Representatives of governments, companies and other organizations will meet in Geneva today to set up the group that will lay the groundwork for the United Nations’ entry into the field of internet governance.
The International Telecommunications Union will host the meeting, which is intended to create a Working Group of Internet Governance. This WGIG will decide what internet governance means, so the UN can decide what, if anything, to do about it.
As of Friday afternoon, only four nations had put forth their views in advance of the two-day meeting. A number of non-governmental organizations, including UNESCO and the International Chamber of Commerce, had also expressed opinions.
Governmental views range from the hands-on, to the hands-off. Predictably, the US’s submission to the meeting is heavy on supporting continued private sector leadership and avoiding overly prescriptive or burdensome regulation.
Innovation, expanded services, broader participation, and lower prices will arise most easily in a market-driven arena, not in an environment that operates under substantial regulation, the US delegation’s submission reads.
Japanese and Canadian submission echoed these thoughts to an extent, but also recognized that government is taking an increasing interest in the internet medium, which is touching more and more areas of life.
Norway, meanwhile, set out proposals aimed at getting more government involvement in the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the private California non-profit that manages aspects of the internet’s naming and addressing systems.
A better balance of influence concerning the present domain name management must be targeted, Norway’s submission says, pointing out that ICANN operates under contract with the US government, yet has international powers.
Norway adds that ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), a powerful advisory body within ICANN’s decision-making structure, needs stronger funding and cannot continue to have a mere counseling role.
Many participants in the World Summit on the Information Society have looked to ICANN as the key existing internet governance body. While ICANN’s role is ostensibly technical in nature, its actions have profound policy implications.
The Geneva meeting is part of the preparatory process for the second phase of the WSIS, a project of the UN, which is due to take place in Tunis next year.
The first phase, also in Geneva last December, was unable to come to any conclusions on what constituted internet governance, and UN secretary general Kofi Annan was instructed to form the WGIG to come to some definitions.
Current thinking is that the WGIG will comprise up to a few dozen people, with a balance of private, public and civil society organizations from a diverse selection of nations being represented.