The annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, this week reminds us how important the future of the Internet is. The once routine meeting of experts and regulators has grown in profile to take center stage in the debate over governance of the online world.
The Internet is a thriving and vibrant engine for cultural and economic growth of unprecedented potential in human history. Unfettered and unrestrained, this open and borderless “network of networks” has transformed the world. Even so, as a technology and communications platform, the Internet is still in its infancy. It continues to evolve and develop in ways unanticipated by even the most experienced technologists.
This success is rooted in the sound management provided by “multistakeholder” governance comprised of a handful of private-sector stakeholder organizations that oversee key components of the Internet ecosystem. Collectively, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the World Wide Web Consortium and other organizations’ “governance” of the Internet has produced a stable, predictable, seamless environment that has helped facilitate continuing innovation and investment. This, in turn, has spread economic benefits around the globe to developed and developing societies alike.
Challenges to the future of an open and borderless Internet:
Despite the success of an open and borderless Internet, several proposals that are being floated around the globe seek to “re-engineer” the Internet governance model in order to give governments greater authority over global Internet policy, technical issues and information “sovereignty.” What is missing in these various proposals, however, is an honest analysis of the potentially harmful impacts they may have on the ability of the Internet to continue to deliver the significant economic and cultural gains that have been experienced by so many countries and peoples.
The ICT industry is greatly concerned that movement away from the multistakeholder governance system will negatively impact e-commerce and the free flow of information. This would be particularly devastating for the myriad developing countries that have been making significant sacrifices to invest in ICT, digital infrastructure and human capital that will enable them to leverage today’s Internet and transform their economies and quality of life.
A Multistakeholder Governance is key to the Internet’s future:
ITI strongly supports the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. We oppose efforts to transfer authority or control over Internet governance to governments or inter-governmental organizations. Rather, we encourage governments to increase their successful participation in the existing multistakeholder organizations and processes, while also encouraging greater outreach and accommodation by the key private sector-led organizations.
The multistakeholder approach to governance is critical for the Internet to continue to be a transformative, open and borderless technology that empowers people to connect and share information globally without constraints.