Russian Internet Governance Forum among world’s oldest IGF

19.07.2019

A meeting dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the .RU ccTLD and the 10th anniversary of the Russian Internet Governance Forum (RIGF) was an important event of the final, third day of the Asia Pacific Region Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF 2019).

The session focused on RIGF, as the domain’s anniversary was celebrated the night before, when the APrIGF 2019 participants were invited to a gala dinner organized by the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ. Experts of the Asia-Pacific Region congratulated the Russian registry on .RU’s 25th anniversary and wished the domain further growth, new achievements and victories.

At the session, representatives of ICANN, ISOC and APTLD together with the Coordination Center and the APrIGF 2019 participants from various countries discussed whether RIGF’s 10-year-long experience could be used by other countries and brought to the regional and global levels.

Coordination Center Director Andrei Vorobyov noted that RIGF’s 10-year history was a good illustration of the evolution of ccTLDs’ role in the global internet system. “For historical reasons, ccTLD registries have a much wider range of tasks in the Asia-Pacific Region than in Europe or America. Our important goal as the .RU and .РФ national registry coordinating other Russian TLD registries is to find ways to further develop the Russian internet. At the same time, we have always believed that the Russian internet segment is an essential part of the global internet, with its own specifics that should be discussed at international venues,” Andrei Vorobyov said. According to the Coordination Center director, IGFs (national, regional and international) are the best platform for exchanging expertise and searching for answers to questions that arise during the network’s evolution. It is also necessary for national registries to expand their representation in international organizations and take a more active part in their activities.

Several session participants, Manager at the United Nations Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum Chengetai Masango, ICANN GSE Manager for Eastern Europe & Central Asia Natalia Mochu, and APTLD Director Leonid Todorov, spoke about their impressions of RIGF. Leonid Todorov recalled the first RIGF that was a real example of the multi-stakeholder approach. That forum was attended by over 900 participants, including businesspeople, scientists, officials, and representatives of the tech community, civil society and international IT organizations. There were lively discussions, interesting reports, lectures and opportunities to socialize.

The participants also noted that the Russian Internet Governance Forum was one of the oldest national IGFs in the world and united many participants representing Russia and other countries as well. Lectures by world-famous internet gurus for students of the RIGF host city were among the forum’s highlights. The forum mainly focused on involving the youth in the internet governance process, which resulted in the establishment of the Youth Council among other things. It was announced in April at RIGF 2018 in St. Petersburg.

There also was constructive criticism. The speakers noted that the IGF needed changes at all levels. Natalia Mochu noted that the topics on the RIGF program remained the same for many years, but the changes should not be initiated by officials or the forum organizers but the internet community, which could offer new topics and ideas. Mochu also said that ICANN was always ready to support IGFs all over the world, but the decision to organize them belonged to the host country. “Sometimes we can see that several countries come together and organize sub-regional forums, such as the Central Asian IGF held jointly by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This is a good example of how to increase IGFs’ effectiveness,” Natalia Mochu said.

Chengetai Masango praised the Russian Internet Governance Forum and spoke about what needed improvement in his opinion. He suggested inviting more new people, both as speakers and participants, and also involving more representatives of different interested parties in drafting the final document, thus making this process more open.

It is noteworthy that similar criticism was made at the final plenary session of APrIGF 2019. The meeting participants called the organizers to take into consideration more factors when choosing speakers and adding sessions and discussion panels. Meanwhile, the plenary session participants noted that APrIGF had become a good platform to hear out very different parts of society, including young people.

Developing the final document of the forum is an important part of the APrIGF program. The most topical issues discussed at the meetings, sessions and roundtable discussions are included in the final document. This year, the drafting began on the first day of APrIGF 2019 and will continue online until July 31, 2019. The draft version is available at the APrIGF 2019 website.

Mikhail Anisimov, head of External Communications at the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ, spoke at the closing ceremony. “Organizing international events dedicated to internet development issues in Russia is part of the Coordination Center’s work. This experience and knowledge you shared during these days is very important for us. Thanks everyone!” he said in conclusion.