TANSTAAFL at the IGF… or only for some?

The TANSTAAFL principle (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) has made its way to the IGF, with participants now being asked to pay 36 LT (a little over USD$13) for each meal, and 250 LT (over USD$92) for the shuttle service.

This will come as a surprise to many who attended previous IGF meetings at which these costs were covered by the host country. Lithuania can’t be criticised for not doing the same – since it is a considerable expense – but the Secretariat can and should be taken to task for not notifying participants beforehand. Many will have requested a float from their affiliated organisation to cover their estimated expenses, and will now be left considerably short.

But things get even more interesting. Were all asked to pay these imposts, or have some “privileged” participants been exempted? I happen to know – because I’m one of the privileged ones – that some participants were provided with a free travel card for travel on the shuttles, whilst others (including the person who checked in before me) missed out and were required to pay.

This is a concern because the IGF has made much of the fact that participants at the IGF all have the same status. It may be fair that speakers should be given some additional support; in fact, at most conferences this is standard practice. But since the IGF has made so much of the equality of all participants, if some are now to be treated as more equal than others, this needs to be transparently disclosed.