By Naveed Ul Haq
While living in today’s world of technological modernization where humans and devices are in continuous interaction with each other, Internet evolved as a unique innovation that now has became a necessity. This evolution didn’t happen overnight, it has an historic link with ARPANET (a defense based project initiated in 1963 to exchange data packets over computer network). Then after 25 years of research and development of standards, Internet came into use of common man during early 90’s.
The Internet is an amazing mean of communication spanning the globe. It is a multi flavor stage so open that anyone, anywhere can jump into it. Searching wholesome of information to paying electricity bill, downloading a multimedia video to playing an online cricket game, advertising your product to checking the status of your shipment, applying for a job to developing social networking, providing electronic government services to enabling cheap VoIP for remote areas and so on; Internet has captured all age-groups and sectors of an economy. Recent phenomenon of information based society has exploded the significance of Internet which till today is the most convenient technology to disseminate information.
At the same time the Internet is also described as anarchic space for abandoned content, last front for the teenagers to access obscene websites, a growing threat to personal privacy, largest source of harmful computer viruses and open violation of copyrights.
In view of development and implication issues of the Internet varying from country to country, a devoted unified platform to converse on these is available is form of ‘Internet Governance Forum’. IGF is a multi-stakeholder forum formed in 2006 to stimulate policy dialogue on issues of Internet Governance.
The fourth annual Internet Governance Forum meeting (15-18 November 2009) was an explicit four-day experience of concentrated debates on various aspects of governing the Internet.
The Internet Society (ISOC) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. It is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world. The Internet Society has more than 80 organizational and more than 28,000 individual members in over 80 chapters around the world. Details regarding joining ISOC are available at http://www.isoc.org/members/
The proceedings of the recent meeting were accumulated with main sessions and number of workshops on Internet Governance subjects. On a broad scale, Internet Governance debate was structured into following areas.
Critical Internet Resources.
Discussion in relation to the status, management and concerns related with Internet Protocol (IP) and Internet Domain Name space. Main session gathered views on IPv6 transition, new gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains) and IDNs (International Domain Names), Internationalization of critical Internet resources, recent AoC (Affirmation of Commitments) signed between ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and U.S government.
Security, Openness and Privacy
Discussion in relation to cyber security, inherited open nature of Internet and privacy of end-user. These three areas are inter-related requiring a careful balance approach while breeding the Internet access and usage. Main session agenda points included respect for privacy and identity theft, Web 2.0 and social networking, cloud computing and illegal web content, regulatory models and open architecture of the Internet, net neutrality and enabling frameworks for freedom.
Access and Diversity
Discussion in relation to enhancing the Internet availability and catering the global Internet requirements of every language, culture and community. Main session looked into issues faced by disable persons, Internet multilingualism and improving the Internet access.
Apart from above mentioned IG debates, there were three other main sessions. The first one was to discuss ‘Internet Governance in the light of WSIS principles’. The idea behind the debate was to assess the so far implementation of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) principles in the governance of Internet. The second was ‘Taking Stock’ session with a purpose to invite views of concerned stakeholders on the continuation and future of the Internet Governance Forum. The reason behind this dialogue is that as per Tunis agenda 2005, IGF was given a five years span of life.
Participating stakeholders were of the view that IGF should be continued and carry more insight deliberation on emerging issues of governance. The last session addressed an emerging issue of social networking and its impact. The growing popularity of social networking websites could easily be witnessed with almost 70% of global Internet users interacting through social networking services like Orkut, Facebook and Twitter. It has become the fourth most popular activity over the Internet surpassing personal e-mails.
The Fourth Internet Governance Forum was attended by more than 1800 participants from 112 countries; reflecting governments, international organizations, telecommunication companies, internet content providers, software organizations, the private sector, civil society and the media. Detail Transcripts of main sessions and workshops can be found and read at http://www.intgovforum.org/cms
Sharing my experience, IGF was an exclusive experience of extensive and open dialogue on vast array of Internet issues. Listening to the words of experts and panelists during main sessions and workshops provided a distinctive learning opportunity. Catching someone in the corridor and sharing views on Internet governance subjects helped to grasp International best practices. Cordial hospitality of Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Egypt) together with professional participation environment provided by ISOC puts a cheery on the top.
The issues of Internet governance require a collaborative policy approach between all Internet communities. Developing countries receive a key opportunity in this regard by observing the proceedings of such International forums and dig out best practices / guidelines. These best practices can be applied to improve the penetration and usage of Internet in their respective localities.
Another area of attention is lack of Internet Governance awareness among public, private and civil stakeholders of our country. We require necessary methodology for Internet Governance capacity building among all relevant entities. Academia could play a vital part by collaborating with International institutes like Diplo Foundation and European Summer School on Internet Governance (Euro-SSIG) to introduce necessary learning courses on Internet Governance.
As I said earlier, Internet is becoming a required necessity of life and if we are to enable an information-based society, required dialogue and consideration with respect to ‘Internet Governance’ is not an exception.
Author attended the forum under Internet Society (ISOC) ambassadorship program awarded to him as a member of ISOC Pakistan Chapter. For any question about ISOC and IGF, author could be reached at naveedpta [at] hotmail.com