Governance still overshadows WSIS

ITU Secretary General says 'you will call on us to take over'

Internet governance still dominated conversation at the second World Summit on the Information Society, despite being officially off the agenda, says New Zealand representative Ian Thompson.

Few firm conclusions were reached with regard to other important topics such as bridging the “digital divide” between technology-rich and technology poor countries, he says. The international Digital Solidarity Fund, proposed as one gesture towards such equity, was approved in principle, but much remains to be settled regarding its implementation, says Thompson. For example, the basic question of whether it would represent “new money” for funding agencies or simply a reorganisation of priorities for existing funds remains unresolved.

Nevertheless “the process was incredibly valuable,” Thompson says. At least, he says, nations are talking together about the needs of an information society, something that was hardly on the radar before the first round of WSIS conferences in 2003.

“To have got from that point to where we are now in only two years is the United Nations equivalent of ‘internet speed’.”

The continued rankling of the governance question showed up in a speech by Yoshio Utsumi, secretary-general of conference convener the Intenational Telecommunications Union at a WSIS press conference.

Utsumi said that while the ITU would participate in the newly created Internet Governance Forum (IGF), an increased “regionalisation” of the internet in the near future would mean the ITU would be called upon to take over in five years’ time.

The conferences preparing for the Tunis-based summit rejected the idea of domination by the ITU and government interests, in favour of the present ICANN structure, at least for the present.

“The internet need not be one net controlled by one centre,” Utsumi said.

“Regionalisation has already started and I suspect in a few years, the simile of the internet will be a quite different one.”

As an example of this regionalisation, Utsumi, who is Japanese, cited China’s efforts to create a form of intranet within its country in order to more easily control access to information. “In China, they have already started on a Chinese address not provided by the so-called global ICANN system yet.”

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