IGF Nairobi was the third consecutive IGF we have attended and for FOSI it was our best yet! Given our mission, it’s heartening to find that child online safety remains a dominant part of the agenda. With more than ten workshops ranging from digital citizenship through to privacy and the perception of young people, it proved an exciting event.
The strong youth presence added an authenticity to discussions that few International events of this kind generally achieve. Many of the young people benefited from attending previous IGF’s and were well prepared to discuss a broad range of topics and issues. I am not sure whether it really informs or influences policy, but it does question adult assumptions about how they use technology and demonstrates a resilience and responsible attitude that was uplifting.
Digital Citizenship as a framework for multi-stakeholder engagement around the theme of child online safety was a key strand of debate in many workshops. Some countries like Egypt considered it a useful construct, but other developing countries with a more under-developed sense of ‘citizenship’ were more sceptical. It was interesting to note that most young people were unimpressed too, partly because they see no line between their online and offline lives. The concept therefore of offline responsibilities and values informing their online lives seemed not to resonate with them. Privacy online however, was something many of the youth delegates considered a significant issue. There was a sense that they had little control over some aspects of their online identity, however the consensus was that peer conformity/support and the benefits of social media seemed to outweigh the negatives.
The only slight disappointment was the lack of attendees from other African countries. Although the Kenyan presence was good (naturally) it was not very vocal. Many workshops were dominated or exclusively filled by speakers from Europe and North America.
It was clear too, that European member states and industry were quite underrepresented in the IGF process. As an International charity with strong links to major industry players, the US in particular plays a much more active role, better aligned to their government and with a much more long term game plan.
(posted by UK IGF on behalf of David Miles, FOSI)