3 January 2005. With the first year of the second phase of WSIS over, the hot issue of internet governance is moving forward. The multi-stakeholder Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) is driven by civil society expertise and engagement, it seems so far.
Since its inception, the members of the WGIG met in November 2004 to discuss the list of issues to consider and to start working on a definition of "internet governance". An initial questionnaire produced a list of more than 50 topics, for which WGIG secretary Markus Kummer asked members of the group to indicate their preferences. The majority of members of the group selected three to six subjects where they indicated that they will be ready to produce an issue paper - a short "fact sheet" which describes the problem, collects the relevant facts, and maps the subject into the existing mechanism of governance bodies. It might also add a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) to indicate where problems exist and controversies can emerge. The papers should be ready for internal distribution until the end of January, so they can serve as a basis for the first part of the preliminary report for PrepCom2 in February. This mapping report will be only descriptive and will also include a brief history of the issues, based mainly of existing contributions from ISOC and others.
High on the list of priorities are issues like root servers, domain names and IP numbers. For a number of issues, WGIG members have volunteered to coordinate the work and to invite others to make contributions to a special issue or to join special sub-groups for fact finding. There is no discussion yet on the political, economic, cultural, legal and other "controversial" aspects of a problem. The hope is that this mechanism will enable an informed discussion among group members at a later stage. The sub-groups are open to all WGIG members. Contributions from the outside are welcome and are already being prepared by members of the civil society internet governance caucus. ICANN and other organizations have also announced they will submit contributions. The WGIG has also agreed on a draft outline for the report.
The whole process so far, as WGIG member Wolfgang Kleinwächter reports, "is a member driven bottom up process, very closer to traditional listserv discussion than to intergovernmental diplomatic negotiations." According to Kleinwächter, "the general climate in the e-mail discussion is very constructive. Each message is driven by the will of the members, to make a constructive contribution and to move forward." Some civil society WGIG members have even volunteered to provide electronic collaboration tools and translation services for the group. The heavy workload, however, will mainly be done later this spring, after the fact-finding phase. It remains to be seen if the climate stays as friendly and cooperative as it is now.