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The institution of Internet Governance Forums and the evolution of democracy

The UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has spawned similar initiatives in many countries and regions. However there has been concerns whether some of them merely legitimate corporate lobbying, making it more respectable and institutionalised now. In this context, it is important that IGF like institutions are carefully nurtured, from within the values and percepts of democracy, and not as something that subverts democracy. In fact, we can see the evolution of democracy into participatory democracy in three versions as below, whereby IGFs can be seen as the paradigmatic institutions of version 3.0 of democracy. 

  • Version 1.0 was when elected officials assumed full authority to legislate and execute, once they were elected, without any reliance on any auxiliary democratic processes of public consultations. Ministries were steeped in deep secrecy and considerable aloofness from the public.
  • Version 2.0 begun when elected officials started to employ some processes of democracy beyond elections, like undertaking public consultation on various legislative proposals, stakeholder consultations with those directly affected by any governmental measure, forming ad hoc or standing committees with civil society and outside expert participation, instituting right to information legislation  etc….. However, at this stage, public participation was still largely ad hoc, mostly on the terms of the government, and largely not institutionalized.
  • Version 3.0 of democracy … is about strong institutionalization of means and processes of participation (outside of elections) in an ongoing manner, whereby the agenda of such participation can be set with a greatly curtailed influence of the government, if any, the processes are largely out of control of governments… It is independently institutionalized, funded, legitimized, etc. However, there is never a doubt that actual policy making authority remains with representative democratic bodies… There has always to be sufficiently clear difference between institutions of participation, while they have to made as strong and inclusive as possible,  and those of legislation and execution.

Parminder Jeet Singh