This past weekend, Cogite had the pleasure of hosting the 2016 iGmena Summit, an initiative by the Hague-based Hivos International. Founded in 2012, iGmena “brings voices together from the MENA region on Internet governance and policies” with a specific focus on knowledge-sharing and capacity-building activities.

For this summit, iGmena gathered over 75 diverse internet governance stakeholders from across the MENA region, including representatives from civil society, government, human and digital rights communities, media, and industry professionals. These attendees included iGmena partners, as well as stakeholder organizations such as 7iber, Access Now, ALIXSYS, the Alexandria Media Forum, Article 19, ASL19, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), ATA, DiploFoundation, Front Line Defenders, Global Voices, Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GC4HR), Index on Censorship, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM), Maharat Foundation, Nawaat, Psiphon, the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI), and Ushahidi.

This unprecedented gathering is very much a first for Tunisia and the region. As iGmena Program Director Hanane Boujemi described the summit, “We have often brought segments of our community together at various Internet and technology-related fora in the MENA region, but this was the first time we brought everyone together. The resulting exchange of ideas and potential collaboration gives us a lot of hope for the future. It was definitely a valuable and enriching experience, and I hope we continue to grow and thrive in the time going forward.”

While the summit addressed internet governance across the region, several panels and discussions focused on the accomplishments that Tunisia has made in the realm of internet freedoms and freedom of expression. For example, Tunisia featured prominently in a discussion about relations between government and civil society, with one participant noting that Tunisian civil society played a central role in removing internet restrictions in the country.

Another participant echoed this sentiment, tweeting, “Tunisian friends should be proud of their achievements in promotion & protection of free speech!” Other participants reflected on how a summit on internet governance, particularly with extensive discussions on censorship and freedom of expression, would have been impossible to implement in many other countries in the region, let alone in Tunisia just a few years ago.

Cogite was proud to provide the venue for such an exciting exchange of ideas and people. It was a pleasure meeting such committed, inspiring people and learning more about the constantly evolving opportunities and challenges of internet governance.

For more information about the summit and the iGmena initiative, check out the iGmena website, Facebook, or Twitter page. The summit was covered using the twitter handle #iGmena.