Internet governance in the global digital order
G7 Summit

Internet governance in the global digital order

We must reduce barriers to internet participation – not raise fences – and ensure the continuation of our single, stable, interoperable internet, which has been the basis for  unparalleled innovation, economic growth and an engine for development since its inception

The internet today connects more than 4.9 billion people and is a shared resource on which society depends. It was created on the premise that free and broad access to information supports the greater good. The complexity and scale of the internet, and its ever-increasing number of users, demand that it be governed democratically.

One example of its complexity and democratic management is the domain name system, which enables people to navigate the internet. Each device on the internet uses an internet protocol address that is almost impossible to remember because it is a long series of numbers, or numbers and letters. These unique identifiers are aligned with the protocol parameters that ensure networks can communicate with each other. The DNS helps users get around the internet by translating the numbers into memorable names. The root zone, ​​the highest level of the DNS, contains the names and IP addresses for all the top-level domain names and country code top-level domains.

One organisation – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – ensures the stable and secure operation of the internet’s unique identifier systems, and coordinates the allocation and assignment of names in the root zone of the DNS (through its Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions). ICANN is a not-for-profit organisation that is accountable to stakeholders worldwide and works with technical partners in the internet ecosystem to evolve and enforce the rules that ensure one secure, stable, interoperable internet.

ICANN operates using a multi-stakeholder model, one of the most democratic forms of policymaking. In this model, individuals, non-commercial stakeholder groups, industry, civil society and governments all have an equal voice in consensus-driven policymaking. Through advisory committees and supporting organisations, ICANN creates and implements policy that guides the complex management of the global DNS.

No government has authority over ICANN; rather, it is accountable to a global multi-stakeholder community. ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, with 179 members and 38 observers, is the voice of governments and intergovernmental organisations within ICANN’s processes.

A critical juncture

We find ourselves at a critical juncture for the future of digital global governance. It is our shared responsibility. There are billions of internet users of different cultures, languages, and economic and education levels. ICANN works to protect those users and to create an environment that is welcoming and linguistically accessible to the next billion users. It is critical that we encourage participation, representation and engagement from people around the world, for whom access to one global internet has much to offer.

Our collective challenge is to ensure that the internet continues to be a secure, trusted and safe resource in the future.

The Declaration for the Future of the Internet, signed in April 2022, recommits all G7 members and 53 other countries to a single, global internet, and reinforces the call for democratic principles in its governance. The declaration in fact exhorts signatories to “protect and strengthen the multi-stakeholder model” – because it works.

the basis for innovation

The internet has functioned without fail for 35 years, even while experiencing significant growth in users. Changing to a multilateral governance model would break the partnerships between public and private actors in the multi-stakeholder model. Moving the management of the unique identifiers to an intergovernmental organisation would exclude the expert technical groups that maintain the internet and implement the standards for its management. Rather than using bottom-up, consensus-based decision making with participation from all stakeholders, decisions would be made solely by governments. Such a change would render the internet vulnerable to overinfluence or capture by one group of interests.

The single, stable, interoperable internet has been the basis for unparalleled innovation, economic growth and an engine for development because it is globally accessible and democratically governed. Our goal must be to reduce barriers to participation, not to raise fences. The multi-stakeholder body focused on bringing the next billion users online must remain as transparent, democratic and accountable as possible in order to ensure the stability and security of the internet for all for the future.