The Global in the Internet Governance Regime: Fora, Stakeholders and Policy Networks

By Slavka Antonova.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Engaging the “global governance” thesis (Rosenau, 2000), which detects “an upsurge in the collective capacity to govern” and “major shifts in the location of authority”, I conceptualize Internet governance along the Global Public-Policy Network model (Reinicke and Deng, 2000; Reinicke, 1999/2000). It is my argument that the multi-layered structure of the medium and its distributed architecture and management prevent us from adopting a uniform approach to Internet regulation. As the two-stage UN WSIS process demonstrated, diverse issues and actors should be considered when discussing political approaches on the global level. Consequently, creating diverse global policy networks, where a multitude of stakeholders is involved, is suggested as a more productive way to regulate practices and behavior on Internet, or Internet-related markets.

It is demonstrated in the paper how the original informal management of Internet (in the 1970s and 1980s) engendered the boundaries of an issue area with global significance, some of the actors possessing clear perceptions of their stakes, and the cultural conventions of a new regime of governance in international communications. It is concluded that most of the defining components of the global commercial-Internet regulatory regime (and controversies) were incubated in this early period. First, the semantically meaningful domain-name categories and “first-come/first-served” registration practices eventually required a formal globally-inclusive regulatory body to be created. Second, two principal global stakeholders emerged: a consolidated Internet technical elite, which gradually assumed the leadership role in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and a large user group at universities and schools, who later became involved in the at-large membership movement in ICANN. Third, the culture of informal collaboration and decision-making, typical for Internet standards policy development, was adopted as a guiding model for the private multi-stakeholder bottom-up process in ICANN.

Through the ICANN process, the global dimension in Internet governance was nurtured (i.e. the at-large Board-members elections, the ccTLD negotiation of policy-making authority, the global outreach policy) and significant long-term tangible and intangible outcomes were generated. It is my conclusion that based on this attention to the global in ICANN, a global network of functional and geographic communities of participants who shared the identity of an “epistemic community” emerged. In their particular local settings, the members of this community convey the intellectual, institutional and cultural influences generated by the ICANN process.

Keywords: Internet, Governance, Global, Stakeholders, Global Public Policy Network, UN WSIS

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 2, Issue 7, pp.15-24. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.141MB).

Dr. Slavka Antonova

Lecturer, Department of Radio-TV-Film, Massey University, New Zealand

My research interests are in Global Internet Governance, more particularly - the shifting paradigm of governance from inter-governmental to multistakeholder collaborative policymaking. I studied the power dynamics in the ICANN multistakeholder process with a focus on stakeholder interaction and strategies. I inferred that, in its formative years, as a global public policy network, ICANN produced long-term intangible effects such as disseminating globally the culture of collaboration, building human capital, and influencing global governance agenda at the UN level. I am researching, in addition, the spectrum of stakeholders participating in the process of designing the global Internet regime of governance: developers, providers and users constitutes another area of my research. The reclaimed leading role of national governments is a dimension that I investigate in terms of finding the right ballance between the global and the local in the emerging regulatory regime.


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