The Internet brings a new dynamic to international conferences and events. It brings new types of interaction and information sharing. With six years of experience in e-participation, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has provided a laboratory for innovations that promote more inclusive, cost- effective, environmentally sustainable meetings.
The IGF experience shows that e-participation can bring people into the processes, ensuring that the diversity and complexity of voices are heard. E-participation can help close the gap between the limitations of traditional meetings and the growing need for people to be involved in global policy. Even the most successful IGFs don’t have more than 2000 participants. What about the remaining billions who will be impacted by Internet policy but have no input into the process?
E-participation can also help effective negotiations. Can thousands people in the room really discuss issue? Not realistically. Most studies show that 12–15 people is the optimum size for substantive discussion. Beyond that, events move into ‘megaphone diplomacy’. Here, effective e-tools can also help by aggregating different views and harnessing different voices.
Over the course of the last give IGFs, we have seen the gradual evolution from e-observation (broadcasting/webcasting) into the first elements of substantive e-participation. Remote hubs gather people at local events. This year more than 40 hubs will play an integral part of IGF-Nairobi. They will provide unique input by linking global discussions in Nairobi to local contexts.
E-participation at the IGF provides a rich experience and the basis for the next step. Now that we have tested and proven the basic concept and technical structures of e-participation, it is time to study the principles that should guide this important tool. DiploFoundation is organising Workshop 67 to be held on 29 September at 9 am Nairobi, (EAT UTC/GMT +3) where participants and panellists will analyse and propose basic principles for e-participation in global policy processes, as well as noting guidelines for e-participation that emerge during the workshop.
The output of this roundtable will be a draft list of principles for later discussion. These principles will not simply be guidelines, such as: ‘all panels should have a remote moderator to interact with remote participants and facilitate their interventions in the sessions’, although we expect to hear and note such guidelines as well. Rather, the objective of the workshop is to gather input for principles such as (informal draft possibility) ‘E-participation, and specifically remote participation should be offered to ensure inclusion of unheard voices in global policy process meetings.’
Your ideas and input are important to this process. If you will not be in Nairobi for the IGF, please try to join us remotely, following the links that will be available at http://igf2011.diplomacy.edu/ during the IGF, from 27–30 September. You are also invited to post your ideas here for inclusion in the discussion. How can and should e-participation be used to reduce the digital divide? What should be the standard e-participation framework for international policy conferences and policy processes? Your voice is important. Let us know!