Monday, November 14, 2005

The Net wants to be decentrally governed

The Net wants to be decentrally governed

From the 16th to the 18th of November, the sun would stand still over
Tunis the capital of Tunisia because the global Internet community would gather under the UN lead World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) to determine the future of the Internet and the Information Society in general.

The summit would focus on Internet Governance to determine the future of the Internet and how to financing the Information Society for global inclusion. As a member of this community, am going to be sharing with us three articles; the first of which is "The Net wants to be decentrally governed" - sharing another perspective of the Internet Governance debate. Secondly, i would argue the case on "Open Access and Financing Principles for the Information Society" and then thirdly i would narrow my focus on "Africa in Internet Governance and financing the Information Society" - what does Africa bring to the table and what should she take home.

Please enjoy the papers and feel free to revert back to me and more importantly am open to conversations around the issues and dont forget to share them. Also feel free to blog them as well leave comments on my bog @

The Net wants to be decentrally governed By Eric M.K Osiakwan

Given that the key philosophy and ideology behind the framing of the
Internet is for it to be decentralize and global, the argument can be
made that its form of governance (Internet Governance) must of necessity
follow the same protocol. The Internet is by definition a highly
decentralize network of computer networks globally communicating with
each other using the Internet Protocol and Transmission Control Protocol
(IP/TCP) as a standard, this means that the Net wants to be decentrally
governed. However I see the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS)
in Geneva and now in Tunis trying to either centrally control or govern
the Internet – this can be defeatist.

The modeling of the Internet as opposed to the old telephone network is
such that the former is highly decentralized and the intelligence of the
network is at the edges of it whiles the later is a highly centralized
network with the intelligence at the core; this is the big deferential
between the two platforms. The deferential is not just an engineering
error or an inanimate discovery but a deliberate human design that seeks
to create a distributed yet extremely collaborative platform for scaling
global communication and commerce. The shift was necessary because the
historic order which centralized the intelligence at the center of the
network and demanded control from same was not scalable in the long term
and was actually breakable.

Hence in a simple way, the argument can be advanced that your level of
governance of the Internet is commensurate to the “amount” of Network
and Intelligence you contribute to the global common. The thinking here
is a paradigm shift from, the Internet is something somewhere that we
must connect to and since we connect to it then we must be part of the
governance of it to, the Internet is our network (inter-network) and as
we build, we contribute our intelligence and at the same time we advance
the governance of same within the globally agreed order of “self

The framing of the Internet to be a highly decentralized networks with
the intelligence at the edges reflects a change in the humans relations
culture of the 20th century; in which it was clear that we needed not to
be centralized to govern but that we could govern better in a “self
governance” culture based on some code of conduct (for the machines that
is IP/TCP). The decentralization phenomenon has an inherent logic that
humans are unique and posse’s specificity and must be allowed to
participate in the global culture so that if the intelligence is at the
edges of the network then it means everyone has an opportunity to
flourish based on his uniqueness and specialization in the intelligence

Further more the democratizing effect of the Internet is a definition of
the governance structure where humans have advanced to a point
where “self governance” is better practiced taking into consideration
the uniqueness, specificity and most importantly the need to innovate
and invent. Innovation and invention is at the core of human
civilization and so if we can’t create a society where both are advanced
freely within an agreed framework then we are actually making an
argument against human civilization. We all agree that the Internet is a
positive platform for globalization so why are we trying to kill the
uniqueness, innovation and inventiveness of same - that is what our
current centralized approach to the Internet Governance debate means and
I can see a lot of people pushing that front.

My proposal is for us to step back a second as we come to Tunis for the
final stage of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) and
consider again not only our “centralized” approach but the quest to
centralized the Internet and its governance. The engineering argument
is “why fix it when it is not broken?” but I advance the argument
that “why break it in an attempt to fix it?” If you may, let me advance
the argument a bit further on the need for the intelligence to be at the
edges – that is the best form of democracy.

Today, any technology that is working on the Internet is decentralized
or what we call thin-client, centralized approaches don’t last too long
on the platform because the inherent logic is defeatist. Talk about
Yahoo, MSN, Skype, ICQ etc they are all extremely distributed and
function better in that environment. Functionality on the Internet is
best in a distributed environment. The Internet is the best practice
of “distributed computing” and distributed computing is an
exemplification of the human social system that builds on the compound
ratio of individual intelligence.

The Internet is representative of an epistemic regime that advances
social inclusion or what some call “inclusive capitalism” and that’s
what the World Summit on Information Society is all about so why are we
advancing in such a summit a centralized and or closed approach to the
governance of the Internet? Inclusiveness is better advanced in a
distributed environment than otherwise or else we would not be advancing
an Information Society. Inclusive capitalism is predicated on the co-
creative ability inherent is individualistic intelligence so in the
school of co-creation, it is fair to meet your personal need if you can
contribute (co-create) to the global commons in an agreed framework.

I can hear the Internet wanting to be decentrally governed and this is
true of the current structure and order because we all agree that
Internet Governance is a broad term and practiced in deferent forms and
forums. For example; the Internet Engineering TaskForce (IETF) builds
the protocols that run the Internet; Coordination of the unique
identifiers is currently being handled in a multi-stakeholder Public /
Private Partnership known as ICANN, etc. There are other forms of
Internet Governance that are not addressed like issues related to cyber-
crime, spam, child pornography, hate-oriented content, the high costs of
bandwidth in developing countries etc. Where, when and who would address
these issues that are taking an extreme toll on the global common.

Now the question is by centralizing and or controlling the approach to
IG do we address those unaddressed issues or we actually create a
platform for them to be totally ignored? The later is most possible
because it is clear that we have different institutions and forums
because not a single institution or forum can address all the issues.
The argument can be made that inclusiveness is necessary and can best be
served in a distributed environment with an agreed protocol rather than
in a centralized one, so let me submit that as we advance the cause in
Tunis, let’s be careful not to break the Internet in an attempt to fix

No comments: