12 Jan 2012
Internet governance

We are at the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a very eventful year in Internet governance. Can we expect a continuation of the main developments from 2011 or will the current situation catalyse the emergence of new controversies? We invite you to our first webinar of 2012, on 12 January at 14.00 GMT, to brainstorm as we seek to foresee the unforeseeable. 

[Update] Scroll down to the section 'Also of Interest' below to listen to or download an audio recording of the webinar.

For this crystal ball exercise, we propose the following 5 topics to start the discussion. During the webinar, we will put together our collective wisdom to discuss the list of main developments to watch in 2012.

1. The Internet and human rights

Vint Cerf put human rights and the Internet on 2012 IG agenda with his already controversial article in the New York Times: 'Internet access is not a human right'. Discussions about the Internet and human rights, will be a continuation of the trend started during the last IG events in 2011 (London, Vienna and the Hague). Acting upon a proposal by Sweden, the 2012 spring meeting of the UN Human Rights Council will discuss the Internet and freedom of expression. There are some hints that the ITU's International Telecommunication Regulation (to be adopted in December 2012) will include support for the right to access to the Internet as well.

Many questions will reverberate in 2012 discussions: Are human rights online different from human rights in the 'real world'? Do human rights on the Internet require special protection? Should human rights be protected and promoted through technical solutions?

2. The ITU's International Telecommunication Regulations

This year will see negotiations on the revision of the ITU's  International Telecommunication Regulations, which should be adopted in December 2012 in Dubai. This will be the first major change of the ITU's core document since 1988. The ITR will inevitably bring into focus more IG issues, including the role of the ITU in the field of Internet governance.

3. ICANN's soul-searching

ICANN's soul-searching will continue in 2012 with three decisive developments: (1) the implementation of management reform; (2) the introduction of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs); (3) the election of a new CEO.

4. Intellectual property rights and Internet governance

The end of 2011 was marked by a strong discussion about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is likely to continue in 2012. The question of intellectual property rights will move into the main stream of IG debate with a very interesting interplay between US-national scene and international scene, impact of IPR regulation on human rights and cybersecurity.

5. The extent to which the Internet can be managed through technical solutions

One of the sacred principles of the Internet is that the Internet's technical architecture fostered a specific set of values on the Internet (freedom of expression, collaboration, innovation and creativity etc.). This helps to explain why two technical, or infrastructure concepts, network neutrality and the "end-to-end principle", have been in the centre of IG debates. 2012 will revisit the strengths and limitations of the implementation of Internet governance through technical solutions. How realistic is it to implement Internet policies through technical solutions? What if a particular technical solution starts serving different policy purposes? Can technical solutions be a replacement for democratic deliberations? These and other isssues are likely to re-appear in discussions on the protection of intellectual property, the promotion of human rights and enhancing cybersecurity, and others.



Veronica Cretu (not verified)

Greetings, dear colleagues! One of the emerging issues these days is Open Government and Open Government Data. There are many  challenges asociated with this topic, and there are many stakeholders involved (including civil society, private sector, IT developers, and of course Government). To what extent IG can address or integrate this issue into its Agenda for 2012 would be interesting to analyze. 

Jovan Kurbalija's picture
Jovan Kurbalija

Hi Veronica, Open government has been mentioned during the last IGF. It has a low profile in IG discussions. The mapping of open government and IG would definitely involve the questions of access, intellectual property rights, public good... among others.

De (not verified)

If these rights are to be legislated, what happens to the right to opt out? If government data is available online, will we still have off line access? Will adoption of the technology become obligatory if one wishes to continue as a member of the society?

Felix Samakande (not verified)

Is the internet a democratic tool or not? This is one of the fundamental questions that needs to be analysed by multiple stakeholders including; governments, civil society, academia, intelligensia, etc. The answers will help form consensus around issues like; Internet kill-switch, ACTA / PIPA / SOPA-style legislation,  Privacy & CyberSecurity Policies, and anti-Internet Activism. The Internet is viewed as a concentration of power but the big question is - a concentration of power for who; individuals or governments. These topics would be interesting to debate but may call for some neo-liberal online activists to be present to make their contributions.

Jovan Kurbalija's picture
Jovan Kurbalija

Felix, your comment echoes discussion by triggered by Vint Cerf's article on human rights. Is the Internet just a tool (powerful one) or more than a tool? We will try to organise a debate around this issue and the question of the power on the Internet.


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