The campaign states that the Internet should be governed on the principles of human liberty, equality and fraternity. It should be based on the accepted principle of the indivisibility of human rights; civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and also people's collective right to development. A rights-based agenda should be developed as an alternative to the current neo-liberal model driving the development of the Internet, and the evolution of an information society.
The Internet is a major force today, restructuring our economic, social, political and cultural systems. Most people implicitly assume that it is basically a beneficent force, needing, if at all, some caution only at the user-end. This may have been true in the early stages when the Internet was created and sustained by benevolent actors, including academics, technologists, and start-up enterprises that challenged big businesses.
However, we are getting past that stage now. What used to be a public network of millions of digital spaces, is now largely a conglomeration of a few proprietary spaces. (A few websites like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon together make much of what is considered the Internet by most people today.) We are also moving away from a browser-centric architecture of the 'open' Internet to an applications-driven mobile Internet, that is even more closed and ruled by proprietary spaces (like App Store and Android Market).
In fact, some Internet plans for mobiles comeonly with a few big websites and applications, without the open 'public' Internet, which is an ominous pointer to what the future Internet may look like.What started off as a global public resource is well on its way to becoming a set of monopoly private enclosures, and a means for entrenching dominant power. At this stage, it is crucial to actively defend and promote the Internet's immense potential as a democratic and egalitarian force, including through appropriate principles and policies at the global level.
In an international campaign launched, several civil society organisations and prominent individuals affirms that the Internet must be governed democratically, with the equal involvement of all people, groups and countries. Its governance systems must be open, transparent and inclusive, with civil society given adequate avenues of meaningful substantive participation. While we denounce statist control over the Internet sought by many governments at national levels, we believe that the struggle at the global level also has significant dynamics of a different kind.
The international organisations who signed in the campaign include Development Alternatives for Women for a New Era, Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), World Democratic Governance Project Association, OCAPROCE International, and JASS (Just Associates)
Various national organisations participating in this campaign are Focus on the Global South (Thailand), Fundacion Ambio (Costa Rica), Funredes (Dominican Republic), Institute of Development Research (Nepal), Instituto Nupef (Brazil), Isis-Women's International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) (Uganda), Other News (Italy), Siyafunda Community Technology (South Africa), Terre Des Femmes (Germany), Third World Network (Malaysia) and VOICE (Bangladesh)
In India, those who joined in the campaign include Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, Briar open source project, Consumers Forum India, Delhi Science Forum, Economic Research Foundation, Institute of Public Health, IT for Change, Knowledge Commons, Madhyam, Swasti, Vrutti Livelihoods Resource Centre and People’s Union for Civil Liberties
Their demands with respect to 'global' Internet Governance espouse a simple and obvious democratic logic.On the technical governance side, the oversight of the Internet's critical technical and logical infrastructure, at present with the US government, should be transferred to an appropriate, democratic and participative, multi-lateral body, without disturbing the existing distributed architecture of technical governance of the Internet in any significant way. (However, improvements in the technical governance systems are certainly needed.)
On the side of larger Internet related public policy-making on global social, economic, cultural and political issues, the OECD-based model of global policy making, as well as the default application of US laws, should be replaced by a new UN-based democratic mechanism. Any such new arrangement should be based on the principle of subsidiarity, and be innovative in terms of its mandate, structure, and functions, to be adequate to the unique requirements of global Internet governance. It must be fully participative of all stakeholders, promoting the democratic and innovative potential of the Internet.
According to them, the mandate of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) for building a globally democratic space for developing Internet related global policies is quite clear. The WSIS outcome document states that, “the process towards enhanced cooperation (on Internet-related international public policies), (is) to be started by the UN Secretary-General ... by the end of the first quarter of 2006”. However, six years down the line, developed countries do not seem to be willing to even formally discuss how to operationalise this very important WSIS mandate of 'enhanced cooperation', much less do something concrete about it.
The campaign states that the Internet should be governed on the principles of human liberty, equality and fraternity. It should be based on the accepted principle of the indivisibility of human rights;civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and also people's collective right to development. A rights-based agenda should be developed as an alternative to the current neo-liberal model driving the development of the Internet,and the evolution of an information society.
The UN is the appropriate place for developing and implementing such an alternative agenda. Expedient labelling by the most powerful forces in the Internet arena, of the UN, and of developing countries, as being interested onlyin 'controlling the Internet', and under this cover, continually shaping the architecture of the Internet and its social paradigm to further their narrow interests, is a bluff that must be called.
They demanded that a Working Group of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) be instituted to explore possible ways of implementing 'enhanced cooperation' for global Internet-related policies. (Such a CSTD Working Group is also being sought by some developing countries.) 'Enhanced cooperation' must be implemented through innovative multi-lateral mechanisms that are participatory. Internet policy-making cannot be allowed to remain the preserve of one country or clubs of rich countries. If the Internet is to promote democracy in the world, which incidentally is the much touted agenda of the US and other Northern countries, the Internet itself has, first, to be governed democratically.