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Mapping the Internet governance landscape - actors, processes, and issues

Page history last edited by Mary Murphy 7 years, 9 months ago

Speakers

 

Moderator: Jovan Kurbalija, DiploFoundation and the GIP
Louis Pouzin, expert in computer communications (one of the fathers of the Internet)
William J. Drake, International Fellow and Lecturer, University of Zurich & Chair, Noncommercial Users Constituency, ICANN

Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Managing Director, Compass Rose Sdn Bhd & Member of the Board of Directors, ICANN
Khaled Fattal, Group Chairman, Multilingual Internet Group, London 

 

Outline

 

Internet governance is a highly complex policy space with hundreds of actors addressing more than 50 IG issues through more than 1000 mechanisms (conventions, standards,events, experts groups, etc.). The more Internet impacts all spheres of our life, the more complex and broader Internet governance will become.  Very few actors, if any, have a full grasp of the complexity of IG.  The risk of incomprehensible IG could lead towards the marginalisation of some actors and, ultimately, a risk for legitimacy of Internet governance. In addition, good mapping of Internet governance will increase the efficiency of policy processes and reduce duplicate efforts in various forums. The session will discuss the challenge of mapping Internet governance and ways and means of making it more accessible to all concerned. The panellists will address the following issues:

  • What does Internet governance include?
  • What are the criteria for mapping Internet governance issues and their relevance?
  • How can we create easier access to Internet governance?
  • If a one-stop shop is a solution, what functions should it have and how should it be organised?

 

 

Session notes

 

Internet governance: Who cares and who should care?

 

Internet governance (IG) is a highly complex policy space with hundreds of actors addressing more than 50 IG issues through more than 1000 mechanisms such as conventions, standards, or events. The more the Internet impacts all spheres of our life, the more complex and broader IG will become. There is a risk of incomprehensible IG which could lead towards the marginalisation of some actors and, ultimately, a risk for legitimacy of IG. The session discussed the challenges of mapping IG and ways and means of making it more accessible to all concerned.

 

Louis Pouzin, expert in computer communications and considered one of the fathers of the Internet, presented a critical and somewhat cynical view of IG. He stated that IG has to be seen like water governance: it is only politics and politics is mass surveillance. He argued that the most important Internet treaties are negotiated behind closed doors by the USA with states or groups of states. Pouzin compared it to nineteenth-century Empire politics. The USA has the power advantage, the commerce advantage, etc., armed with other tools or weapons. The main problem is to make sure it does not abuse its power.

 

He then switched to the NETmundial event in São Paulo, criticising the fact that it was organised mainly by ICANN. While the meeting has been seen by many as an advance in IG, Pouzin did not agree. He would be happy to see a document written by independent people that shows what NETmundial has brought. For him it was only business: show business.

 

He returned to the Tunis agenda in which multistakeholderism is qualified with the words ‘in their respective roles’, to define the implication for states, academia, or civil society. There is now equality. He added that ICANN is a monopoly and like every monopoly it has a dominant position and abuses it. This strong statement was applauded by the audience; the IG debate still has great days to come.

 

According to William J. Drake, International Fellow and Lecturer, University of Zurich & Chair, Noncommercial Users Constituency, ICANN, a broad definition of IG is crucial. Drake – himself a member of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) – explained that such a broad definition can be found today in the UN, a working definition that is based, inter alia, on literature and a definition of international regimes. IG can therefore be discussed on two levels: on a (underlying) level of infrastructure and on a second level of content, commerce, and communication. In regard to the criteria of mapping, Drake said that such a typology obviously depends on what one wants to emphasise – there would, therefore, be not only one, but many different maps. On the question of access, Drake emphasised – with reference to the concept of a clearinghouse – that there is a clear lack of a good mechanism. We need a means of aggregating the information to make it more accessible. In the coming months, we can expect the notion of institutionalising the clearinghouse function to be pushed forward.

 

Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Managing Director, Compass Rose Sdn Bhd & member of ICANN’s board of directors, stated that there are so many things to keep in mind in IG that mapping is necessary. Mapping is a good way to structure IG in order to have a good view of it. But, how do we map the complexity of IG? The topic is constantly changing with new issues, players, etc. It is impossible to do it on one map. In order to have good mapping, it is important to start by defining key components and then adding layers. The map should have stacks of transparency, and three key components: issues, actors, and space; and then add layers of complexity, and connections between and among the components. For Abdul Rahim, the title of the forum ‘Actors, processes, and issues’ could be improved; her suggestion: ‘Issues, actors, and action spaces’. With this change in priorities and one new field, we can draw networks, connect components, etc. Effective mapping requires a clear idea of what we want to map. It is not an easy exercise; we have to put resources into it. Theories of politics development give a good idea of how to do it: i.e., define the problem, identify options to solve it, choose the best one, implement it, and then evaluate it. If we are clear on all these stages, we should be able to able to track the stages.

 

Khaled Fattal, Group Chairman, Multilingual Internet Group, London, delivered a very strong and clear statement: Business is not involved enough in the discussions about IG – the Geneva Internet Conference is no exception. Fattal backed his statement by counting the representatives of business among participants: out of about 250 people, only two people were representing business! Mapping the IG landscape is important, but it is just as important to really include all stakeholders in the discussions. Only with the inclusion of the business perspective can debates about IG become relevant; without that perspective, they remain activities without outcome.

 

Giacomo Mazzone, EBU (69 broadcasters from the Mediterranean region, Europe and North Africa), recalled that 50% of visual content is accessible on the Internet or via online devices. This is changing or destroying business models like printed media and it affects all other media in different ways. The EBU is more interested in the result of mapping than in the process, but the goal of mapping IG is a big mistake. The Internet is constantly changing and covers the whole world and its activities. The map will never be up to date and complete. Maps have to be segmented. What interests the media is to know the public’s interest and the local dimension. Every entity has its own needs.

 

The Q&A session spoke of tools to monitor IG in under-developed countries, roles and responsibilities, and places and participants for IG discussions. The most debated question was: ‘Where is business in the IG debate?’ In fact, Fattal’s statement on businesses’ low level of participation in IG processes was a point of divergence. Describing the European IG landscape as the ‘Brussels bubble’ and the ‘Geneva glasshouse’, Prof. Joe Cannataci, chair of the Mapping Consortium, disagreed with Kattal, stating that bigger businesses were indeed engaging very heavily in Washington, Brussels, and Beijing. Lobbying over issues such as Net neutrality was a case in point. Disagreeing with this, Nick Ashton-Hart believed that businesses were missing from a very large number of important meetings, especially after the seismic shifts brought about by the Snowden revelations. Another participant weighed in, stressing that there two types of businesses: the IT industry, and everyone else. The IT industry was very active in the process, as opposed to the rest of the stakeholder group. In his response, Fattal agreed with Cannataci on engagement from businesses, but argued that what businesses were doing was solely to protect their own interests, instead of looking at the future. The case should be made for encouraging business engagement, by helping them understand that they will be impacted by the changing IG landscape ecosystem. For some, therefore, the answer is a lack of interest by digital natives; for others it is the fact that business wants to protect its present interests while IG is mostly looking towards the future. Another possibility was that Geneva is an actor which is too young in the IG discussion; business is engaging, but in other places.

 

On a different note, Parminder Jeet Singh from IT for Change highlighted the fact that since the mapping process is also directed at developing countries, we need to ask these countries what their needs and requirements are. Reacting, Abdul Rahim said that in some cases, developing countries are not aware of what IG is, or how important the mapping process is. However, this does not mean that they should be left out. Rather, despite the ecosystem being messy, developing countries’ perspectives need to be sought and included.

 

The final word was left to Abdul Rahim: If you see a problem and you think it needs to be changed… engage!

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