Governance of the Internet– European Summer School in Meißen

Governance of the Internet– European Summer School in Meißen

Fellows work out comment on Policy Brief 5 of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, DENIC sponsored this year's EuroSSIG again

The European Summer School on Internet Governance (EuroSSIG) was founded already 17 years ago. Each summer, young adults (fellows) from all over the world come together at the St. Afra Monastery in the East German city of Meißen to learn and discuss about the various aspects of the management of the Internet with experts (faculty). Internet governance is the overarching topic. This year, Sabrina Heber from DENIC eG was one of those who attended the course from 16 to 21 June in the city of the famous German porcelain manufactory.

"To be honest, I was a bit nervous about the course", says she. That's not surprising, the SSIG is not a holiday camp. To ensure that the fellows come well prepared, they are provided with quite a bit of reading material prior to their stay, and they get a task. This year they were asked to reflect on one of the eight topics António Guterres addresses in his so-called Policy Brief 5, which is meant to provide guidance for the global digital future. But we will come back to this later. Sabrina definitely returned home full of enthusiasm, even though exhausted.

"Next to the extremely interesting program, I particularly enjoyed the intensive exchange, both among the fellows and with the members of the faculty. I came to know incredibly open-minded and friendly people from the world of Internet governance and from all corners of the globe. What I also found really amazing was the extraordinary readiness to help of the experts of the faculty, let alone the wealth of expertise they represented."

At every Summer School course, the fellows are provided with comprehensive basic knowledge. In addition to that, there are various so-called breakout sessions during which members of the faculty answer questions of the fellows in small groups. Sometimes this includes exercises. "Especially in these intensive sessions, you really learn a lot, about both the topic as such and intercultural aspects."

"What caused me the greatest headache prior to the course, however, was the so-called internship", reports Sabrina. "In the end, this was the part that brought the most fun. The internship shall give the fellows the opportunity to experience a multistakeholder process for themselves in a simulated environment, i.e. a process in which a large number of stakeholders participate in the decision-making process. As mentioned before, we had already received material to prepare for the internship a few weeks before the Summer School and had been asked to reflect on the UN Secretary-General's Policy Brief 5 on the Global Digital Compact. During an evening session on Tuesday in the Summer School week, the fellows formed groups dedicated to some of the eight topics raised in the Policy Brief. We then had time until Thursday evening to comment the goals and actions proposed in the Policy Brief and to utter concerns or make suggestions. That was not long. Therefore, all groups got together right away on Tuesday evening to discuss their topic on the grounds of the monastery in a relaxed atmosphere with a glass of wine or a beer.

Also during the next two days we used any free slot in the program to jointly work at our comment on the topic we had chosen, be it in the early morning at the breakfast table or later in the day during coffee breaks. I really liked the discussion in the small groups. Since we had been grouped according to our fields of interest, the work was really fun. And everyone was keen to achieve a good result despite the time pressure. On Thursday evening, it was time for the final spurt: Moderated by members of the faculty, we went through our results together for over four hours and tried to find a consensus supported by the majority. And we succeeded: Our comment may now even be submitted to the UN – just like last year's results! Of course, it still needs to be thoroughly edited, but it was our first attempt in this field after all. That evening we fell into bed very tired, but also very satisfied.

Now, back home again, when I think about my week at the Summer School on Internet Governance in Meißen, I can only recommend this experience. It is true, the days were very intensive, certainly tiring and sometimes more than challenging, but I learnt so much and could take along a lot – and isn't that the ultimate purpose of a summer school? Moreover, I am already looking forward to seeing some of the fellows again at one or the other conference in the future.

By the way, the main sponsor of the EuroSSIG is DENIC eG, which already was involved when this valuable institution was established. The SSIG is headed by Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Professor Emeritus of Internet Policy and Regulation at Aarhus University, who also writes regularly for this blog.

Sabrina Heber

Internet Governance / Public Policy Manager DENIC eG