On November 19 the 4th Belarus IGF will take place in Minsk. The organizer of the Forum - hoster.by company - calls representatives of business, government, NGO and simple internet users to govern it together. We asked Sergey Povalishev, hoster.by CEO, what does it mean and how to achieve it.
“Internet is wider than address bar. We don’t fully understand what it is.”
— Why internet needs to be governed? Progress is a natural process: the best practices take root, unsuccessful ones gradually leave.
— There are two points. The first is the treachery of translation. It’s hard to translate the Internet Governance Forum not as an “Internet Regulation Forum.” But in Russian “regulation” is a more rigid concept, uncompromising. And the English original meaning is closer to care, especially jointly. Different history put different shades into words.
The second, the industry is growing, like any living organism, and many things don’t need to be controlled or impossible to control. But what is really necessary to do is to conduct a dialogue, adopt good experience and ensure that the development takes into account the interests of everyone who is somehow concerned about the internet. And it concerns everyone in 2019.
— Sounds right, but a little general. How to understand what issues are appropriate to go to the Forum with?
— With any. I'll show you an example. This year we are planning a futuristic section, where we will try to look into the cyberspace, and in parallel there will be sections on inclusive internet and a new media format on the Web. The agenda always includes issues of cybersecurity, the development of e-government, the involvement of young people and active internet users into the internet governance. These are global trends that are being discussed at IGFs around the world and are relevant to us.
Plus, you need to understand that the internet is a broader concept than the address bar. We ourselves do not fully understand what it is and where its limits are. Remote-controlled mining dump trucks, smart instruments for measuring air pollution, “cyberkillers”, monitoring the crime situation in the city’s districts - all this is the internet, and the part of it in which Belarus is very strong, although few people know about it.
— Has Belarus IGF its own specificity?
— IGFs around the world has standards. For example, the obligatory participation of government, business, NGO, civil society. Also an open topics collection is mandatory.
But specifics depends on the region. For example, gender equality and subcultures topics are not that much burning in our region. At least now. Central Asian Forums have fewer topics such as standardization for the development of the Internet of Things. In Belarus, topics such as e-government and open data are traditionally relevant.
“I like the term “couch troops”, especially their senior officers”
— Are there any real shifts on these issues after past years' forums?
— Yes, somewhere more obvious, somewhere less. For example, the second Forum became a powerful impetus for the appearance of the first open data portal. Government representatives shared problems with data processing, the business offered real help, we conducted a survey together with a non-profit organization that showed what data is in the most demand. The result is an active portal.
Last year I was pleased, I apologize for the tautology, the activity of city activists.
— These are those whom you called "couch troops"?
— As far as I know, “couch troops” are just those who do nothing, but love to give advice. But the activists who come to the IGF are a good illustration of what civil society is. People who themselves determine what they want to change in the current state of affairs (it doesn’t matter, we are talking about the future of the internet or that the paving slabs are crooked in the yard) and take real steps to solve the problem.
Although with the development of the internet, it’s true that their front is increasingly moving to the online environment, therefore, with reservations, I like the term “couch troops”, their senior officers are especially respected. Vladimir Kovalkin, who founded petitions.by, Anton Motolko, who does not get tired of reminding that departments work for people, and not vice versa. Or for example Sasha Avdevich - an activist and a fearless person, who you can not call “a disabled person”. We are always glad to see these people as speakers at the workshops and as visitors.
— Who form the agenda and do you keep the balance between technical, social and juridical topics?
— The agenda is not formed, it forms itself. As I have already mentioned, the open topic suggestion from everyone interested is an international IGF rule, that we keep. Also there is a Steering Committee that considers the suggested topics and forms the final agenda. Frankly, there is no big volume of suggestions each year. Here are some examples of topics that were suggested by users:
enterprise modernization and training in Belarus for Industry 4.0;
increased risks associated with insufficient learning of English in schools, where this subject, in fact, turns into an optional;
the possibility of renaming the Belarusian TLD from .BY to .BLR. Yes, someone cares about this question.
We consider all applications, there are no forbidden topics. Everything that does not contradict the Criminal Code and common sense, we are ready to put on the agenda. Although common sense is also discussed, if there is a demand on the topic.
“I would love to meet with Elon Musk at the after-party”
— If you had the opportunity to invite absolutely anyone to speak at the opening of Belarus IGF, who would it be?
— I think, Sergey Rumas
— I mean, really any person, even Elon Musk.
— I would still like to see the representative of the government at the level of the Prime Minister of the country at the opening. This is normal practice in most European countries. Last year, the global IGF in Paris was opened by Emmanuel Macron, the year before last, President Doris Loythard spoke in Switzerland. The European IGF was attended by the presidents of the three countries and the Prime Minister of Norway. At national forums, you can also regularly meet top officials of the state.
I would love to meet with Elon Musk at the after-party, but the IGF should first of all solve local and regional issues. We have enough business forums with invited stars. But there is only one platform that unites all stakeholders interested in the development of the internet without exception.
— Do you consider state support insufficient?
— We are traditionally supported by the Ministry of Communications and Information, we hope for the presence of their representatives this year. The Operative-Analytical Center under the President of the Republic of Belarus also provides support from year to year. Is that enough? I suppose, yes. Would you like more involvement from other departments? Of course.
— The Global Forum in Berlin this year will be held under the slogan of One World. One Net. One Vision. Last year’s IGF tagline in Paris sounded like “the Internet of Trust”. What would you call the Belarusian Forum?
— Internet of Choice, or “Decide what the Internet will be like before it is decided for you.” I think that although we are a part of the global IGF movement, there is a national specificity. This is a lack of understanding that the way the internet will be in Belarus tomorrow can be directly influenced. What will be the state online services, what data will be publicly available, how digital security will be provided at the national level, and even what subjects will be taught in schools - all this can be influenced.
Technical and business community more or less understand what circle of issues can be effectively discussed at the IGF. It is necessary to work more closely with representatives of government and ordinary internet users to show benefits and bilateral benefits. I hope that today I showed them a little bit.
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