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Internet Governance

Internet Governance

In 2005, the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society articulated Internet Governance as the collective effort among governments, civil society, and businesses, each operating within their respective roles, to establish and uphold rules, norms, principles, and practices that facilitate the growth and utilization of the internet.

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It encompasses:

  • Technical aspects such as control over DNS servers etc
  • Civil aspects such as privacy, freedom of expression etc
  • Political aspects such as maintenance of sovereignty
  • Security aspects such as data security, cyber security etc

Problem with ICANN’s role currently:

  • It is transnational but not global in its current avtar
  • It is dominated by non state actors which is hugely problematic for countries like China, Russia etc which are trying to maintain state control over the internet
  • It is one of the few centralized points of control over the internet
  • It is overseen by US

Assessment of various models for Internet Governance:

Model 1 – Oversight by an intergovernmental organization 


  • Democratizes oversight by involving representation from all countries in policy formulation.
  • Empowers nation-states to enforce public policy.
  • Reduces the influence of non-state actors, preventing misuse by vested private interests.
  • Utilizes international law to ensure accountability, moving away from exclusive reliance on US laws governing entities like ICANN.


  • Undermines the bottom-up process integral to the internet’s development and success.
  • Nation-states prioritize security and sovereignty over citizen interests in international settings.
  • Not all nation-states operate democratically, raising concerns about legitimacy in decision-making.
  • International law tends to prioritize national security and sovereignty over the welfare of citizens.
  • Involvement of nation-states introduces bureaucratic hurdles, slowing down decision-making processes critical for the dynamic nature of the internet.
  • Risks promoting vested business interests at the expense of public welfare, exemplified by cases like Ethiopia’s ban on VoIP services to protect a state-owned telecom monopoly.
  • Increases the likelihood of internet fragmentation along national lines, potentially hindering global connectivity and innovation.
Model 2 – Hierarchical Multi Stakeholder Organization


  • Enhances inclusivity by involving all stakeholders as outlined in the Tunis Agenda, including Civil Society, Private Sector, Intergovernmental and International Organizations, and Technical and Advisory groups, in policy discussions.
  • Empowers a bottom-up approach to the internet agenda, amplifying the voices of diverse stakeholders.
  • Mitigates the risk of unchecked authority by nation states, fostering a more balanced and collaborative decision-making process.
  • Promotes practicality by incorporating recommendations into policy formulation through a committee of geographically representative nation states.
  • Facilitates a conducive environment for business growth and innovation by considering diverse perspectives and interests.


  • Challenges may arise in the recognition and representation of all stakeholders, potentially excluding certain groups from the discourse.
  • While multiple stakeholders participate in policy discussions, decision-making authority remains primarily within the control of nation states, limiting the influence of other parties.
Model 3 – This is the alternative by Internet Governance Forum


  • Promotes true multi-stakeholderism by involving various stakeholders in decision-making processes.
  • Provides an effective check on the power of nation-states by ensuring diverse voices are considered.


  • Involves unelected representatives in decision-making, potentially raising questions about democratic legitimacy.
  • Challenges consensus-building efforts due to the diverse interests and perspectives of stakeholders.
  • Faces difficulties in assigning voting rights to civil society and private players, unlike the principle of one state, one vote for nation-states.

India’s Stand:

  • India advocates for managing the Internet via a multi-stakeholder approach, albeit one that emphasizes state-centered multistakeholderism over a broader, more inclusive model.
  • The proposal asserts that governments should possess a “supreme right and control” regarding matters pertaining to international security within the realm of Internet governance.
  • India positions governments as “an important stakeholder” and deems them as key custodians of security for the global Internet infrastructure.
  • In its submission, India suggests that the entity overseeing Internet management should be accountable to governments, particularly in areas where governments hold primary responsibility, such as security and other public policy concerns.

Assessment of India’s stand

India’s stance primarily stems from the concern that multinational corporations, particularly those based in the US, could seize control of the internet. India apprehends that under independent status, ICANN might prioritize its own narrow interests and commercial gains over the public good.

However, this stance has disappointed the Indian private sector, which has been instrumental in driving the nation’s rapid advancements in the IT sector, as well as civil society groups wary of excessive state control. According to C. Raja Mohan, India still has some ground to cover in refining its position on Internet Governance to align with its political values, the aspirations of its flourishing IT sector, and the concerns of civil society groups.

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