Governing the Internet

From Economic and Political Weekly, a case for reforming the governance structure of the internet.

The US and the European Union are in the midst of another spat – this time on internet governance. The dispute is important enough to be raised by president Bush with the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso. It has been the subject of newspaper editorials on both sides of the Atlantic and, lately even here in India. The main sources of contention are the present role of the US government, the possible role of other governments and intergovernmental organisations and whether any governmental oversight is needed.

It all started at Geneva in December 2003 at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). At that time the dispute was mainly between the developing countries and the OECD bloc. It could not be resolved and a multi-stakeholder working group was set up under the chairmanship of Nitin Desai, the former CEA and UN under-secretary general, who is now India-based but continues to be the UN’s special adviser for the Information Summit. The issue is supposed to be resolved at the second phase of the summit that is to be held at Tunis from November 16 to 18.