Re: Who governs the Internet?
May 26th, 2011 by Anders Kringstad

Diplo Foundation: Internet Governance anno 2004©
After posting my previous ramblings on the subject of Internet Governance (IG) I’ve been quite busy in my head, thinking about where I stand on this subject and how best to define the various aspects of IG within the so-called «Nordic model» that applies to Government, Business and Citizen of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark (the Nordic countries). This time, I’m exploring parts of IG in the Nordics, as seen from Norway.

First of all, I’m not so sure that the Internet are seen in the same way in the Nordic region as a whole. I might be wrong, but Finland seem to be ahead of both Norway and Sweden, with Iceland and Denmark fast approaching from behind. Internet access is written into law as a citizen right in Finland and Sweden but not in the other countries (yet). With the United Nations pushing to make basic Internet access a human right (2003) and a renewal of this as a ‘fundamental right’ at the 2005 World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, more countries are bound to make basic Internet access law for it’s citizen. In all the Nordic countries 80-95% of the population have access to the Internet on a daily basis if they wish to; at home, work/school or at Internet cafés, by cellphone et.c.

The WSIS Working Group (WG) on Internet Governance (WGIG), set up by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, after the first part of the WSIS in Geneva (2003) were asked to “investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of the Internet by 2005″. Three defined issues represented the different objectives of the WG. One of these, “Develop a working definition of Internet Governance” are found in the report delivered by the WG:

“Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet”[1]

In Norway the Government have for the past three-four years, to a degree, tried handed down the task of governing/policing the Internet from a juridical view, to private sector law companies and Internet providers, who for their part, are hard working not to become the ‘Norwegian Internet Police’ (NIP). I think that with the recent changes in policy and proposed laws in Norway we are likely to see a private sector NIP emerging quite quickly as providers of online services and access to Internet resources are required by law to police their users activities.

Let’s start with the part where many governments faulty  ‘Govern’ as ‘limiting access’:
As a technical somewhat technically oriented and policy-interested person I find it a bit hard to see a central governmental control of the Internet in Norway happen in a way that will hinder unwanted activities by citizens. The fact that it’ll be harder for ordinary citizen to carry out perfectly legal online activity and just as simple as before to do online criminal activity it’s enticing to see how many politicians of the western world see it as their job to implement digital restrictions on their subjects.

The ‘strike first’ policies with technical/digital hindering of negatively charged activities should certainly not be adopted in such a civilised country as ours? (Many people ask themselves this as the European Union have adapted the directive of data retention (“Directive 2006/24/EC”) Well?
Seen from a political view there is nothing wrong with creating digital walls that will hinder your subjects to do things not permitted by law. There’s only one problem here: We do not build such walls in our offline, physical society. There is no wall outside a nursery that will hinder a unscrupulous  individual taking pictures of the kids there. Nor is there someone taking notice on how many residence doors you approach, walk by or enter, and wish to use this information to decide if you’re a likely criminal.
Seen from a business view there is equally nothing wrong with having digital security in place and do a (technical part now, folks) package inspection on a content level (DPI) to make sure no corporate secrets are leaked. As long as this digital security is automatic, non-identifying of employees it’s for most people employed, ok. As many companies today have a set of rules for the use of computers and how to act online, what to access et.c. when representing the company/at work a little line or two about package inspection are probably being entered into the next rewrite of those rules.
I believe that it’s at work people are most likely to meet a page that tells them that ‘this part of the Internet is closed to you due to company policy’. This part of corporate culture and Information Security is a tipping point in peoples view of restriction of access. Regardless of company, there’s two camps here: Permissive or restrictive access. Restrictive access is of course the part with that incriminating page that tells you that /this/ is not something you should be doing at work. Working with permissive policies leaves the choices to the user, under the knowledge that the company might very well log their access, should something criminal happen down the road.
Seen from a residential view there is certainly something wrong with a paid-for Internet connection being monitored and logged for ‘future reference’ should something occur in your neighbourhood, or origin from the residential Internet connection that is not in line with local law. This rocks the very clear, and so far, unmovable principle that we are all equal to the law and are seen as innocent unless proven guilty.

So? Back to the main issue eh?
Who governs the Internet? It is clear through the definition by the WGIG[1] that the Internet is governed by a set of multi-stakeholders from three main parties, namely Government (G), Business (B) and Citizen (C). Within these there are a number of sub-representations such as Residential (R), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), Religious communities (R)
However, there is, even today, not a clear view of how to make sure that we are all equally treated in the scope of the Internet as a vital and more and more important part of our life. There have recently been great strides towards creating common ground for all, and this is certainly an evolving work on this, currently at the e-G8 and the G8-forum in France.

Right now I only see one thing as rock solid: As the Internet evolves the way it is governed will also evolve. What once was a academic research project have certainly come a long way since the 1960ies.

[1] Working definition of Internet Governance, published in the report from the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), 2005, page 4

Who governs the Internet?
May 22nd, 2011 by Anders Kringstad

Who governs the Internet? If asked this question, different people will answer very differently, shaped by their previous experiences, background, objectives and history in general.

Recently I started on an six month eLearning online course by the Internet Society titled “Shaping the Internet – History and Futures”. As the NGL programme web-page says: “The course curriculum covers the essential topics required for effective interactions and relationships within the Internet ecosystem, as well as key concepts and emerging issues in Internet governance”.

I’m absolutely thrilled to be on this and have a clear goal of delivering my absolutely best with participating in discussions, classes, doing my assigned activities and being available to my fellow course participants!

..back to the question asked. A Google-search will return what I’d say is a slim selection of responses. A quick read-through of some of the hits give a hint to the complexity of the issue. Some of them gives you pointers to the UN, the ITU, the Internet Society (ISOC) and of course, the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003/2005.
If you work in the private part of the ICT sector in a western country in Europe and you speak English as your primary or second language, you are probably going to find that the answers Google will return with, matches your views in many ways. But what if you work with the governmental ICT of an emerging economy in another part of the world, with a different language and a different set of rules in daily life? Will your answer be different?

With the NGL programme in my head and the Internet governance as an very interesting subject, I’m giving this a great deal of thought and will probably write more on this subject in the weeks ahead.

Now, where did I put my book of Roman warfare?

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