A Development Agenda for Internet Governance: From Principle to Practice

5 December 2008 - A Workshop on Internet Governance for Development in Hyderabad, India


A development agenda is a holistic program of analysis and action intended to mainstream development considerations into the procedures and policy outputs of global governance mechanisms. In recent years, many stakeholders have worked to promote such agendas in the multilateral institutions dealing with such issues as international trade and intellectual property. But in the field of global Internet governance, there has not been any debate about whether a development agenda could be functionally effective and politically feasible.

To begin filling this gap, a workshop entitled, Toward a Development Agenda for Internet Governance was held at the 2nd IGF in Rio de Janeiro on 14 November 2007. Participants who spoke to the point in this lively multistakeholder session agreed that in principle, a properly configured and consensual development agenda could help to promote a more open, accessible, diverse, and secure global Internet. They also agreed that the IGF provides the right venue for further non-binding dialogue on the possible substance and modalities of a development agenda. Accordingly, the proposed workshop would provide the expected follow-up to the discussion in Rio. It would move beyond the question of whether a development agenda is desirable in principle to consider what this might actually involve in practice. Two sets of questions would be explored. The first concerns the possible substantive focus of such an agenda. This could include assessing both the policy outputs of governance mechanisms pertaining to Internet infrastructures and their use for networked information, communication, and commerce (the vertical dimension); and procedural or institutional issues, such as the transparency and inclusive participation called for by the WSIS principles on Internet governance (the horizontal dimension). In both cases, current activities could be assessed in relation to developmental objectives in order to identify potentially generalizable best practices and lessons learned that organizations could choose to consider when pursuing their respective work programs. 

The second set of questions to be explored concerns the operational aspects of establishing and promoting a development agenda. Given the highly distributed character of the Internet governance ecosystem, such an agenda would need to be flexibly configured so as to facilitate variable responses in accordance with the specific characteristics of the governmental, private sector and multistakeholder mechanisms involved. This and other parameters of the Internet environment would require an innovative, multistakeholder model that is informed by but different from other development agenda experiences.

The workshop theme is very important, as it concerns ways to enhance the fit between Internet governance and the needs and interests of developing and transitional countries. This is of direct relevance to the IGF and its mandate, and to the overarching IG4D framing of its meetings.