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Back to the future of the IGF

Picture for the blog - description - From the cocktail menu in one bar in Prague, Czech Republic
From the cocktail menu in one bar in Prague, Czech Republic

“Internet is special place – some new things will attract attention and will be used by people, and some don’t. Internet is filter for them, and his future depends on acceptance by people” – Mirjana Tasić, one of the pioneers of Internet in Serbia
If you are reading these lines, you already know what IGF means. So, definition of IGF, his history including mentioning WSIS and UN resolutions – are not needed. Everyone knows that IGF (including all derivates of it, like regional and national initiatives) is a place for people involved in internet, to discuss the happenings, technologies and future of Internet. Namely from UN declaration, this should be group of people from different communities: Governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, the technical and academic communities and all other relevant stakeholders.
By total number of internet users, and according to the usage of internet in old techs like cars, planes, mining, banks… we can conclude – UN invites all people to be involved in IGF, because we are all more-less connected to the internet.
On my way back from Kyoto, where I attended the 18th edition of global IGFs, I noticed couple of changes. Ex capitol of Japan was hosting around 6300 people, the record number of people on any IGF global meeting so far. Not the record itself, but there was much more people from private sector and much more techies, than I used to see. Somehow, they were interested to explain to others technologies, even if the vast majority doesn’t know the Internet basics. For years, techies were avoiding IGFs because of the level of basic internet technology knowledge (TCP/IP, BGP, DNS…). Tired to explain basics, techies are rare fishes on this meeting and IGFs become the place where wannabe politicians from civil society and real politicians from govs were making the majority. Techies were long time seeing IGF as purely political event.
What happened this year in Kyoto? First of all, old technology in new form was the hype of the event. And it was necessary that someone explain that AI is 20 or more years old, and ChatGPT and his copies are just one sort of AI. AI is among us for many years, still didn’t takeover the world from humans. Like we are talking about Covid variants – but maybe this ChatGPT variant of AI can overtake the world from humans? Who knows, maybe we as humans have just couple of years of usual life, before we met new world leader AI and start to be led by machines. Or it is just science fiction? Who mentioned Terminator? Seems to me that people are clueless, and they want to prevent “your worst nightmare”…
Secondly what happened in Kyoto is much more prosaic. UN should vote in two years (in 2025) about the next 10 years mandate of IGF. Organizers (IGF secretariat and MAGicians) were trying to involve through agenda much more people to seriously discuss future of IGF. In regard of blurry initiative of General Secretary of UN, called GDC (google it if you want explanations), makes the whole IGF role blurred. And now we heard a lot of old things that techies were complaining about IGF and suggesting as a change. It was always a question what is the output of IGF, and answer is messages. And private companies, techies and others, for a long time were posting questions like> Who reads them? Who obeys them? No one. Why do we talk then? Make IGF as decision making platform, or at least make some planning/strategy like documents out of it. IGF was impotent, regarding decisions.
Will the IGF be decision making platform, of any kind? Or, is this the right time to make U turn in nature of IGF and make it differently? Simple answer – yes, and it is always the right time. Talking just for the sake of talking is seen in talk shows, and talk shows doesn’t govern anything…

Dusan Stojicevic