The New Economic Context of Internet Governance
31 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2009
Date Written: October 22, 2009
This paper reports on a forum focused on how the global economic crisis could influence the development of Internet governance processes. Although it was felt too early after the credit crunch had struck to draw firm conclusions, many valuable insights were provided to help prevent - or at least minimize and alleviate the effects of - an end to the internet’s "golden era," similar to that which had seen the halting of a long period of financial growth. These insights were based around the following main themes, which are discussed in more detail in the body of this paper.
No immediate evidence had yet emerged of the economic downturn causing, or calling for, a change in the roles of stakeholders in Internet governance. However, some felt perceived failures of governance in financial markets could lead to a demand for more governmental involvement and oversight, together with other changes of stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities. In the longer term, a preference for building on existing multi-stakeholder governance models and mechanisms was acknowledged by most participants. There was no general support for internet regulation led by the public rather than private sector, or for stronger governmental involvement in Internet governance in general.
Government support around the world for internet developments was not seen to have generally diminished. On the contrary, there were signs that a stronger internet sector was perceived by policy-makers as a key facilitator of solutions to the economic downturn (e.g. in a number of major government investments and initiatives, such as a $7.2 billion US broadband stimulus bill). Together with rescue packages for financial institutions, this indicates that many national governments recognize how much both the financial and Internet sectors are necessary to their core infrastructure requirements.
Forum participants generally agreed that, despite the economic crisis, funding for activities related to internet governance should be strengthened and diversified in order to keep governance activities alive and to engage broader participation, with the aim of ensuring the Internet keeps pace with changing user requirements. Institutions engaged in non-duplicative Internet governance activities could consider possible collaborative mechanisms for mitigating temporary funding-related risks. Lastly, a lesson learned from the financial sector is that lack of multi-stakeholder environment for input and dialogue as a transparency mechanism was the missing link that can improve market self-regulation and evaluation processes.
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