India Internet Governance Conference

On October 4 and 5, 2012, India’s first comprehensive multistakeholder India Internet Governance Conference (IIGC 2012) – Internet for Social and Economic Development: Building the Future Together, will take place in New Delhi. Following the format provided since 2006 by the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – an annual global event – the Conference aims to provide a platform for an open and inclusive policy dialogue that involves government, business, civil society, the technical community and academia. It will traverse a wide range of topics: from network neutrality, to global internet governance models; from effective management of the transition to IPv6, to making broadband access available to all; from the challenges the internet poses to traditional media, to the challenges hate speech online poses for all.  Bringing together multiple sources of knowledge and expertise from within India and outside, the IIGC thus aims to identify crucial emerging issues at a domestic and global level and flag these for the attention of relevant Indian bodies, as well as help expand India’s existing internet governance capacity.

Timing and drivers of the Conference

The immediate background to the conference is two-fold. With the release of the National Telecom Policy 2012 (NTP 2012), the internet and broadband have earned recognition as key drivers of economic and social development, along with telecom, in an increasingly knowledge-intensive global environment in which India aims to play a leadership role. The policy aims at delivering “Broadband on Demand” in the hope that this can become a platform for services in e-Commerce and e-Governance in key social sectors such as education and agriculture, in addition to expanding the footprint of these services and fostering an atmosphere of a participative, democratic delivery model that is citizen centric. Acknowledging the importance of internet access for all, the Policy specifically seeks to deliver Broadband access to all village panchayats through a combination of technologies by 2014 and progressively to all villages and habitations by 2020. The government of India has committed an investment of roughly Rs. 20 000 crore by 2014 for the achievement of this target. Close and immediate engagement of all stakeholders in the internet policy field is vital in order to maximise this important emerging opportunity of making internet access for all a reality.

The timing of the conference also allows for a discussion ahead of the IGF in Baku in November 2012 and the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai in December 2012. Among the range of vital issues that will be discussed at these events is the future of the global internet governance architecture – a debate in which the Indian government has been closely involved. For example, following the IGF meeting in Hyderabad in 2008, India continued its close engagement with the Forum by playing a crucial role in the discussions regarding its continuation, advocating a more outcome-oriented process. In 2011, the Indian government took its proposal a step further by proposing in the UN General Assembly a new institutional mechanism for internet governance, the Committee on Internet Related Policies (CIRP). Despite the Indian government taking a leadership position in these debates at the global level, within the country, discussions on these proposals and the direction global internet governance architecture should take have begun only recently. With the ITU-convened WCIT now also seeking to bring aspects of internet governance within its ambit, a detailed debate across the nation on the question of what shape the global internet governance architecture should take is critical.

Outcome Oriented Launch of a Continued Dialogue

Against the backdrop of these two important evolutions, the IIGC will thus provide for a distinct domestic flavor to the typical challenges that India faces as well as sufficient latitude for a robust discussion on globally relevant issues. In addition, the IIGC is the first attempt to build a multistakeholder dialogue in India that can provide systematic input into processes at the global IGF from which it draws inspiration. It is our hope, however, that the dialogue will not stop with this event. As experiments elsewhere have shown, national IGF-related processes can be a key avenue through which to foster dialogue and engagement across stakeholders and to develop robust national internet governance policies that find broad acceptance amongst the citizenry. The IIGC, and the budding multistakeholder organisational processes that feed into it, will hopefully be only the beginning of such a long-term engagement in India, that ultimately will result in a full-fledged India IGF in future years.

For more information or write to isocindiachennai (aT) gmail dot com

Published by turiya

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