Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

In 2003 and 2005, the United Nations organized the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). One of the most critical outcomes from this landmark summit was the creation of the Internet Governance Forum, or the “IGF”.

IGFs happen around the world throughout the year. Once a year participants gather for the global IGF.

Each event offers a unique space for a an amazing range of people to share information and develop solutions. It was designed not to be a decision-making body, which allows people to speak freely, on an equal footing. What comes out of the IGF, however, plays an essential role in decisions made by people creating a bigger and stronger Internet.

Apply for the Internet Society Foundation’s IGF Funding Program

For more than a decade, the Internet Society has supported multistakeholder Internet governance processes around the world by providing funding to the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as well as a number of National and Regional Initiatives (NRIs), and Schools of Internet Governance (SIGs). We remain strongly committed to this important initiative and are proud of the partnerships we have formed to help ensure the success of IGFs worldwide.

In 2020, the Internet Society’s funding commitment to this important work will continue through the Internet Society Foundation’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) funding program. This program supports the organization of IGF events at the local, national, regional and global levels, as well as Schools of Internet Governance.

Each event offers a unique space for a an amazing range of people to share information and develop solutions. It was designed not to be a decision-making body, which allows people to speak freely, on an equal footing. What comes out of the IGF, however, plays an essential role in decisions made by people creating a bigger and stronger Internet.

Top Things to Know About IGF

Two hundred sessions. As many as 2500 attendees. There’s a lot to absorb at an Internet Governance Forum. While it’s an exciting event for a newcomer, the volume of activity can also make for a challenging experience.

So how can you get the most out of your first IGF? Here’s a cheat sheet!

Everyone’s voice is needed at a Global IGF so please share this video and post to make sure everyone who wants a voice in the future of the Internet can have a chance to be heard.

Transcript of this video: Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian

Know your acronyms

IGF = Internet Governance Forum
You know that already, but we might as well start out on comfortable ground. The Internet Governance Forum is a neutral space where people who care about the Internet can share ideas about Internet policy and development issues.

DC = Dynamic Coalitions
This is a way of saying “a group of people with different interests”. There are about 15 of these groups, and you can ask to join the email list of any of them!

BPFs = Best Practices Forums
These are working groups created by the IGF to, predictably, produce Best Practice Outcome documents in their area of focus.

Those will get you started, but, you’ll need more than just those three acronyms to fully follow what is going on. Happily, you can look for a pocket acronym guide at the various booths!

Know what to attend

There are several types of sessions at the IGF, many happening at the same time. It’s best to make at least a tentative choice in advance.

Know what you don’t know

If you’re going into a session you are not an expert in, try to do your homework first. The IGF website will have everything from documents to videos to transcripts from previous meetings to help you get up to speed.

Know how to build lasting connections

Bring your business cards, because the IGF is a great place to expand your network. You can discover and join new organizations, communities, and interest groups. Don’t be shy—just introduce yourself and join or start a conversation. Ask to share notes from sessions you could not attend, and watch for invites to dinners or receptions.

Know when to listen and when to speak

During some IGF sessions, people line up to ask questions and to comment. Make sure you listen carefully and respectfully to those questions and comments.

Make sure not to speak unless you have a different perspective or a solution-oriented observation. If you do want to step up to the mic, make sure you share a local experience, and speak with confidence.

Know what to expect

Walking down a hallway, you may encounter discussions between government policymakers working on legislation, engineers developing tomorrow’s Internet standards, representatives from your favorite social network, or civil society activists who risk their lives at home for online freedoms. Everyone exchanges information and viewpoints, and builds human networks to help them address important issues.

Know where to focus

To get the most out of your first IGF experience, focus on one or two topics where you have expertise, or that concern your country or region. Focusing on a limited number of topics will prevent overload and help you organize your time.

Know how to get ahead of the game

Start by identifying relevant Internet governance initiatives on the IGF website. Then look for upcoming country or regional meetings and points of contact. If there is a meeting in your area before the global IGF, try to attend, whether in person or remotely. That way you will be walking into the room having already met some of your fellow attendees.

Know when to catch your breath

Like any conference, so much of the great parts of IGF happen in informal conversations outside of scheduled sessions. Make sure you give yourself space in your schedule to catch your breath and interact with other participants.

Know how to keep the momentum

Think of the IGF as a process rather than a single event. You keep the process going by following up with people you’ve met, and staying involved through national and regional Internet governance initiatives, as well as through other Internet-related organizations. Share your experience through social media, write blog posts or an article, or connect with local Internet organizations.

Know what to do next

If you’re ready for more, you can plan a workshop for a local or regional IGF, or propose a session at the next global IGF with some of your new colleagues. Or organize a remote participation hub in your city for a local or regional IGF, inviting people to join discussions through video / audio feed. Whatever you do, know that your work is helping to strengthen the openness and accessibility of the Internet.

Support the IGF

There are many ways you can be a part of an IGF.

Take Action Where You Live

Local IGFs focus on issues that face a city, town or country and help people to bring solutions forward to a global level.

Anyone who has a stake in the future of the Internet can go and be heard. It was founded and operates on the principles of being bottom-up, transparent, and inclusive.

Find out if an IGF is happening where you live.

Become an Internet Society Volunteer and Join a Chapter

The Internet Society is made up of members and Chapters around the world – each one working to make a difference in where they live. By becoming a member, you gain access to a network of people who can help you reach out to local policy and decision makers to and encourage them to develop solutions to Internet issues that matter to you.

Apply for the Youth Ambassadors Program

Starting from 2019, the Internet Society combined the IGF Ambassadors and Youth@IGF into a single program called Youth Ambassadors. Our Ambassadors are young citizens are inspired by the opportunities what the Internet can bring.

A group of 40-50 youth waving at camera

Previous Events

The first global IGF was held in 2006 in Athens, Greece. Since then, global IGFs have been held across the world, from Brazil to India, Egypt, Lithuania, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Poland, Japan.

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