Hands of a guy on laptop keyboard

How far we all have come

Published on 26 August 2010
Updated on 19 March 2024

In 2004, when I told my friends what I was doing as a member of WGIG – the Working Group on Internet Governance, they often called on me to fix their printers or install new software. As far as they were concerned, I was doing something related to computers. I remember taking a quick poll of my fellow WGIG members asking them how they explained to their friends, partners, and children what they were doing. Like me, they too were having difficulty.  This is one of the reasons I started designing and preparing Diplo’s first text and drawings related to Internet governance.

Today, just six years later, the same people who asked me to install their printers are coming back to me with questions about how to protect their privacy on Facebook or how to ensure their children can navigate the Internet safely.  Some are even asking whether the apparently fraught relationship between China and Google or the frequent talk of a cyberwar have anything to do with Internet governance. How far we all have come!

Internet governance is moving increasingly into the public eye. The more modern society depends on the Internet, the more relevant Internet governance will be. Far from being the remit of some select few, Internet governance concerns all of us to a lesser or greater extent, whether we are one of the 2 billion using the Internet or a non-user who depends on the facilities it services.

Internet governance is obviously more relevant for those who are deeply integrated in the e-world, whether through e-business or simply networking on Facebook. Yet it has a broad reach. Government officials, military personnel, lawyers, diplomats, and others who are involved in either providing public goods or preserving public stability are also concerned. Internet governance, and in particular the protection of privacy and human rights, is a focal point for civil society activists and non-governmental organisations. For academia and innovators worldwide, Internet governance must ensure that the Internet remains open for development and innovation. Creative inventors of tomorrow’s Google, Skype, Facebook and Twitter are out there, somewhere, browsing the Net. Their creativity and innovativeness should not be stifled; rather should they be encouraged to develop new, more creative ways to use the Internet. One of the main objectives of Internet governance is to create a pro-development policy environment, which should enable further use of the Internet as an engine of development.

It is my hope that this book provides a clear and accessible introduction to Internet governance. For some of you, it will be your first encounter with the subject. For others, it may serve as a reminder that what you are already doing in your area of specialisation – be it e-health, e-commerce, e-governance, or e-whatever – is part of the broader family of Internet governance issues.

The underlying objective of such a diverse approach is to modestly contribute towards preserving the Internet as an integrated and enabling medium for billions of people worldwide. At the very least, I hope it whets your appetite and encourages you to delve deeper into this remarkable and fluent subject. Stay current. 

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