My first impression of IGF, when I started going three years ago was one of shock and disbelief. Those of us who built the Internet and operate it on a daily basis have a tendency to see it in terms of the mechanics: of bits and bytes, bandwidth and BGP, domains and DNS. Deep down we know there are real people out there using it but we tend to feel that they should be jolly grateful for being allowed to use it at all. This of course is a one-sided view but it takes something like IGF to hammer it home. At IGF we meet the people who see the Internet in terms of other things than the mechanics: who see it as a means of delivering medical knowledge to remote valleys in Nepal, education to those far from schools, emergency relief in the wake of earthquakes and a weapon in the continuing fight against poverty, repression and gender inequality. The initial reaction is irritation… what has this to do with the Internet? But gradually, sometimes over the course of years, our horizons start to widen.
For me, the Nairobi IGF was probably the first where I started to empathise with these other players in the game. Perhaps passion comes more easily to the African continent but suddenly these data sources and sinks turned into real people, with real hopes and fears, who wanted to take this wonderful toy that we built and play with it in ways that we haven’t even imagined. Do you remember having your best friend over to play with your lego? Suddenly things are being built that you never thought possible, and together you are more than two, you are many.
IGF is a shared lego set. My inner child likes that.
(Posted by the UK IGF on behalf on Nigel Titley).