Multistakeholder Internet Governance

The issue of Internet governance in today’s hyper globalized world is quiet complex due to the fact that as an entity, the Internet is not technically owned by anyone. This lack of concrete ownership complicates the organization of oversight and regulatory management. Starting as a military research project, the Internet has grown at incredible speeds and spread across the entire world. All corners of the world have been touched by the Internet and in fact, almost everything in one way or another now depends on the Internet, whether it be businesses, schools, governments, or individuals. With so many individuals and organizations dependent on the Internet and with only parts of the Internet being owned, the best approach to Internet governance is through a multistakeholder approach in which decision-making is accountable, sustainable, and effective (Internet Governance (IG) – reading). However, the multistakeholder approach cannot be seen as the single solution but rather as a toolbox in which a source that has been developed and maintained by many actors can by governed by an open, distributed and interconnected governance force (IG – reading). Due to the Internet being transnational in scope, the multistakeholder governance attributes such as inclusiveness and transparency, collective responsibility, and effective decision-making and implementation are crucial and it is why it is important to ensure the survival of a multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.

Since there is no global government in place, there are a couple of multistakeholder platforms that help maintain an open dialogue around the key issues in Internet governance. First off there is the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which brings people together and facilitates the discussion around public policy issues relating to the Internet. Although it does not create a concrete negotiated outcome, its importance lies in informing and inspiring those that do have policy-making power both in the private and public sector. Meetings for the IGF are held annually and all of their sessions are live streamed allowing as many people as are interested to join in. Another important global body is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Its main function is to coordinate the maintenance and procedures of databases related to the namespaces of the Internet. Ultimately, ICANN performs more of the technical maintenance work of the central Internet address pools by authorizing domain name sales and handling registrations. The main critique of ICANN is that it does not do enough for development, but that is not really its focus.

As most things, if not all things, Internet governance is far from perfect. However, as with other topics in development, there is the concern that the global North is too involved in the process and doing as it pleases without concern for the rest of the world. In the summer of 2013, after the Snowden revelations, ex Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff accused the U.S. of breaking international law. The outcome of this was the NETmundial meeting that focused on the elaboration of principles of Internet governance and the proposal for a roadmap for the future development of this ecosystem (NETmundial). Apart from being a very open and transparent process, NETmundial was important also for the fact that it was hosted and organized by the global South. Although the meeting was successful, the follow up NETmundial initiative was said to be hijacked by the north. Therefore, this concern will continue to be at the forefront. However, what is important is that we as a world community continue to participate in and respect the importance of the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.