October 29, 2006

On the Eve of the IGF/Athens

Today (or rather, from my time zone, last night) the preliminaries got underway at the Internet Governance Forum in Athens.

I remain totally miffed that medical necessity has required me to stay here in Santa Cruz.

The big event was the GIGAnet day - which I completely missed due my brain skipping a gear and getting the dates confused.  This group usually has a pretty decent system for interacting with folks over the net.

GIGAnet - the Global Internet Governance Academic Network - has nothing to do with gigabit, as in 1000 megabit, networking.  Rather it is the academic and civil society viewpoint.  And from what I can see it is where the really important material is being addressed.  I can say that from the notes that I've seen that several people spoke of ideas that resonated sympathetically with several of my own ideas. Dang, I wish I could have been there!  I particularly want to meet and speak with Dr. Peng Hwa Ang.

However, from the initial noises - and there are far too few noises - coming from Athens, it seems that for the rest of the week that I'm going to be missing material that can be characterized as "same o', same o'"

The IGF, being a spin-out from the UN is a government-o-crat playground.  And from what I've seen it seems that one characteristic that cuts across all government-o-crats, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, is that they hardly deign to consider mere humans as much more than ants at a picnic.  They do, however, seem to have rather more esteem for industrial interests.  Indeed, for some governmental delegations, particularly that of the US, the question of whether industry is government's marionette or vice versa is very much open to question, with the smart money being on industry as the master of puppetry.

So it seems that for the rest of the weak we will have something that seems much like a trade show - panels packed with similar-speakers speaking similar sycophantic words to an audience that is well instructed that its role is to sit, listen, and accept.

I hope I'm wrong.

But the signs are not good.  The lead discussion - "Setting the Scene: Multi-stakeholder policy dialogue" appears to simply accept the dangerous idea of stakeholderism, a matter that I referenced in my previous entry in this blog as well as in my paper Stakeholderism - The Wrong Road For Internet Governance (5 pages pdf).

And the manipulative role of the US government, particularly the Bush administration, is quite apparent - from the former Bush appointed head of NTIA, and premier exponent of the theory that "ICANN can do no wrong" being the north American male member on the IGF's steering committee - to the presence of a Bush contributor being the head of the US gov't delegation.

And to throw sand into the sheets - Word has it that at the opening ceremony there won't be enough passes available for people attending under the Civil Society banner.

Is there any similar shortage of passes for people attending under the government or industrial banners?

And, since I'm signed up to attend as an unaffiliated individual, would I have been simply out of luck with no pass whatsoever available to me, or any of my 6,500,000,000 fellow individuals, had any of those chosen to attend?

An idea came to me as I sat here in Santa Cruz, annoyed the news from Athens (and also by the fact that I am cut off from an entire floor of my house due to a kitchen remodelling that started this past week.)

That idea is that we, the community of internet users, ought to form a Congress of Internet Governance (CIG) as a kind of tennis court (a la June 20, 1789) where we can respond to the government-industrial alliance that seems to perfade ICANN and, unfortunately, the IGF.

We are far from powerless.  Ultimately the members of the CIG are the same people who elect governments and we are the same people who own the industrial interests.  That hardly means that we can control them - the community of internet users is far too diffuse, and often more concerned with daily life, to become organized enough to use their potential power.  But it does mean that we have a place to stand and make ourselves heard with effect.

So I'm thinking of hosting a small meeting to explore the possibility of a CIG.  I'll write on that anon.

Posted by karl at October 29, 2006 11:00 AM