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Towards democratic Internet governance

Shruthi H M, Bengaluru, Jan 24, 2015, DHNS: 3:12 IST
The Internet might have pervaded the common man's life but its governance still remains in the hands of a few corporate giants. To counter this, civil society organisations propose democratic Internet governance.

Though Google’s Eric Schmidt predicts the “disappearance of Internet into the background”, a group of organisations have set out to bring to fore voices that have remained in the background in spite of the Internet’s all pervasive nature.As the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2015 is in progress in Davos (Jan 21-24), civil society organisations have come together to create a global ‘Internet Social Forum’ countering the WEF's NETmundial initiative for Internet governance. The organisations aim to create an Internet space governed in public interest.


Bengaluru-based organisation IT for Change will be an active part of this global forum, along with five other Indian organisations: Society For Knowledge Commons, All India Peoples Science Network, Free Software Movement of India, SLFC.in and Digital Empowrment Foundation.

The Internet Social Forum will consist of civil society organisations from across the globe who believe that Internet governance should not be limited to the vested interests of corporate giants. Their endeavour is to put in place a “bottom's up” approach, where grassroots groups can have their say in regulating Internet space.

Civil organisations feel that the WEF’s global internet policy making and governance initiative the ‘NETmundial’, restricts itself to the voices of the global elite. The concept of WEF itself has been countered by the “World Social Forum” and the Internet Social Forum draws inspiration from it. In fact, the “preparatory process” of the forum is likely to be held in March 2015 in Tunis, during the World Social Forum meet.

When one searches for something on the Internet, the most popular links related to the subject appear at the top of the list.

However, more often links that appear first are not guided by popularity but by the money invested by interested parties to ensure they are displayed on top. In this regard, the Internet Social Forum will fight for “Net neutrality”.

IT For Change Executive Director Parminder Jeet Singh said, “In its current form, internet governance has not yet become a people's movement. The Internet is increasingly controlled by corporates.”

Community owned broadband, data ownership, limits to copyright and including rural communities in the dialogue process are some of the issues that the forum seeks to address.

Rishab Bailey, Director (legal), Society For Knowledge Commons, added that such an initiative was significant as, at present, a lot of thought is going into setting up institutions for Internet governance. “We have to ensure a representative and democratic Internet governance. Internet is a global construct and it touches all our lives. As of now there are no concrete mechanisms to deal with issues pertaining to Internet governance. We have to make sure that Internet governance is a true bottoms up approach.”

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