Close on the heels of the US decision to relinquish its oversight of Internet Corporation for Assignment of Names and Numbers (ICANN), a global multi-stakeholder meeting – NETmundial – on the future of internet governance will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 23-24. Nearly 800 delegates representing government, private sector, civil society, academia and technical communities, including several from India, are expected to attend this meeting.
This meeting was a result of an angry speech by Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff at the United Nations General Assembly held in New York in 2013. Rouseff, who, following the allegations by whistleblower Edward Snowden regarding mass surveillance by the NSA (National Security Agency) in the United States, publicly criticized the US administration and sought a resolution of these issues of any further acts of mass surveillance.
The Brazilians have invited written contributions in the run-up to the meeting. So far 188 proposals from 46 different countries have been received. From India, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Cellular Operators Association of India and Data Security Council of India, IT for Change, International Center for Free and Open Source Software, and the Society for Knowledge Commons, have made submissions. Some 20 Indians are expected to participate in this global internet meeting in Sao Paulo.
The MEA, in its submission, has highlighted the need for governments to “enhance common understandings and intensify practical cooperation through regular institutional dialogue with broad participation under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as regular dialogue through bilateral, regional and multilateral fora and other international organisations, in the area of internet and security”.
It has also argued that internet governance “should be multilateral, transparent, democratic and representative with the participation of governments, private sector, civil society and international organisations in their respective roles”. It seeks to make these as the foundation principles of internet governance.
The conference will be held under the chairmanship of Prof. Virgilio Fernandes Almeida, who has invited four co-chairs to help coordinate and run the meeting. These include Jeanette Hofmann from Academia, Fadi ChehadÃ© from the technical community, Andile Ngcaba from the private sector and an Indian academic from Delhi University, Subi Chaturvedi, from civil society. Chaturvedi is also a member of the United Nations Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, in addition to the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group constituted by the Government of India in 2013 to organize the India Internet Governance Forum.
NETmundial will focus on detailing the principles of internet governance and debate a proposal for the roadmap of future development of the internet and its ecosystem. Even though the Snowden exposÃ© regarding mass surveillance are seen as the reason for holding such a conference, Internet governance ecosystem goes beyond surveillance and privacy and includes issues of access, diversity, multilingualism growth and development, security, human rights, free speech, new technologies and emerging issues, among others.