PH Internet stakeholders meet ahead of UN Internet governance forum in Brazil

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The Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology (ICT Office) recently organized a consultation meeting with various sectors of society to provide a space for local netizens to discuss issues on Internet governance and assist with formulating a Philippine position for the 10th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Jo?o Pessoa, Brazil on November 10-13.

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The multi-sector gathering, which was organized with the Internet Society-Philippines Chapter (ISOC-PH) and the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), was held on October 21 at Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

Since its inception following the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in 2005, the UN?s annual Internet Governance Forum has been the primary forum for discussions on policy issues on Internet governance.

The overarching theme for this year?s 10th IGF is ?Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development?.

ICT Office director Tess Magno-Garcia, a member of the government delegation to the 10th IGF, urged stakeholders to work together on Philippine policies that will respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by the Internet, thereby enabling national development and moving towards realization of the United Nations? Sustainable Development Goals.

While touching only on a handful of issues surrounding the Internet, the topics were varied and encouraged lively responses from the equally varied array of stakeholders.

Atty. Francis Euston Acero of Democracy.net.ph started the ball rolling with a discussion on the proposed Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom and its significance for securing basic human rights both online and offline.

Winthrop Yu of the Internet Society ISOC-PH followed with an overview of global Internet governance, focusing on the role of technical organizations — how permission-less innovation, distributed, and decentralized structures, as well as inclusive, bottom-up processes have allowed the Internet to dynamically evolve many of the technological advances that are drivers of 21st century progress.

Yu also provided a brief introduction to the current ?hot topic? of global Internet Governance — the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) stewardship transition.

The afternoon session then turned from the somewhat abstract to the concrete realities of Philippine life online, as Atty. Jam Jacob of the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) provided a contextual backgrounder on Privacy in the Philippines and the Data Privacy Act, while Atty. Marnie Tonson of the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) followed with a similar backgrounder on Cybercrime and updates on RA 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Act.

There ensued many questions and comments, as Jacob and Tonson engaged with the audience on several specific issues and examples relating to censorship, surveillance, and privacy.

Jem Panganiban of the Women?s Legal Bureau raised the audience?s awareness of online violence against women such as harassments, threats, and defamation.

Related to the more general issue of cyberbullying, participants then discussed the fine line between preventing online abuse, as against safeguarding online expression. Panganiban also raised the issue of ISPs and their responsibilities in addressing abuse online, as FMA?s Jacob and ISOC-PH?s Yu commented.

With current public outrage over slow and expensive Internet in the Philippines, LIRNEasia?s Grace Mirandilla-Santos recapped the research and observations that she had previously provided at Senate and NTC hearings. In tandem with Engr. Benjz Gerard Sevilla of the ICT Office, they posed questions for the audience on addressing the digital divide, surveying possible remedial measures from the policy, regulatory and market perspectives.

Bayani Lara from the DOST?s Advanced Science and Research Institute (DOST-ASTI) provided updates on the Philippine Open Internet Exchange (PhOpenIX) showing that traffic through the neutral exchange had recently boomed even without the full participation of the country?s major ISP.
Nica Dumlao, FMA?s Internet Rights program manager, pointed out that it is imperative to have a dialogue space for Internet governance in the country.

She recalled that the first ever multi-stakeholder forum on Internet Governance, Human Rights, and Development was conducted by FMA last March 23, 2015.

The organizers are setting their sights on more collaborative and multi-stakeholder consultations in the future where everyone?s ideas and opinions are equally valued.

Following the consultation was the launch of the version 1.0 of the Philippine Declaration on Internet Rights and Principles on November 4 at the ICT Office.

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