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In the quest of a Multi-stakeholder Policy Dialogue

Posted on February 16, 2006 at 5:58 pm by Ricciardi Sebastian

The Tunis Agenda recognized the need of a new space for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue, and give us some orientation on how to build such a space: The Internet governance forum should be convened by the UN Secretary General to create a new space for “multi-stakeholder policy dialogueâ€? (para.72). It is supposed to be “multilateral, multi-stakeholder, democratic and transparent (para. 73); it “…would have no oversight functions and would not replace existent arrangements, mechanism, institutions or organizations, but involve them and take advantage of their expertise. It would have no involvement in day-to-day or technical operations of the Internet.â€?(para. 77)

It is clear and undeniable that the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency and democracy should be the foundation of this new space for dialogue. To be inclusive, and became a truly multi-stakeholder space, the forum needs to recognize and welcome all stakeholders, and let them participate on an equal footing at all levels of the discussion. Beyond the “modelâ€? we want to replicate, it is important to recognize and follow these values.

A truly multi-stakeholder, transparent and open process let everyone participate in the critical tasks, and these tasks include the agenda and rule of procedures setting. Therefore, if we are going to have a bureau or any kind of committee to perform these important tasks, it should be composed in a way that: (1) represent the views and interests of all stakeholders, (2) conduct their work under open and transparent mechanisms and (3) have no preeminence for any of the stakeholders involved.

Setting up the rules of procedures is, consequently, a critical challenge. In this regards, WSIS rules of procedures should not be considered as a starting point. These rules were tailored for a different kind of forum, and are not suitable for a much broader, inclusive policy dialogue. The nature of the IGF is different than WSIS, and hence, this should be reflected in the rules.

There are many examples of how the WSIS strict rules would undermine the results of the IGF: The input received by a large group of stakeholders was limited to the observer role they have had during WSIS. Some of these stakeholders were very representative of the internet community, and, even when the Tunis Agenda recognized the importance of their ongoing roles in coordinating technical matters and their expertise, the process did not recognize them as a sui generis stakeholder, and did not allocate a specific time to hear and consider their thoughts on the different matters. Fortunately, members of the Civil Society and the Private Sector were kind enough to donor some of their scare time for this purposes on that opportunity.

There were also many organizations and members of the civil society that were precluded because of the rules. Just as an example, the first hours of the last PrepCom in Geneva were used to discuss the situation of an organization that was excluded because they refused to declare their funding sources.

These examples show some of the reasons why we should not use UN rules beyond the multi lingual capacities. A much higher degree of flexibility is desired to promote an open and inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue. These Consultations on the Convening of the IGF provide a good example of how a multi-stakeholder forum should be put in place.

The openness and inclusiveness of the process should also be a guideline when considering the mechanisms of participation. Physical presence excluded many stakeholders, especially those coming for less developed countries. This is why we ought to assure mechanisms of remote participation, namely, on-line discussion forums, e-mail discussion lists, wikis, podcasts and webcasts, just to name a few. Physical presence should not be a requirement to fully participate in the different debates that may arise.

IGF meetings should be done mainly through internet based mechanisms and one yearly meeting. This meeting shouldn’t take more that 3 or 4 working days, to cope with financial constrains and assure broad participation.

It would be also important to promote some financing mechanism to assure the participation of those who are in a disadvantageous position, i.e. those who come for less developed countries. The investment and promotion of capacity building programs is necessary to assure a well balanced participation in the long range, and this is why it should be one of the main topics addressed in the IGF discussions.

Implementation of Plan of Action – The challenge ahead

Posted on November 24, 2005 at 6:28 am by shahid_ictdpb@yahoo.com

The overwhelming commitments of different developing countries and development partners in the WSIS 2003 held at Geneva, Switzerland during December 10-12, 2003 has began to fade within a very short span of time. As the 2nd round of WSIS also ended in this November 16-18 2005 at Tunis and also does not reflect any significant development towards implementation of the Plan of Action of WSIS by the participant countries, it is now becoming critical to develop the strategy to ensure implementation of the plan of Action. Though the Tunis summit developed documents on implementation and follow up mechanism, it is important “Who will bell the Cat”. A huge gap exists in the implementation of WSIS Action Plan and efforts taken in the Developing countries. The defined role of the govt. is far away from the initiatives taken by the govt. and the digital divide gap is widening day by day.

Implementing the Plan of Action of WSIS will directly contribute towards achieving the MDG in some extents. Achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is another critical issue for the developing countries like Bangladesh. So, now we have so many agendas to address with proper attention and priority.

To ensure timely implementation of the plan of action – civil society organization may play the role of Watchdog, to monitor, advice and support to achieve the goal set by WSIS. It is obvious that the govt. has to take the lead in this process and other stakeholders will contribute in the process on implementation. International development partners should come forward, even ITU or GKP can come up with some sorts of mechanism to support to oversee the implementation of Plan of Action at country level, and also at regional level. This effort will also include initiative to assess the situation and if require build national level capacity to ensure implementation.

Or does anyone have better solution to ensure implementation of the plan of action at country level?

The foolish dream of an emperor

Posted on November 22, 2005 at 3:01 pm by Luc Faubert

Contrary to the official story found in many texts about WSIS, the drive behind WSIS was not the will to bridge the digital divide. WSIS was initiated through the influence of Yoshio Utsumi, the Secretary General of the ITU, in order to wrestle control of the Internet from the existing organizations that manage it. Mr. Utsumi wanted to leave behind him a legacy that would guarantee ITU’s continued role as the all-encompassing body controlling everything strategically related to telecommunications. To that aim, the ITU passed a resolution at its 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference calling for the United Nations’ endorsement in holding a summit to discuss issues and develop solutions related to the deployment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). This resolution marked the birth of WSIS.

The ITU has prevailed in telecommunication since 1865 but now, thanks to the Internet, it is in dire straits. With technologies like VOIP (Voice over the Internet Protocol), the Internet is quickly overtaking the conventional telephony channels and making them rapidly irrelevant. As a desperate last attempt to prevent the ITU from falling into oblivion, Mr. Utsumi imagined in 1998 that taking over the Internet would inject his organization with newfound pertinence.

Throughout history, emperors’ dreams have shaped the world and determined the faith of other human beings, however lacking they were in good sense. Emperors’ dreams have funneled unimaginable amounts of financial and human resources, and simple humans’ dreams have historically been overshadowed by emperors’ grand designs.

Under the cover of the commendable and noble goal of bridging the digital divide, the ITU’s emperor has in fact used WSIS to push his agenda to wrestle control of the Internet from existing organizations like ICANN. One needs only compare the time spent during WSIS arguing about Internet governance to that spent on all other issues related to bridging the digital divide to realize where country delegations were steered. Governance discussions whose outcome have no impact whatsoever on users represented well over half the efforts expended at WSIS while other issues with direct implications on Internet users have suffered a sad lack of attention. Issues such as improving access to the Internet, capacity building, usability, spam management, cyber-security, multilingualism and ways to provide access to the Internet to people using oral languages would have taken up most discussion time if WSIS organizers and attendees truly cared about having a positive impact on Internet users worldwide.

The truth is that WSIS is about control, control of the Internet—not the well-being of Internet users. But the people who have built the Internet will not let control of it fall in the hands of an emperor with a foolish dream. We have come to an age where people, sometimes, can now resist the designs of even the most powerful emperors. The Internet community must realize the importance of what has gone on at WSIS and what will continue with the Internet Governance Forum. The fight for common sense to prevail is far from over.

WSIS has directly cost millions of dollars and has incurred even greater indirect costs to attending countries. Now that it is over and that the ITU has still not gained the control it wanted, the ITU, supported by a host of developing countries where it has gained mind share through generous financial assistance and by some unsuspecting countries of the European Union who where blinded by their overarching fancy to oppose the United States (even to their own detriment), has obtained that a forum be created where Internet governance issues will continue to be debated.

This will go on until the ITU gains what it wants or until another emperor there understands that shoplifting control of the Internet, while it may seem good for the ITU, would spell disaster for Internet users. Mr. Utsumi’s reign will end in 2006. Let’s hope that his heir will be able to direct his constituents to work to improve the condition of Internet users rather than waste precious resources on trying to overtake control of the Internet from organizations that are already doing a great job at managing it. As one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of the 20th century, the Internet has the markings of great products: it works and it does so seamlessly. For the 15% part of the world population that has access to the Internet, using it has become so easy that users sometimes don’t even realize they are using it. The most important task ahead for us is to connect in a meaningful manner the remaining 85% of human beings who are still without access to the Internet.

I hope we will fight to the very end to preserve the inherent openness that makes the Internet so great today, and the bottom-up, adaptive and powerful processes that have allowed us to make it both the most amazing piece of engineering work and the most powerful communication tool that human kind has produced to date.

No other organization than the Internet Society has the reputation, wherewithal and stamina to coalesce the communities that will save the Internet from the quicksands of inappropriately stale and top-down organizations such as the UN and the ITU.

H.E President Olusegun Obasanjo proposes Nigeria to host the African Regional Office of the Digital Solidarity Fund

Posted on November 22, 2005 at 1:16 pm by Dewandranath Kissoondoyal

H.E President Olusegun Obasanjo proposes Nigeria to host the African Regional Office of the Digital Solidarity Fund

At the high level segment (interactive session) on the Digital Solidarity Fund during the Tunis Phase of the World Summit of the Information Society on 16th November 2005, His Excellency Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria informed that Nigeria has offered to host the African Regional Office of the Digital Solidarity Fund in Abuja and provide office space and supporting staff. He stressed that Africa needs the regional office because of its peculiar disadvantage in the digital revolution. The Regional Office will be tasked with the responsibility of mobilising support for the Digital Solidarity Fund in Africa as well as project monitoring and implementation

It was the President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal who first brought the idea, on behalf of NEPAD, of establishing a Digital Solidarity Fund. Ever since the ideas were articulated under the NEPAD ICT initiative, President Wade has championed the cause of ensuring the inclusion of countries of the South in the emerging Information Society. The Digital Solidarity Fund was inaugurated on 14th March 2005 in Geneva and to date the fund has raised Euro5.5 million in cash and commitments.

Heading to Athens

Posted on November 18, 2005 at 2:29 pm by Ricciardi Sebastian

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” Plato.

On the end of next year, Athens will be hosting the first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the ultimate WSIS outcome. How this forum will be organized is still unknown. There are, however, some guidelines about the topics that should be included in the agenda and a call for open and inclusive participation. These guidelines, as agreed in Tunis during this week, are somehow blur and not so precise, maybe ambugous, but they were expected to be that way. After all, the whole Internet Governance issue has raised passionate discussions in the last years.

I am listening Lynn St. Amour speech in the plenary room right now, and, even when I think it would be unfair to say that one party won and the other lost, it would’ve been much better for the user and the user-to-be if the focus of the summit were different, and if the governance issue wouldn’t have so much attention. That’s why I think that the real looser in this process is the unconnected. Not the ITU, or Europe, but that one who lives in a remote place without internet connection, or the one who can’t afford it, or even those who can’t use it freely because their government is afraid of giving open access. There wasn’t much improvements for these users in this process, besides elegant political declarations.

Could we expect something more form it? I honestly don’t know. As it seems somehow reasonable for any statement agreed among 175 countries to be ambigous and hazy, maybe it is also reasonable to any process which involves this number of participants to evolve slowly.

And probably, so will the forum. With a long list of issues to address, the IGF will face a tremendous task, and even when it is posied to provide non biding guidelines, they will probably find many dificulties in find common positions. Even more if the discussion keeps hinging around ICANN and it’s mandate.

We will be going to Athens, though, with a new spirit of cooperation and improvement, hoping that the governments allow us to participate fully, and not only as observers, in a really multi-stakeholder process, seeking answers and solutions for those who don’t enjoy the benefits of the Internet today, rather than a pointless fight about technical coordination. At the same time, ICANN itself is redefining its relationship with national governments, showing that it is growing and maturing as an organization.

Hopefuly, we won’t hear anything more about the zone file, root servers, and IP numbers in the coming discussions, but about freedom, development, connectivity and all of those issues that will let us build a new and better internet.

As Luc Faubert suggested here, this learning process will be successful on the premise of new ideas, which can only come out form honest debates and constructive discussions. We are heading Athens with this spirit.

From ideas to actions: the beauty of learning

Posted on November 18, 2005 at 2:12 pm by Luc Faubert

The most important direct outcome of WSIS is ideas. New ideas. WSIS is not where concrete actions take place. WSIS was a discussion. WSIS was, ironically, an Internet Governance Forum before its attendees even created the Forum. WSIS was a learning class for all who attended, all of whom needed the class, whether they had realized it before WSIS or not. The national delegations, the technical community, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the business sector; all WSIS attendees cross-pollinated, learned about each other’s preoccupations and consequently modified their perceptions as the process evolved.

The outcome of WSIS will not only be text. WSIS has induced massive change in the mind of most who have followed it. National delegations know much more about the technical underpinnings of the Internet and how it is managed. The technical community has learned it can no longer ignore how technical decisions intertwine with policy. Civil society has learned about the diplomatic process and has a better grasp of how it can contribute in a more structured fashion.

The concrete actions resulting from WSIS will be those that WSIS attendees will undertake when they return home. These actions will henceforth carry with them the WSIS impetus.

Isn’t this what learning is about: new ideas, new perspectives, new actions?

Juridic Aspects of Electronic Commerce

Posted on November 17, 2005 at 1:43 pm by Rishi Chawla

Lots of interesting parallel events are going on at the WSIS mostly regarding policy, laws and regulation. UNCITRAL had a presentation today on the Juridic aspects of Electronic Commerce.

UNCITRAL – Franca Musolino Legal Officer, Secreariat, UNCITRAL gave an Overview of her organisation . Harmonization is important so that legal environment is predictable for companies working in different countries. She spoke about the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce and Model Law on Electronic Signatures. Why such legislation were needed? To enable the legal environment for companies working on Information Technology. UNCITRAL Model law is flexible because the technology was still developing. There was a need to fill the vacuum. She explained the principles behind the Model laws of UNCITRAL

Media and Technology Neutrality. No specific technology or medium is prescribed in the Model Laws.

Parties are free to use the technology and forms to make agreements. If the contract is simple and he parties have been dealing with each other through mails for some years then simple mail will suffice however if it is multi million dollar contract electronic signatures are needed.

UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures

Electronic Signatures should be legally recognized. It provides a functional equivalence to the hand written signatures. It treats all signature technologies equally. Allows the states to indicate in advance recognized signature technologies. Aricle 1 sets out that the law does not override consumer protection laws. Applies if electronic signatures used in commercial laws. Article 3 sets out the technology neutrality. Atricle 6 gives the conditions which the electronic signature should meet. More info on the above is available at www.uncitral.org

Jeffry W T Chan Chair of Electronic Commerce group. The United Nations Convention on the use of the Electronic Communications In International Contracts. States who are willing to adopt the Model laws should do this subject to the updates in this convention. In 1986 Legal Guide to Electronic Funds Transfers, 1996 MLEC, 2001 MLES, however there has not been complete harmonization. States have not adopted the model laws completely – they have adopted it only partially. Need for model laws arose because of the global market place, need for certainity for cross border transactions. Objectives of Working Group on Electronic Commerce which commenced in Fall 2002 – harmonise national laws on the use of electronic communications in the formation and performance of croass border transactions. It is a binding international treaty between states. It is a interpretative instrument. No substantive rules except where absolutely necessary. Europeans have a tighter consumer provisions than Americans. It interpretes the contracts and does not create rules. Party Autonomy. Staes are permitted to make declarations. States are obliged to adopt certain principles. However they are permitted to make declarations. It assumes that the sates know about the MLEC and MLES. It is based on the Convention on the International Sale of Goods which is a harmonized law. These are only working assumptions. Working Group comprises state representatives and invited observers. Process of the Working group was also presented. The process was rigorous and every country in the world had the opportunity to make its comments and observations. There cannot be different rules for contracts entered into electronically and other contracts (especially when mixed means are used) For example the offer is electronically but acceptance is in writing on paper. The convention applies to the use of the electronic communications in connection with the formation or performance of a contract between parties whose places of business are in different Sates. The domain name does not indicates the location. For example .IN does not indicates that party is in India. The place of location is that indicated by the party unless it is objected to. In case the party has different places of location then the place of business will be the closest relationship with the contract and not the party. Convention applies only to commercial contracts however states may adopt it to make it applicable to personal contracts also. The convention gives several definitions including Electronic Communication, Data messages. Article 8 provides that a communication or a Contract shall not be denied validity or enforceability on the sole ground that it is in the form of an electronic communication. The Convention provides that E- Signatures is valid if Reliable (as given in the model law of electronic signatures). The communication is presumed to receive if it is capable of being received – if the addressee has designated an address to receive communication, whether or not he has received it does not matter. In case of other addresses when capable of being retrieved and the addressee is aware of it. However there are problems that nowadays because of the anti spam software and firewalls installed in the system of the addressee the mails could be deleted by the system. However even then it will be presumed that the address has received it. The onus is on the addressee to prove that he has not received the mail because the system is under his control and is easier for him to prove that.

Electronic addresses has not been defined. No consensus could be achieved. Email address per se is not electronic address. There was controversy that whether Rishi@gipi.org.in is the address or www.gipi.org.in is the address.

Sales through websites are invitations to treat not offers. It is not binding until the final click by the intending buyer.

Provision regarding Error – Concerned only with the automated systems. Rules of error applies only to error of action and not error of choice. The operator must provide opportunity for correction. But the whole transaction is not nullified only the error can be corrected. Example of 100 books but buying 1 book.

Some important dates

Drafting of Convention by the Group completed in April 2005 and accepted by UNCITRAL in July 2005.

Adopted on 26 October 2005

June 2006 signing ceremony in New York

WSIS coming to an end: IGF is the new hope

Posted on November 16, 2005 at 1:48 pm by Ricciardi Sebastian

Yesterday night, resumed prepcom ended the negotiations about the final documents, and the most discussed issue about WSIS was finally settled. As the subcommittee A ended their negotiations about Internet Governance, a new space for dialogue has been created.

This forum will be just that: a space for dialogue. Luckily many ideas were discarded on the last hours; being clear that only a few support a new organization. The forum needs to be put in place no later that half of next year, and the first meeting will be on the last quarter of 2006.

In recent posts, I wondered about the specific tasks of this forum. I felt it was a bad idea to set up any new mechanism without a clear agenda, and I still think so, but the government delegates manage to get – finally – some specific language.

The forum functions will be:

a) Discuss public policy issues to key elements of Internet Governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet;

b) Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body;

c) Interface with appropriate inter-governmental organizations and other institutions on matters under their purview;

d) Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific and technical communities;

e) Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world;

f) Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet Governance mechanisms, particulary those from developing countries;

g) Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations;

h) Contribute to capacity-building for Internet Governance in developing countries, drawing fully on local sources of knowledge and expertise;

i) Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet Governance processes;

j) Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical Internet resources;

k) Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users;

l) Publish its proceedings

As you can see, many of these objectives are very general, while others are more specific, targeted missions. Points h, e, and f are on the later. They represent a commendable effort to focus on the important matters, like connection costs, development and multi-stakeholderism, by setting clear objectives. A detailed analysis coming later…

Desde el lugar de los hechos para la sociedad del conocimiento

Posted on November 16, 2005 at 12:48 pm by Gabriela Barrios

Tunez, Centro Kram, 11:12 am. 16 Noviembre 2005

La inauguración formal de la Cumbre esta realizandose en el momento en que escribo esta nota, con la Reunión Plenaria. Los trabajos de la prolongación del PrepCom3 terminaron ayer por la noche con un concenso sobre la Gobernanza de Internet y la aprobación de los párrafos mas controvertidos de la Cumbre. Uno de ellos fue el Parrafo 67, del cual hago una traducción al español: “Estamos convencidos de que existe la necesidad de iniciar y reforzar, como resulte apropiado, un proceso transparente, democrático y multilateral, con la participación de gobiernos, sector privado, sociedad civil y organismos internacionales, en sus respectivos roles. Este proceso puede contemplar la creación de mecanismos en un marco apropiado, donde se justifique, estimulando así la evolución continua y activa de los acuerdos actuales, con el fin de dar sinergia a los esfuerzos en este asuntoâ€?. La ceremonia de la plenaria dio inicio con un mensaje del presidente de Túnez, seguida por un discurso breve del Secretario General de Naciones Unidas, Kofi Annan, dirigido a la idea del sentido que tienen las TICs como instrumento de libertad, de posibilidades y de oportunidades que pueden lograrse en el futuro, y en especial su uso para lograr los objetivos de desarrollo de la Declaración del Milenio. El presidente de la Federación Helvética manifestó su entusiasmo de haber logrado un documento donde la participación ha sido multisectorial, con la activa participación de gobiernos, sociedad civil, academia y sector privado, donde la libertad es una condición sine qua non de la sociedad de la información. Se trata del resultado concreto de una sociedad del saber y del conocimiento, en el cual, la comunicación es tan solo una parte. El Sr. Utsumi (UIT) expreso que esta cumbre es un desafío, pues en el futuro nadie puede estar al margen de lo que se ha definido como sociedad de la información. Las TICs deben ser parte importante de las políticas públicas, herramientas para logra una vida mejor de todas las personas. La distancia entre el servicio telefónico y la telefonía IP no existe más. Las nuevas oportunidades que traen consigo las TICs carecen de significado sin que exista la infraestructura básica, la capacitación y la educación suficiente de todos los pueblos del mundo.

Los documentos finales pueden ser consultados en la página www.wsis.org

Serving the Internet community

Posted on November 14, 2005 at 11:53 am by shahid_ictdpb@yahoo.com

The final round of WSIS is on its way at Tunis but still few issues needed to be resolved, specially the IG issues. My fear as always that we are not concentrating on the core issues of ICT4D rather than the issues like IG which has no direct impact on the Internet users. Again I agree with the importance of IG issues at macro level, so we need to balance on the different perspectives, both technical and development, all are interrelated. ISOC should have an specific agenda to achieve it’s goal to serve the broader Internet community through the new network of ISOC WSIS Ambassador.