Jan 2014 29

The Future of the Internet: Who Should Govern It and What is at Stake for You? A Multistakeholder Dialogue

Multipurpose Hall, India International Center (IIC), Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, 10.30 am - 1.30 pm followed by lunch

This event is jointly organised by the Cellular Operators Association of India, the Internet Democracy project, Media for Change, SFLC, the Centre for Internet Society and the Internet and Mobile Association of India. All are welcome to attend. To register, please click HERE. We look forward to your confirmation.

Who Should Attend? #

Everyone. It’s your internet.

Government, private sector, technical community, civil society, academia, media and youth are all invited.

What Is It All About? #

In India as elsewhere, the Internet has emerged as a key source of information and knowledge for people. It has played a crucial role in giving voice to people who hitherto remained largely unheard and has strengthened democratic processes by improving citizen participation and government accountability and transparency. It has also made important contributions to the economy, with the Internet now contributing 1.6% to the country’s GDP and Internet-enabled SMEs posting revenues and profits that are on average around 50% higher than their offline-only counterparts. India now has the world’s third largest Internet user contingent, and this is only set to grow.

Given the Internet’s rapid proliferation and its ability to drive equity and lead political, social and economic reforms, its governance, as a global medium, needs to be discussed widely by all stakeholders — especially by citizens, as they will be impacted most directly.

This is even more so as the Internet has become such a success-story in large part due to the values that lie at its core: openness, universality, interoperability, permission-less innovation and freedom of expression and access to knowledge. In the promotion and protecting of these core values, academia, the technical community, civil society and business — apart from governments — all have played a distinct role.

With this dialogue involving all stakeholders, we therefore seek to elicit broad input into this important policy question of how the Internet should be governed at the global level, the outcome of which is likely to determine the future of the Internet. 

Further Background #

Two recent events in particular spurred the need for such a debate.

In November 2013, the Indian government proposed that the UN General Assembly create a multilateral body for formulation of international internet-related public policies. The same body would also be responsible for the development of globally-applicable principles on public policy issues associated with the coordination and management of critical internet resources. Other stakeholders would not be an integral part of the proceedings, but would have a merely advisory role. Furthermore, in December 2013, news reports citing the minutes of a meeting of the Sub-Committee on International Cooperation on Cyber Security of the National Security Council Secretariat noted that the Indian government is also seeking a role in the management and control of the Internet’s root servers.

Such moves, the reports claimed, were motivated by India’s cybersecurity concerns and by a sense that the current systems did not allow for sufficient representation of India’s views and interests.

But these proposals represent a significant move away from the current global, dispersed and multistakeholder architecture of Internet governance. At the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in 2005, the multistakeholder model was recognised as the global model for Internet governance. A working definition of Internet governance was adopted by the Summit and included in para. 34 of the Tunis Agenda, one of the WSIS outcome documents, which states that Internet Governance is 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 programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet’. Furthermore para. 37 of the Tunis Agenda states explicitly that a multi-stakeholder approach should be adopted, as far as possible, at all levels’.

Against this background, it is therefore important to examine the proposals made by the Indian government in greater detail, so as to better understand their aptness, value and import. This Multistakeholder Dialogue on Who Governs the Internet’ proposes to start precisely this national conversation. It seeks to bring together a wide range of stakeholder – from civil society, business, the technical community, academia, Members of Parliament and government – in an interactive dialogue that aims to make heard as many voices as possible on this important issue. 

Questions The Meeting Will Address #

In particular, the meeting seeks to address, among others, the following questions:

1. The issue of governing the internet through a multistakeholder mechanism (including government, business, civil society, academia and the technical community) versus a multilateral one (or an intergovernmental one, including only governments in a decision making role) is leading the global discourse.

What is multistakeholderism? How is it practiced? How is it different from multilateralism or intergovernmental decision making? Why has multistakeholderism assumed such an important role in internet governance? 

Moderator – Subi Chutervedi

2. Several of the arguments are based in a framework document known as Tunis Agenda 2005′.

What is the role of the Tunis Agenda in these debates? Since its formulation 9 years ago, is it still relevant? What does stakeholders in their respective roles” mean in 2014 and beyond? 

Moderator – Subi Chaturvedi

3. The positions taken by the Government of India at international fora are linked to its cyber security concerns. 

Will India’s position of multilateral/​intergovernmental governance of the Internet actually address these cyber security concerns? 

Moderator – Anja Kovacs

4. Since the Snowden revelations, mass surveillance by governments has assumed center stage and is driving the recent discourse.

Will a multilateral/inter-governmental mechanism adequately address serious concerns of government surveillance and intrusion into the privacy of internet users and citizens? 

Moderator – Anja Kovacs

5. Innovation, freedom of speech and expression and privacy rights are critical to a free and open internet. How are these impacted under a multistakeholder vis-à-vis a multilateral/inter-governmental mechanism?

Moderator- Chinmayi Arun

6. Internet governance has both a domestic and a global angle. In 2014, what should be the process of policy making involving stakeholders? Should there be consultation and what should be the process, quality and outcome of such consultation, especially as it relates to Internet Governance?

What process should the government adopt before taking a position internationally and while formulating domestic policy related to internet governance? 

Moderator Chinmayi Arun