The global Internet governance architecture

Since India first made its proposal to establish a UN Committee for Internet-related Policies (UN CIRP), there have been repeated claims in the international media that the “UN is trying to take over the Internet”. Governments have indeed been trying to establish greater control over the Internet, both domestically and internationally. But need this necessarily be a bad thing, as it is often made out to be?

At the Internet Democracy Project, we believe that greater international coordination among governments at times is essential to safeguard the human rights of all Internet users, including in India. The problem lies, however, in the centralised nature of all proposals currently on the table to facilitate such coordination: whether they see the Internet Governance Forum or a new entity taking up this role, they all intend one body to become the ultimate clearing house for all Internet related policies at the global level.

In contrast, the Internet Democracy Project believes that the solution to global Internet governance challenges lies in the development of distributed, or networked forms of governance. At the heart of such a approach is the establishment of networks of governance actors and institutions, both domestically and internationally, who are linked in multiple ways and have a crucial stake in supporting and collaborating with each other: without the approval and agreement of others, no single actor can dominate the field.

In our work on the global Internet governance architecture, we develop these ideas step by step. We also follow closely two global processes in which the question of global Internet governance is addressed repeatedly and in some detail:

  • The ITU and global Internet governance
  • The WSIS+10 Review

This is in addition to the Internet Governance Forum and the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation, which we will be updating you about whenever relevant as well. More recently, the NetMundial meeting in Brazil in April 2014 has emerged as another important venue for these issues to be discussed.

More details about the the ITU-related processes and the WSIS+10 Review can be found under their respective sub-headings.

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  • The ITU and global Internet governance

    Since late 2012, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has come to play an increasingly important role as a platform for and driver of global debates around appropriate models for Internet governance. While some argue the ITU’s growing role merely signals an attempt by certain governments, or by the UN, to take over the Internet, others argue that the institution has a legitimate role to play in Internet governance. The Internet Democracy Project follows and sheds light on the debate as it unfolds, from a developing country perspective. 

  • The WSIS+10 Review

    The ten year review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes might be of significance not only for efforts to annihilate the digital divide post-2015, but also for the future of global Internet governance. Less than a year before a High Level Review Meeting, the role and possibly participation of civil society in the review process remains unclear – lip service paid by governments to the gains of multistakeholderism notwithstanding.