IGP Scientific Committee members were prominent in all phases of this year’s Internet Governance Forum meeting in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt.  The IGP brought expertise in political science, economics, sociology and other disciples to bear on discussions ranging from cyber security and critical Internet resources to institutional governance.

Giganet continues to grow

Traditionally held the day before the IGF, the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) annual symposium brought together more than 90 people, including remote participation facilitated by IGP’s Derrick Cogburn.

Hans Klein chaired the opening session, entitled “What is Internet governance?” This topic sparked a spirited discussion between IGP’s Michel van Eeten and William Drake of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.  Van Eeten presented his paper, Where is the Governance in Internet Governance? and argued that researchers should be focused on places other than the IGF and ICANN (especially, Internet service providers) if they want to learn how actual governance of the Internet works. Drake suggested that the field would benefit from integrating approaches used in more established disciplines like political science, e.g., rational choice decision-making models.

Derrick Cogburn, chair of Giganet’s Communication Committee and a Steering Committee member, presented a conceptual framework for evaluating the IGF as a “whole network.”  Hans Klein’s poster presentation, “Comparing Internet Governance and Telecoms Governance: The Internet Revolution and the Ancien Regime” provided an opportunity for interaction with attending practitioners, including some staff from the European Commission and the International Telecommunications Union.

In the afternoon emerging issues panel, IGP’s Jeanette Hofmann presented her paper, Before the Sky Falls Down: A ‘Constitutional Dialogue’ Over the Depletion of Internet Addresses.  Her paper examined the debate over the emergence of market-based transfer mechanisms and the risks the technical community perceives in doing nothing, or making major changes. Hofmann’s paper attracted most of the audience questions in the final session.

The Giganet community is already evaluating this year’s event in anticipation of next year.  IGP’s Milton Mueller, the current Chair of the GigaNet Steering Committee, believes that there is a need to continue to improve the overall academic quality of papers, expand the number of senior scholars involved, and adjust the format to encourage more audience engagement.

IGF main sessions and workshops

IGP’s experts participated widely in this year’s IGF.  In addition to participating in a consultation with the European Commission, Multistakeholder Advisory Group member Jeanette Hofmann co-chaired the Day 2 Main Session on critical Internet resources.  As reported previously, contention over the institutional structure of IPv6 address allocation was a hot topic and drew strong remarks from ITU supporters and ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom.  In this writer’s opinion, what was most fun was watching some of the ICANN staff cringe as Beckstrom pushed forcefully in what are usually staid, diplomatic like main sessions. The audience seemed engaged in the forthright debate, but perhaps ICANN staff were worried Beckstrom was burning the hard-earned social capital ICANN developed over the past few years at IGF.  Additionally, while there were congratulatory statements about the Affirmation of Commitments all around, there were calls by governments and civil society for discussions to begin regarding the current IANA contract between the U.S. Commerce Department and ICANN, which will expire in 2010.

The discussion around critical Internet resources continued in the workshops on Day 3, with Milton Mueller participating in a panel on the adoption by the regional Internet registries of transfer mechanisms for IP address blocks.  What became clear in a debate with ARIN’s John Curran was that route aggregation, not conservation, is the predominant constraint going forward. Because it is ISPs that actually determine how and when route aggregation occurs, some participants in the debate wondered what exactly the role of RIRs will be in a world of plentiful IPv6 address blocks with no needs-based assessment.

Hans Klein chaired a panel examining “Governance Issues of Country Code Top Level Domains.”  Klein observed that an earlier workshop had been held on the same topic, and that there seemed to be two views of ccTLD issues, with often competing versions of historical delegation events.  Klein’s panel included two senior ITU officials and included a lively discussion between ICANN-affiliated attendees and the ITU panelists.   If anything this demonstrated, yet again, the need to bring diverse viewpoints into workshop formulations.

Day 3 also saw Michel van Eeten as a panelist in the workshop, Cyber Security: Strategy for the Future, which was co-organized by IGP, TechAmerica and Nominet.  DNS and IP address registries, ISPs, software providers, legislative bodies and regulators were also represented, and shared their perspectives on efforts to address problems.  While most called, as expected, for continued and improved collaboration efforts, van Eeten (who has done extensive research for OECD on the economics of malware) suggested that none of the current efforts scale to level of current problems faced.  Van Eeten also startled the group by suggesting that the efforts of formal law enforcement agencies in cyberspace were of limited relevance. Instead of myopically focusing on making the Internet secure, he said there should be more efforts to find optimal levels of insecurity, with solutions taking into the account the cost incentives of each actor.

Another session examined “Implementing the WSIS Principles: A Development Agenda for Internet Governance.” Hans Klein stood in for Prof. Hong Xue, and elaborated on some of Hong’s ideas during the discussion period. And Derrick Cogburn shared work examining how remote collaboration can broaden participation from developing countries.  Hofmann also presented at a UNESCO workshop on “Promoting freedom of Information in Internet Governance,” where she used Google Books as an example to suggest that new metaphors are necessary in the public debate on the regulation of access to knowledge.

On Day 4, Hofmann and Kuerbis convened a break out group as part of a discussion on the “Code of Good Practice on Information, Participation, and Transparency in Internet Governance” – an effort put together by the Council of Europe, UNECE, and the Association for Progressive Communications.  The document is envisioned as “best practice” guidelines for institutions engaged in Internet governance.  Kuerbis noted that while participation guidelines are beneficial, the omission of accountability from the document was problematic.  At a minimum, the code could ask institutions to identify types of accountability they practice and how it’s implemented, following a typology outlined in the new IGP paper, “ICANN, Inc.: Accountability and Participation in the Governance of Critical Internet Resources,” released during the IGF.