Monday, May 22, 2006

Internet Governance by the people, for which people?

Danny Butt is giving talks around Australia and New Zealand about the book he edited for the UNDP on Internet Governance. He didn't have a Canberra venue, so I arranged for him to speak in the usual Wednesday seminar slot at ANU. This was a challenge as the ANU is where the Australian Internet was created. Telling technical people that it is time to hand their baby over to an international bureaucracy is a lot to ask.

Danny argued that while the Internet developers had created decision making processes, via bodies such as ICANN, which were theoretically open to wide input, there were in practice still run by a technocracy. Anyone could have their say, but if you didn't talk the right language (preferably a dialect spoken on Californian engineering campuses), you may not be heard. I had some first hand experience of this when speaking at INET 2001 in Stockholm, with tensions between the Internet's creators, companies, governments and the rest of the world very evident.

Danny argued that ICANN's being based in the USA was unlikely to change. Whatever the process used, it had to be more open to outside views. Asia is likely to be the major area for Internet development, but is not being heard enough in the decision making processes of the Internet. The risk is that if the Internet will not adopt the standards Asia needs, then Asia will build its own Internet standards.

A current example of the tensions are news reports that a US company has taken the U.S. Government to court, aledging it interfered in ICANN's processes, to block the .xxx domain.

If you get a chance, attend Danny's talk at one of the other venues. There is also an unedited audio recording of the Canberra talk available.

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