I think of the IGF increasingly as being like going back to University for a week. I love it. Sometimes I’m giving a lecture, at others I’m listening and learning. But I’m afraid I rarely come away feeling that I have truly connected with all the key parts of the multi-stakeholder community.
A quick look at who was there shows you why. I have no way of knowing who actually turned up but based on who the IGF web site shows as having registered we can see that altogether there were just over 300 representatives from about 60 national governments. The UN has nearly 200 countries as members so that is less than one third. About 30 international governmental-type bodies were there, out of I have no idea how many. These two categories combined registered 385 representatives altogether but 40% came from just seven entities viz Kenya 69, USA 26, Nigeria 14, Egypt 12, Council of Europe 12, China 10 and the European Commission 10.
There were just over 1,500 individuals named as belonging to “Other Entities”. I am not going to do a detailed sector analysis of this heterogeneous group. I’m sure someone else will. With 21 registered Microsoft I think sent the largest delegation from an individual company. Google came in at 8, Facebook 1, Apple 0, Yahoo 0, BT 0, Telesonera 0. There’s a big list of 0s. I guess they could have had their lobbyists there looking out for them, but that sort of misses the point. One of the biggest single delegations in this section came from our own dear Childnet International, with 17 people it was larger than China and Nigeria but not quite the USA. Go Childnet.
I shall continue to go to the IGF precisely because of its unique nature and the platform it offers but I am afraid if its organizers do not break out of their predictable formulaic approach next year there will be even fewer big hitters so the whole point of going will start to become questionable for all but the dedicated inner circle for whom the IGF is obviously a major part of their life.
The IGF should aim to be like Davos: where people use sharp elbows to force their way in. We ought not to have to exhort people to go to the IGF out of a sense of obligation to the public good. There should be kidnappings and duels at dawn as people fight eagerly to get tickets.
(posted by UK IGF on behalf of John Carr)