"A fragile experiment is under way"

Bertrand de la Chapelle is the Special Envoy for the Information Society, French Foreign and European Affairs Ministry. A recent meeting of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers in New Delhi discussed how to make Internet governance more global. Chapelle, who attended the meet, talks to Archita Bhatta on governance and other key issues

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Down to Earth

Need for change Multi-stakeholder governance is the need of the hour. Internet governance has two main parts--the network; and how it is used. Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (icann) deals with the network and domain name systems, .com for instance. The Internet Governance Forum (igf), a un body, deals with the way network is used. These are two parallel organizations.icann is controlled by the us (because of two pacts--Joint Project Agreement which ensures administrative accountability and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authoritycontract which gives the us technical control of root servers that run the Internet). The Joint Project Agreement ends in September 2009.
Desired structure Countries like China and Russia think icann is a us body, hence they do not have representatives in the organization's board. The idea is to develop icann as an independent organization with representation from a wider spectrum of organizations. Internet is an international media of communication. It needs an international board too.
Expected results It is very difficult to say at this stage because the experiment is fragile. This will be a first-of-its-kind initiative and there are several stakeholders--governments, civil society, public sector and international organizations. Their norms, decision making procedures and programmes shape the evolution and use of the Internet. The range of issues is also pretty wide, from Internet Protocol (ip) addresses to freedom of expression.
Demand for multilingual domains Countries today want domain names in their own languages. The key question here is how icann shifts from the existing monoscript to a multiscript domain system. What needs to be addressed is the number of scripts to be allowed for domain names. There is a fear that allowing too many scripts will lead to the overlapping of one script with the other.
Internet Protocol ip are addresses that identify a computer. ipv4 is an ip category with 32 characters; ipv6, another category, has 126. ip addresses are formed through permutation and combination of the characters. Therefore, ip v6 gives many more prospective ip addresses than ipv4. It is said that ipv4 addresses are almost exhausted, so people are being persuaded to change to ipv6. It's like a phone number changing from seven digits to eight digits. But no definite date can be given for this shift. For sometime, both the categories will coexist-- ipv4 and ipv6. A shift to ipv6 will eventually have to take place because computers with different categories of ip addresses will not be able to communicate with each other.
Finances icann is discussing finances; they are an area of concern. Changing to ipv6 will incur huge costs. Currently, Regional Internet Registry systems, spread all over the world, manage database of ips. These registries pay a licence fee to icann to own a particular domain name.
The road ahead I hope after icann is restructured, it will serve as a template for multi-stakeholder governance in other areas, water for instance. Currently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the closest example of a model with various stakeholders. But icann's purview will be much wider. It will be interesting to put together views of people, governments and societies and all those relevant to the issue.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.