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DC-SIDS: Introduction


While many in the global Internet Community, especially those interested in issues surrounding Internet Governance, are fully engaged with, and attuned to the developments surrounding WCIT, WTSA, ICANN (especially new gTLDs) and the challenges and opportunities brought about by Emerging Issues such as Cloud Computing, Social Media, and Mobile Technology, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a greater degree of polarization and marginalization in the area of Internet Policy and Strategy has been slowly occurring.

Found in the Caribbean, Pacific and AIMS (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea) regions, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which number fifty two (52) at last count, and which comprise approximately sixty million (60,000,000) inhabitants, are seeking a greater voice, with a higher level of volume in the international discourse - especially that relating to Information & Communication Technology and Critical Resource Management Policies.

According to various reports and documents published by the United Nations and other International Organisations, the SIDS share several common sustainable development challenges:

1. Small Population (as low as under 2,000 in one particular State)

2. Limited Resources

3. Remoteness

4. Susceptibility to Natural Disasters

5. Vulnerability to external economic shocks

6. Excessive dependence on international trade and extractive industries

Indeed, internal economies of many of SIDS are characterized by State monopolies, effective monopolies by MNCs or oligopolies which often lead to price distortions for key goods and services.

In the ICT Sector, especially the Telecommunications sub-sector, Voice and Data Operators are most likely to be monopolists or oligopolists, with attendant issues relating to non-competitive pricing, low levels of customer service, ageing infrastructure, a lack of universal accessibility with Digital Inclusion and Digital Divide scenarios often playing out to disadvantage of one or more sectors of the population (including, but not limited to rural, women, youth, poor, elderly and persons with disability).

Further, faced on a daily basis with severe environmental, energy and natural resource management challenges, the SIDS are hard-pressed to take full advantage of the potential in-territory benefits and opportunities made available through emerging technology such as Cloud Computing and "on-demand" type ICT services, given the tremendous amount of consumption of energy, capital and natural resources that on-demand facilities of this nature demand.

In this regard, and with a view to ensuring that these issues are properly ventilated amidst the debates amongst the OECD, G-20 and BRICS countries that relate to Internet and ICT Policy and Strategy, Telecommunications Standards and Tariffs, Universal Access and Sustainable Development Funding approaches, it is patently obvious that the number and volume of SIDS voices must be elevated in the design, planning, participation and collaboration activities with their larger colleagues in order to better align and contextualize policies, positions and strategies.

Although there are shared experiences and multiple synergies amongst the SIDS, it is not by any means an easy task to simply organize and facilitate this intention to "raise the volume". Logistically, it is near impossible to treat with the needs of 52 countries and 60 million voices spanning thousands of miles of ocean across the globe through a single or even a series of position papers, or a solitary Conference Session. The needs and requirements of the SIDS deserve more. A Forum through which the international community can hear their concerns and challenges; a forum through which the SIDS can sit together and collaborate to themselves define and offer their own possible solutions to their own problems. A Forum in which exchanges of opinions, views and possible solutions can be achieved on a level and equitable playing field.

It is therefore incumbent upon the Internet Governance Forum - and indeed the wider WSIS Process - to provide a dedicated space/Forum for the SIDS to dialogue, firstly amongst themselves, and then with the wider global community on a broad range of issues relating to, and affecting Internet Policy, Modernization of Critical Internet and Infrastructural Resources, the economics of Telecommunications Service Provision, Telecommunications Service Pricing and its relationship to Sustainable Development & Development Funding, Quality of Service and Quality of Customer Service practices - all of which take into full consideration the unique vulnerabilities and environmental sensitivities of these Small Island nations.

A dedicated and ongoing Internet Governance space for SIDS cuts across all of the world's major geographic regions and will provide a useful example of not only multi-stakeholderism, but also South-South multilateralism  and indeed, cooperation.

As Small Island Developing States face their greatest risks and challenges due to the global economic downturn, double-dip recession, and the Eurozone crisis, there is no better time than now, to forge and harden this relationship, this partnership ... and for the United Nations, the Internet Society, the International Telecommunications Union and the other I* organisations to recognize and support this quantum leap forward.

Since the 2012 IGF in Baku, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have fought to obtain a slot on the “formal IGF Agenda” discussing topics such as:

  • Workshop #81 (IGF 2012 - Baku, Azerbaijan) - "Internet Governance & Sustainable Development - the case of Small Island Developing States"
  • Workshop #33 (IGF 2013 - Bali, Indonesia) - “Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Roundtable: The Broadband (Access) Dilemma”
  • Workshop #68 (IGF 2014 - Istanbul, Turkey) - “SIDS Roundtable: The Information Society vs Basic Infrastructural Needs”
  • Workshop #21 (IGF 2015 - Joao Pessoa, Brazil) - “SIDS Roundtable: The ‘Free Internet’ - Bane or Boon?”
  • Workshop #3 (IGF 2016 - Guadalajara (Jalisco), Mexico) - “SIDS Roundtable: Death, Disaster & The Internet”
  • Workshop #4 (IGF 2017 - Geneva, Switzerland) - “SIDS Roundtable: Are we running out of resources and bandwidth?”

A review of the outcomes of some of these Roundtables and the SIDS activism at the 2014 NETmundial review is available here and here.

Additionally, we have noticed that these Roundtables have sparked discussions both at the IGF and outside the IGF on the challenges facing Small States and Small Island States in particular.

In 2014, the United Nations celebrated the International Year of Small Island Developing States with a series of activities culminating in the Samoa United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States in September 2014 at which issues relating to the Internet & ICT policy and governance within SIDS were tabled and discussed resulting in the Samoa Pathway and the SIDS Partnership Framework. The UN General Assembly has scheduled a review of the Samoa Pathway at UNHQ in 2019 and several regional preparatory meetings are underway in relation to the 2019 review.

The case for a Dynamic Coalition focusing on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Internet Economy is now more relevant than ever. We look forward to working through these issues in face-to-face session at IGF 2018 and beyond.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411