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Growing the Internet 3 November 2013

No Small Island Developing State is an Island

In the aftermath of IGF 2013, whether you participated remotely or in person or are currently rummaging through the workshop videos and transcripts, you are likely solidifying your takeaways. Will IGF be another talkshop or will it make a fundamental difference to your work, your community, your region? In the SIDS of Trinidad and Tobago, work continues, striving to make ICT interventions applicable, meaningful and a real difference to people’s lives. By its very definition a SIDS, a small island developing state is an island but the isolated nature that an island geography connotes was powerfully challenged by the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Roundtable at the IGF which brought together voices from all over the world to collaborate on shared experiences, challenges and insights.

Workshop # 33, SIDS Roundtable: The Broadband (Access) Dilemma was organised by ISOC Trinidad and Tobago Chapter with partnership and alliance with colleagues oceans away from the Pacific Islands ISOC Chapter (PICISOC).  It was a followup from another SIDS discussion at IGF 2012 that sought to bring SIDS issues to the main agenda of the IGF and foster collaboration among islands from regions strewn across the globe. In the early Bali morn, on the fringes of the agenda before any other workshop was carded to start, a few SIDS converged then the tide swelled as representation from interest groups from Islands and remote regions across sectors, Government, Private Sector, Academia, Civil Society across the world converged. This was in many ways, IGF at its best, an opportunity for shared interests across the globe to converge in shared interests that can challenge a singular view or an isolated perspective and widen the scope of possibility.

It was a very meaningful example for me on the power of getting people from different SIDS, different remote regions across the globe and uprising their voices to the main agenda. On a very personal level, my PhD project at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is a study situated in Trinidad and Tobago but it is part of an ARC Linkage study of the Pacific that to me gives real testament for the potential of this global collaboration among SIDS. Local specificities of context are real but the SIDS Roundtable at IGF gave voice to the many shared issues between islands territories such as the Cook Islands and Chuuk (Micronesia) and together with colleagues from Australia, New Zealand and beyond expanded this to the shared experiences with the remote rural.

This isn’t a blog so much about the Broadband Access Dilemma that the workshop broached. That is an important topic of course. See the webcast, get involved in the discussion and share solutions. This is a blog on a takeaway from IGF on the Dilemma of going away to corners of the world and working in little pockets when there is so much insight, so many experiences and best and worst practices that could make your work more successful, more meaningful. IGF succeeds in a measure if it can create linkages and strong ties that make possible concrete change to the work in different regions based on learnings from others who have or are facing similar issues. If someone in an island in Trinidad and Tobago can benefit from the experiences of or lend some assistance to someone in the Pacific then there is a real tangible takeaway from IGF. If there is a network built where people in across the globe can ask a question, start a discussion, work on a solution with someone from separated by something as small as an ocean then IGF makes a powerful success. If people can have their voices however small heard, if people leave with a conceptual shift that allows them to create a better reality in their own niche then the IG ecosystem is working.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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