Last month, Moldova hosted the second Internet Governance Forum (MIGF 2021), which took place in a hybrid format on October 19-20. The Forum, organized by the Association «Comunitatea Internet», became an international platform for an open dialogue between different stakeholder groups: civil society, technical and scientific community, private sector, government and public sector.
Parliamentarians, representatives of the government and key state institutions, international and non-governmental organizations, technology and consulting companies, experts in the field of digital business and digital development joined the discussions. More than 50 speakers and experts from Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Estonia, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Canada, USA and other countries participated in MIGF.
Iurie Țurcanu, Deputy Prime Minister for Digitalization, said at the Opening of the Forum that «we need a safe and secure Internet, we must make every effort to have a guaranteed and secure virtual space, where every user can use the Internet safely». «MIGF is a good opportunity to discuss this topic of great importance, especially now, in the context of the global pandemic crisis. I would like to note the importance of meeting in this format and the need to strengthen the efforts of different categories of actors, such as the public sector, civil society, the technical community, academia, the private sector, international organizations, to discuss problems related to access to the Internet, as well as security in the virtual environment. I would like to thank the participants and organizers for having the courage to organize such an event in such difficult times», the Deputy Prime Minister noted.
Iurie Țurcanu assured of the Moldovan Government’s openness for cooperation. «It is crucial for us to maintain this connection and, by combining efforts, perseverance and consistent investments, find a balance between sustainability and digital development. Leveraging the resources of multi-stakeholder partnerships can facilitate investments in digital infrastructure and build capacity for data privacy and security. These actions are essential for Moldova’s digital future,» concluded the Deputy Prime Minister.
Stelian Manic, Director General of the Invest Moldova Agency, recalled the importance of efficient Internet governance in the modern society. He said the Internet governance ecosystem implies that each country must bring technological innovations to the government, redefining processes, streamlining public services and engaging them for the benefit of citizens. At the same time, he pointed out that Internet governance is not just about effective, efficient and responsive management based on smart investments in information technology. It must also be about security and reliability, sustainability and trust.
«Whether the Internet will be transparent, secure and accessible to all depends on our ability to work together and guide these technologies in ways that maximize benefits and minimize unintended consequences and risks. All we need to do now is create a safe space that promotes the empowerment of Internet users. A safe space for learning, work, play, discovery and growth», stated the Head of Invest Moldova.
Representatives of international partner organizations addressed the Forum participants with welcoming remarks: Chengetai Masango, Head of the United Nations Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum, David Frautschy Heredia, Director for European Government and Regulatory Affairs at Internet Society (ISOC), Mikhail Anisimov, Head of Global Stakeholder Engagement for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Chris Buckridge, Head of External Relations for the RIPE NCC, Regional Internet Registry for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, Olga Kyryliuk, Technical Program Manager at ABA ROLI, Tattu Mambetalieva, Chair at Central Asian Internet Governance Forum (CAIGF).
Speakers welcomed multi-stakeholder discussions involving national and international stakeholders on how best to use digital data for the public good, how to shape and improve data governance mechanisms that recognize diversity, empower business and civil society, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. These goals include bridging the digital divide, promoting digital inclusion, achieving universal connectivity, and protecting human rights on the Internet.
Alexei Marciuc, Chairman of the Association «Comunitatea Internet» and MIGF coordinator, reminded that the Internet Governance Forum is held in Moldova for the second year in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted the importance of digital technologies and the urgent need to enhance the role of IGF as a platform for dialogue, playing a unique role in the architecture of digital cooperation. He said the pandemic highlighted the needs of digital development and the need for digital empowerment.
«Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic confirmed that Internet access protects health care, jobs and, without exaggeration, lives. At the same time, the pandemic exacerbates inequalities of all kinds, including the digital divide. Those without access to digital technologies are deprived of the opportunity to learn, communicate, trade, shop, work and participate in many areas of modern life. On the other hand, connectivity has increased vulnerability to harm and abuse of all kinds. In particular, we have encountered an increase in such phenomena as disinformation, hate speech, and discrimination in the digital space,» said Alexei Marciuc.
Olga Tumuruc, Director of the e-Government Agency, took part in the panel discussion «Digital Inclusion and Multilateral Cooperation in Managing the Digital Future,» she presented to the audience the work of the institution and its main tasks: modernization of public services, coordination of investments in information technologies, development and implementation of e-transformation solutions, creation of platforms and services to improve relations between the state, citizens and business. Olga Tumuruc also mentioned initiatives for digital inclusion of certain categories of population and ensuring access to public services for people with disabilities through innovative tools, applications and modern technologies.
The Internet Governance Forum in Moldova is held with the support of international partners, including the UN IGF Secretariat, ICANN, Internet Society, Ripe NCC, SecDev Foundation, SEEDIG and national partners — Invest Moldova Agency, Academy of Economic Studies, IT consulting and security companies, as well as a number of civil society organizations and state institutions.
At the core of this year’s MIGF agenda: digital inclusion, which is necessary for sustainable economic recovery, issues of trust, security and stability in the digital space, Internet freedom, e-learning, regulation of ICT sector in the period of digital transformation. A separate session addressed the issues of digital accessibility for people with disabilities and special needs. In addition, the Forum included special events organized jointly with Freedom House and The SecDev Foundation, Canada.
The panel session “Internet freedom in Central and Eastern Europe. Trends and challenges, lessons for Moldova” examined recent developments and trends impacting Internet freedom across Central and Eastern Europe, with a particular focus on case studies in Moldova, Ukraine, Estonia and Serbia. There were highlighted findings from Freedom House’s most recent Freedom on the Net (FOTN) report from 2021 as well as a new policy brief overviewing the environment for online regulation in Moldova.
This year’s FOTN report documents how in the high-stakes battle between governments and technology companies, the rights of internet users have become the main casualties. With a few positive exceptions, the push to regulate the tech industry, which stems in some cases from genuine problems like online harassment and manipulative market practices, is being exploited to subdue free expression and gain greater access to private data.
At the same time, Freedom House’s new policy brief examines trends in the regulation of the online environment in Moldova, considering the extent to which the country complies with international norms connected to freedom of expression, dissemination of information, and balanced monitoring of online content. It calls for the development and application of common principles, norms, and decision-making procedures governing the online environment that are based on a broad multi-stakeholder approach and consider economic, political, and socio-cultural dimensions.