DC-SIDS meet at the Global Internet Governance Forum

By Maureen Hilyard



After a welcome by Tracy Hackshaw (Caribbean) and Maureen Hilyard (Pacific)- co-founders of DC-SIDS, a short tribute to the memory of Marilyn Cade was presented to acknowledge a special women who gave so much of her time and support for many of us, individually and particularly those in under-served regions, within the ICANN and Global IGF communities. An IGF memorial service was announced for later in the day.

Reports from the Pacific — Cherie Lagakali (Chair, PICISOC Board); Dalsie Baniala (MAG member, Vanuatu); Maureen Hilyard (ALAC, ICANN)

1. Covid forced many in the Pacific and no doubt other SIDS to adapt to working from home and using the Internet more than they have done before for both work and general communication. The PICISOC mailing list became very much more a means of connecting with others across the Pacific

2. The only face to face activities took place in Melbourne in February. They included the signing of an MOU by PICISOC with the APTLD at their AGM at one of the events held in Melbourne at the end of February. Other events occurring in Melbourne at the same time and attended by other Pacific members were the APRICOT/APNIC meeting and the meeting of the Oceania Cyber Security Centre. Following on from this latter session, Cherie has been appointed to the Advisory Committee of the Global Forum of Cyber Expertise (GFCE) and is developing a regional hub in the Pacific.

3. Security was also raised as an issue within Vanuatu especially in the areas of data protection, the security framework and cybersecurity legislation. Discussion related to these issues have also included high government involvement. The covid situation also encouraged the importance of government priority for connecting the unconnected and focusing on education and the need for enabling remote connections for students with their teachers.

4. Preparations were initiated by PICISOC and APTLD at this meeting in collaboration with InternetNZ, APNIC, ICANN, Internet Society and other regional partners, for a Pacific IGF to be held in Fiji in September 2021.

5. There was good participation from the Pacific in the first Virtual APRIGF held in September, and originally planned for Kathmandu, Nepal. The theme was “Internet Governance for Good” although the impact of covid-19 was a feature of many of the sessions. A major output of the APRIGF is a Synthesis Document which contains thoughts by those who attended the APRIGF related to the main theme and other related sub-themes. The Synthesis Document will be presented to the IGF Secretariat.

6. Other regional PICISOC initiatives have included:

a. a webinar series (e-Talanoa) discussing issues of interest to the Pacific — there have been two sessions so far on Open Source Software and Cybersecurity related to regional CERTs.

b. The formation of a Pacific Women in ICT group that now has 60+ members who discuss IT-related issues of interest to women in the Pacific

c. A collaboration between the Pacific Disability Forum and the DC Accessibility coordinated by PICISOC Board member, Georgina Naigulevu

7. ICANN related activities — as well as notifications and newsletters, Pacific participants have been encouraged to participate in online learning via ICANN Learn and the Virtual School of Internet Governance to learn more about engaging with ICANN and IG initiatives.

8. Successes of SIDS members in leadership roles were mentioned to demonstrate that the voice of SIDS in forums such as ICANN can lead to leadership positions within it — notably from the At-Large community after the ICANN AGM 2020:

a. Maureen Hilyard — ALAC Chair (Cook Islands) for third year

b. Pua Hunter — Vice Chair GAC (Cook Islands) for second year

c. Carlton Samuel — GNSO Council (Jamaica) new appointment

d. Javier Rua Jovet — ccNSO Council (Puerto Rico) new appointment

e. Tracy Hackshaw — Chair-Elect NomCom (Trinidad and Tobago) new appointment

Reports from the Caribbean — Nigel Cassimire (CITU) and Bevil Wooding (ARIN)

1. 16th Caribbean IGF (August) and the development of a Caribbean IG Policy framework — building consensus among Caribbean stakeholders on IG policies related to the Caribbean, while acknowledging the limitations to the availability of resources, particularly human resources where people are committed to a broad range of activities. The IGF theme was “Accelerating Internet Governance” and highlighted the need to accelerate digital transformation, using technology to sustain livelihoods. The forum netted 72 registered participants and regional IGF reports were presented by Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and also the UN IGF Secretariat. Over three days there were 77 panel sessions, a youth forum and workshops where the policy framework was developed. Six strategic areas have been prioritised for the current year:

a. Infrastructure for appropriate broadband connectivity

b. Critical internet infrastructure and the procedures around internet governance work, for example, ICANN and IP addresses, etc

c. Legal and Regulatory frameworks

d. Internet content, especially local content

e. Capacity Building

f. Research

2. Bevil noted that “COVID-19 has actually been a blessing or a benefit in terms of the acceleration of a lot of what was proclaimed and a lot of what was prayed for and pleaded over the past few years concerning the need to build out internet infrastructure and putting a focus on technology as an enabler. COVID-19 has been an accelerant of unprecedented effectiveness I would say in terms of the impact in the region. Like so many other parts of the world, economies have been locked down, borders shut up, people have had to work from home and what happened in the short-term is that the pandemic put a spotlight on many gaps we have been speaking about for so long concerning weak infrastructure and the unevenness of internet access and the issue of meaningful connectivity, not just internet access going to rural communities but connectivity that can actually enable economic activity and social activity in a particular way”. He also highlighted particular impacts of Covid-19 on the Internet and on SIDS:

a. Small business, micro enterprises — a major contributor to the community. Issues raised were job losses and the suspension of economic activities. ePayments, incentives for local hosting, encouragement of local digital content.

b. Educating government, public sector officials and public policies are going to another level and developing a new level of consciousness around how the internet impacts on economic decision-making and how the bottom line impacts on communities that are facing hardship due to covid-19. Tourism revenues which represent the largest contributor for many SIDS globally, have fallen dramatically, and governments are scrambling desperately to find digitally abled alternatives.

c. The internet is important to get people back to work (albeit remotely), keeping kids in school and having businesses continue to operate. It has become urgent that Telecom operators provide effective, reliable, and consistent quality internet services, in collaboration with regulators across the region, because businesses depend on it.

d. Cybersecurity is receiving attention like never before. In the midst of COVID there were spikes in cyberattacks and in misinformation coming across the channels as new unprepared users started to get online which started cybersecurity discussions.

e. This again highlighted the importance of education within the public and private sector — that significant skills training is required to create a new class of competent economic contributors who are able to take their place in this evolving landscape. Therefore, it is particularly important for SIDS that a holistic approach to infrastructure, security, transformation services, facilitating rapid movement of sectors online, are critical to enable a new class of worker to emerge in times of crisis.

3. Other contributors

a. June Parris (MAG member) — things are moving fast in the Caribbean but the government has dealt well with the challenges. One complaint however is the increase in the cost of wifi.

b. Lance Hinds (Guyana) — when COVID hit and restrictions were put in place, the internet space was required to take over education. The terrain in Guyana provided challenges and required creative solutions for rural education, which initially included community wifi and other devices and means to connect students with their teachers. Connectivity was the core problem yet funding any improvements adds another challenge. Hopefully some relaxation of restrictions will re-enable a return to a new normal but connectivity and local content must continue to be developed.

c. Carlton Samuel (Jamaica) supported the view of the COVID crisis being a blessing in disguise in terms of accelerating digital transformation, especially in relation to government and how it works and the requirements to make it work. For example, ePayments, ensuring that people are knowledgeable about what they do with the technology that they have. There is now greater emphasis on digital literacy and public policy, and meaningful connectivity.

d. Deidre William (Santa Lucia) the need for raising the levels of digital literacy among Internet users in SIDS communities

e. Jacqueline Morris (Trinidad and Tobago) raised the judiciary in T&T which has been virtual since 2013 but which is now undergoing further digital transformation to encourage easier access by citizens and to reduce the cost to both the government and to users. COVID made online learning essential for both teachers and students. Both had to be trained to use Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The real basics became not so much access to the technologies, but the transformation of classroom teaching to online teaching. Training has been needed to change mindsets, teaching culture and skills and many traditional teachers have found this difficult.

f. Pablo Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) supported Maureen’s comment that islands may be small geographically but we are giants and have lots to contribute to this global community, and as mentioned many leaders are making enormous contributions to ICANN and the IGF. As previously mentioned, COVID has become an accelerator. Whereas small businesses earlier had not considered an online presence as being important, much less to charge for their services or sell products online, COVID made this their number one priority. His doctoral thesis was on the perceptions of IT decision makers on the use of technology, and the social aspects that might promote or impede the adoption of various technologies as well their impacts. But that the responsibility of this adoption does not just belong to the technical community but to every user.

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g. Rhea Yaw Ching reinforced issues that had been raised by previous speakers that might be raised as potential voluntary commitments by SIDS, for example, disaster recovery, IXPs, education, indigenous solutions, financial inclusion, digital legislation, national digital identity systems, smart government initiatives, open source innovative software and platforms — as in the Pacific, and the judiciary in Trinidad and Tobago.

h. Nigel Cassimire supported Rhea’s long list of suggestions, but recommended that in order for us to be able to log what successes we may be making in these developments, that we should have a repository, somewhere where we can share and maybe make contact with one another.

i. Tracy Hackshaw stated that the potential of a shared platform had been discussed at the last DC-SIDS session in Berlin to push forward joining our hands across the oceans. This has to be the first of our voluntary commitments, as well as developing a website for DC-SIDS.

j. Judith Hellerstein raised the GFCE capacity building programme that is helping small islands create cyber strategies. There is also a capacity building tool that Cherie might be able to tell us about. This could also be another voluntary commitment.

k. Cherie Lagakali explained that as the new Pacific Liaison for the GFCE, she is look at the scoping of a Pacific hub for better coordination and collaboration in the area of cyber capacity building in the Pacific. There is also a public portal where there is lots of information on activities and tools. The challenge for the Pacific will be how to engage communities, and to create more awareness and understanding about the importance of cybersecurity.

l. Jane Coffin suggested that with all the knowledge that is out there, and across the IGF, that we use this time during COVID to keep connected and to make sure that our kids are okay online, that parents can work and study, can do what they need to do and that they stay in touch with others. The social side of things is really important.

m. Anriette Esterhuysen (Chair of the IGF MAG) was struck by the diversity of the group and how there were people from governments, regulators, civil society — so that as a community we were a lot closer to working together than in many other parts of the world. There are still things we need to address — equality, inclusion, access, infrastructure, human capacity — but reinforcing what Jane said, people need to stay connected, she felt that SIDS’ ability to quickly connect policy to action and implementation was quite unique.

The group then took a zoom photo before closing. Many thanks to all our speakers and participants.

Click to view this report as originally published by Cook Islands Internet Action Group (CIIAG)

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