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IGF 2015 Tackling the Next Billion Online Challenge

Janis Karklins

Just two weeks ago, the United Nations hosted the Sustainable Development Summit (SDS) where the international community embraced a new global agenda. I was very pleased that ICTs were recognized as a crucial platform for the implementation of this agenda, which sets an ambitious goal to "significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020" (paragraph 9c of the text for the new Sustainable Development Goals).

A timely effort led by the IGF community

This shows the importance of the IGF's access work. Since May, its inter-sessional work on 'Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion' has gained some very positive momentum. This is when the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) made its initial call to the Internet community for background contributions on the topic. Over 50 contributions were received, from inter-governmental organizations, industry, civil society and the technical community.

During the 3rd round of IGF Open Consultations in early September, a document's structure was developed by the IGF community using the background submissions which formed the basis of the draft compilation paper for public comment now until 16 October on the IGF website review platform. Please take a few minutes to share your perspective on this important and timely effort. A revised version of the compilation document will be made available by the end of October based upon additional inputs and comments received by the Secretariat. The final version of the "Next Billion" paper will be presented at the IGF meeting in Joao Pessoa.

An open ended editorial group has also been formed, open to all interested stakeholders, to steer the future development of the paper and the work stream. MAG also plans to organize an open webinar with the community to gather additional views and comments on the paper in the coming weeks. At the 10th IGF in Brazil, the 'Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion' will be discussed during a roundtable main session. All interested stakeholders will gather to discuss both the challenges and possible solutions from their unique perspectives to "Connect the Next Billion", using the IGF platform to build partnerships and catalyze joint efforts.

Looking ahead, building on IGF 2015 successes

This effort is in line with a report produced by the UN General Assembly Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Working Group on Improvements to the IGF. Indeed, the international community then called for several improvements: development of more tangible outputs to 'enhance the impact of the IGF on global Internet governance and policy', addressing more issues related to Internet governance for development as well as extending its interaction with Internet governance related entities in order to further develop the global policy dialogue. The 'Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion' aims to respond to all these calls. It also strives to bring National and Regional IGF Initiatives closer to the global forum and further IGF Best Practice Forums (BPFs). The views and discussions from the National and Regional initiatives and Best Practice Forums form the foundation of the 'Connecting the Next Billion' compilation.

In order to continue this valuable inter-sessional work, I invite the coordinators of national and regional IGF initiatives to propose a theme for 2016 IGF cycle. It could be supported by the IGF community at the Joao Pessoa meeting and introduced in the programmes of the upcoming IGF meetings at national and regional levels.

In the year of the review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes by the United Nations General Assembly it is important to demonstrate that the Recommendations of the Working Group on Improvements to the IGF have been implemented in full. I count on the engagement of the community to reach this goal.

Thank you and look forward to seeing you in Joao Pessoa.

By Janis Karklins, Ambassador of Latvia, Chair of the MAG
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