- Underrepresentation of any stakeholder in Internet Governance will adversely affect the Internet's smooth operation. End users' freedom to innovate is at the core of the Internet’s success.
- At-Large Community members are very actively in various Internet Governance fora at national, regional, and global levels.
- End users’ participation ensures that the Internet Governance ecosystem is not dominated by vested interests. Within ICANN, members of the At-Large community advocate for the best interests of end users.
- End user involvement contributes important skills and expertise to the Internet policy making process, as well as establishes a means to rapidly analyze the implementation of Internet governance policy and the impact on end users.
- Given the geographical diversity of the At-Large community, the diverse interests among users worldwide are represented in ALAC policy advice.
What is Internet Governance?
In 2005, the world’s heads of state came together at the World Summit on the Information Society and produced a document that has been fundamental in shaping the discussion of Internet Governance. The Tunis Agenda included this definition of Internet governance; 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.
The definition incorporates what we have come to call the Multistakeholder model, by recognizing three very important facts:
- Governments, the private sector and civil society share the process of Internet governance,
- Each one has its own particular roles and responsibilities, and
- Together all stakeholders are dedicated to the ongoing evolution and expanding use of the Internet.
It is this Internet ecosystem that is responsible for the health and growth of the Internet. The key is openness to working with the other partners in technology, and also in governance. The Internet is successful in large part due to its unique model of development and deployment:
- Open technical standards
- Freely accessible processes for technology and policy development
- Transparent and collaborative governance
In broad general terms, the Internet Ecosystem is made up of a number of organizations and processes that shape the coordination and management of the global Internet and enable its overall functioning. These organizations include at least: technology and engineering organizations, network operators, resource management organizations, users, educators, and policy-makers. These organizations have well established roles in administering different aspects of what we know as the Internet, and their competence can be seen in the tremendous benefits the Internet has brought.
What is ICANN's role in Internet Governance?
Within the Internet Governance ecosystem, ICANN plays a limited, yet unique and critical role -- it coordinates the administration of the Internet’s logistical infrastructure layer that delivers ‘One Internet’ for the world through three sets of unique identifiers: 1) domain names, 2) Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and 3) protocol parameters. These unique identifiers enable your computer to reliable find and connect to other devices, things, or information sources on the Internet no matter where you are physically located in the world. That is how the tens of thousands of networks appear and operate as one Internet.
Regarding domain names, ICANN directly draws up contracts with registries and runs an accreditation system for registrars. Regarding IP addresses, ICANN coordinates policy with the five regional Internet registries (RIRs) for allocating and assigning these unique numerical identifiers. Regarding protocol parameters, ICANN works closely with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to maintain and administer them. In sum, ICANN does not run the system directly but plays a central, administrative role in concert with technical operation community actors, ensuring the security, stability, resiliency, and integrity of this critical layer.
To keep pace with the dynamic technologies and rapid innovation on the Internet, ICANN also facilitates the process of policy development that will enable technical changes to how the unique identifiers are run. Policy development is a fundamental part of ICANN’s mission. Unlike the traditional, top-down government models, ICANN’s policy development uses a “bottom-up, consensus-driven, multistakeholder model”. It is “bottom-up” because any member of the global Internet community can raise issues and bring them to ICANN’s attention; “consensus-driven” because ICANN provides mechanisms to encourage discussion of diverse opinions and to facilitate agreement on action strategies for solving commonly perceived problems; and “multistakeholder” because ICANN brings together and gives voices to public sector, private sector, technical experts, civil society, and individual users in an inclusive manner. This model mimics the very nature of the Internet -- borderless and open to all.
Why does Internet Governance matter to you?
Multistakeholder internet governance is a function of government, private sector, academia and technical community, and civil society involvement and cooperation. Underrepresentation of one of these components in governance would adversely affect the Internet's smooth operation.
The users' freedom to innovate is at the core of the success of the internet. Their participation in Internet governance ensures that this ecosystem is not stifled by specific interests. This participation will also empower users to advocate for equal rights and to counterbalance possible attempts from private sector and governments that reduce freedom of choice and market competition against the general public interest.
Direct user involvement will also contribute important skills and expertise to the Internet policy making process, as well as establish a quick reaction loop to verify their effects. Their involvement will significantly increase the geopolitical diversity of the governance bodies.
If the users are not speaking out in Internet Governance, it could mean that changes to the way the internet is governed will not serve the interests of end users in the long term. Any policy that does not take into account the needs and values of the user community will be unenforceable and ineffective.
Therefore you, the Internet end users, are highly encouraged to participate in internet governance and to highlight the importance of representation and inclusive process for debate and decision-making.
- Further Reading: End User Involvement in Internet Governance: Why and How?