Internet Governance and Sustainable Development

This week, I discuss what Internet Governance is and what the Multistakeholder IG model looks like. I also discuss how IG relates to sustainable development and how they go hand-in-hand. To further elaborate on multistakeholder IG, I discuss the NETmundial Initiative, and the grand challenges that arise from multistakeholder IG. 

In 2005, the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society defined Internet governance as “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 programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet [1].

According to the Internet Society, the Internet cannot be regulated in a top-down manner, but its governance should be based on processes that are inclusive and driven by consensus, which is why the multistakeholder Internet governance is the most effective; it allows everyone who has a stake in the future of the Internet have a voice and be included in decision-making processes, including governments, businesses, and everyday Internet users. The multistakeholder governance framework is informed by three components: a) opened-ended unleashed innovation (infrastructure), b) decentralized governance institutions (governance) and, c) open and inclusive processes (human) [2].

The Internet Society has developed four attributes of successful multistakeholder decision-making to guide the next phase of its evolution: inclusiveness and transparency; collective responsibility; effective decision-making and implementation; collaboration through distributed and interoperable governance [2]. IG plays a role in inclusive sustainable development because universal, equal opportunity, affordable, and high quality Internet access is an effective tool for enabling human development and social inclusion. Multistakeholder IG could also lead to other conversations about different issues since it brings people together to work on technology-related issues.

An example of multistakeholder IG is the NETmundial Conference, held in São Paulo, Brazil, in April 2014, where it brought together 1,480 stakeholders from 97 countries. With contributions from all of the stakeholders, NETmundial developed a set of Internet Governance Process Principles to guide IG. The principles stated that multistakeholder processes that are inclusive, collaborative, participative, and transparent are paramount [2].

As we’ve discussed this week and during our first week of class, multistakeholder global governance is a grand challenge. The issue is how to reach out to as many stakeholders as possible to include them in the conversation. There are financial, social, regional, and physical barriers to including various stakeholders in Internet governance. For example, for persons with disabilities, we have to consider if the information necessary is readily available for them and if IG forums are architecturally and technologically accessible for them.