By George Sadowsky (Message to Dave Farber)
Having just returned from the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Rio, I must say that the contents of Jack Chang’s article do not adequately characterize the event or the audience.
There were 1300 people who showed up, from 109 countries. Many of the were governmental and NGO representatives. The IGF is not a planning body, as Chang asserts, but a forum for discussion, and it must stay that way. It was set up as a compromise result of the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) conferences in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. The negotiations over the summit statement and the terms of reference of the IGF were not the friendliest.
A major issue at this year’s Forum (the first was in Athens last year) was U.S. “control” over the Internet, The Brazilians hammered this theme until the end, and were aided by the Russians, who announced on the last day that they would introduce a process in the UN General Assembly to allow the Internet to transition to intergovernmental control. Whether that’s a credible threat is still to be seen. There was a lot of ICANN bashing, since ICANN is the embodiment of that “control.”
The deliberations ranged from serious to ridiculous. perhaps you remember the meeting we both attended at the UN at the end of March 2004; this was a continuation of the same. Political correctness was the order of the day, with “multistakeholderism” being the word that would allow disputes to be settled and problems to be solved in peace and harmony.
All of the main sessions were transcribed by the excellent team that ICANN uses, and all of the detail is on line at www.intgovforum.org. It makes for fascinating reading, and anyone who wants to protect the Internet and help it to evolve should read some of this to understand how representatives, some self-appointed, from other parts of the world view this technology and the institutions that enable it presently.