Ensuring a Truly Global Policy-Making Process
By Izumi Aizu
The Issues: The Internet is a unique medium; everything we do on the Net becomes
instantly global, from starting a new Web site that sells odd
music, to chatting through live chat services, to spreading malicious
viruses or groundless rumors. Making any decision on Internet
policy and management is no exception. How, then, do we ensure
a truly global process for that decision making?
How do we build truly global consensus? How do we ensure fair,
equitable, and open processes that maintain stable and functional
operation of this global medium and yet accommodate further growth
and innovation? What kinds of mechanisms are needed or desired?
What should be the underlying principles that can be mutually
shared by all the players on our planet? And if no such working
mechanisms are readily available, how do we create ones we all
can agree upon?
These are the fundamental questions we have been facing since
the Internet became so prevalent globally. And the Internet will
become only more prevalent in the years to come. Perhaps we could
term this issue Internet governance in the widest sense. If the Internet has the vast potential to
transform our economy and society globally, and if that is happening
today-as we almost all agree it is-then the policy decisions we
make today no doubt will have a huge impact on the distribution
of the wealth we create by using the Internet. Do we have a working
system of Internet governance?
In reality, there are very few institutions that deal directly
and exclusively with the issue of this global policy-making process,
and the lack of that type of activity itself perhaps is calling
for a new creation. It can be a meta entity or a virtual entity,
taking advantage of existing collective efforts.
There are, however, a number of organizations that address specific
technical and operational arenas and set the policies on the Internet
that potentially affect everyone. Though mostly technical, the
procedures and working principles that define their decisions
offer good references and models.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) sets most of the Internet's technical standards and has a long
tradition: the "Tao of IETF." The most famous credo of IETFers
is presented by David Clark's famous manifesto: "We reject kings,
presidents and voting; what we believe in is rough consensus and
running code." The IETF is known for its effective, open, bottom-up
decision-making and consensus-building process.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is in charge of coordinating the domain name system (DNS), Internet
protocol address allocation, and other technical protocol standardizations.
After a few years of a highly controversial struggle, ICANN is
now setting up its organizational bodies. Besides having area-based
supporting organizations such as the Domain Name Support Organization
(DNSO), the Address Support Organization (ASO), and the Protocol
Support Organization (PSO), ICANN is beginning its at-large, open-membership
program and initiating global election of its Board of Directors
this year. ICANN has adopted a geographic diversity requirement
for the composition of its board. Unlike the IETF, ICANN makes
most of its decisions by voting.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) deals specifically with technical standardization of the Web
and its underlying protocols. The W3C is a commercial consortium,
and only the paying members have voting rights.
There are many other groups that focus on such specific areas
as security, privacy, and content. The other articles in this
issue are covering them extensively, so I will not repeat them
Academic and Intellectual Institutions
There are think tanks and academic research institutions that
address the intellectual framework for covering Internet governance
issues and that provide analysis, recommendations, and knowledge
tools that will help clarify the issues and create mutual consensus
The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School has been supporting the groundwork of setting
up ICANN. It has facilitated both online and offline debates and
has provided secretarial help for most of ICANN and its related
The Aspen Institute hosts both the Aspen Institute Roundtable on International Telecommunications
(AIRIT) and the Internet Policy Program (IPP). The latter convenes
more than 20 key players from business, government, and academic
sectors to articulate issues of immediate concern and make recommendations.
In addition, the IPP quietly helped conceive ICANN and facilitated
compromise between ICANN, Network Solutions, and the U.S. Department
The Markle Foundation provides generous support for the study of policy implications
on public interest through its Internet-policy-related projects
such as the Internet Governance Program. It also intends to assist
in helping policy-setting organizations such as ICANN become more
accountable and democratic.
The Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany hosted the first Content Summit in Munich in September
1999. It is currently trying to help strike the appropriate balance
between freedom of speech and self-regulation of content to protect
minors who use the Internet.
The Salzburg Seminar joined the Markle Foundation in providing a travel support program
so that those from developing countries can attend ICANN meetings.
The Internet Societal Task Force (ISTF) at the Internet Society (ISOC) is modeled in part after the IETF
and focuses on societal issues around the Internet. Established
in 1999 at INET '99 in San Jose, California, the ISTF discusses
policy issues mainly through its mailing list.
The Internet Policy Institute, established in the U.S. in 1999, aims to provide objective analysis,
research, education, and outreach on economic, social, and policy
issues affecting and affected by the global development and use
of the Internet.
GLOCOM (Center for Global Communications) at the International University of Japan has been advocating
the diffusion of the Internet-mostly in Japan and other Asian
countries-as well as providing intellectual analysis and suggestions
on U.S.-Japan communication policy issues.
The Research Institute for Internet Strategy, begun in Tokyo in April 2000, plans to help expand Internet
use in Asian countries.
The Promethee Institute, a Paris-based think tank established in 1985, focuses on the
networked economy in a social and political context. It recently
conducted an extensive scenario-building project with major European
stock exchanges that studies the impact of the Internet on global
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Directorate of Science Technology and Industry: the OECD organized
one of the first roundtables on the future domain names and governance.
It monitors e-commerce and related Internet governance issues.
The following institutions are mostly industry forums that promote
e-commerce and other commercial interests involving the Internet.
Most of them are based in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Global Internet Project (GIP) is an international group of senior executives committed to fostering
the continued growth of the Internet. GIP promotes industry actions
that will minimize the need for government regulation. It is also
committed to connecting the unconnected-to increasing Internet
access in developing countries by encouraging governments to adopt
policies that foster innovation, liberalization, investment, and
free-market competition. GIP organized a workshop on wireless
and satellite communications and the Internet in Asia in March
2000 in Tokyo.
GIP participants are leaders in the Internet revolution and represent
companies based in Asia, Europe, and North America. James Clark,
former chairman of Netscape, founded the group, and John Patrick,
IBM vice president of Internet Technology, is the current chair.
The Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce (GBDe) was born after the Business Round Table on Global Communications
hosted by European Union commissioner Martin Bangemann in June
1998. The participating business leaders identified the most urgent
issues, ranging from taxation and IPR to data protection and liability.
The GBDe is chaired by Thomas Middelhoff, chairman and CEO of
Bertelsmann, and also has cochairs from the U.S., Europe, Asia,
and Africa. Members are mostly large corporations in the Internet,
telecommunications, and other information-technology-service-related
The Internet Law and Policy Forum (ILPF) was established in 1995 and aims to foster the growth of global
electronic commerce and communications by addressing those legal
issues that arise from the cross-border capabilities of electronic
media. The ILPF makes policy recommendations on e-commerce, studies
self-regulation and digital authentication, offers resources to
lawyers and legal policy experts, and provides a neutral forum
for discussion of legal and policy issues.
The Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC) was established in 1994 in parallel with the Global Information
Infrastructure (GII) Summit hosted by the G7 countries. It emphasizes
that it is the only truly global organization addressing the information
revolution economy with its diverse international and multi-industry
perspectives. Its main thrusts are developing Internet infrastructure,
building policy framework for electronic commerce, and building
consumer trust and confidence.
Global Knowledge Partners (GKP) is the host organization of the Global Knowledge Conference,
held twice so far: in Toronto, Canada, in 1997, and in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, in March 2000. The central concern of GKP is knowledge
for development, in the context of ICT (information and communications
technology), with strong focus on Internet use and promotion in
developing countries. Sponsored mainly by the World Bank, GKP
has some 60 members, including the governments of Canada, the
EU, Finland, Ghana, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the
U.S.; international aid organizations, including the International
Development Research Center of Canada and a number of nongovernmental
organizations; and international organizations such as the ITU,
ILO, FAO, UNCTAD, UNECA, UNIDO, and WHO. Some information technology
and financial business companies are also members of GKP.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), part of the UN's e-commerce division, promotes e-commerce for
the developing countries of the world. It is organizing a series
of e-commerce workshops to be held in developing countries such
as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Peru.
The Asia Pacific Development Information Program (APDIP) of the United Nations Development Program provides IT services
for developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including
seminars, to empower governments with current IT knowledge and
to assist in formulating national IT policies. APDIP also supports
national IT advancement-specifically, Internet access-in countries
in which connectivity does not yet exist, such as Bhutan and East
Timor. And it supports the development of country information
systems that promote sustainable human development.
Global Community Network 2000 was launched in April 2000 in Brussels. This new program will
bring leaders of community networking not only from Europe and
the United States but also from Asia and the Pacific, South America,
Latin America, and Africa to share their lessons and findings
with a view toward further promotion of community networking globally.
A first global conference on community networking is planned for
this November in Barcelona, Spain.
As was typically indicated during the recent process of formulating
ICANN, providing equitable global representation that works is
still quite confusing and often burdensome, even among the legitimate
players. I have observed that sheer ignorance became arrogance,
for example, and that overzealousness and a sense of urgency led
to nasty rejections. Simply put, aren't we all blind and touching
the elephant? There is still insufficient understanding of how
to tackle the global issues. There is a lack of networks to share
the intelligence and wisdom among these players.
There have been few working mechanisms to analyze, exchange, and
propose the intellectual frameworks and substances that will help
provide mutual solutions to global issues related to the Internet
and e-business. Therefore, there is a need to create a new working
entity that can be:
*A virtual network of individuals and institutions *Open and transparent,
neutral, inclusive, and global *Providing intellectual support
to tackle real, societal global issues
The organizational composition of this virtual entity must be
global from the very beginning, not biased toward the Northern
Hemisphere or large, rich companies. The entity should not be
captured by local interests or by sector-specific matters, but,
rather, should try to articulate global dimensions and solutions.
What Industry Can Do
Looking at the current level of activities, one thing stands out:
there is considerable lack of participation from the developing
parts of the world in Internet policy-making processes and background
activities. Industry can help increase participation by setting
up financial support programs and by sponsoring seminars and workshops
jointly with proper nonprofit institutions or governments. Moreover,
industry can take a more aggressive role in seeking truly global
policy-setting processes by bridging and linking the existing
international forums and organizations previously described. Identifying
and recruiting prospective participants from the private and public
sectors is also important.
What You Can Do
Let me propose a simple, three-stage action plan. First, you can
scan the existing activities introduced here. Ask how global their
policy-making processes or analytic frameworks are. Talk to your
colleagues and make partnerships with like-minded people. Then
you can zoom in and develop the strategy. Secure an activity base
in your home country or region. Participate in meetings or workshops
organized by these institutes, either physically or virtually
in their online forums. Or organize your own. Finally, you can
act with your partners based on the strategy. Propose alternative
policy-making processes, ask for more equitable systems, make
recommendations for new policy frameworks. If you are stuck, pause,
think, and wait. If not, let's proceed more.
About the Author
Izumi Aizu is principal of Asia Network Research, based in Tokyo
and Kuala Lumpur, which helps promote the Internet in Asia. He
also serves as secretary-general of the Asia and Pacific Internet
Association (APIA), a regional trade association. He has participated
in the formation process of ICANN, has proposed inclusion of Asia
and other developing parts of the world, and has served on the
Membership Advisory Committee of ICANN. He regularly participates
in the Aspen Institute's Communications and Society program and
is adviser to its Internet Policy Program. He is also on the advisory
board of ICRA.
Aizu started his advocacy of computer networking in 1984 and received
the David Rodale Award from the Electronic Networking Association
(ENA) in 1987 for his contributions to the global community. His
publications include "Co-emulation: The Case for a Global Hyper
Network Society," a chapter coauthored with Prof. Shumpei Kumon,
in Global Networks, MIT Press, 1994, and "The Emergence of Netizens: The Cultural
Impact of Network Evolution in Japan," NIRA Review, Fall 1995. He has been a member of the Internet Society since
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