Monday, January 31, 2011

Internet Governance in Public Issues: An Approach (Dr. Kusum Lata Bhardwaj)

The extension of the Internet into virtually every branch of social and economic activity has led to growing public policy interest and sometimes concern as to how the Internet is managed and whether there is adequate accountability-not least in terms of respect of applicable laws. This development contrasts with the technological and academic origins of the Internet and with the tradition of self-regulation and noninterference on the part of governments. The European Union has been part of this process during recent years. In March 1998, the European Union (EU) responded to the publication of a draft proposal by the U.S. Department of Commerce for the technical management of the Internet domain system. In that document, the EU called for the future of the Internet to be agreed upon in an international framework, and it pointed to several policy areas of concern to European public authorities. Those policy areas included the need to implement an international approach to issues of jurisdiction, trademarks, competition policy, dispute resolution, and the scalability and portability of the Domain Name System (DNS). That public statement was one of the first regarding public policy interests in the organization and management of the Internet.

Introduction:-Internet Governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. The internet is governed by a private-sector non-profit association. This organisation, called ICANN (for ‘Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers') acts under US Law and under a memorandum of understanding with the US government, which expires on 30 September 2006. ICANN's monopoly has lately been challenged by a number of governments worldwide, including the UK Presidency of the EU and the European Commission.

Internet Governance Forum(IGF):
IGF was established in WSIS(World Summit for Information Society) meeting in 2005 to facilitate the dialog on Internet policy issues .Its mandate is to establish a forum to discuss the main public policy issues related to Internet Governance in order to foster the Internet ’s sustainability, robustness, security, and stability and development.

Main points of mandate include:
  • Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet;
  • Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body;
  • Interface with appropriate inter-governmental organizations and other institutions on matters under their purview;
  • Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific and technical communities;
  • Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world;
  • Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries;
  • Identify emerging issues bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations;
  • Contribute to capacity building for Internet governance in developing countries, drawing fully on local sources of knowledge and expertise;
  • Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet governance processes;
  • Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical Internet resources;
  • Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users;
  • Publish its proceedings.

Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG):
Within the framework, the UN - mandated by the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action - established in 2004 a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). The group was made up of 40 members from different countries and sectors (governments, private sector, academics and organized civil society) with the main purpose of investigating and making proposals for specific actions regarding Internet governance. Among the central tasks of this working group were: to build a "working definition" of Internet governance, identify public policy issues relevant to the topic and develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, intergovernmental and international organizations, as well as the private sector and civil society, from both developing and developed countries. 

One of the main critiques made of the models proposed is that these are excessively focused on the current governance forms and, therefore, on the ICANN system and the coordination of names and numbers, leaving aside crucial aspects such as inter-country data bandwidth cost settlements, the access to information, the freedom of expression, privacy and cyber security. Likewise, it is worth pointing out that all models relegate civil society organizations, the private sector and the academic community to an observer or advisory passive role, in spite of the fact that the WGIG acknowledges the adoption of multilateral, transparent and democratic coordination mechanisms as one of the basic Principles that should be guiding Internet governance . In this sense, the WGIG has expressed the idea that a new type of organization - such as a multi stakeholder global forum - is essential to deal with all those issues related to Internet governance in a more transparent and democratic way. Civil society organizations have been constantly monitoring debates carried out within the WSIS and the WGIG and have admitted the importance of the report as input for the ensuing debates, while at the same time they have considered the wide working definition of Internet governance established by the Group as a positive fact.

Public Issues in Internet Governance in Different Countries:
These are as follows:

European Union (EU):
The European Union has been part of Internet governance process during recent years. Christopher Wilkinson is at the forefront of trying to find the necessary balance-in Europe and globally-between the potentially contradictory requirements for the liberal self-regulatory regime of Internet governance , including the necessary flexibility and speed of response on one hand and the growing pressures for greater accountability, transparency, and conformity, at least with the principles of relevant local and international laws. In March 1998, the European Union (EU) responded to the publication of a draft proposal by the U.S. Department of Commerce for the technical management of the Internet domain system. In that document, the EU called for the future of the Internet to be agreed upon in an international framework, and it pointed to several policy areas of concern to European public authorities. Those policy areas included the need to implement an international approach to issues of jurisdiction, trademarks, competition policy, dispute resolution, and the scalability and portability of the Domain Name System (DNS). That public statement was one of the first regarding public policy interests in the organization and management of the internet.

The ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), meeting for the first time in Singapore in early 1999, also adopted a preamble to its Operating Principles that reflected the consensus of the governments present as to the scope of the public policy issues that should be within the remit of the GAC.

Uganda and Internet Governance:
On the issue of the scope of Internet governance ,one position associated with developed countries, argued for a narrow definition of governance ‘OF’ the Internet as technical coordination. The second position, associated with developing countries, argued for a broad definition of governance ‘ON’ the Internet, related to what the Internet carries such as issues spam, network security and pricing and interconnection. On the issue of responsibility for Internet governance, there were also two positions. One, held by developing countries, argued that Internet governance is related to national sovereignty and responsibility for should fall under an intergovernmental body such as the UN and the ITU. The second position, held by developed countries, argued that the current system of private sector leadership should be maintained and because the system works, there is no need to change it. The Working Group on Internet governance is making an assessment of a range of public policy issues affecting the Internet.

The inventory of these public policy issues and priorities are:
Equitable Distribution of Resources
Administration of Internet names and IP addresses
Administration of root server system
Telecommunications infrastructure, broadband access, convergence with NGN
Dispute resolution
Affordable & universal access
Internet leased line costs
Peering and interconnection
Competition policy, liberalization, privatization, regulations
National policies & regulations
Access for All
Telecommunications infrastructure, broadband access, convergence with NGN
Affordable & universal access
Social dimensions and inclusion
Internet leased line costs
Peering and interconnection
Competition policy, liberalization, privatization, regulations
Consumer, user protection, pri
Spectrum policy
Education, human capacity building
Multilingualization of Internet naming systems, content
National infrastructure development
Development aspects
Cyber security, cyber crime
Stable and Secure Functioning of the Internet
Telecommunications infrastructure, broadband access
Administration of Internet names and IP addresses
Administration of root server system
Security of network and information system
Electronic authentication
Critical infrastructure protection
Multilingualism and Content
Multilingualization of Internet naming systems
Cultural and linguistic diversity
Unlawful content & access protection
National policies, regulations
Intellectual property rights. Other issues for Consideration
Applicable jurisdiction, cross border coordination
Freedom of information and media
Open-source and free software

Internet Governance in Africa:
In Africa the ICT Policy Monitor provided a space to support civil society involvement in global spaces such as the WSIS through running online policy discussions on ICT policy priorities for Africa, internet governance and financing ICTD, as well as contributing to capacity-building workshops at the Regional Africa Prep COM, Accra, Ghana. The Africa ICT Policy Monitor continued its content and information selection and gathering. Following the completion of the revamp of the website in 2004, in 2005 the Africa project team focused on adding content to the website, and from January collected 480 news items (an average of 10 items per week) and 200 resources items (an average of 5 items per week). The content is sourced by monitoring mailing lists, news sources, and through content partnerships, and, as expected, the website usage continued to increase, with an average of 6,300 pages visited each day. The Africa ICT Policy Monitor launched the Francophone Africa ICT Policy Monitor site at WSIS in Tunis .Through our Communications and Information Policy Programme (CIPP) and the APC Women's Networking Support Programme (WNSP) APC is implementing global and regional ICT policy projects that raise awareness, build capacity, tools and information resources to strengthen civil society participation in decision-making. APC has been taking advantage of global processes such as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to galvanise civil society awareness of ICT policy issues. APC is active in regional policy.

Regional policy spaces enable stakeholders to engage in identifying issues of common interest beyond the specific interests of individual states. In Africa, for example, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is promoting an open access approach to the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) to ensure that the costs of access to the cable’s bandwidth are kept as low as possible in Africa. Through the CATIA programme,

APC, as the lead implementer of the CATIA programme’s component 1c on African-led advocacy for ICT policy reform, continued supporting five national advocacy processes in Africa. Our CATIA work started in March 2004, and is carried out through supporting existing initiatives and developing the capacity of informed advocacy groups and individuals from the private sector, civil society, and the media.

Internet Governance in Latin America and Asia:
The LAC Monitor ran five ICT policy awareness-raising and training workshops in three provinces of Ecuador within the framework of the (developmentinfo.ecuador) network. The workshops provided the participants—from civil society organisations and academia—with a space for getting to grips with the impacts of ICT policy decisions made nationally—crucial when considering that Ecuador has some of the highest internet connection costs in the world. Participants worked on defining strategies and collective proposals, which included the creation of multi-stakeholder mechanisms to fully participate in policy decisions around ICTs at the national and local levels. In a workshop on ICTs for the development of indigenous people, held in Quito, the LAC Monitor was invited to facilitate the ICT policy-related sessions and look at the cultural diversity aspects of ICT policy. The LAC Monitor was also invited to introduce ICT policy issues to radio techies from Latin American community radios.

Internet Governance in India:
Information technology has been found to be very useful in reinvigorating the government administrative systems by enhancing their capacity and efficiency. The potential and scope for application of IT in governing processes and transactions are enormous. E-government can transform traditional administrative systems through employment of information and communication technologies. A governance system that is committed to working with civil society, and by extension, private industry in a transparent and accountable way to reduce poverty, redress imbalances in access to resources, foster security and uphold social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights is the ultimate objective of e-governance theory. In practice, much depends on the collaboration patterns that the governments seek to establish. E-governance practices in India emerged and evolved mainly from native intuition, but under prescription for lesser and transparent government by international financial institutions, mainly the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. However, the range of success of e-governance initiatives has not been uniform. The bottom-up demand for delivery of electronic services was bleak initially, but the change in public perception was for the better with the governments roping in private industry and service-oriented organizations gradually.

The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model as is construed normally in a world that is fast witnessing globalisation of all businesses and administrative trends, especially in the realm of e-governance, involves features such lesser government investment in electronic delivery of public services, collaboration in conceptualising, designing and implementing the e-governance projects besides increased participation of stakeholders -- both private and public -- to saturate the levels and the reach of such projects. India is no exception to the general rule dictating PPP mode in e-governance. The unprecedented success of the PPP modules in e-governance in India can be rightly established with two path-breaking e-governance models - e-Seva in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Bhoomi in Karnataka. These projects not only caused a jump in revenue collections of the two state governments, but also timely payment by the citizens. Time and costs for availing public services have come down drastically bringing in a positive change in peoples' perception of e-governance theory and practice. This holds equally true for both the rural and urban populace. The result of all these radical changes in public administration systems is the enhanced satisfaction level of the citizenry on delivery of public services and simplification of governmental procedures. The above mentioned e-government projects can serve as models for all the developing societies.

A 12-Point Minimum Agenda for promotion of e-Governance in the functioning of the Ministries/Departments is being implemented by the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances. An analysis made by this Department reveals that most of the Ministries/Departments have developed their own websites and the Payroll Accounting System has also been computerised in most of the Ministries/Departments. About 66% of the reporting Ministries/Departments have provided PCs and have LAN set up. In respect of other items, many of the Ministries/Departments have initiated action. As regards electronic work flows like e-mail, on-line notice board, use of grievance redress software, availability of forms in website, submission of forms on-line and on-line delivery of services, about one third of the Ministries/Departments have made significant achievement in this regard and the rest of the Ministries/Departments have initiated action. As part of the recommendations of the Task Force on Information Technology, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions has been entrusted with the task of setting up of a National Institute of Smart Government (NISG) It would develop high impact e-governance applications in delivery of citizen services for the central and State Governments.

Other Public Issues in Internet Governance:
Other public issues are as follows:

APC Makes Recommendations for AN Internet Governance Forum (IGF):

Association for Progressive Communications (APC) presents an initial assessment of the event and makes suggestions for moving towards the third forum in New Delhi in a year’s time. The Rio IGF, like the first IGF in Athens, succeeded as a space for inclusive policy dialogue.

Open Standards, Access to Knowledge Discussed At IGF (IP-Watch):
Intellectual property-related issues were a topic avoided by governments during the 2003-2005 World Summit on the Information Society, which gave way to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). But at the second IGF in Rio de Janeiro last week there were several IP-related workshops. Organizers of the dynamic coalitions on open standards, access to knowledge and the newly formed coalition.

Amnesty International renews its call on governments and companies to make human rights central to internet governance at IGF:
Amnesty International said that restrictions on freedom of expression online are increasing globally. Amnesty International believes that numerous allegations of corporate involvement in suppression of human rights necessitate both companies and governments taking their responsibilities more seriously.

Remarks of Magaly Pazzelo of IGF Dynamic Coalition on Gender and Internet Governance:
The organizations and individuals who convened this dynamic coalition here to the IGF have contributed to the discussions of the last few days by bringing the dimension of women's rights and gender perspectives included in the key debates around Internet Governance issues, such as access, content regulation, privacy, freedom of expression, among others.

IP Justice at Internet Governance Forum:
IP Justice is proud to be involved with a number of different substantive discussions in the 2007 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. The IGF is a United Nations conference bringing together various stakeholders such as government, civil society, and business to discuss issues related to Internet governance.

Digital Forum on Internet Rights Meeting in Rome:
The Italian Government, in the framework of the Internet Governance Forum process, and in cooperation with the UN and the IGF Secretariat, organized a “Dialogue Forum on Internet Rights”, to be held in Rome on 27 September 2007. The Government of Italy invites all stakeholders - Governments, private sector, civil society, academic and technical communities, and international organizations.

The future of the Internet is being shaped by organizations that develop technical standards, set policies, and manage the Internet address system. Regime should promote basic values and principles including the free flow of ideas and knowledge. Particular attention should be paid to technological and policy aspects of the promotion of basic values. For example, while technology should facilitate the free flow of ideas and knowledge, these principles should be clearly stated and promoted on the policy level. The level of stakeholders’ responsibility and contribution to the process should reflect their use and abuse – if any - of the Internet.

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Dr. Kusum Lata Bhardwaj
Assistant Professor (Humanities & Social Sciences)
Institute of Engineering&Technology
MIA, Alwar (Raj.)

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