Governance

What is “Internet Governance? The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) raised questions about “Internet governance.” This term is often misunderstood. In a March 2004 paper prepared for the UN ICT Task Force, three leading Internet policy experts, including the Executive Director of GIPI, distinguish among three sets of issues, describing how each is “governed” by a mix of governmental and non-governmental arrangements: (1) ICT governance issues, which contain as a subset; (2) Internet governance issues, which contain as a subset: (3) Administration and coordination of Internet names and numbers.

Following WSIS, the United Nations Secretary-General began the process of creating a new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue – the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

International Organizations

A number of regional or international bodies are developing policy for the Internet. Others serve as fora for international cooperation. The following links point to the Internet / Information Technology / Intellectual Property pages on the sites of various international bodies.

European Union (EU)

The EU has adopted a comprehensive set of rules for competition in the telecommunications sphere. This regulatory framework is found at http://europa.eu.int/information_society/topics/telecoms/index_en.htm

To ensure that citizens of EU-member states fully benefit from the Information Society, the EU has launched a major initiative called eEurope, which aims to improve the accessibility and adoption of Internet technologies in all spheres of human development: http://europa.eu.int/information_society/eeurope/action_plan/index_en.htm

In terms of illegal or harmful content, Europe is pursuing an Action Plan found at http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/iap/index.html

World Bank

The World BankÕs Global Information and Communication Technologies (GICT) Department provides:

  • Policy Advice for the ICT sector including telecommunications (liberalization, privatization, regulatory authorities), the Internet (e-connectivity, e-government and e-commerce), postal and broadcast services;
  • Investment support for public subsidy of privately provided ICT Infrastructure to rural households and the urban poor as well as public postal networks;
  • Investment in private providers of mobile and fixed telecommunications infrastructure, Internet service providers (ISPs), Application Service Providers (ASPs), software development houses, portals, and B2B;
  • Seed funding and incubation for ICT projects. http://www.worldbank.org/ict/

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

The OECD has adopted guidelines and issued reports in various areas of e-commerce, including taxation, digital divide, privacy, and competition. http://www.oecd.org/subject/e_commerce/

International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

The ITU’s report “Challenges to the Network: Internet for Development, 1999” examines the role of the Internet in economic and social development, with a focus on developing nations. Individual chapters look at the use of the Internet for commerce, for health and for education. Other chapters look at the impact of the Internet on the public telecommunication operators of developing countries, and on the challenges facing regulators. The ITU also has compiled a series of Internet case studies. The aim of the project is to seek to understand the factors that accelerate or retard the development of the Internet in different environments and, through comparative analysis, to advise policy makers and regulatory agencies on appropriate courses of action.

World Trade Organization (WTO)

The WTO has two important agreements in regards to IT/IP.

The TRIPS agreement sets international standards for the protection of Intellectual Property rights. http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/trips_e.htm

The Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products (ITA) was concluded by 29 participants at the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996. The ITA provided for participants to eliminate duties on IT products by 1 January 2000. Developing country participants have been granted extended periods for some products. http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/inftec_e/inftec_e.htm

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

WIPO is an international organization under the umbrella of the United Nations tasked with administering international IP treaties and assisting governments, organizations and the private sector with IP-related issues. WIPO does not itself adjudicate disputes that arise under these treaties. However, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center is the largest accredited Dispute Resolution Service Provider (DRSP) resolving domain disputes arising under the rules set by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). http://www.wipo.org

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

APEC has several projects relating to IT/IP: an e-commerce task force, the Committee on Trade and Investment – Intellectual Property Rights, and the Telecommunications and Information Working Group. http://www.apecsec.org.sg/

Organization of American States (OAS)

OAS activities in IT/IP are restricted primarily to the RedHUCyT project, the main objective of which is to connect institutions in the member countries to Internet. The project provides high-tech equipment, technical support, specialized training, and sponsors technical workshops and seminars in the region. http://www.oas.org

ICANN

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-profit corporation responsibile for administering the allocation of domain names and related management functions. http://www.icann.org

ICANN has an important but narrow and largely technical role in Internet governance. ICANN should not-and cannot-be treated as a locus of broader Internet governance. For an explanation of ICANN’s narrow role and how it should reform itself, see ICANN and Internet Governance: Getting Back to Basics (July 2004).

One of ICANN’s activities has been to develop the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) under which trademark owners may seek cancellation or transfer of domain names that infringe on their trademarks. http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm

Resources

A Concise Guide to the Major Internet Bodies, by Alex Simonelis of Dawson College in Montreal. Some government officials seem to have the impression that no one is at the helm of the Internet. That conclusion is wrong. Certain protocols and other technical standards are essential in order to operate on the Internet. A number of bodies have become responsible for those standards. It can be fairly said that those bodies steer the Internet in a significant sense. This document is a summary of those bodies and their most important characteristics: the Internet technological standards set by a group of entities operating under the auspices of the Internet Society; the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and its Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA); and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). (The direction of the Internet’s physical network structure is not addressed in this document. That structure is essentially determined by a large number of mainly commercial network operators, ranging from small to intercontinental, that build and join their infrastructures in response to market forces, in order to provide them to subscribers on a paid basis. These networks that form the Internet are linked in a topology similar to that of a large, well-developed highway system.)

Steve Buckley, Intervening in Global ICT Governance (2004)

Social Science Research Council – selected papers on Internet governance