Internet Governance Forum Day 1: Many discussions, few conclusions

Having been mandated by the Tunis phase of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the first day of the consultations on the establishment of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is coming to an end in Geneva.

The first day was generally devoted to an open debate and exchange of views, and showed how fundamentally different the various participants see the IGF. The range of opinions goes from a purely discussion oriented series of 3-day conferences to be held once a year, to a perpetual process to set global public policy on cybersecurity, cybercrime, terrorism, spam, privacy, protection of personal information and data, multilingualisation, consumer protection, capacity building, and domain names.

In comparison to these issues, the Microsoft antitrust case is extremely limited, with a clearly mandated body to take care of competition issues, the European Commission, and a clearly violating company, Microsoft.

Taking that experience, in particular the fact that Microsoft simply ignored the European Commission for years now while trying to appease them with useless gestures (see today’s press release), one cannot help but feel sceptical about the potential effectiveness of such public policy setting.

Code often establishes de-facto governance, and in the case of proprietary software, that governance is generally intransparent, and in the hands of the proprietor of the piece of software.

Free Software allows for public review and consensus, but has been largely marginalised in the entire discussion.

At the moment, noone really seems to hold the answers to many of the fundamental questions that arose in this room today — and the open discussion is far from over, so it will continue tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, if you wish to know what was discussed, the transcriptions are put online, so you can take a look yourself: morning of day one, afternoon of day two.

In case you’re interested in some more perspectives, Thiru Balasubramaniam of CPTech has also followed the event in his blog.

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About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is CEO and President of the Board at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV for collaboration and communication, also available as Swiss hosted service Kolab Now. During his 20+ year career in Free and Open Source Software he has been author of the Brave GNU World, one of the most widely spread columns on the subject, founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and provided input to various governmental and inter-governmental organisations. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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