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Himanshu Singh asked: What is the current Internet Governance architecture and the ongoing negotiations on the subject?

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  • Cherian Samuel replies: Internet Governance architecture at present can be divided into a technical stream and a policy stream. The technical stream largely follows a networked governance model with bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the Internet Research Task Force and the Internet Engineering Steering Group, working together to resolve technical issues and create standards and protocols to facilitate innovation and progress. Members of these groups include operators, academics, and representatives of government and industry, amongst others.

    The policy stream is split between the hierarchical model as exemplified through organisations such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the network governance model, through the creation of bodies such as the Internet Governance Forum which seeks to follow a multi-stakeholder approach.

    Governments have largely found it difficult to navigate the network governance model where they occupy just one of the seats at the table along with other stakeholders. However, due to the varied issues and their increasing complexity with the relentless march of technology, governments will increasingly have to play a more prominent role in internet governance.

    The Working Group on Internet Governance set up by the UN secretary general in 2003 described Internet governance as “the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.” Ten years on, governments are still at the stage of building consensus on shared principles, and so there is still a long way to go.