The Transformation of the Internet and Internet Governance

The introduction and globalization of computers and the Internet around the world has been a transforming movement that has shaped human existence and interaction. In the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s computers were still emerging as slow, awkward, and expensive machines. Eventually technology evolved and computers became more advanced, cheaper, and more accessible to people. Communities, governments, and corporations began to see great potential in the advancements of computer technology. In the late 1970’s, an equation was developed to access the rate of development of computers each year. According to the equation, computers were developing at a rate of 28% each year. Microcomputers emerged in the 1980’s, a significant technological advancement that would expand its possibilities. The decade led to a great deal of experimentation as people were unsure what kind of effect computers would have on the world. The world was interested in the technology’s scalability and extensiveness; if computers would foster the same advantages in different parts of the world. Productivity applications, those that can be used by people in developing and developed countries, ranked among the most successful ICTs. Rapid globalization played a large role in the spread and success of computers and the Internet. However, as the Internet boomed and expanded, communities began to seek a form of governance over the powerful technology.

Unfortunately today, in the midst of seeking governance of and on the Internet, it has transformed from an amazing new technology to a weapon that threatens the existence of civilization as we know it. The last two decades have seen several conferences and summits concerning the important role of the Internet in international cooperation and people’s daily lives. One of these summits, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), established a financial task force and the working group on Internet governance. The working group worked together to establish this definition of Internet governance: 

“Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society in their respective roles of shared norms, rules, decision making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the internet.”

While this definition shows progress and cooperation, and the working group did define and identify the issues surrounding Internet governance, it did not identify the respective roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. This represents the key problem for the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a multi-stakeholder forum announced by the General Assembly in 2006 and convened annually since. Government participation in the forum has also decreased substantially in recent years. Tech groups and civil society now represent the majority of participants. Therefore, The IGF must foster government attendance in order to encourage international cooperation on the issue of Internet Governance.