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Review of WSIS Inputs on Internet Governance

07/02/2003, Emmanuel Njenga:

Review On WISIS Inputs on Internet Governance


The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) has included in its deliberations the issue of Internet governance. Various stakeholders have voiced their concerns around Internet governance issues during the recently concluded call for inputs to the WSIS draft declaration and action plan. We take a look at some of those inputs, which focus on the role of different stakeholders in the management of public resources such as the country top level domains (ccTLDs) and some reflections on the overall governance of the internet at global level:

Governments Inputs:

Australia:

The Australia Government supports the principle that the Internet governance must be multilateral, democratic and transparent, taking into account the needs of the public and private sectors as well as those of the civil society, and respecting multilingualism.

It suggests that the “coordination responsibility at the global level for root servers, domain names and Internet Protocol (IP) address assignment should rest with a suitable international organisation which represents and is accountable to all stakeholders, and which has clear mechanisms for governmental input on issues of public policy. While the policy authority for country code top level domain names (ccTLDs) should be the sovereign right of countries, there should be appropriate co-ordination in an international forum on common ccTLD issues so as to ensure the stability of the domain name system .”

This Australian statement implies that the current Internet coordinator, ICANN, has some shortcomings as a suitable international organization that is representative and accountable to all stakeholders. The statement also implies that ICANN does not have clear mechanisms for governmental inputs on issues of public policy.


Brazil:

The Brazilian inputs begin by stating that “the Internet has evolved into a global public good and its governance should constitute a core issue of the information society agenda. Brazil further suggests that developing countries should have full access to and take part in all decision-making bodies and processes concerning the structure and functioning of the cyberspace .’’

This implies that the current structure of Internet governance does not fully include developing countries and should be addressed.

With regards to the action plan, Brazil suggests that “the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) should play a leading role in the regulation of the global information infrastructure, which includes the Internet’’. This statement would seem to suggest ITU taking over the regulatory? Role of ICANN.


New Zealand:

The New Zealand Government input is “concerned that article 33 of the action plan may be taken to imply that a new governance body should be established replacing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which is currently undertaking this responsibility, or that such work should be incorporated into an existing UN body such as the ITU.’’

New Zealand hence suggests wording that would call on “countries to support co-ordination of standardisation and development work being undertaken in this area by the ITU and other intergovernmental organisations and to support the work of the Government Advisory Committee of ICANN.”

This statement seems to back the current roles of ICANN and the ITU and other intergovernmental organizations.


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Accredited NGOs and Civil Society Entities Inputs:

A statement by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) suggests that the wording related to what? should be altered to reflect “While the Internet was designed to require minimal oversight, there are important aspects of its operation that do require decision-making by a central body. It is essential that any such body have a limited mandate so that it does not become a general purpose Internet governance organization, and that any such body is fully accountable to the public .”

The Consumers International contribution also makes comments along the same lines: “The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit organization incorporated in the State of California. It has broad control over resources and functions that are essential for the operation of the Internet. ICANN's mission should be limited so that it does not have more control than necessary over this increasingly important public resource. ICANN should be accountable to the public for its management of a public good .”

Africa Civil Society input specifically stipulated the following to be included as part of the action plan “Africa needs a Root server and strong governmental and Internet service providers’ support for the implementation of the Africa Regional Internet Registry (AFRINIC) (as a non-profit organization) like the other existing regional registries commonly referred as RIRs (Regional Internet Registries) ”. (Root servers are located in North America, Europe and Asia and also there is not yet an established Africa regional Internet Registry (AFRINIC) as there is in North America, Asia, Europe and also a recently established registry in Latin America ).

Finally the Internet Society is “concerned that the WSIS statements are implying that there is a need to create a new entity that will take over the management of Internet names and numbers”. They continue to say that this would lead to a significant disruption of what? and that such a change is not easy to implement. In a nutshell they really seem to be saying that the current system is democratic, all-inclusive and a well self-regulated mechanism cannot be improved significantly from what is there now .

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