The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has always been an opportunity that I use to learn, engage and share my perspectives on different topics and issues being discussed at the various panels and sessions I am able to attend. I also use it as a networking and partnership building opportunity, where I reconnect with past, current and potential future funders and partners in support of my work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And that’s what I did this year in Kyoto, Japan. My organisation, Rudi International, was thus well represented by me.
As you might know, at every IGF, APC hosts a booth that is an opportunity for it to showcase its work and, more importantly, the work of network members like us. APC is a well-known and well-respected organisation in the ecosystem and you only know that when you sit at its booth for a couple of minutes and hear what people say about it, about us.
This year again, I signed up to be the person who would welcome visitors for nearly two hours and speak about the work the organisation does and what we do as a network. Trust me, this has always been quite an experience. If you have never done it, make sure you do next time!
A few things I wanted to share with you:
There was a group of three young students from Hong Kong with whom I spent nearly 10 minutes. We spoke essentially about the internet and the need to keep it on and accessible so that everyone can enjoy it. I asked them whether they had ever experienced any internet disruption, and the only thing they could think of was “during natural disasters when telecom infrastructures are affected.” I then had the opportunity to share about other forms of internet shutdowns, such as what African countries experience, including the DRC where I come from. We had quite a conversation and I encouraged them to consider joining sessions about this issue so they could further inform themselves.
Language barriers: We were in Japan and a handful of Japanese people who visited our booth could not speak English, which made conversation impossible since I don’t speak Japanese. We only used mimicry where I encouraged them to take the materials at the booth for further reading in order to understand the work of the APC network. This was fun, though, because we had to find a way to make conversation without saying a single word.
I am sure those who have done this before will understand why it is important to attract and entice people to come and visit the booth. We had good materials that needed to go out, such as stickers for the new campaign The IGF We Want that I wanted people to put on as a way of supporting it. Sometimes people feel shy to stop by, but when you greet them with a “Hello”, “Welcome” or “Come visit us”, they feel like coming and there is an opportunity to speak to them.
Finally, I enjoyed when I was welcoming people and trying to explain to them who we are and then hear them say, “We know APC. We love what you do. We are your fans!” How cool was that! This happened more than once, and many of these were from the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region – kudos to our members from LAC!
Now that IGF 2023 in Japan is over and as we look forward to the next edition, I would like to encourage our members who will be there to consider signing up to spend time at the APC booth. This is a good opportunity and a way to engage with visitors and to speak about our collective work. I encourage APC network members to also consider bringing their own materials to display at the booth to show the amazing work we all are doing in support of social justice in all its possible facets.
I am thankful to APC’s Member Engagement and Travel Fund (METF) for its contribution and the staff’s logistics support regarding my visa –these all made it possible for me to attend this edition of the Internet Governance Forum.