The Internet Governance Forum in Japan calls for joint efforts in building an internet that empowers all people
Op—ed on Internet Governance Forum in Kyoto by Bardhyl Jashari, Executive Director of the Metamorphosis Foundation
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is one of the most significant platforms when it comes to Internet policy. It serves as an annual forum held under auspices of United Nations enabling diverse stakeholders to discuss present and future challenges, on equal footing. There is no comparable platform that allows for engagement and participation, facilitating collaborative learning, tracking advancements toward an inclusive, human rights-driven, people-focused approach to internet and digital governance, and deliberating both beneficial and adverse consequences of internet policy.
I attended the first IGF in 2006 in Athens. I remember the Athens IGF focused on discussion of the overarching issues tied to the future of information and communications technologies, including control over the internet architecture and numbering and naming system, security, intellectual property, openness, connectivity, cost, and multilingualism. Some of those issues are still relevant today. Since then, I have attended several IGF, which helped me meet and learn from people that share similar values and vision, fellow active citizens from all around the world with similar hopes and fears for the future of the internet.
About IGF 2023 in Kyoto
This year, the 18th IGF meeting was held in Kyoto, Japan from October 8 to 12, 2023. It was double excitement for me. First, it meant that I would visit Japan for the first time, the country that inspired and shaped so many aspects of my professional life. And second, as always, being part of IGF meant that I will have again the opportunity to engage in an open dialogue, share and learn from various parties with a genuine and good interest in shaping the future of the Internet.
The Forum brought together stakeholders from governments, businesses, civil society, and academia to discuss a wide range of issues related to the future of the internet. This year the overarching theme was “Internet We Want – Empowering All People.” Approximately 300 sessions and workshops were organized by a diverse range of stakeholders. These sessions delved into a multitude of Internet issues divided into eight sub-themes (AI and emerging technologies, Digital divides, human rights and freedoms, Cybersecurity, Cybercrime etc.), fostering a collaborative environment for exploring the ever-evolving landscape of the digital realm. Sometimes participating meaningfully was challenging due to timing clashes between several interesting sessions and workshops.
Key outcomes from the IGF 2023 include a renewed commitment to the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance. Participants reaffirmed the importance of multi-stakeholder approach in addressing global internet challenges and called for further efforts to strengthen inclusive and effective participation. The forum highlighted again the need to address digital divides and promote digital inclusion. The importance of bridging digital divides and ensuring equitable access to the internet for all people, particularly in underserved communities, was emphasized in several sessions by the participants of IGF.
As expected, the role of AI and emerging technologies in shaping the future of the internet was an important issue in this year’s edition of the IFG. Participants discussed the potential and challenges of AI and emerging technologies and called for responsible development and deployment of these technologies.
In addition, participants expressed concerns about the increasing fragmentation of the internet and called for renewed efforts to promote global cooperation and interoperability. Participants also discussed the growing threats of cybersecurity and cybercrime and called for stronger measures to protect online privacy and security. Furthermore, the Forum underlined the environmental impact of the internet and called for policies that promote sustainability and reduce the environmental footprint of the digital economy.
The IGF 2023 concluded with a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to build a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable internet that empowers all people.
In addition to the above, here are some specific of outputs from the IGF 2023:
The adoption of a set of recommendations on AI and emerging technologies: These recommendations call for responsible development and deployment of AI, with a focus on human rights, transparency, and accountability.
The launch of a new initiative on digital divides and inclusion: This initiative will aim to identify and address the barriers to digital access and inclusion, particularly in developing countries.
The creation of a new working group on cybersecurity and cybercrime: This working group will develop recommendations for strengthening cybersecurity and addressing emerging cyber threats.
The adoption of a declaration on internet fragmentation: This declaration calls for efforts to promote global cooperation and interoperability in the internet.
The launch of a new initiative on sustainability and the environment: This initiative will explore the environmental impact of the internet and develop recommendations for promoting sustainable practices.
The outcomes of the Forum provide important guidance for policymakers, businesses, and civil society as they work to build a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable digital future.
As expected, the Government of Japan made us all feel so very welcomed, and they were exceptional in the organization of this year’s IGF. A heartful thank you to all involved in the organization of the IGF in Kyoto, the Government of Japan, the UN, the IGF secretariat and other CSOs and supporters of the IGF.
My first visit to Japan was a profound experience, as the country has played a significant role in shaping my professional journey. My love for technology started with my fascination with cartoons, manga, and anime which began during my time in France, where I lived until the age of 12. Anime holds a special place in my heart. In fact, the very name of Metamorphosis Foundation draws inspiration from a beloved Japanese animated series from the 80s created by Go Nagai—Goldorak (known in English as Grendizer). One of the series’ defining moments occurred when the main hero, faced with threats from alien invaders, would shout “Metamorphosis!” (or “Metamorphose!” in French) as he transformed and entered a giant robot (Goldorak), ultimately saving the planet. This concept of transformation and improvement resonated with me deeply. I had the opportunity to speak and share my experience about this at the Festival of Japanese culture organized by the wonderful team of Japan.net.mk in Skopje in May this year.
It aligns perfectly with the core philosophy of Metamorphosis Foundation, which centers on harnessing the power of digital transformation for the betterment of society, ensuring that technology serves to enhance our quality of life rather than the other way around. In essence, we strive to make technology work for us. This ethos also draws inspiration from “Kaizen” (改善), another Japanese concept emphasizing continuous improvement, which strongly influences the mission and vision of our foundation.
Beside visiting many cultural heritage sites, during my visit to Kyoto, I had the pleasure of exploring the Kyoto International Manga Museum—a true paradise for manga enthusiasts and a delightful experience for anyone who appreciates this unique form of art and storytelling.
It is well known that Japan has a long and rich history of innovation and technological advancement. Japan has consistently been at the forefront of technological progress. This is due in part to the country’s strong emphasis on education and research, as well as its deep-seated cultural values of precision, hard work, and collective responsibility. Japan continues to be a leader in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. The country is also home to several world-renowned tech companies, such as Sony, Panasonic, Fujitsu, Toshiba and so many more.
Japanese culture has also played a significant role in the development of technology. The country’s emphasis on harmony and respect for nature is evident in the design of many Japanese products, which are often both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, the Japanese concept of “wa” (和), which emphasizes the importance of group harmony and cooperation, has been a key factor in the success of Japanese technology companies. Its culture of innovation and technological advancement is likely to continue in the years to come. Japan’s strong focus on education and research will continue to produce a pipeline of talented engineers and scientists who will drive innovation.
For me, Japan is a shining example of how a society can thrive when guided by principles of respect for others, empathy towards diverse perspectives, collaborative efforts, disciplined work ethics, and a genuine passion for harnessing technology to enhance the human lives.
Metamorphosis continuously works in making technology a force for good and contribute towards a society that is both technologically advanced and socially harmonious. Japan continues to be a great inspiration.