Interactions and Policy-Making: Civil Society Perspectives on the Multistakeholder Internet Governance Process in India
This paper examines India’s experience in developing national Internet policy by focusing on interactions among stakeholders in the Internet governance process. The paper begins by tracing the history of telecom policies in India along with the development of its IT sector as well as its civil society. It identifies the tensions, opportunities and threats that India has experienced in its Internet policy-making. It then reviews India’s legislative and policy history from the IT Act of 2000 onward, noting the intentions and limitations of India’s framework of Internet governance. A notable aspect of the paper involves a series of interviews with civil society stakeholders involved in India’s Internet governance debates. These interviews are used to identify patterns of interaction among different stakeholders, and to understand the underlying power dynamics in India’s policy-making process.
The role of the Internet as a fundamental tool for communication and empowerment is one that should not be inhibited as the limitless nature of the medium allows for a broader, unfiltered, and more democratic exchange of information. These features become increasingly important in conditions where the mainstream media are unwilling or unable to provide the public with the information necessary to function as democratic citizens and maintain political accountability. Though an open Internet tends to be valued by more democratic governments, the percentage of countries adhering to the standards of open and free media is dismally low. In a majority of countries, governments maintain a stringent level of control over many of the mainstream information outlets, making the Internet a vital source of alternative information for the people living within these environments.
It is often said that you can see the Great Wall of China from the space- it turns out it is a myth. But you can surely see China’s Great Firewall from world maps illuminating Facebook traffic. The gaping hole of darkness, in the land with the world’s largest internet population, shows the impact of China’s internet censorship. The Great Firewall of China (known as GFW) blocks foreign websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It also monitors internet conversations through keyword filtering.
Network shutdowns impacting an entire country are now almost non-existent, but the practice of shutting down communications in certain cities or areas of a country, or suspending certain services continues globally. This has happened over the past decade or so for a variety of reasons, sometimes due to national security concerns but also to prevent the organisation of protests or the spread of civil unrest.