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GLOBAL INTERNET INDEPENDENCE

In fact, to some people, "Internet governance" is synonymous with the work of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which allocates IP addresses and manages the domain name system. While the work of ICANN is clearly integral to the functioning of the Internet, internet governance encompasses a much broader set of activities. In one breath, it is the development and implementation of policies that affect the Internet's functionality, evolution and use at any layer of the network. This includes a range of activities, from assigning domain names and IP addresses, to developing technical protocols, to regulating infrastructure and to crafting policies for online content. More importantly, Internet governance is also about who gets to participate in decision-making about Internet policy and technology and how.

The Internet itself is a uniquely decentralized, participatory, and user-controlled technology. In its current form, it allows users, once connected, to communicate, access information, and develop innovative tools and applications with potentially global reach, with no technically justified need to ask for permission. The existing system of Internet governance is similarly decentralized: The activity of governance actually happens at different levels including technical standards development organizations (e.g. the Internet Engineering Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium), Internet resource allocators (ICANN) technical advisory groups (e.g. the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group) and others.

Most importantly, the current system values transparency to participation from stakeholders. This multi stakeholder model strives to ensure that policy is not developed by government alone. Instead, the multi stakeholder model seeks to enable civil society representatives, technologists, engineers, and industry to all have the opportunity to participate with an equal voice alongside government in the development and implementation of policy that affects the Internet. Many governments have explicitly recognized the value of the multi stakeholder model of Internet governance, signing on to documents such as the OECD's Principles for Internet Policy Making and the Joint Action for Free Expression on the Internet.

Internet governance is considered as the development and application of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) outcome documents also urge intergovernmental organizations to ensure that all stakeholders, particularly from developing countries, have the opportunity to participate in policy decision-making relating to Internet governance, and to promote and facilitate such participation.

Certainly, the current implementation of the multi stakeholder model is not perfect. Many stakeholders, particularly in emerging markets and in the global south, have expressed legitimate concerns about the challenges they face participating in governance activities at various multi stakeholder levels, citing resource and capacity constraints. The multi stakeholder model derives its strength from its openness and its inclusion of a diverse array of perspectives, and more work must be done to achieve its full participatory potential.

While we should collectively continue to improve current multi stakeholder structures and democratize global representation in Internet governance, it remains clear that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) lacks the transparency and inclusiveness that is necessary to make policy for a medium that has many diverse stakeholders and that operates on such a decentralized and participatory basis as the Internet.

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