Internet Governance is one of the most contentious issues since WSIS Geneva, when the topic of Internet governance was discussed. Since no general agreement existed even on the definition of what comprised Internet governance, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan initiated a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) to clarify the issues and report before WSIS 2005 in Tunis. Since then, there have been many debates and controversies about who should 'control' the internet, based on very different opinions for how and indeed whether the Internet should facilitate free communication of ideas and information. One of the main debates concerns the authority and participation of certain actors, such as national governments, corporate entities and civil society, to play a role in the Internet's governance.
Indeed, even the definition of Internet governance has been contested by differing groups across political and ideological lines. A Working group established after a WSIS 1 in Geneva proposed the following definition of Internet governance as part of its June 2005 report:
- 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.
Last week on 11/15, (the eve of the WSIS Tunis 2005 Tunis!), APC issued a statement on it's stand. APC, the Association for Progressive Communications, is an international network of civil society organizations — whose goal is to empower and support groups and individuals working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), including the internet.APC has participated extensively in the internet governance process at WSIS.
Out of this participation and in collaboration with other partners, including members of the WSIS civil society internet governance caucus, APC has a set of recommendations with regard to internet governance ahead (one day ahead!) of the final WSIS Summit in Tunis. APC proposed specific actions in each of the following five areas:
- The establishment of an Internet Governance Forum;
- The transformation of ICANN into a global body with full authority over DNS management, and an appropriate form of accountability to its stakeholders in government, private sector and civil society;
- The initiation of a multi-stakeholder convention on internet governance and universal human rights that will codify the basic rights applicable to the internet, which will be legally binding in international law with particular emphasis on clauses in the universal declaration of human rights specifically relevant to the internet, such as rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and privacy.
- Ensuring internet access is universal and affordable. APC argued: "The internet is a global public space that should be open and accessible to all on a non-discriminatory basis. The internet, therefore, must be seen as a global public infrastructure. In this regard we recognize the internet to be a global public good related to the concept of the common heritage of humanity and access to it is in the public interest, and must be provided as a global public commitment to equality."
- Measures to promote capacity building in "developing" countries with regard to increasing "developing" country participation in global public policy forums on internet governance.
It will be interesting to see how the issue of internet governance will be resolved, at WSIS 2 and beyond.