Record-breaking UN Digital Summit in Poland – more than 10,000 participants from 175 countries

Ł. Gagulski/PAP

A total of 2,688 participants came to Katowice for the IGF 2021 Digital Summit. The event was held between 6 and 10 December at the International Congress Centre. Participants debated the key challenges of today’s internet. The Summit was held as a hybrid event. A total of 10,300 people registered to participate in the event online and in person.

This year’s was the 16th edition of the Internet Governance Forum. Hosting the event for the first time, Poland enjoyed unprecedented turnout. The Summit was attended by representatives of businesses, governments, NGOs, as well as research and academic communities. The Chancellery of the Prime Minister, supported by NASK, was responsible for the event’s organisation on the part of Poland.

On the last day of the Digital Summit, Krzysztof Szubert, Poland’s Plenipotentiary for the UN IGF 2021, presented a document with the recommendations that the individual sessions came up with. These included global guidelines for public policy- and strategy-makers. The document is still a work in progress. Together with other insights from the IGF 2021, these conclusions will be published later as part of the summary of this year’s Summit.

This year’s IGF featured a special event – the IGF Youth Summit, held for the first time in IGF history. It brought together young people from all over the world. Their debates focused on the same challenges as those discussed during the main IGF panels, including:

developing, and providing access to, the internet for residents of countries and regions that are blank spots on the global internet map;

security, including the security of financial transactions, the resilience of industrial installations against cyberattacks and international cooperation on fighting cybercrime;

privacy and personal data protection;

countering disinformation and public manipulation online;

cooperating with global digital corporations and regulations governing their operations;

sustainable development, environmental protection, countering climate change and adapting to its consequences.

Participants in the IGF Youth Summit have also set their own goals to be pursued over the upcoming year until the next IGF in 2022, scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The headline of this year’s IGF is ‘Internet United’. If we want it to be more than just a slogan, to become a viable idea, we need to keep one thing in mind – and that is countering exclusion. if we do not recognise all the opinions and perspectives in our discussion, there will always be a serious risk that everyone will remain in their own bubbles, connecting only with those who are already in it, and leaving the rest behind. This is why we, young people, demand inclusion in all the areas and levels of internet governance. We ask you to listen to us because we have a lot to say, and we have proven this at the IGF Youth Summit.

We also want to be a voice for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are underrepresented at major global forums such as this. Millions of people still do not have access to the internet and cannot enjoy the benefits it offers. Millions of people with disabilities. Millions of people who do not speak English. Deprived of access to solutions that meet their needs, these people have had no opportunity to use the internet. As young people, we would like to speak on their behalf as well, calling for their inclusion in the debate. We want the IGF community to notice the challenges these people are facing,” said Emilia Zalewska, a Youth Summit representative, during her closing address, adding that this was only one of a number of important topics addressed by Youth IGF. This year’s IGF was co-organised and patroned by NASK.