, but I think the facilitator — Kenneth Cukier, from Economist — did a good job making a bridge between the panelists and the audience’s questions, and intelligently filling the gaps that were popping here and there, and also managing to take the gorilla out of the room. A funny moment was when he asked for the participation of bloggers and the guy who was tracking the blogosphere — Kieren Mcarthy — said that there was one blogger inside the room complaining about the ‘crappy’ wireless that made him lose an almost finished post. Total transparency.

We can say it was sometimes a confusing experience, but most of the people stayed in the packed room for the whole 3 hours. There were some interesting remarks but what really made a difference was when, in the middle of the session, Vint Cerf came out to enlighten the whole debate saying, “Internet implementation is in multiple layers. Some are physical, and there are actors who act on these layers. I wonder if we can start thinking about which layers need different things. As you go up in layers, other parties enter. We should give some thinking about parsing the different layers – levels of governance oversight depending on the layers – what kind of governance should we apply in each layer?”

Sure! We were confused because we were mixing everything together. Now YOU take care of Internet Governance, and ICANN takes care of domain names, and there is no reason why we keep talking about ICANN in IGF. Kenneth was bold enough to ask Vint about the feasibility of competition on ICANN’s level, but Vint replied that uniqueness and non-ambiguity on the domain level layer are important, otherwise users would not get the service they wanted. As a superior level in the system would be necessary to guarantee that competitors would not create address ambiguity in the network, it would just substitute what we have.

I heard a whisper that someone should have asked him if this new level maybe could happen to be an international constituency, and not a private entity which responds to the US Commerce Department. But who on that room would put the father of the Internet in such a trap after such a brilliant and charming address?

In a reception tonight
I met Kieren Mcarthy, the guy who is propelling the event into the blogosphere, and vice versa. He is running the IGF community site, trying to mash the presentations on the floor with the participation from bloggers either present in the room or remotely connected via webcast. Tomorrow there will be a special e-mail [comments@igf2006.info] that can be used by people who want to participate with questions and / or comments. Maybe an easier way to ask questions to Internet parents.

It was a good opportunity also to meet the other Brazilians who are here, Carlos Afonso from Rits, José Alexandre Bicalho — a great guy who I happened to meet for the first time — and Rogério Santana from the Ministry of Planning. It was nice also to be introduced to Fiorello Cortiana, from the Italian Green Party and Milano Provincia, who will participate in the ‘Internet Bill of Rights” Workshop panel where I will be representing Minister Gil. And also Vittorio Bertola of ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee. It was a good closing for a busy day, the first at IGF 2006. More later.