Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Netizen - citizen of the Internet

Recently there's been a lot of discussion on the Internet Governance mailing list about the term netizen. What is it, what does it mean, should we push to have the term officially adopted...
So - online to the dictionary!
Merriam Webster Online
Main Entry: net·i·zen
Pronunciation: 'ne-t&-z&n also -s&n
Function: noun
Etymology: blend of net and citizen
: an active participant in the online community of the Internet

From all the discussion, seems to me that the term netizen is being used to refer to activists in the Internet space. i.e. people with a common mindset and goal, "a community or social purpose and that they would be active to support that purpose" .
Which is an exclusive club. Most citizens around the world are not activist, and do not share a common mindet and/or goal, nor do they often have a community or social purpose. So the netizen, like the citizen activist, is a special breed.

So basically, I agree with those who posit that the term is not inclusive of all the people who are online and use the resources of the Internet, and certainly is not inclusive of the ones who are not yet online. Suppose they come online and decide not to be activist? Would they not be netizens and have the rights afforded to such (if the language goes into the WSIS?)

Also, in the citizen space, there are many who do not actively advocate, but support by economic means (don't shop at Walmart and pay a bit more to support local small business for example). These may equate to those who in the push for open source software, would pay to support open source projects (e.g. Linux) rather than Microsoft (as long as it's easy enough to do so). So, commercial interests can be a form of activism.

In general, I've found that self-interest is the most sure motivator for most people. Very few are totally (or even partially) altruistic (when you really analyse their motives). So I also disagree with the negative color with which this discussion has painted such self-interest. Seems a bit idealistic and exclusionary to me.

Idealism is wonderful, but commercialism to an extent, as well as self-interest, has driven the recent massive growth of internet use. Coming from a developing country, use of ICTs is pushed by economic factors - in Trinidad, we use VOIP to save $$ when calling abroad - if the phone rates were lower, a lot of people wouldn't go to the trouble of using VOIP. A big Government push in community/household computer ownership was lobbied for by the computer salespeople. So the commercial interests did assist to an extent. If Google makes the net easier to use so that activists can get information easier and faster, is it a bad thing that they primarily do so to make money for themselves?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

ICANN and .xxx

A lot has been discussed about the .xxx issue. This is my take on the issues involved.

1) The processes and procedures of ICANN wrt delegation of new gTLDs. They followed a process that while not perfect, was relatively transparent and equitable. After this process was finished, and the approval given, and the company who had applied spent its $$ and got set up to start selling registrations to the new gTLD, came the second issue -

2) Political pressure on the US govt from the religous right. They got letters, and the response was to demand from ICANN that they hold the registration (after already having decided and communicated this decision to the registrar company) and ICANN complied. The only reason to hold it is to reverse it.

3) The US govt has the power to UNILATERALLY decide not to allow the gTLD to be entered into the global root zone file that (short version) basically allows the computers on the Internet to find each other (it's a lot more complex, but I'm boiling it down here, so please, people don't abuse me for the slight inaccuracy in this) as they are in control of editing the file.

So - ICANN is bowing to political prssure. Under the current system, it can't really do otherwise, as the US govt (DoC) is its "boss."
Issues - what is the role of a government in regards to this?
Is the creation of new gTLDs a technical or moral or political decision?
Where should that power lie - with governments, with a multistakeholder body, with ICANN? with the US DoC?

And one way to really take the issue out and away from the pornography part is to imagine that the gTLD under discussion and possible revoking is a .woman or a .gender gTLD. I thnk that the IG issues must be separate from the moral issues of what .xxx means.
Interestingly, one of the comments that came up in other discussions on this is that .xxx means nothing in some asian cultures - so the xxx=porn isssue is not an issue everywhere!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Caribbean and IG - how do we get involved?

One question that we still struggle with is how to talk about Internet Governance in a manner that can engage the general population. How do we interest more people in this issue?
We have not been able in the past to move past the concept of Internet Governance as an arcane and technical topic that really doesn�t have much practical use. I�ve seen this in the general population, women and men both. The definition of IG that the WGIG promulgated is very high-level. We need, I think, practical applications and ideas to bring it home to people why they should care about it.


What we need is a vision that articulates how new technologies are a community asset, an instrument of public policy and an investment to build the future.

The policies that are being promulgated at this very minute - these policies determine access to funding, to infrastructure, to training and capacity building. If the national, regional and international internet governance regime is not impacted by communities, their issues will not be reflected in policies and these policies will not be beneficial to these communities. Thus, the best way to interest people in IG is to show them where their self-interest is intersecting with IG policies that are being promulgated in their name, but may not be beneficial to them.

The Caribbean is only now beginning to make steps towards understanding IG issues and looking at how these issues affect us, from a development perspective. It's a good time to get involved. We can get in on the ground floor, and have a positive influence on the regional process. However, with regar to the world stage, the region is late to the party. We absolutely need to move fast lest we miss the party entirely.

Internet Governance - A Review in the Context of the WSIS Process

Internet Governance - A Review in the Context of the WSIS Process
by Carlos A. Afonso

This document provides information on the current Internet governance transition processes, discussing some of the approaches being submitted to public discussion, and reviews the final report of the WGIG. It also provides brief historical and reference information on the current global governance system specifically created for the Internet. In addition, it presents a review of the perspectives on Internet governance from the point of view of the organized groups of
civil society organizations who have been involved in the corresponding discussions both within and outside the WGIG.

On-line at: http://wsispapers.choike.org/internet_governance.pdf