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 here.
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 and solutions.
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 meetings.
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 of Commerce.
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 financial markets.
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 industries.
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 1992.