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ITU Strategy and Policy Unit News Update 
Monthly Flash - May 2004

Issue 10
: May 2004

Previous editions

In this edition

IP-related activities
ITU Workshop on Internet Governance
ITU WSIS Thematic Meeting on Countering Spam
3.  APT-ITU Joint Workshop on ENUM and IDN
4.  ITU Consultancy Project
5.  New ITU-D e-flash

1. ITU Workshop on Internet Governance 

A Workshop on Internet Governance, organized by the ITU and held on 26-27 February 2004, was a follow-up to the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, 10-12 December), where Internet governance had been one of the most complex and contentious issues. 

At the Summit, governments asked United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set up a multi-stakeholder working group on Internet governance to investigate and make proposals for action by the Summit’s second phase (Tunis, 16-18 November 2005). The task of the working group is to develop a working definition of Internet governance; identify public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance; and develop a common understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders. The working group is to include governments, intergovernmental and international organizations, as well as the private sector and civil society, from both developed and developing countries.

In order to contribute to a process by which the ITU and its members may prepare their inputs to the working group, ITU organized the Geneva Workshop, which was attended by some 140 participants from government, industry, international organizations and civil society including root server operators, Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), and ICANN staff and former board members and those responsible for country code top-level domain names (ccTLD).

Participants expressed a broad range of opinions, but also a willingness to find common ground and to stress the complementarities of efforts. Several speakers stressed the problem of articulating the character and scope of governance activities in a neutral, non-ideological and systematic way. In formulating a common understanding of what constitutes governance, some made the case for differentiating between "hard" forms of governance, which involve laws, regulations or standards, and "soft" forms, which include cooperation and coordination. These definitions would map across big-picture issues such as development of technology for equitable and sustainable global development, to narrow-focus issues such as the use of common resources and the exchange of specific services and products between nations.

There was significant support for the architectural maxim that "form should follow function". In other words, the governance tools chosen to address a particular issue, and the decision-making structures designed to apply these tools to specific problems, should reflect and fully represent the balance of interests, capabilities and needs that exist in the "real world" — there should be sufficient flexibility to adapt as this balance changes. The history of global ICT governance has demonstrated that some things are best left to the private sector, some are best left to governments, and that satisfactory arrangements have yet to be devised for including developing countries and civil society in either the public or private domains of governance. This experience has also shown that it is difficult, if not impossible, to become truly inclusive without fundamental recognition of the separate and complementary functions of public and private governance structures, the legitimate roles of different actors, and the need to create dynamic linkages between them.

The Workshop website provides links to an annotated final agenda, all presentations and written contributions, and the participants list (PDF). The website also includes a background paper entitled Herding Schrödinger’s Cats: Some Conceptual Tools For Thinking About Internet Governance  prepared by Don Maclean, Independent Consultant, and the Chairman's Report (PDF). 

Related Links

ITU Workshop on Internet Governance
Information note for the press
ITU Internet Governance Resources
ITU and its Activities Related to Internet-Protocol (IP) Networks
ITU Activities on Countering Spam
ITU Newslog on Internet Governance  

2. ITU WSIS Thematic Meeting on Countering Spam*

Spam: a threat to the Information Society

Since 2002, the perception of spam has grown from a mere nuisance to a phenomenon that now threatens the entire viability of electronic mail (e-mail) as a mode of human communication. With the growing dependence of users on the Internet and e-mail for their personal and professional communications, spam can seriously hamper the development of the digital economy and society by undermining user confidence in online activities. Recognizing this potential threat, the Geneva Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) called for action in these words: “Spam is a significant and growing problem for users, networks and the Internet as a whole. Spam and cyber-security should be dealt with at appropriate national and international levels.”

In response to this challenge, ITU is organizing an ITU WSIS Thematic Meeting on Countering Spam from 7 to 9 July 2004, in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting is open to ITU Member States and Sector Members, Member States of the United Nations, international organizations, WSIS accredited non-governmental organizations and civil society and accredited business entities. Discussion during the meeting will be structured around five main themes: scope of the problem; technical solutions; consumer and small business education and awareness; legislation and enforcement; and international cooperation. 

What is spam?

Although there is no universally agreed definition of spam, the term is generally used to describe unsolicited electronic communications over personal computers or mobile handsets, usually with the objective of marketing commercial products or services. It is now recognized that spam has grown into one of the major plagues affecting today's digital world. Almost two-thirds of e-mail sent around the world in April 2004 can be considered as spam, up from below half a year earlier.


Spammers send hundreds of millions of messages per day, with a significant impact in terms of cost and productivity for service providers, businesses and end-users. Take mobile handsets for example. Mail that has not been sought by the receiver, but that is sent for the purpose of advertising the sender’s services may not in itself be harmful. This is particularly the case where a service provider sends advertising mail that matches the preferences and interests of the consumer, or which informs them of potentially attractive services. The problem arises when the mail received is unwelcome—for instance in a receiving party pays (RPP) environment where the receiving user incurs charges. Added to the factor of annoyance, is the extra cost and burden on IT systems, typically resulting in slower performance.

While some advertising mails may be the least harmful form of spam, the content of other messages can range from untargeted, and therefore largely irrelevant advertising, to offensive pornographic material. A less prevalent, but clearly increasing phenomenon is the use of spam to support fraudulent and criminal activities by masquerading messages as originating from trusted companies (“brand-spoofing” or “phishing”).

Phishing attacks use “spoofed” e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords and social security numbers. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to five per cent of recipients to respond to them, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a volunteer organization (see: ).

Another scam played by spammers is that of manipulating stock markets. With a barrage of bullish e-mails, spammers can send up highly volatile share prices in small companies, easily making a quick profit. According to some researchers, thousands of bogus investment tips are sent daily worldwide, and although the quantity of stock-related spam is much less significant than pornographic spam, it has risen considerably since 2003 and continues to increase.

Can spam be stopped?


Spammers have proven highly creative in avoiding detection, including falsification of origin of e-mail and randomization of content to bypass spam filters. The scale of the problem has grown to such an extent that anti-spam laws are being rapidly enacted in a number of countries although different national approaches and remedies are used. At the same time, there is increasing recognition that countering spam is an issue requiring international coordination and cooperation.

Among technical solutions developed to date, Internet service providers have deployed solutions to automatically detect and block spam before it arrives in users’ in-boxes.  In March 2003, the world’s largest Internet service provider, American Online, announced that it was blocking as many as 1 billion spam messages daily.  One of the major setbacks of this approach however, is that legitimate e-mail is sometimes incorrectly identified as spam and automatically deleted before being seen by the recipient.

There is a wide range of views on how to best fight spam without introducing undesirable side effects. There is also a sense, from the numerous initiatives around the world, that there is no single, perfect solution to the growing problem of spam. Legislative solutions that have been proposed range from requiring explicit “opt-ins” by users before they can be sent unsolicited e‑mail, to mandatory labelling of subject fields, to the establishment of national “do not spam” lists, which would be analogous to the “do not call” lists recently established in the United States to deal with telemarketing.


Countering spam will be an ongoing challenge. Even as technological countermeasures are developed and implemented, the inventiveness and technological prowess of spammers overtakes each one in turn, requiring a continuous effort. The introduction of measures at the international level may, according to some views, be the only way to effectively fight what is inherently a cross-border problem. As highlighted by the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action, there is a call for international coordination to find solutions that surpass mere technical “sticking plasters”. It is now certainly clear that national governments are no longer content to just sit on the sidelines in what has been, at least until now, the Internet’s losing battle against spam.  

Related Links

ITU Activities on Countering Spam
ITU WSIS Thematic Meeting on Countering Spam
ITU Newslog on Spam  

* Organized as a candidate WSIS Thematic meeting for the Tunis phase of WSIS in 2005. Designation of the thematic event will be made by the WSIS process.

3. APT-ITU Joint Workshop on ENUM and IDN

The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) and ITU organized a joint Workshop on ENUM and Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) from 21-22 May, 2004 in Brunei Darussalam. All materials are posted on the APT workshop web site including the workshop programme (Word). The objectives of the Workshop were:

  • To create awareness and wider understanding on ENUM & IDN issues;
  • To review the current status in the Asia Pacific region;
  • To review the global implementation of ENUM;
  • To assess the Asia Pacific needs and readiness for the implementation of ENUM;
  • To discuss the management of Internet domain names - Multilingual or Homogeneous?
  • To promote government - private sector partnership;
  • To review technical and interoperability issues;
  • To agree upon future direction

Presentations given at the workshop are available on the SPU Newslog:

Related Links

Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT)
APT-ITU Joint Workshop on ENUM and IDN
Reports on ENUM trial activities within Member States
General information on ENUM, including tutorial paper
SPU Resource Site on ENUM
ITU Newslog on Internet Names and Addresses  
ITU Newslog on ENUM  
ITU Newslog on IDN  

4.  ITU Consultancy project

From February to May 2004, an external consultancy firm has been busy at work to help ITU make the transition to become a more efficient and responsive organization. The consultants, Dalberg Development, worked on an ITU membership-defined project, the seeds of which were first sown in 2002.

In 2002, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference created a Group of Specialists to review the management of the Union (the "GoS").

In 2003 the ITU Council decided (by Resolution 1212) to mandate an external consultant to develop an implementation plan for recommendations to improve the management of the Union. Following a call for bids in November 2003, Dalberg Development, a Danish company with offices in Copenhagen and New York, was selected.

Based on the most pressing of the original recommendations of the GoS, Dalberg staff worked in-house to produce their report for subsequent consideration by the ITU Council. Consulting with ITU staff and management on one hand, and ITU membership on the other (i.e. the GoS and a specially-appointed Steering Committee), the consultants worked on a tight schedule of meetings, interviews, workshops and progress reports. One of the key ingredients in the process was the maintenance of communication between all of the many players involved. The workshops and meetings were variously aimed at bringing together elected officials, representatives of the membership, ITU managers and staff to develop common approaches to the implementation of new processes.

As well as focusing on financing and budgetary areas, the report includes various proposals with regard to information systems and management processes. The common view for most involved was that, for ITU membership, management and staff to work together with common objectives for the future, enhanced communication and information flows between them were necessary. What more suitable goal for an organization so deeply involved in helping the world to communicate?  


5. New ITU-D e-flash

ITU-D e-flash is a monthly e-update on some of the activities of the development sector of ITU, links to upcoming events, workshops and useful background information. If you wish to receive this publication, please subscribe by clicking here.


For further information on Strategy and Policy Unit Monthly News Flash, please contact: ITU Strategy and Policy Unit, International Telecommunication Union, Place des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 20 (Switzerland). Fax: +41 22 730 6453. E-mail: . Website:



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