Inclusion in digital policy: e-participation and capacity development



Moderator: Pete Cranston, co-director, Euforic Services, Oxford
Chengetai Masango, Programme and Technology Manager, Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum
Ginger Paque, Director of IG Programmes, DiploFoundation
Anders Norsker, Head of Information Services, ITU
Marília Maciel, Researcher and Coordinator, Center for Technology and Society, FGV Brazil
Anne-Rachel Inné, Vice-President, Government Engagement, ICANN




Inclusive digital policy depends on e-participation and capacity development. E-participation ensures participation of all those who cannot participate in situ. It is not surprising that e-participation in global governance is most advanced in the field of Internet governance.  The session will discuss the four most relevant experiences in digital policy: the IGF, ICANN, the ITU, and NETmundial.  The session will provide concrete input based on the following questions:



Session notes 


Technology is not the issue, the issue is contact


This session concerned the topic of inclusion in digital policy, primarily focusing on e-participation: how to make it more effective and achieve genuine inclusiveness. There were about 25 people present in situ, and another 10 participants online for a small-scale, interactive debate. They were welcomed by Pete Cranston, who also introduced the ‘experienced and wise’ panel and the three topics that were to be discussed:  

  1. Developing practical strategies for remote and e-participation

  2. How to ensure capacity development for e-participation

  3. How does remote or e-participation change a meeting?


Chengetai Masango, Programme and Technology Manager, Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), presented one of the goals of his organisation: to lower the barriers to participation. Since its first meeting in 2006, the IGF has used remote participation. Masango reminded participants that it is important to include people connecting to the Internet with a very low bandwidth if we want to really give everybody the opportunity to engage. He also added that including people is not just about having the facilities;  back-up solutions are necessary because of the potential for a great number of possible malfunctions or complications. He concluded with a short reminder: ‘simple things work!’


Such a panel on remote participation would not be complete without a remote panellist.  Ginger Paque, Coordinator of IG programmes at DiploFoundation, was speaking online, and emphasised that to include remote participation, we need to take into account not just the technical element, but the human element, too. She explained that everyone is involved in remote participation, starting with conference organisers, who need to think about designing proper strategies for online contributions and involving panellists and audiences that include remote participants. Moderators, panellists, and audience members also need to understand the dynamics that inevitably change when the remote element is introduced. This way, remote participants can be integrated in a meeting and included on an equal footing with in situ participants. Finally, Paque sees rapid positive developments in e-participation. Ironically, there were some technical challenges to be bridged during Paque’s presentation.


Frédéric Faugier, in charge of remote participation at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), explained to the audience that the ITU started remote participation in 1998 and is now part of all meetings. He completed Masango’s statement by adding that not only is bandwidth important, but sound is a key factor of success. In thousands of meeting in the past four years, the ITU has met the same number of technical problems. Faugier confirmed what Masango said: it is necessary to always have a plan B!  The main difficulty everybody still encounters now is the inequality of status. It is, for example, not often possible to vote remotely because you are never sure you have the right person at the other side of the line. If we add to this the fact that most of the decisions are taken at coffee break, this makes it very difficult for remote participants to make their voices heard. The ITU is working on this problem with a resolution to push remote participation and to find a legal mechanism for it.


Anne-Rachel Inné, Vice-President of Government Engagement at the Internet Corporate for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) spoke of how ICANN has used remote participation ever since it was founded, and its methods of using remote participation tools have grown more sophisticated ever since. For example, it provides interpretation in multiple languages; keeps all online records and recordings; and provides transcriptions of everything that has been mentioned remotely. It also employs certain methods to ensure genuine inclusion; for example, it makes sure that the moderator, panellists and participants know the dynamics of remote participation and that those participants are given additional information about the dynamics in the room. Furthermore, there are clusters of groups of interest in different Skype rooms, so that in addition to the central meeting, information can be shared in separate groups. Inné identified two issues: time zones, and the problem of when people are not willing to ask questions openly. However, the sophistication of remote participation shows a positive development towards more inclusiveness.


Marília Maciel, researcher and coordinator at the Center for Technology and Society, FGV Brazil, showed an example of good practice in remote participation. To do this, she spoke of the NETmundial meeting. The event could not have been possible without the inclusion of e-participants; it would have been contradictory to the idea of an open debate. The processes used have to go in the same direction as the goals of the meeting. That is why the outcome document was open and could be commented on paragraph by paragraph before the meeting. Because of the sensitivity of the topic, many people were interested in the event. But with only 800 places in the meeting room, e-participation was a necessity to include people more widely. Thirty-three hubs all over the world permitted people to meet in remote places, and to have their own discussions before participating to the debate. This system was a way for them to interact with high-level participants. A survey after NETmundial showed that if the outcome document was an important thing, the most important part of the meeting was the process.


Next the participants and panellists divided themselves into groups that corresponded to the three topics. After about 20 minutes, group discussions came to an end and the groups presented their outcomes.


The group discussions reiterated much of what had already been mentioned.  However, they also came up with some new elements, including:



Flipcharts from breakout discussions