Why Matters: Indonesia and the Internet Governance Forum

Internet Governance

Since 2005, every year, the United Nations hold an Internet Governance Forum (IGF). This forum aims to put different stakeholders (government, private sector, civil society, technical community and academia) to have policy dialogue on Internet governance issues. IGF does not aim to make decision on Internet policy but it is the significant avenue for key players to have conversation in Internet governance.

After 10 years, the next IGF 2015 is taking an important point.  As written by Mr. Janis Karklins, the chair of Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) of IGF, the IGF 2015 takes place at a turning point in the history of Internet governance.  There will be a ten-year review of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) happening at the end of this year and it is an opportunity to set a forward-looking vision for the Information Society, but also to discuss the renewal of the IGF’s mandate. With the Sustainable Development Summit, this year offers a unique opportunity for the community to articulate the value of ICTs and the Internet in supporting a people-centric and development oriented Information Society. Many of these issues will be at the heart of the IGF’s discussions.

The questions I currently have, where is Indonesia in the discussion?

IGF 2015, Brazil

As I am currently sitting at the MAG and one of my responsibilities is to review incoming proposals for the sessions in upcoming IGF, which was held in Brazil last November, I saw very limited coming from Indonesia. For the 2015 IGF the secretariat received 267 proposals coming from all over the globe. From that number, less than 10 proposals coming from Southeast Asia region and only three from Indonesia. From the total around 100 sessions being approved, there are no more than 6 to 7 sessions with Indonesian panelists. Though there is a significant increase of the first time proposer compare to previous IGF, but Indonesia representations remain limited. The active participation of Indonesia in hosting the 2013 IGF is not well reflected through this number.

Some people who do not believe in the multistakeholder mechanism and global policy discussion might think that involving in international discussion on Internet Governance should not be the current priority of Indonesia. Indonesia has its own challenges and due to the need to maintain Indonesian sovereignty, it is unnecessary to actively involved in the Internet Governance issue.

But Internet, is, the global entity.  Internet opens the door for you to communicate, to develop network, to negotiate, to make transaction with people outside Indonesia. The sophisticated algorithm can help you to open new conversation with people outside this country. And this is where sovereignty becomes a central point. Sovereignty, the authority to govern a particular geographical area, is really contested in the presence of the Internet. It becomes a problem for many countries in regulating their taxes, their jurisdiction and even their security. In this current information era, maintaining sovereignty is most probably the biggest task of all government in the world.

Indonesia is not alone in this issue. Therefore, there is no other choice for Indonesia than to take part of this discussion and jump into the conversation. Discuss its concern and see how other countries and different stakeholders take upon this issue.

Indonesia has a rapidly increasing Internet user base; various estimates have put the average increase in Internet users at 20% year over year. Indonesia is a market base for many Internet products and if we want to function as at least active consumers – though we aim to be the producer– we need to know what the multinational companies position in the Internet Governance.

IGF is a good avenue to know where other stakeholders hold their opinion. As this is not a decision-making process, it is a good place to start real conversation with diverse stakeholders in other countries.

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