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Internet governance


The nature of the Internet's current evolution is an important determinant of contemporary and future directions of social change. It is no longer simply a technical platform about which technical experts are best placed to take important decisions. Who should then shape the evolution of the Internet, and how? A common response is that the Internet is a dynamic platform that responds to user needs. Users determining the Internet's trajectory is largely a myth, though some remarkable oases of alternative practices amongst committed techies, and some non-techie 'power users', do exist. To the extent the user has a role, it is in her capacity as a consumer, which capacity is very unequally distributed between affluent and marginalised groups. Largely, it is corporatist and statist powers that are shaping the Internet. In authoritarian countries, state power is the central driver; but in a majority of countries, it is global corporate power, supported by globally-powerful governments, that determines the directions that the Internet is taking.

It is important to confront both, (1) global corporatist stranglehold over the Internet, which is sabotaging most of its egalitarian potential, and (2) statist efforts to discipline and control the citizenry. We believe that ordinary people and communities must have greater control in shaping the Internet as a key determinant of our future social structures. Towards this end, we advocate national and global norms and policies that recognise, and underpin, the Internet as primarily a force for equality and social justice, and undertaking research in support of our advocacies for a people-centric Internet.

IT for Change has been a key resource centre supporting developing country engagements in global Internet governance forums, in the post-WSIS phase. Through periodic policy briefs, we have examined the rapidly evolving social, economic and cultural implications of Internet related debates most relevant to developing countries.

The Internet has now become an enabler of rights and an essential precondition for full participation in the information society. However, issues of corporate and state surveillance, and the enormous influence that corporate policies have on the way our fundamental rights are exercised, exhorts us to embark on an urgent recasting of the Internet and human rights debate,...

The article critically examines US government's withdrawal from direct oversight over ICANN, and argues that the jurisdictional controls over ICANN that the US retains means that ICANN can hardly be said to have become independent of the US state. The article suggest that a good interim measure for getting such independence is for ICANN to seek jurisdictional immunity from...

Anita Gurumurthy, Executive Director, IT for Change was a Panelist at the IGF 2016 Main Session, Connecting Human Rights - Emphasising Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for the Internet. In her intervention, she stressed the critical imperative to move beyond the binary of the online and offline, in our imaginary of rights. Human rights violations occur in the very...