Published On: Mon, Oct 21st, 2013

Caribbean Voices to Be Heard at UN Internet Governance Forum in Indonesia

InternetMore than 1,500 delegates will convene in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia from Oct. 22 to 25 to examine global cyber-issues such as online surveillance, privacy and human rights at the United Nations’ eighth international Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

Internet stakeholders from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia and other Caribbean territories are expected to attend or participate virtually via remote hubs across the region.

Governing Our Internet

This year’s IGF is themed Access and Diversity—Internet as an Engine for Growth and Sustainable Development. Several high-level government officials, CEOs and directors of major global business organisations and civil society groups will attend. Among the voices representing the Caribbean perspective is Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union.

“The IGF is of particular importance to the Caribbean as the forum provides a valuable platform for developing countries to share the same opportunity as wealthier nations to engage in important discussions that inform policies and impact how the Internet is governed,” Lewis said.

Trinidad-born Internet expert, Bevil Wooding, is listed to participate in several panels at the event. Wooding, an Internet Strategist for the global non-profit research firm Packet Clearing House, has helped to raise awareness of Internet governance issues in the Caribbean and other developing regions.

“The IGF is intended to foster a common understanding of how countries, organisations and individuals maximise Internet opportunities,” he said.

Concerns about broadband affordability and citizen security have been growing among governments in the Caribbean region, where investments in critical telecommunications infrastructure and policy development are needed in order to drive down prices, widen affordable access and address growing privacy concerns.

“One of the benefits of the IGF is that it provides an important outlet for the ventilation of issues that highlight the risks and challenges that attend the growth of the Internet, such as cyber-crime, government surveillance and affordable access to broadband internet. The forum is unique in that it allows participants to share their views through a very open and inclusive process,” Wooding added.

Spotlight on Surveillance

Wooding believes the emphasis on cybersecurity at the Bali meeting is of particular relevance to the Caribbean. Government in the region, and around the world, have expressed grave concern over the revelations of government surveillance that have come out of Edward Snowden’s release of classified U.S. National Security Agency documents last June.

“Each IGF provides a unique opportunity to be exposed to a wide range of information and perspectives on the global Internet. It provides a useful gauge of the current issues to be considered by any country seeking to better manage Internet resources, to increase internet usage and to promote safe and socially beneficial use of the Internet.”

The spotlight on surveillance is causing many countries to pay greater attention to issues such as investing in critical Internet infrastructure and participating in global fora where Internet policy is hammered out.

Among Trinidad and Tobago’s delegates to IGF 2013 are: Patrick Hosein, a lecturer at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine and administrator of the .TT domain name; Tracy Hackshaw, deputy national Chief Information Officer in the Ministry of Science and Technology, and Vice-Chair of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee; attorney-at-Law Cintra Sooknanan, a founding member and Chair of the Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter and Vice-Chair of the new gTLD Working Group at ICANN; and Sheba Mohammid, Director of Policy and Implementation at the Global Social Media Impact Study, European Research Council.

The UN Secretary-General formally announced the establishment of the IGF in July 2006. The IGF was first convened in October–November 2006 and has been held annually since then.  Each year the Secretary-General of the United Nations convenes the meeting through the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

By: Gerard Best for Curacao Chronicle

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