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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Through my eyes IGF 2014 and its changing definition



I strongly think and believe that Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is the only solution for managing internet where it has expanded its horizon from governing the internet and its dynamics among the wide spread use and access to protecting user online.  IGF is a forum that focuses more towards cooperation and collaboration in terms of policies and actions. One thing that I have realized from watching internet governance forum closely since 2007 is that it’s more of a timely program that gets i-leaders running and once its finished people fall back to their own comfort with limited action that takes place than the talking that ignites for changes and freedom. More often the issues highlighted by the IGF have rarely been ignored but still I think Internet governance is a long ongoing process that changes according to the time and place.
Yes, I strongly believe in the concept of “multistakeholderism” and its concept of giving opportunity of accepting unheard voices but I defy the prejudices of limiting internet to the property of few developed nations and technical community who can rule in according to their will and way under various aspect of their security, opportunity and management. Internet represents freedom and it should remain free and open in every aspect of its management, access and security.

Looking at the practice, the IGF is gradually changing and adapting the dynamics of development where more often leaders from all over the world talk about issues related to internet and its growing challenges. For most of us it is not just a forum to stand up and shout for the voices but it’s a way of life that speak freedom in every aspect of what we think and believe in. No matter whether the i-leaders notice it or not, I believe life is something that should be lived in your own terms not with the stigma and questions of others expectation. You live your own life and tell your own stories just like that I also have my story of the IGF
This year my focus majorly strike in key attention toward sessions that were more related to multistakeholderism, Freedom of expression, child safety, net neutrality, human rights  and cybercrime.

 My journey started when I was chosen as an Internet Society IGF ambassador 2014, though being selected in this prestigious program certainly made me happy but there were many obstacle that showed me why there is a gap in between nations and nationals. Since, my country didn’t had the Turkish embassy in its territory. I had to apply through the neighboring country India’s embassy.   The first time I applied I had to hire a person in a foreign land for the VISA. I submitted my application with all the necessary documents but they rejected my VISA with no reasons. Despite inquiring the embassy
from my supporting organization there were inconclusive answers.

As I know they barely knew about the program IGF. I was desperate to get the VISA, apart from that the pressure pushed me. My fellowship sponsor told me if I didn’t get the VISA within stipulated time my fellowship would be taken off. I was dam pissed and worried and despite with all the issues, I applied the second time and this time I directly coordinate with the Turkish information and communication ministry who directly intervened and I was issued a VISA. But unfortunately my VISA was issued with an expired date of travel so again I had to reapply for the VISA which literally drained my energy and money. My third application nearly made it as the IGF was around the corner and made it with barely weeks.
For me IGF was not just a travelling program, it was a meaningful opportunity to find the real meaning of internet and what I wanted for myself and my nation.

This time I had prepared a full fledged report on Nepal’s condition and the problems named Concept Paper on IGF 2014 Istanbul Turkey From Nepal's Perspective which later proved to be very useful for one of the main sessions program and I think it was worth it.

Finally the day came in when I farewell my family and I left Nepal with a fire and passion to give something as a recognition to my voice.

As I Took a flight with Turkish airline, it pretty seemed cool and exciting and the 7 and half hours flight landed me in Istanbul airport. From there I took a Havatas shuttle bus which barely cost me USD 5 and took me exactly in-front of my hotel intercontinental.

As an ISOC Ambassador, I felt proud and highly energized. The first day in Istanbul was nice, as advised I dragged myself to the İstanbul Lütfi Kırdar – ICEC venue for registration. I was pretty surprised with the security and management. Though the location was a bit difficult and had to walk about 10 to 15 minutes from my hotel still walking in the streets was fun. While walking in the streets the first thing that I noticed was the city, it was quite very much in transition of the modern architecture and the traditional cultural values where there were normal people but the thing that amazed me was while walking in the streets I saw  streets filled with shoe polishing people. Suddenly, I was walking in the street and I saw this guy dropping his brush, so I called the man and told him that he dropped his brush. The guy thanked me and out of the blues he started offering me his service. I was very precise to say no but still he insisted in the spilt of second he took the names of his gods and everyone and then just insisted, I said “NO”. The next day one of my friend told me it was a trick that they pulled to every foreigner and we laughed as he said he was preyed upon this every day by the same man.  



The first day was very interesting, The Collaborative Leadership Exchange Program was indeed something new. Though I was feeling slightly off as my stomach was not doing well but the session started with a Bang.  Allen Gunner the instructor was very much specific about what he wanted us to do. It was fun to exchange ideas and to learn so much. More interesting was the group of people who represented various societies and culture from various parts of the world. Together we formed smaller groups where we worked our way to find the most controversial issues and came to a judgment of whether to support the issue or not. Gunner would then individual pick people and ask question about why we supported or didn’t supported the statement. It was just a practice about listening and respecting others thoughts and ideas which was indeed a great practices and preparation session for the IGF.   

His sessions focused more towards preparing the i-leaders towards the IGF about how what to expect and how to handle the situation both at mental and action levels.

My experience in the IGF was more of a structured one as I had some definite goals and strategies. My goals were fixed in every aspect of making my voice heard among the mass of i-Leaders from around the globe where to some extent I made it possible.

The first day of the IGF started the venue was big and the listening to the experiences in the session were great.  Before the day ended we had the gala dinner where the Turkish dance group performed with grace. Everything the sessions and people were the same. What made me rethink was the attitude of the so called big i-leaders and technical community who would just see the world through their eyes.  In few of the sessions where I had participated I tried to raise the issue of developing nations and share the happening from my country. It would just seems as if we were aliens and they would just ignore us as they wanted the internet for them but despite the ignorance I spoke and voice the need and rights of issue and happening in this part of the world. For few of the session that I had attended I felt why am I doing this I was alone and I had no support from anyone still the fire of standing among the crowd pushed me and I had a few of the issues voiced.

I know participating and voicing out issues is the main theme of IGF but for people like us coming from the developing nation it’s a fight to make our voice heard. Apart from that the most irritating thing is why bloggers and activists are not thought of being part of the Internet Governance (IG). I don’t know why there is a clot that only the technical people have the right to speak and work in for the IG issue. I think IG is an issue of concern for all and most importantly it’s a concern for public welfare and Activist can laud the issues better than the technical people but I relatively see very less participation.
In the second and the third day were pleasing had few session and met many old faces. I think IGF was also yet another platform where you could meet the technical people. One of my friend said, “You know there are few events like ICANN where every year I met few friends, and every year we met them only in specific events.” I was not surprised and hell ya the so call technical community practices this pattern of retreats in the name of global conferencing.

On the third day as I and another friend IVAN were supporting his campaign we were stopped by the organizer in misconception of a protest. Though it was barely anything but it made some controversy for this year’s IGF 2014.

We had a great and awesome moments in Turkey, we had a chance to visit the blue mosque, the Grand bazar and the famous bridge that parted the Turkey with its modern and cultural version.

I would advise you to have the delicious fish burger, the oysters with lemon and other street food that are more interesting and show cases the real life and culture of Turkey. To explore turkey, you just have to take it on your own and on your foot where you can explore and learn so much about this magnificent country.  


       

    

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