IGF 2020 WS #338 Keeping us together: Internet infrastructure in emergencies

Time
Friday, 13th November, 2020 (15:10 UTC) - Friday, 13th November, 2020 (16:40 UTC)
Room
Room 2
About this Session
This session will convene participants from different sectors, regions, and professional backgrounds to foster an overarching discussion on the risks, opportunities, gaps and possible solutions for all the issues the context of emergencies raises to the Internet and on how we use it in our daily lives. Special attention will be given to our strong dependency on it, especially in times of social restrictions that affect social interactions locally and globally.
Thematic Track

Organizer 1: Taís Niffinegger, Anatel
Organizer 2: Everton T Rodrigues, NIC.br
Organizer 3: Vinicius W. O. Santos, NIC.br / CGI.br
Organizer 4: Hartmut Richard Glaser, Brazilian Internet Steering Committee - CGI.br
Organizer 5: Demi Getschko, Brazilian Internet Steering Committee

Speaker 1: Taís Niffinegger, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Demi Getschko, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Pablo Rodriguez, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Sunil Abraham, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group

Additional Speakers

Moderator: Beatriz Barbosa, Civil Society, GRULAC [CONFIRMED]

Speaker 5: Alison Gillwald, Civil Society, Africa group [CONFIRMED]

Speaker 6: Americo Muchanga, Government, Africa group [CONFIRMED]

Speaker 7: Hajime Onga, Government, Asia-Pacific Group [CONFIRMED]

Moderator

Beatriz Barbosa, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Juliano Cappi, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Rapporteur

Vinicius W. O. Santos, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Format

Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

The session aims to engage participants and the audience around two main policy questions: (i) how do we keep up with appropriate development of tools, technologies, and infrastructure that allow society to be resilient under severe circumstances? and (ii) what are the roles, gaps, bottlenecks, risks and opportunities in leveraging information infrastructures, the Internet and the digital ecosystem as a whole when tackling emergency situations?

Bearing in mind the Internet’s central role in the above described scenario, this session will convene participants from different sectors, regions, and professional backgrounds to foster an overarching discussion on the risks, opportunities, gaps and possible solutions for all the issues this context of emergencies raises to the Internet and on how we use it in our daily lives. Special attention will be given to our strong dependency on it, especially in times of social restrictions that affect social interactions locally and globally. We seek to cover a set of policy issues in this session, such as (1) the importance of having a solid national (and global) infrastructure to safeguard the resilience of the Internet; (2) the central role of telecommunications and ICTs in the digital ecosystems in the context of emergencies; and (3) the development and deployment of technology to support the preparations for, mitigation during, and also post-disaster recovering of cities, regions and whole countries.

SDGs

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Description:

Situations of disasters and emergencies happen under a variety of circumstances, ranging from natural causes to those related to human agency. Unconstrained economic development, along with climate changes, have been feeding a series of incidents with multiple negative outcomes, that constrain populations to restrict and adapt diverse aspects of modern life and have several impacts to the economy, environment, health, and so on. Hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme droughts, a set of epidemics, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic that has been raising concerns from individuals, companies and countries worldwide since the beginning of 2020 are some examples. On the other hand, society and governments have been increasingly reflecting upon essential infrastructure and services which could keep a great set of the standards of our daily lives even under those extreme conditions, such as water and electricity supplies, and, more recently, telecommunications and the Internet. The Internet is on the spot in all of the aforementioned situations, as it has become the most powerful and important tool for communication for organizations and individuals all over the world, not to speak about its unique characteristics of providing the means for remote and collaborative work. In times of restrictions to urban mobility and human interactions, access to the Internet is one of the most important rights to be safeguarded for individuals, as means to mitigate the effects of social and economic restrictions. Bearing in mind the Internet’s central role in the above described scenario, this session will convene participants from different sectors, regions, and professional backgrounds to foster an overarching discussion on the risks, opportunities, gaps and possible solutions for all the issues this context of emergencies raises to the Internet and on how we use it in our daily lives. Special attention will be given to our strong dependency on it, especially in times of social restrictions that affect social interactions locally and globally. We seek to cover a set of policy issues in this session, such as (1) the importance of having a solid national (and global) infrastructure to safeguard the resilience of the Internet; (2) the central role of telecommunications and ICTs in the digital ecosystems in the context of emergencies; and (3) the development and deployment of technology to support the preparations for, mitigation during, and also post-disaster recovering of cities, regions and whole countries. The session aims to engage participants and the audience around two main policy questions: (i) how do we keep up with appropriate development of tools, technologies, and infrastructure that allow society to be resilient under severe circumstances? and (ii) what are the roles, gaps, bottlenecks, risks and opportunities in leveraging information infrastructures, the Internet and the digital ecosystem as a whole when tackling emergency situations? In terms of methodology, this session will have a mixed round-table / town hall approach based on two distinct stages: in the first round, invited participants will be able to introduce their own stakeholder views on the proposed discussion (8 min each); and in the second round participants and the audience will talk about the issues listed above in a more horizontal and organic fashion, as we will put up an iterative dynamic in which people will be able to join the conversation at any moment, whatever be the subject they want to address (up to 2 min each intervention). The on-site moderator will be responsible for assigning the speaking slots, always seeking to keep an adequate balance in terms of diversity of stakeholders, regions and gender. A detailed report will be produced, and we expect to extract recommendations and guidelines from the discussions, which could be communicated to several other permanent intersessional tracks, inside and outside the scope of the global IGF. Online participants will have the same treatment as those that are on-site, being able to speak and comment and/or ask questions, as well as having their inputs read when that is case. For the online participation we will rely on the platforms provided by the IGF organization as well as on social media through the use of hashtags. For this activity, we envisage at least three main expected outcomes: (i) outreach to multiple and distinct stakeholders in order to spread the word and include more people on the debate; (ii) build new networks for discussion and collaboration on the topic; and (iii) produce a detailed report, that could lead to a potential impact on policy making through the diffusion of the workshop results. Intended agenda: Introduction - 10 min Interventions by speakers - 40 min Overarching discussion (participants and audience) - 30 min Wrap up - 10 min

Expected Outcomes

For this activity, we envisage at least three main expected outcomes: (i) outreach to multiple and distinct stakeholders in order to spread the word and include more people on the debate; (ii) build new networks for discussion and collaboration on the topic; and (iii) produce a detailed report, that could lead to a potential impact on policy making through the diffusion of the workshop results.

The session will have a mixed roundtable / town hall approach based on two distinct segments: in the first segment, the moderator will briefly introduce the proposed debate (10 min) and invited participants will be able to introduce their own stakeholder views on the proposed discussion (8 min each); and in the second segment participants and the audience will talk about the proposed issues in a more horizontal and organic fashion, as we will put up an iterative dynamic in which people will be able to join the conversation at any moment, regardless of the specific subject they want to address (up to 2 min each intervention). The moderator will wrap up the session, pointing out potential overarching policy consensus extracted from the debate. The discussion will be facilitated by the on-site moderator who will guide the debate in each of the proposed segments for the workshop. The online moderator will make sure the remote participants are well represented. The on-site moderator will be the one responsible to assign the speaking slots, always seeking to keep an adequate balance in terms of diversity of stakeholders, regions and gender. Online participants will have the same treatment as those that are on-site, being able to speak and comment and/or ask questions, as well as having their inputs read when that is the case. Online participation and interaction will rely on the WebEx platform (or other platform provided by the IGF organization). Those joining the session using WebEx (either invited members or the general audience) will be granted the floor in the segments of the workshop. The person in charge of the moderation will strive to entertain on-site and remote participation indiscriminately. Prospective agenda: Introduction - 10 min Interventions by speakers - 40 min Overarching discussion (participants and audience) - 30 min Wrap up - 10 min

Relevance to Internet Governance: The world has been facing a series of challenges in the past years with the increased amount of situations in which people and countries are pushed to their limits in terms of coping with natural disasters, man-made accidents, disease outbreaks, and so on. And there is no evidence that the coming years will ease it up. Situations like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the 2017 hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, or even 2015 and 2019 dam disasters in Mariana and Brumadinho, in Brazil, are some of the examples. More recently, the world has been facing the coronavirus outbreak, in which the COVID-19 disease is quickly spreading throughout the world and putting pressure on governments and people. Major consequences of the mentioned situations are related to inevitable constraints in society interactions, urban organization, households, and so on. So as to overcome these challenges, nations are grounding efforts in innovating and developing technology, procedures and processes that could improve resilience of modern life standards, especially with regards to more sustainable modes of living, in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. There is a huge belief that this change in practices could minimize emergency situations, be them nature- or human-led. The issue of infrastructure is at the heart of this context, be it related to water, electricity, construction, and food, among others. On top of the aforementioned elements, there is one core system: the information infrastructures, especially telecommunications, ICTs and the Internet. The Internet is probably the most important tool for communication and collaboration nowadays, as it plays the role of a crosscutting element for virtually every social process in modern human life. As the Geneva Declaration (2003) addresses, attention should be given for countries and regions with special needs as well as to conditions that pose severe threats to development, such as natural disasters. The Tunis Agenda (2005) also highlights the intrinsic relationship between disaster reduction, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and that disasters seriously undermine investment in a very short time and remain a major impediment to sustainable development and poverty eradication. The NETmundial declaration (2014) established security, stability and resilience as a core principle for the Internet. According to the document, it “should be a key objective of all stakeholders in Internet governance”. The declaration also states the need for an enabling environment for sustainable innovation and creativity, reinforcing that “enterprise and investment in infrastructure are essential components of an enabling environment”. Within this scenario, the Internet ends up being responsible for a significant part in structuring responses and mitigating negative effects of disasters, like through offering new ways for people to organize, communicate, exchange, consume and so on, but also in fostering networks of collaboration to innovate and put on new solutions for human problems. Despite the current demands posed to the Internet ecosystem by the COVID-19 global pandemic, there is also an increasing dependence on the Internet infrastructure as a tool to circumvent problems and provide solutions on emergency situations. Those solutions range from work alternatives, such as home-office and platform-based opportunities, the relevance of information and communication technologies for keeping citizens updated about a given emergency (how to help, how to find help, what to do and what not to do, etc.), up to the several IoT-based solutions which have been developed and depend on connectivity. In an interconnected world, the benefits of the Internet demand a solid and resilient infrastructure, regardless of whether they require more or less bandwidth, and of where and how they operate. After hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, one of the main concerns of the local and global communities was the communication infrastructure, as a series of telco’s transmission towers, cables, as well as power grids were all down, leading to connectivity issues not only locally, but also regionally, as several submarine cables were damaged. In this sense, whole areas remained totally disconnected for long periods of time. NIC.pr, the country code manager for the top-level domain .pr, was able to keep its services running, applying several workarounds to make it possible, including a special initiative helping customers to protect their registered domain names. This case was unprecedented, and ended up launching a whole new track within the domain name ecosystem, with ICANN meetings starting to hold specific workshops focused on post-disaster recovering measures for top-level domain operators, as well as assessing extraordinary measures to adapt Registrar rules so as to protect registrants in emergency situations. More recently, ICANN Org has been also applying research efforts to prepare the domain name ecosystem to face the shortage of resources and deal with risks and dangers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries have also been discussing and applying measures to mitigate the fallouts inherent to the period of severe conditions posed by the coronavirus outbreak. For example, some countries put in place agreements along with very big application providers so as to ease the traffic pressure on national networks, seeking to leverage the resilience of their networks in a time of great demand for traffic. In Brazil, for example, government authorities like the national telecommunications regulator (ANATEL) have been convening several different stakeholders in task forces to design and apply measures to face the new challenges posed to the national infrastructure. Additionally, Brazilian connectivity infrastructure also relies on a broad ecosystem of Internet exchange points (IX.br) spread all over the country, designed to handle heavy broadband traffic. A shared set of principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes established prior to an emergency is key to achieve timely cooperation in adverse situations. Lessons learned on emergency situations and negotiated on a multistakeholder perspective are useful both for immediate solutions as well as for the Internet long-term evolution, following the best current practices in Internet governance worldwide.

Relevance to Theme: This session could very well be placed in more than one of the proposed tracks for the IGF 2020, as it refers to crosscutting discussions that could impact several distinct contexts. Nevertheless, we have chosen to submit this proposal to the environment thematic track, as it relates to ongoing and of global scope discussions in which society and humans in general are at the crossroads. Bearing in mind the actual context of pandemics and worldwide emergencies, human agency and the interactions with the environment may have caused a set of imbalances for life on Earth, and people are exhorted to find new ways of organizing themselves, especially in urban environments, seeking more sustainability and resilience to face the challenges posed by development of humankind. In this sense, one of the aspects we chose to address is that of information infrastructures and modern society organization for life, work, social interactions, and so on. We believe that our proposal directly relates to one of the listed Sustainable Development Goals for this thematic track, that is SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, which is also directly dependent on SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. Therefore, the proposed session adds to the thematic narrative as it reinforces aspects already raised, such as the sustainability of cities, at the same time that raises additional topics, such as information infrastructures and innovation to support sustainability of cities and human interactions, especially in emergency contexts.

Online Participation

 

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Social media platforms (twitter and facebook) will also be employed by the online moderator who will be in charge of browsing them using some hashtags (to be defined). Comments and questions may pop up in the hashtags and the online moderator will work in collaboration with the on site moderator to make sure all of them are covered. If, by any reason, the number of online interventions surpass the usual, the online moderator will sum up similar questions / interventions in blocks of issues so as the participants may have the opportunity to cover all of them.

 

Agenda

Intended agenda:

Introduction - 10 min
Interventions by speakers - 40 min
Overarching discussion (participants and audience) - 30 min
Wrap up - 10 min

1. Key Policy Questions and related issues
How do we keep up with appropriate development of tools, technologies, and infrastructure that allow society to be resilient under severe circumstances?
What are the roles, gaps, bottlenecks, risks and opportunities in leveraging information infrastructures, the Internet and the digital ecosystem as a whole when tackling emergency situations?
2. Summary of Issues Discussed

The session convened several stakeholders from four different continents of the world. Participants addressed a set of issues pertaining to the global Internet infrastructure, ICTs and the resilience of the global digital ecosystem. The speakers also brought to the session examples and use-cases from their local contexts, reporting on concrete situations of disasters and how their countries and stakeholders leveraged ICTs and the Internet to mitigate negative effects, such as with Japan after the 2011 Tsunami and Puerto Rico after the 2017 Hurricane Maria.

Throughout interventions, participants agreed on the importance of having resilient infrastructure for times of disaster. In these contexts, the Internet and communication services play a vital role in mitigating the effects of crises. With that, the need to make constant investments in resistant infrastructures capable of serving the population in case of disasters was mentioned, as well as the permanent search for innovation. Not only does the Internet suffer in situations like those, but also other fundamental infrastructure, such as electricity, water, roads, bridges and so on.

The various actors addressed a variety of crisis contexts, showing that the faced problems and the possible solutions vary widely according to the region and economical, social and geographical contexts. Therefore, both local and global aspects were addressed and possible measures and strategies were discussed to deal with infrastructure issues in times of crisis. There was broad consensus on the need for concrete nationwide plans for post-disaster recover of countries and regions, as well as the enhanced cooperation between actors in leveraging technologies for this purpose.

Additionally, as it would be expected, the COVID-19 pandemic was also an important topic discussed in the session, with stakeholders reporting on their local realities, gaps, main problems and measures undertaken to mitigate negative effects for the population.

3. Key Takeaways

Some key takeaways when dealing with infrastructure problems in disasters and emergencies in general were:

- The importance of taking into account the different contexts and possibilities of disasters;
- Importance of building infrastructure taking into account the possibility of disasters;
- How different actors must come together in responding to problems arising from times of crisis and disasters;
- Importance of preparing for disasters and having action plans for them;
- Possibility of learning from experiences in other countries;
- The need for quick responses to serve the affected population;
- Specifically in the case of the Internet, the importance of having a decentralized network infrastructure;
- Along with plans, prepare backup tools in different areas, such as communications, power supply chains, health services and so on.
- Need for reflecting upon possible measures to guarantee meaningful and effective Internet access for people

6. Final Speakers

- Alison Gillwald, Executive Director of Research ICT Africa, South Africa 
- Americo Muchanga, President of ARECOM, the Mozambican Communications Regulatory Authority 
- Hajime Onga, Telecommunications Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan 
- Pablo Rodriguez, Executive Vice-President at NIC.PR, Puerto Rico 
- Taís Niffinegger, Head of International Affairs at the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) 
- Demi Getschko, CEO of NIC.br, Brazil

7. Reflection to Gender Issues

There was no specific mention to gender issues. There was indeed mention to inequalities in a broader sense, and also how COVID-19 deepened preexisting inequalities.

8. Session Outputs

No explicit outputs were referred, except for the improving of networks between participants and other interested stakeholders, and possible future collaboration.

9. Group Photo
Workshop 338 photo with all the speakers
10. Voluntary Commitment

There was one specific voluntary commitment that was more or less agreed among speakers that was the need for investments (human and fincancial resources) on resilient infrastructure and nationwide plans to tackle disasters and all kinds of emergency situations.