Reflections for the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar

This post by Alison Gillwald is part of a series related to the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar on Media and Diplomacy: The Third Man Theme Revisited: Foreign Policies of the Internet in a Time Of Surveillance and Disclosure, which takes place in Vienna, Austria from March 30 – April 1, 2014. 

The work of Research ICT Africa (RIA) in relation to internet governance has sought to understand why few African countries participate actively in internet governance debates, despite the significant resources of multilateral and donor agencies thrown at such endeavours and opportunities created for participation through multistakeholder initiatives – with a few notable exceptions such as Kenya. Fewer still are involved in agenda setting and decision-making, or seek to engineer internet governance outcomes to serve their interests, whatever those might be perceived to be. This is despite the rhetoric of dissatisfaction with current internet governance systems.

From an African perspective, internet governance requires not only an understanding of the unevenness in access to and use of the internet, but also of the disparities between developed and developing countries’ abilities to effectively participate in global internet governance debates. My own intermittent work in this area has sought to identify the political and economic assumptions underpinning the governance of the internet, specifically behind efforts to make it more democratic, both representative and participatory, through multistakeholderism from an institutional perspective.

African countries appear to be far more comfortable in national sovereign state membership based organizations, where – despite limited institutional reforms over the last decade which have seen parts of civil society and…

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Security, Internet Rights and Principles: Power Shifts and Implications for Internet Policy-Making in India

Colin Agur, Valerie Belair-Gagnon and Ramesh Subramanian are undertaking a research project about internet policy in India as part of the CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory.[i]

Of the South Asian countries, India alone has a record as a strong democracy that protects free expression in its law and constitution.[ii] Nevertheless, its record on internet free speech has been uneven, with a history of overt censorship and blocking of sites. A 2007 report by the OpenNet Initiative tested several internet service providers (ISPs) in India and found evidence of government filtering for sites whose contents related to national unity or national security. Other incidents include: the blocking of all Yahoo Groups in September 2003 after Yahoo refused to block access to a the group Kynhun, which promoted the secession of Meghalaya from India; the blocking of the extremist web site in April 2004; and the blocking of seventeen web sites, including blog sites, after the 2006 Mumbai bombings.

Government attempts to filter and block sites have usually encountered strong resistance from activists and the media. However, in December 2008, in the weeks following the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Indian lawmakers hurriedly passed an amendment to the IT Act of 2000 with little debate or…

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From ‘Chinanet’ to ‘Internet Sovereignty’: Historical Development of China’s Internet Policy

Leshuo Dong is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in international communication at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University in China. She is currently working with CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) conducting research on Chinese internet foreign policy.

At the end of 2013, with over half a billion people connected online, China boasted the world’s largest online population and became one of the most prominent global Internet actors. The past two decades witnessed not only China’s rise as a great power in Internet infrastructure and technology, breeding a booming digital industry, but also the country’s establishment and development of the most sophisticated information control system.

Chinese Internet use began in 1987, but full Internet service connecting China with the world was not provided until 1994 (Liu, 2012). Exponential increases in Internet usage since then have driven Internet regulation through multiple government entities. Before analyzing the specific discourse the Chinese government uses to frame the Internet, it is necessary to review the historical development of China’s Internet policies. This development, which will be discussed in seven phases, reveals the evolution and rationales underlying China’s Internet policy…

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Digitalizing Myanmar: Connectivity Developments in Political Transitions

Dr. Andrea Calderaro is a researcher at the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom at the European University Institute, and his work focuses on ICTs and International Affairs. He is currently engaged in research on connectivity building and telecom reforms happening in Myanmar with CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory. Follow him on twitter at: @andreacalderaro

Following decades of isolation, Myanmar is undergoing a profound and sudden political transition. This transition includes the rapid development of the country’s telecommunication infrastructures and related policy framework. With one of the lowest internet and mobile subscriber rates in the world, building connectivity in Myanmar is facing multiple challenges from both infrastructural and policy perspectives. (Please see Monroe Price’s blog posts on the policy challenges in Myanmar here and here).

As Myanmar builds connectivity infrastructure, it is necessary that the country also implements…

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