The Internet in a very short space of time has become the fundamental foundation of today’s economy. Starting as a research project over three decades ago, it has transformed from an experimental research network into a public economic activity infrastructure that support our economies with over more than a billion people worldwide using it to manage their social and work lives.
In some parts of the developed world, the Internet fuels the economic infrastructure activities ranging from communications and media, music and entertainment, financial markets, funds transfers, payments management, health service delivery to energy and transport. Amidst such global developments, the question for Pakistan remains, are we making the most of what the Internet has to offer for our society and economy?
The Internet offers an infrastructure for communication through a combination of wired and wireless hosted networks and since the Internet itself is an innovation enabled by communications and computer sciences, it provides an amazing and infinite platform for innovation at its ends. Internet product developers and service providers can provide new communication technologies as well as new products and services for accessing unparalleled wealth of information the Internet hosts. At the same time, Internet consumers such as everyone else that use the Internet for communication and knowledge gathering can access improved information searching capabilities and knowledge products and services on an ongoing basis.
But, amidst all this beauty of technological advancement and improvement in human lives due to improved communications and information technology, access to the Internet also raises concerns notably in the areas of reliability, scalability, security and openness of access. As various activities and infrastructure in our lives are being hosted through the Internet, then a security breach or a breakdown can result in major economic damage and human crisis. If Internet users’ personal data and information is compromised online through the World Wide Web, Electronic Mail Services, File Transfer Protocols etc, it will be a breach of their privacy as well as affect other aspects of the users lives.
The amount of users connecting the Internet will not be reduced and will continue to increase multi-fold in the near future. As a result, the entities connecting to the Internet are not limited to human beings only as more objects of innovation and information infrastructures continue to connect, use and communicate using the Internet and its various hosted services. With this in mind and looking forward, policy frameworks governing the use of the Internet and its further development are also needed to be very adaptable to change, carefully crafted and co-ordinated across policy domains, borders and multiple stakeholder communities like the Government, the Private Sector and Civil Society. This means, the Internet Society and Internet Economy has to be governed in order to avoid social and economic losses, human disasters and infrastructural catastrophes.
The concept of Governance of the Internet or simply Internet Governance is relatively new and has only evolved in the past decade. There is no single definition to what Internet Governance is and Internet Stakeholders have various definitions of the term Internet Governance. At a very basic level, the policies and mechanisms for Internet Governance have been topics of heated debate between many different Internet stakeholders, some of whom have very different visions for how and indeed whether the Internet should facilitate free communication of ideas and information.
Concluding the first part of this discussion, the second part will first look at the broader issues and then narrow down the focus to Pakistani country level.