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Internet Governance Forum 2009 meets in Egypt
Creating opportunities for all
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Malcolm Johnson,
Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau
photo credit: Shutterstock

Internet Governance Forum 2009 meets on “creating opportunities for all”

The fourth annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 15–18 November 2009, under the chairmanship of Tarek Kamel, Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology. It was attended by more than 1800 participants from 112 countries, including high-ranking representatives of governments, international organizations, industry and civil society. Among them was ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré, who gave a keynote speech at the opening ceremony.

IGF was created as an outcome of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), organized by ITU in Tunis in 2005. The summit adopted the Tunis Agenda, which says there should be stronger cooperation among stakeholders in policy-making for generic top-level domain names (gTLD) on the Internet, and underlines the need to maximize the participation of developing countries in decisions regarding Internet governance. Recalling this WSIS outcome, Dr Touré said “ITU continues to believe in the Tunis spirit, and has been an active participant in the IGF process.”

Participants also considered Internet governance in the light of the Geneva Declaration of Principles, adopted at the first phase of WSIS in 2003, which (like the Tunis Agenda) states that “international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.” This was in line with the main theme of the meeting: Internet governance — creating opportunities for all.

Discussions focused on issues related to the management of key Internet resources, technical standards, and interconnection. Also on the agenda was cybersecurity, as well as ways to improve access by all and to promote local content and cultural diversity. In addition, the meeting considered the emerging issue of social networks and the governance issues that they bring.

Alongside the main sessions on these issues, many side events took place at IGF, including 11 held by ITU. Also, as the initiator of the Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability (DCAD), ITU organized two workshops related to web accessibility for people with disabilities.

ITU looks at greening the Internet

ITU also initiated the Dynamic Coalition of Internet and Climate Change (DCICC), which now has more than 30 partners. The second meeting of DCICC was held at Sharm el-Sheikh on 16 November. On the following day an ITU workshop on “Greening the Internet” was organized with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Canadian not-for-profit organization, and with Nile University, Egypt. The workshop examined how the Internet can evolve in an environmentally-friendly manner, as well as how the growing number of online applications and services can help to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by all sectors.

The panellists were Joseph Alhadeff, Vice- President for Global Public Policy at Oracle Corporation; Catalina McGregor, Founder and Deputy Champion of the United Kingdom’s Green ICT CIO/CTO Council; Alice Munyua of the Kenya ICT Action Network; George Sadowsky, Director of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); Nezar Nabil Sami, Director of the Information Systems Department at Nile University; Catherine Trautman, Member of the European Parliament, and Tony Vetter of IISD.

In opening the workshop, Malcolm Johnson, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), said that there is only one way in which climate change can be tackled effectively: “by shifting from a high-carbon physical infrastructure to a lowcarbon virtual infrastructure based on… the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT).”

Mr Alhadeff gave a business perspective on sustainability. “The carbon footprint of ICT is important,” he said, “but the potential of ICT to measure, contain, mitigate, and solve environmental problems is much more critical to a sustainable future.” Many external factors affect “greening,” said Mr Sadowsky. Technological progress can have a positive impact, but an energy-cost model needs to be superimposed upon the usual model of ICT production.

“We are saving, copying and storing far, far too much data,” said Ms McGregor, and this gobbles up power. But equipment is shrinking in size, she added, and ITU is involved in offering guidance and standards in this field “We are getting in early to get it right,” she said. Mr Vetter asked a further question: “What do Internet policy makers need to measure to find out whether they are getting it right?” Mechanisms are needed to monitor the impact of Internet policy and governance choices upon combating climate change, he said.

Transition to IPv6

This workshop was organized by ITU jointly with the Number Resource Organization, which coordinates the activities of regional Internet registries (RIR). It looked at the implications of the exhaustion of Internet addresses using the Internet protocol version 4 (IPv4), and the challenges in deploying the new IPv6. Representatives of the developing and developed world — and the public and private sectors — exchanged views on how governments and business can take the lead in promoting the move to IPv6 so as to guarantee a continued basis for social and economic prosperity.

Sureswaran Ramadass of the Malaysian National Advanced IPv6 Centre introduced a study it conducted for TSB on IPv6 address allocation and registration methods. The study considered the establishment of country Internet registries (CIR) in order to give users another possible source of IP addresses. In many regions, monopolies in telecommunication and Internet services are being replaced by competition. This improves performance, said Dr Ramadass, and “that same reason is why there shouldn’t just be one RIR giving out IPv6 addresses”.

Domain name issues

A session of the IGF on critical Internet resources discussed how these should be dealt with by such bodies as ICANN. Based in California, ICANN manages such matters as the top-level domain (TLD) name system of Internet addresses, including .com, .net and .org. Until 30 September 2009, the United States government (through its Department of Commerce) had oversight over ICANN, based on a “Joint Project Agreement”. With the ending of the agreement, ICANN is now supervised by independent panels, with the potential involvement of governments worldwide.

However, another agreement between the US government and ICANN is still in place until 2011. It relates to ICANN’s administration of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which oversees technical aspects such as global assignments related to the Internet protocol (IP), and management of the root zone that is the core infrastructure of the Internet domain name system (DNS).

There was debate at IGF about how ICANN’s new supervisory panels are to be selected, as well as future arrangements for IANA. While some speakers were happy with the status quo, others advocated ICANN taking a more direct responsibility for IANA. A member of ICANN’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group, YJ Park, (who is also a professor at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands) noted that “the US government still remains as the sole global authority that approves all delegation and redelegation of the rest of 251 country code top-level domains (ccTLD) and 21 gTLD”. Professor Park said that “the next IANA contract should identify an international body that will take over the current role of the US government ” in coordinating critical Internet infrastructure on a multilateral basis. She encouraged IGF to discuss what that international body should be.

Meanwhile, on 16 November 2009 ICANN introduced a “fast-track process” for permitting ccTLD (such as .ch, .jp, or .eu) in other than Roman characters. On the first day, according to ICANN, it received applications from six countries and territories for domain names in the scripts of three languages. Internationalized names for gTLD (such as .gov) will be introduced later.

Proposed new .ARAB domain name receives ITU support

IGF discussed the possible introduction of new gTLD on a regional basis (such as .America, or .Africa). The Arab Region officially requested the assistance of ITU for the creation of a .ARAB domain of this kind, including expert assistance on policy and capacity building to ensure that the region benefits fully. A workshop on 14 November focused on this matter and saw the participation of several countries from the Arab States. The participants endorsed the ITU approach and the related activities that will start at the beginning of 2010. ITU will follow closely, and contribute to, ICANN’s development of the new gTLD programme, making sure that the needs of its Member States are fulfilled.

ITU as key player in cybersecurity

Five events were organized solely or jointly by ITU on cybersecurity and child online protection, with very good attendance by IGF participants. The topics ranged from legal measures and organizational structures (with a specific focus on computer incident response teams, or CIRT), to international cooperation. Participants expressed their appreciation of ITU’s role as international facilitator and initiator of global programmes such as the Child Online Protection initiative and the ITU-IMPACT collaboration, within the framework of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda.

The future of IGF

IGF received a five-year mandate that ends in 2010. The meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh discussed IGF’s achievements and whether it should be maintained. Many participants emphasized the usefulness of the forum as a platform for dialogue, free from the pressures of negotiations. Some wanted to see IGF refocusing its attention on such points as international public policy issues and participation by developing countries, and supported the possibility of IGF making formal recommendations. Other speakers were in favour of the forum continuing as it is: a multistakeholder platform that promotes discussion, but does not make decisions.

Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary- General for Economic and Social Affairs, led formal consultations with IGF participants on the forum’s future. He will present a report on the results to the UN Secretary-General, who will then communicate his recommendation to the General-Assembly.

Speaking on behalf of the ITU Secretary-General, Malcolm Johnson stated that he will recommend the ITU membership to support the continuation of IGF in its present format, but with some improvements: in particular, fewer side events occurring in parallel with important discussions in the main session. “Why not concentrate on one or two themes for each IGF?” he asked, and suggested that the effectiveness of the organizing structure, including its transparency and accountability, should be addressed.

The fifth meeting of IGF will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 14–17 September 2010.


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