29 September 2014

Organised by the UN, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a free and open gathering of people globally to talk about how the internet is run. The choice of Turkey – with it's restrictions on Twitter – was interesting.

Nevertheless, the IGF brings together 3000 people covering the government, technical community, business and civil society and it is an important forum.

The conversation initiated at NetMundial in Sao Paolo earlier this year about who should control the Internet continued in Istanbul. NetMundial opened up the possibility for a change in control. Many governments would prefer to discuss the issue of Internet Governance at the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) i.e. under the Multi-lateral model. In the multi-lateral model,  each government has a vote and other bodies (like NGOs) do not have the same rights. Nevertheless, the IGF is all about the multi-stakeholder model – where civil society, technologies, business interests and others have a say in the governance of the Internet at par with Governments. 

Here are some observations on the IGF:

• The WSJ notes the choice of Turkey with its record of banning technologies like Twitter (Critics Talk Turkey at Istanbul Internet Governance Forum...)

• A  fringe event in Bilgi University seemed more authentic in terms of it's expression.  The “Ungovernance Forum” was organized by Turkish activists disgruntled with the IGF  and with their own government’s repression of Internet-based expression

• The CDT notes that the main issues at IGF were Net neutrality, Zero-Rating, Data Localization, and Human Rights (Reflections on the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul...)

• Forbes also says that Human Rights, Network Neutrality and Child Protection were the key topics (Internet Governance Forum Topics Include Human Rights...)

• Both the EU commission (European Commission position for Internet Governance...) and the State department (The Internet Governance Forum: Connecting Conversations...) had formal statements. Others boycotted the proceedings due to the choice of Turkey (Why we're boycotting the Internet Governance Forum - Index ...)

• The Mozilla foundation says that even if its not perfect, the IGF should continue for many years to come (Reflections on the 9th Internet Governance Forum | Open...)

But the NETmundial Initiative announced by the World Economic Forum and ICANN in late August was significant. The WEF, dominated by Business and Political elites – seems to want to piggy back on the NetMundial outcomes. This development will be watched more closely in future.

To conclude, both IGF and ICANN are under transition. The IGF mandate is up for renewal  by the  UN General Assembly. ICANN is rethinking it's own role for the IANA transition and it's direction post NetMundial. So, we should see the IGF in light of an ongoing conversation and a continuing political manoeuvring between the stake holders.

by Ajit Jaokar



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