IGF 2021: the development of Internet requires global cooperation

M. Kmieciński/PAP

Access to the Internet, which facilitates communication, education, and the increase of professional skills, is gradually becoming one of the fundamental human rights. The development of networks in various parts of the world, freedom of speech, and the fight against disinformation were the subjects discussed during the third day of the UN Digital Summit, IGF 2021 in Katowice. 

The participants of one of the plenary sessions discussed the achievements in the field of digital transformation. One of the panelists was Google Vice President Vint Cerf, who said that the Internet is a space invented as a global shared infrastructure. So it shares characteristics with other co-shared ecosystems, such as the atmosphere or space. 


"That's why we should develop common standards and conclude agreements to use the Internet in ways that contribute to achieving and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals," pointed out Google's Vice President.

As Elke Siehl from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) pointed out, the idea is to make "high-quality digital connectivity accessible to everyone." 

"It is important that we implement key digital and cybersecurity solutions together," said Justin Fair, digital policy advisor in the US State Department's Bureau of International Affairs.  

According to Jean Paul Adam, Director of Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, to ensure effective digitization in Africa, first off all, it is necessary to support the construction of infrastructure. 

"We are developing a digital platform for buying medicines and health products. We are talking about a trade worth $70 million per year," reported Jean Paul Adam.

"The IGF is a very important event that can help achieve a global digital agreement. We want everyone to be able to participate in the process of shaping the digital space that is the Internet," said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs.

The UN Digital Summit IGF 2021 in Katowice held also a discussion on the development of the gaming industry, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the digital economy. As Andreea Medvedovici-Per, Vice President of the European Gaming Federation (EGDF), stressed, it seems only natural to put gaming on the agenda of an international event devoted to the Internet.

"Right now, we are setting global rules on the functioning of the computer games market covering thousands of producers and millions of users around the world. We are jointly working on industry solutions covering such sensitive issues as the protection of intellectual rights, safety of the youngest users, or acquiring funding for new projects. The same challenges are faced by the entire digital world, to which the Summit in Katowice is dedicated, said Andreea Medvedovici-Per. 

Among the experts attending the panel, the largest group were Poles, including representatives of CD Project company. It is no surprise, Poland is becoming a global gaming powerhouse.

"We have become one of the top 20 most profitable national markets. The value of the Polish video gaming market is growing every year. This dynamic growth is reflected by the number of Polish versions of Western games. We have already overtaken South Korea and are chasing Japan. We also appreciate the talent and determination of our domestic producers, thanks to whom Polish productions are now conquering the world," noted Edyta Demby-Siwek, President of the Polish Patent Office.

Wednesday's media briefing at IGF 2021 in Katowice was devoted to the limits of the freedom of speech online. It was attended by Marina Kaljurand, Member of the European Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, and Jillian C. York, digital activist and Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to them, one of the most difficult tasks faced by the international community that governs and manages the Internet today is to guarantee freedom of expression online, while limiting hate speech, disinformation, and cybercrime.

As Kaljurand pointed out, "today’s instruments that are used to fight disinformation and hate speech are unsatisfactory."

"The price for agreeing to the uncontrolled spread of disinformation and hate speech online is obvious to all of us," assessed the MEP.

At the same time, both participants of the briefing agreed that sometimes it is difficult to assess the content content in terms of its harmfulness. Because in some countries, the content can be considered harmful and dangerous, whereas, in others it can be considered part of a normal discussion. 

The afternoon plenary session was devoted to the universal and fair access to the Internet. Sonia Jorge, Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, who moderated the debate, reminded us that in the second decade of the 21st century, many regions and societies in the world suffer from digital exclusion.  

"The actions of the entire global community that is meeting these days in Katowice must aim at making access the Internet as easy as possible for all people, regardless of their material status, citizenship, gender, or age. Free use of the Internet determines the possibility of personal and professional development, therefore, international solidarity in this matter is our duty," explained Sonia Jorge.

According to experts, access to the Internet, facilitating communication, education, and increasing professional skills and vocational competences, is gradually becoming one of the basic human rights, the enforcement of which is an integral part of the functioning of organizations such as the UN. 

"We can only achieve universal access to the Internet by fulfilling three interrelated conditions: a sustained reduction in its prices around the world, the development of technological infrastructure and digital education of all citizens of the planet, especially in the less developed regions," noted Anriette Esterhuysen, a human rights defender and developer of a telecommunications network in South Africa.

Welcome to The First News weekly newsletter

Every Friday catch up on our editor’s top pick of news about Poland, including politics, business, life and culture. To receive your free email subscription, sign up today.