Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. This definition was put forward at the World Summit on the Information Society - www.itu.int/wsis.
At a global level, the key players in the governance of the Internet are:
- States/governments – in issues of public policy relating to the Internet
- The private sector (companies) – in the development of the Internet in the technological and economic sense
- Civil society (NGOs) – in representing the interests of all members of the Internet community
- Intergovernmental organisations – in coordinating matters of state policy relating to the Internet
- Internet organisations – in developing technical standards and policies related to the Internet
- Academic organisations – in the academic and research aspects of the technical and administrative governance of the Internet
The Internet originally came about as the network of ARPANET, which was used to exchange information between US government agencies. In the late 1970s, Internet use was expanded to academic institutions in the US.
In 1998, with the creation of ICANN, the process of the US government’s withdrawal from direct administration of the Internet began, although it still has a dominant influence.
Internet governance is a multidisciplinary, complex area involving a multitude of aspects:
- infrastructure and standards (telecommunications infrastructure, TCP/IP, DNS, web standards and security)
- legal (court jurisdiction, arbitration, copyright, trademarks, patents and cybercrime)
- the economy (e-commerce, consumer protection, tax policy, digital signatures and electronic payments)
- development (universal Internet access, the digital divide between developed and undeveloped countries)
- society and culture (human rights, content policies, privacy, data protection, multilingualism, multiculturalism, use of different scripts, rights of people with disabilities, education and child protection)