/ IGF Austria

The Internet Governance Forum Austria (IGF Austria) is an open discussion forum for representatives of public bodies, business and industry, civil society and academia where experts can exchange views on all aspects of the administrative management and development of the internet, and digitisation. Like the United Nations’ global IGF and its European counterpart EuroDIG, IGF Austria is committed to the principles of openness, dialogue and transparency.

Internet Governance Forum Austria

Like the United Nations’ global IGF and its European counterpart EuroDIG, IGF Austria is committed to the principles of openness, dialogue and transparency. The focus and content of IGF Austria’s work is aligned to that of the global IGF and reflects the specific interests of the Austrian internet community.

IGF Austria pursues the following objectives:

  • Promoting dialogue between the different Austrian stakeholders on the latest issues surrounding the internet and digitisation

  • Enhancing the involvement and visibility of Austrian stakeholders and interests on the international stage

  • Representing the different approaches to internet policy and, where necessary, helping to define Austria’s position in international forums

  • Increasing awareness among politicians and the general public of the importance of various internet-related topics

International internet governance – and the lessons we can learn for Austria

In Austria there are just a handful of experts who have been following internet governance for a significant length of time and take part in international meetings on the subject. We asked three of them why they think these meetings are important and what influence their content has on discussions in Austria. 

Dr. Matthias Traimer

Dr. Matthias Traimer

Head of the Media Law and Information Society Department at the Legal and Constitutional Service of the Federal Chancellor’s Office. A member of the EU’s Digital Agenda High Level Group, and part of the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on the Media and New Services, he has been actively involved in IGF, EuroDIG and WISIS for many years.

The Magna Carta of internet-related topics is obvious today; all the schedules for international meetings look very similar. And it’s the demands from civil society that appear to be the most  omogenous, despite their apparent diversity: calls for greater efforts to protect human rights and appeals to the internet industry – and to the giants of the industry in particular – to take more responsibility for their actions and demonstrate a greater commitment to transparency. Confrontations within the multi-stakeholder model soon reveal which nations and companies are making serious efforts and which are merely paying lip service. For solutions to be practicable at a global level, we need to look at the issues through the prism of local, domestic factors. IGF Austria aims to keep driving forward the debate surrounding the internet in Austria in the interests of all sections of society. This will ensure that home-grown expertise is able to shape international discourse. And by no means always in the form of coordinated positions – but instead based on the principle of transparency in politics, business and civil society in our country.

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bendek

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bendek

Head of the Institute for International Law and International Relations at the University of Graz. He is a guest speaker at the European Summer School on Internet Governance and took part in the most recent IGF in Istanbul.

The topic of internet governance and human rights was an important focus of the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul and will also be a key issue for the Austrian Forum. This topic shapes numerous debates both directly and indirectly. The revelations made by whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as data protection and freedom of opinion online featured prominently in the Istanbul discussions. Specifically, it’s about “digital defenders of human rights” – bloggers and users of social networks – who are coming under increasing international pressure, and the work of organisations such as the Austrian-backed Freedom Online Coalition which are helping to fight their corner. Internet users have to be made more aware of their rights with regard to the state and internet companies. Initiatives such as the European Council’s Guide to Human Rights for Internet Users are a useful starting point.

Dr. Christian Singer

Dr. Christian Singer

from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology represents Austria on the Government Advisory Committee at ICANN and at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

At the moment, international discourse on internet governance is taking place on several parallel levels. Classic topics include calls for a privatised ICANN, which basically means freeing the organisation from the USA’s current influence. But the multi-stakeholder process and its active engagement with civil society is also emerging as a key priority. This has given rise to a raft of completely new subjects – with increased prominence being given to the social and legal implications of internet use – and a move away from traditional focuses such as infrastructure. But dialogue with civil society can only work if it is conducted at all levels. Different regional initiatives have already gone down this road and the results are now being felt at an international level. The European dialogue on Internet governance led the way, opening the door for various European states to enter into dialogue with stakeholders across the board. It is a purely logical step for Austria to start a similar dialogue.