Those in power in Western democracies have a hard time with the idea of participation and self-government from below, the “multi-stakeholder” concept. It is one of the topics at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG), which after two years could once again take place in the real world.
On paper, many of those involved advocate involving those affected more closely in the further development of standards for the Internet, also known as multi-stakeholder governance. It is practiced by the Internet name administration ICANN or the IP address administrations, even if governments have little say there, as the former ITU official Richard Hill objected in Trieste.
Smart regulation instead of lip service
Wolfgang Kleinwächter, emeritus international law expert and governance expert, stated that at the moment things are not progressing towards equal participation, rather things are going backwards. The EU, for example, sees a multi-stakeholder process set in motion as a result of preliminary consultations and the institutional trilogue. However, civil society and the technical community were regularly left out.
As a result, NGOs and technical experts lag behind when it comes to undesirable side effects of well-intentioned regulation, said Peter Koch, Policy Advisor of Denic eG at the EuroDIG. The “techies” have long since moved away from the position that the Internet does not need regulation, but some new standards run counter to the intended goals. Extensive monitoring or filter requirements are easy to implement for large players, but often not for small ones.
What is the technical community hoping for from those in government? “Listen and be smart,” said former Internet Engineering Task Force chair and Ericsson engineer Jari Arkko. Beware of “over-regulation” is also a much-discussed recommendation of the EuroDIG, which, like all other regional Internet Governance Forums (IGF), sends its “messages” to the large IGF of the UN, which is meeting in Ethiopia in autumn.
The future of the internet – from a government perspective
There was a clapping at the EuroDIG for the declaration on the future of the Internet initiated by the USA and promoted in Trieste by representatives of the EU Commission. A representative of the EU Commission’s DG Connect department assured that there will be a major conference on this later this year. Everyone could get involved there.
Anriette Esterhuysen of the Association of Progressive Communication (APC) organization and until recently Chair of the Program Committee of the IGF (MAG), criticized the creation of the statement. It is a mistake to involve civil society groups and the countries of the Global South. “You don’t win any comrades-in-arms with ready explanations.” Switzerland, a longtime supporter of the EuroDIG format, has not signed. You feel committed to the multi-stakeholder model, explained Jorge Cancio from the Swiss telecommunications regulator Ofcom.
Of course, the IGF – just like its national and regional offshoots that have now emerged worldwide – was not created to make decisions about standards, emphasized former IGF Secretary Markus Kummer. But support for the open forums could crumble.
Sandra Hoferichter, Secretary General of the Forum, explained that 15 years after the enthusiastic start, there are many questions that need to be clarified, also in order to decide how to deal with the scarce money. She is hoping for more local participation for the next edition of the forum in Tampere. In Trieste she had the feeling that the pandemic was not over yet. Young people are becoming the most active group, each developing their own explanations. A year ago, for example, she called for “Inclusion by Design”.
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