Quantitative Analysis Of Contributions To NETMundial Meeting

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By Richard Hill

Summary

A quantitative analysis of the positions expressed with respect to certain issues in the contributions submitted to the The Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (NETMundial) reveals the following:

  • there is broad support for the following:
    • improving security
    • ensuring respect for privacy
    • ensuring freedom of expression
    • globalizing the IANA function
  • there is no consensus on the proper role of governments, that is, whether the roles as outlined in the Tunis Agenda are appropriate, or whether governments should have equal status with other stakeholders
  • there is significant support for the following:
    • increasing the participation of developing countries in discussions of Internet governance
  • there is some support for the following:
    • ensuring universal access
    • strengthening the Internet Governance Forum
    • interventions to foster infrastructure development and deployment
    • interventions to ensure network neutrality

The NETMundial meeting

According to its website, NETMundial will focus on crafting Internet Governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem. The meeting is scheduled for April 23rd and 24th 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

A total of 187 contributions were submitted to the meeting.  Most of them agreed that certain key principles should apply to the Internet and its governance.  That consensus can be summarized as follows:

  • Offline rights apply equally online
  • The Internet should remain a single, universal, interconnected, interoperable, secure, stable, resilient, sustainable, free, and trusted network
  • Internet governance should involve all stakeholders from all parts of the world and be open, transparent, accountable, and bottom up
  • Policies should create a stable and predictable environment that fosters investment and favors innovation

But these are general, high-level principles, whose implementation is open to interpretation.

For example, while there is consensus that free speech must be protected online as well as offline, there is no consensus regarding whether restrictions that exist in some particular country violate existing human rights laws.  For a more detailed discussion, see section 2 of Hill, Richard, 2014.  “The Internet, its governance, and the multi-stakeholder model”.  Info, Vol. 16 No 2.  An early version is available online as “Internet as a paradigm”.

Similarly, there is no agreement on how best to foster investment in broadband infrastructure, in particular, whether net neutrality regulations should be imposed.

In order to gather more information from the rich set of data provided by the 187 contributions, we have analysed them to determine what position each takes with respect to certain key issues that have been discussed for the past 10 years (see section 2.1 of Hill, Richard, 2014. “The Future of Internet Governance: Dystopia, Utopia, or Realpolitik”, background paper for the NETMundial meeting.  See also the summary at “UN Internet Governance Discussion: Why Did It Fail To Agree And Why Will Discussions Continue?”).

These key issues are:

  • asymmetric role of the US government with respect to the management of Internet domain names and addresses
  • financial issues related to the increasing use of the Internet
  • issues related to the relative lack of security of the Internet, including lack of privacy

Another issue has emerged recently: whether the roles and responsibilities outlined in the Tunis Agenda for the different stakeholders are still valid (in particular, that policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States) or whether all stakeholders should have equal status (also referred to as equal footing).  For a summary of this issue, see “UN Internet Governance Discussion: Why Did It Fail To Agree And Why Will Discussions Continue?”; for more details, see section 5.1.2 of “The Future of Internet Governance: Dystopia, Utopia, or Realpolitik”, cited above.

In addition, the following issues were included, since they were mentioned in several contributions:

  • freedom of expression
  • demilitarization of the Internet (cyberpeace)
  • whether new international agreements or organizations are needed
  • net neutrality and government intervention with respect to infrastructure
  • universal access
  • increased participation by developing countries in Internet governance discussions
  • strengthening the IGF

Each of the contributions was coded according to its source (e.g. government, private sector, etc.) and geographic origin (e.g. developed countries, developing countries, …).  Then each contribution was examined to determine whether it expressed a clear position with respect to the issues outlined above.  Then, we counted the number of contributions that expressed a clear position with respect to each of the issues outlined above.  The full set of data can be found here.  (WARNING: in some cases, it was not clear whether the contribution was really expressing a clear position.  Further, some coding errors may have been made.  Thus the data should be treated as indicative, not definitive.  But, as we will see below, a few coding errors are not likely to have affected the overall results of the analysis.)

It must be stressed that this is a partial analysis of the contributions, in the sense that many did not address any of the specific issues outlined above.  Those contributions are of course valuable and this analysis should not be taken to imply otherwise.

Results of the analysis

The issue that was most frequently mentioned in the contributions were, in order: (the number after the issue indicates the number of contributions that mentioned the issue, see Explan for details)

  • security (86)
  • privacy (74)
  • freedom of expression (73)
  • globalization of IANA (55)
  • role of governments (52) – but there was no consensus on what that role should be, see below
  • better developing country participation (42)
  • universal access (35)
  • strengthening IGF (29)
  • infrastructure intervention (29)
  • net neutrality (26)

There were relatively few mentions of the other issues outlined above, namely:

  • new international agreements (16)
  • new organizations (10)
  • financial issues (13)
  • tax issues (6)
  • cyberpeace (7)

While not tabulated in this workbook, the following are worth noting:

  • several contributions called on states to limit the liability of intermediaries. Such measures would be significant restrictions of national sovereignty. Such restrictions are usually negotiated internationally, for example as treaties.  But the contributions in question did not call for negotiation of new treaties.
  • a few contributions from the private sector called on states not to impose local data storage requirements, that is, to allow the free flow of data across borders. Such measures would be significant restrictions of national sovereignty. Such restrictions are usually negotiated internationally, for example as treaties.  But the contributions in question did not call for negotiation of new treaties.
  • two contributions called for the creation of competitive roots for the domain name system, to be used in parallel with the current root managed by ICANN.  One contribution called for continuing with a single root.

Role of governments

Regarding the role of governments, 32 contributions favored the role outlined in the Tunis Agenda, while 30 took the view that governments should have equal status (or equal footing) with other stakeholders. Thus there is no consensus on this issue.

It is instructive to see which categories favored which position.  In essence, the roles as outlined in the Tunis Agenda were favored by governments, while the private sector favored equal status. Civil society was divided on this issue, with US organizations favoring equal status, while developing country organizations favored the Tunis Agenda; developed country organizations expressed split views.

The divergence of views on this issue between governments and the private sector would appear logical, for the reasons outlined in 5.1.2 of “The Future of Internet Governance: Dystopia, Utopia, or Realpolitik?”, cited above.

Other comments

The following are worth noting.

Universal access, infrastructure and net neutrality

The universal access issue was mentioned mostly in contributions from civil society, with some support from developing-country governments.  The same holds for infrastructure intervention and network neutrality.

Financial issues

Thirty-five (35) contributions mentioned universal access, but only 13 mentioned financial issues. Yet it is widely understood that the relatively high cost of accessing the Internet in developing countries is an impediment to universal access (see for example section 2.1.2 of “The Future of Internet Governance: Dystopia, Utopia, or Realpolitik?”, cited above). The financial issues were mentioned primarily in contributions from civil society.

Taxation

Fifteen (15) developed country governments submitted a contribution, but only one mentioned the taxation issue. Yet the St. Petersburg G20 declaration states that there is a need to identify the main difficulties that the digital economy poses for the application of existing international tax rules and develop detailed options to address these difficulties (see G20 Leaders, “Tax Annex to the St. Petersburg Declaration”, G20 (6 September 2013), Annex, Action 1). The taxation issue was mentioned almost exclusively in contributions from civil society.

Other issues

The cyberpeace issue was mentioned primarily in contributions from civil society.  The need for new international agreements was mentioned in some contributions from governments, civil society, and academia. The need for new organizations was mentioned primarily in some contributions from civil society, with some support from the technical community.


Richard Hill, an independent consultant in Geneva who was formerly a senior staff member at the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), recently published, “The New International Telecommunication Regulations and the Internet: A Commentary and Legislative History.”

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