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IGF 2011 in Nairobi has been my first IGF meeting and when I left home to come to Nairobi, I had few expectations. Not that I did not expect to gain anything from the meeting but rather I did not know what to expect at all. I am relatively new to the field of Internet Governance, having become heavily involved in the past year or so through the DiploFoundation Internet Governance Capacity Building Program.
The two workshops I chose to attend were mainly focused on content and accessibility and as I write this, I have the following observations so far:
Workshop 101: Are we Meeting the Challenges of Bringing Content and Access to the World?
The moderator of this workshop was quite engaging and added value to the discussion through his summarizing of previous speakers points and posed some thought provoking questions. He also added a touch of humour to the proceedings and kept me interested all through the sessions.
The content of the discussions from the different panelists was relevant, interesting and in some cases shocking(not in a bad way but just surprising). A case in point being the figures presented by Betty Mwangi-Thuo of Safaricom when comparing MPesa and the traditional banking sector in Kenya.
Some speakers decided to try a different tack and rather than giving us figures, gave us insights about their future plans. A prime example was Snehar Shah of Telkom Kenya(Orange) who told us about what they are planning to do with their Orange Money product in different countries. In the process he broached a very interesting topic but appeared reluctant to respond to the queries that resulted. My interest was piqued when he attributed the slow progress of the Orange Money in Egypt to unfavourable policy leading me to wonder from which viewpoint the policy would be considered unfavourable. Is it from the point of view of the consumer who might not be aware of his rights ? Is it from the point of view of the company which is only trying to make money? Or is it from the point of view of the regulator who is only trying to make sure the consumer is protected?
With those questions and more still unanswered, I moved on to the next workshop...
Workshop 96: Economic Aspects of Local Content Creation and Local Internet Infrastructure
This workshop was, to me, not remarkable and only stood out for the quote made by Vint Cerf when he said that we do not measure to get numbers, we measure to gain insight. I think this quote can and should be applied to every field and not just to Internet Governance. As I was walking out of the workshop, I asked a colleague what she thought about the workshop and she told me that she had only picked out two words and even then these were a repetition of the main theme in the workshop she had attended first: Content and Infrastructure.
On the whole, my overall experience so far has been a positive one and I think I will leave with more questions than answers. One might wonder what makes this great, but I strongly believe that it is when you know that you do not know(and are forced to seek answers) that you will learn and so I am happy to have more questions because this means that I will have paths to explore as I seek more knowledge.
As an aside, I came for the meeting in a T-shirt and jeans and as soon as I entered the premises, I felt like a nun at a hookers convention! Everyone was in a suit and it took me till lunch time to see someone else in jeans..and he turned out to be a member of tech support!
Anyway, here is to day 2... I look forward to tomorrow!
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