My APrIGF 2018 Fellowship Experience

Like many firsts in life – the first time to watch TV, first time to use a computer, first time to fly on a plane, etc, I actually remember the first time I used the Internet.

It was the year 2000.

A funny year that, with all the doom and gloom predicted prior to that year about the Y2K (or Millenium) Bug causing mayhem in developed countries that relied on computers.  Nothing happened.  Clocks ticked over into 2000 and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.

In Fiji we had our own problems that year.  The Fijian Government was taken hostage in a civilian coup d’état which was eventually resolved only for there to be a mutiny within the army later that year.  We still feel the effects of those actions to this day.

Back to the Internet.

It was November 2000 and I was in Nadi town not doing anything particularly exciting when I walked by a “cybercafe” and made the decision to go in.  The only thing I knew about the Internet then was Yahoo and this is what their website looked like.

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Yahoo Homepage – 2000 (Source: https://mashable.com/2016/07/26/yahoo-history/)

APrIGF 2018 Fellowship

Fast forward 18 years and I’ve made a career out of building things on the Internet.

In August I was fortunate to attend the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) held at the Iririki Island Resort in Port Vila, Vanuatu as a fellow.  Information on the event itself can be found here – http://aprigf.vu/

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Iririki Island Resort (www.iririki.com)

2018 APrIGF Fellowship Mini-Course

Prior to the fellowship we were required to do a 5 week online course offered by the Internet Society (ISOC) on Internet Governance (IG).  Going into this fellowship I had no idea what IG meant or how the Internet as we know it today came about and how it continues to operate today.

The course offered some great insights and background reading material on both the technical and governance sides of the Internet, especially on the multi-stakeholder approach to governance.

Key highlights and takeaways

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Delegates at APrIGF 2018

Overall, a great experience and networking opportunity with numerous highlights and takeaways:

  1. Meeting Dr. Vint Cerf, a founding father of the Internet, and hearing his keynote address.
  2. Meeting fellow Pacific Islanders from the Cook Islands, Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.  All of whom are members of the Pacific Islands Chapter of ISOC (PICISOC) and many were current board members.  I was impressed that many of them regularly attend these types of meetings and are on top of the issues relevant to the Pacific.
  3. Getting to meet many people from the Asia Pacific region, many of whom had little-to-no idea about the Pacific let alone visited any part of it.
  4. Participating in a panel discussion at the Pacific Internet Governance Forum (PacIGF) which was held concurrently with APrIGF.  While Pacific features prominently in the Asia Pacific name its often the case at these types of forums that the Pacific issues take a backseat to the Asian issues, so it was good that the PacIGF was held to focus on our unique challenges.  Each of the panelists spoke about Internet developments and challenges in their respective countries and related to their areas of work.  I spoke on blockchain (distributed ledger) technology and the growing interest in the Pacific on utilising it to solve many different types of problems.
  5. Sitting in on a session on Digital Trade and Development that talked about Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and how it is increasingly concerning that technical components are being included in these agreements under the guise of “E-commerce” that would, among other things, restrict the inspection of algorithms and source code in software for e.g. to check whether they are safe for the public to use.  The takeaway from this was that country trade negotiators should have access to technical folks that can advise them appropriately on the technology elements to the trade agreements.
  6. Sitting in on the E-Governance session it was great to hear about the developments in this space within the Pacific and also in Asia.  This was interesting to me as both an entrepreneur and a citizen because of the opportunity for improving service delivery by Government agencies through the use of technology.  A presentation on Singapore’s e-governance model was quite impressive in terms of how much they’ve leveraged technology achieved but a little scary in terms of how it could lead to diminishing privacy for citizens down the line.  This hits a little close to home as Fiji is looking to Singapore as a model of how digitisation and e-governance can be done with active collaboration between both Governments.
  7. Vanuatu, the local host, did an excellent job to stage this event and to promote their country as both a holiday and conferencing destination.
  8. Check out the blog posts from other Fellows to APrIGF 2018 – http://aprigf.vu/archive/blog-posts/

Would I attend it again? 

Probably not but I would highly recommend it to Pacific Islanders who have an interest in IG.  I’m glad that there are folks in the Pacific that are regulars at these types of meetings and are representing our Pacific interests.


Featured image and delegates photo courtesy of the APRIGF Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/aprigf.asia/