Internet Governance and Sustainable Development

The Internet plays an incredibly important role in modern sustainable development, as it facilitates global communication and increases access to information. As we discussed with the “digital divide,” one of the challenges of the Internet in sustainable development is the lack of equal access to Internet services around the world. Another challenge of the Internet was the lack of a set norms and regulations when it was first created, as the Internet is a shared resource that is not technically owned or governed by any particular person or place. “Internet governance” was designed to help shape ethical norms, rules, and regulations of the Internet as it continues to develop (UNESCO). Internet governance advocates for a free and open Internet that can be inclusively accessed and a place that respects privacy, cultural diversity, and linguistic diversity (UNESCO). Internet governance is a positive resource that works to ensure the Internet is a resource that provides a positive and inclusive experience for all.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held by the United Nations in 2003 and 2005 to address the complexities of modern digital communication (UNESCO). WSIS resulted in the development of the annual multistakeholder Internet Governance Forum¬† (UNESCO). The forum is a space for “International agencies, governments, Internet professionals, business and civil society organizations” to discuss the relationship between the Internet and different areas of public policy (UNESCO). The multistakeholder approach is effective because it is a toolbox of strong and adaptable practices that are used all over the world, and the approach is accepted as an international norm (Internet Society). The principles that the multistakeholder framework relies on include, “open-ended unleashed innovation (infrastructure), decentralized government institutions (governance), and open and inclusive processes (human)” (Internet Society). The multistakeholder approach emphasizes that inclusivity is directly connected to framework’s success, because inclusive decision-making allows for increased accountability and sustainability (Internet Society).

NETMundial, held in Brazil in 2014, was an important multistakeholder conference that gathered various international actors involved in Internet governance (NETMundial). The conference organized its participants into various committees, focusing on “the elaboration of principles of Internet governance and the proposal for a roadmap for future development of this ecosystem” (NETMundial). NetMundial was the first forum of its kind, with participants representing a diversity of 97 different countries (NETMundial). While NETMundial was the beginning of developing these policies in a global situation, we will need to create more forums like it as the Internet continues to be an increasingly important part of inclusive sustainable development initiatives.