On 04-05 October, the Internet Society was honored to be a co-organiser of the first-ever Indian Internet Governance Conference (IIGC). Organized in the multistakeholder spirit of the Internet Governance Forum, the IIGC was an unequivocal success – stakeholders from across the local Internet community came together for a spirited discussion on a host of challenging Internet policy issues including hate speech, cybersecurity, the role of the International Telecommunication Regulations, rural broadband deployment, and the future of the press. Through it all, it was heartening to see the Indian government playing a key role in the discussions – at times offering the government perspective but also displaying a genuine desire to hear and learn from the community.
The Internet Society joined with FICCI and the Indian ICT Ministry to organize the IIGC in part because we believe that India has an important role to play in the international dialogue on Internet governance, particularly in major upcoming negotiations at the ITU. Unfortunately, recent international proposals by the governments of India, Brazil, and South Africa to create a new body within the United Nations to coordinate global Internet policy have caused some to question India’s support for the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. So we viewed ICT Minister Kapil Sibal’s speech to the IIGC in which he declared, "The
position of government of India is clear — we are on the side of freedom of expression” to be a clear step forward for India in the right direction. We are further encouraged by commitments by the Indian government during the IIGC to continue this model of open consultations on Internet policy.
Clearly, there are many complex and difficult Internet policy issues facing Indian policymakers. For example, India is grappling to find the appropriate balance between public safety, cybersecurity and freedom of expression online, particularly in the wake of the unfortunate incident that took place recently as a result of false warnings being sent via text message to a particular ethnic population, triggering panic. Connectivity costs also remain too high for many in rural India and there is a continuing challenge of finding ways to promote e-literacy among populations for whom literacy rates are still low. Finally, India’s approach the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunicaitons (WCIT) remains a work in progress.
It was also encouraging to see the diverse and passionate voices that engaged in the discussions at the IIGC across a variety of topics, as well, the position of Industry, who emphasised the need to keep Internet issues out of the ITRs, and the need for continued multistakeholder dialogue and consultations.
We at the Internet Society hope that the constructive discussions at the IIGC underscore the importance of an open, transparent and inclusive multi-stakeholder approach and is used by government to solve these, at times complicated, Internet policy issues. The Internet Society is committed to remaining engaged and supporting these types of local efforts to ensure that collaboration and support continue focused around these important topics.