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Internet Governance 14 September 2010

IGF2010

On the first morning of IGF2010, I participated the main session of Internet governance: Setting the scene, whichprovided background on the evolution and current state of Internet governance discussions in the IGF. For me it’s too important to find the answers of two foundational questions ‘What is Internet governance and where does it come from? When we considered the current literature and debates on Internet Governance is rich and complex in many respects. I’d like to mention that arriving at a definition of Internet governance has proven to be difficult as some working definitions already made. Also another essential question is what the components of Internet governance are. Each of six panelists, also the authors of the book Internet Governance: Creating Opportunities for All, presented one of the principal themes as critical Internet resources, openness, diversity, access, and security of the IGF meetings. IGF was the result of tense discussions in the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) first in Geneva and later Tunis and it now operates under the auspices of the United Nations. It is not a decision-making body but it creates a prolific space for exchanging ideas and deepening dialogue among various stakeholders in governments, civil society, the corporate sector and the internet technology community. Prior to Vilnius, four meetings of the IGF took place in Athens, Greece (2006), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2007), Hyderabad, India  (2008), and Sharm el Sheikh (2009). The discussed themes are helping us to broaden our approaches and understandings toward IGF meetings from Athens through Vilnius. The first panelist, Jeanette Hofmann, is an expert on Internet Governance and a researcher at the Social Science Research Center Berlin with a focus on the interface of politics and technology. Second panelist, Olga Cavalli, a ICT and Internet specialist, is a professor at Universidad de Buenos Aires. She presented her views on openness as the main characteristic of the Internet. Third panelist, Hong Xue, a Professor of Law and the Director of the Institute for the Internet Policy & Law at Beijing Normal University, focused on diversity issues. Anriette Esterhuysen, the Executive Director of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). APC is an international network of more than forty civil society organizations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). She is adept at bringing new perspectives to bear on access issues and constructively to look for solutions.

I believe that the internet is like the climate change in that it affects everyone and doesn’t obey geographical boundaries.  So we have to cooperate to figure out how to spread and use it.   It’s clear that there are any “problems” with the internet.  The problem now is how to make “Internet for everyone” something more than a marketing tagline. There are connectivity issues for developing nations. But that’s not part of “internet governance” — that category of problems is called “connectivity issues.” Those problems are exterior to the internet itself. Governance is about making rules for the internet. Within the access issues as new entities — municipalities, school districts, villages, homeowner associations, new kinds of network service providers, small companies, end users, citizens – are likely to be relatively powerless even if they do participate. Within the openness issues there isn’t any relationship between national regulations on freedom of expression and the border-free internet, whether there are already many regimes dealing with different aspects of the Internet, from ICANN to WIPO to the Cybercrime Convention. Within the security issues there isn’t any common definition of security threats, international security cooperation, including such issues as cybercrime, cyber-terrorism and cyber warfare. Also there isn’t any relationship between national implementation and international cooperation.

I see internet governance issues as an unconventional political process. Thus, there are a large number of stakeholders like NGOs, governmental bodies, international organizations, business corporations, and experts etc.,.

I start my new journey towards making the internet more useful for the Internet community. I believe that the Internet has evolved from research and academic tools into a global facility available to the public and, being a central element of the infrastructure of the information society, it turns out in a kind of sovereign issue. It is clear and undeniable that the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency and democracy should be the foundation of this new space for dialogue.

I’d like to remind again the following remarks of the creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee who launched World Wide Web Foundation via a Twitter message at the inaugural ceremony of the 4th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) over November 15-18 in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

“When we look at the Web, we don’t look at it anymore as connected computers. If you want to understand why somebody follows a link or makes a link, you’re looking at people. So we now look at the Web as humanity connected – by technology. We want it to empower people, we want it to do the very best for humanity”.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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