CHAKULA Issue # 6: Internet Governance and Civil Society Organizations


Africa ICT Policy Monitor newsletter from the APC
Issue No. 6, July 2003: Internet Governance and Civil Society Organizations


In this issues of Chakula:

* Editorial
* Introduction: ‘Internet Governance – Overview and Issues’
* Technical Standards
* Accessibility and Architecture of the World Wide Web
* Management of Internet Names and Numbers
* Good Governance At The Country Domain Level
* Recent Debates from the WSIS Process
* What next for Internet Governance?
* News from the latest ICANN Meeting – Montreal, Canada
* Internet Governance Resources and Organizations



In this month’s APC Africa Internet Rights Newsletter ‘Chakula’ we focus on the issue of ‘Internet Governance’ a term that is loosely used to describe policy issues regarding the Internet. These include factors such as management of Internet names and numbers, establishment and management of policy-making bodies, and equity and representation issues within Internet policy-making bodies.

This newsletter also connects these issues to the ongoing process of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) which has raised and made various statements on the subject.

The role of civil society organizations in Internet governance is also explored while we conclude with a list of organizations and resources with more detailed information that may be of interest to civil society organizations.



Today, information and communications technologies, especially the Internet and email, are important tools for development. The Internet offers a relatively cheap, versatile and technically efficient service that complements standard telephony. It allows businesses to sell goods and services directly to customers online. The Internet also offers considerable promise in facilitating the delivery of basic services, such as health and education1. Email is an extremely fast and comparatively cheap method of communication.

The Internet has undergone an exponential growth in the last years though growth has been uneven and the majority of Internet users are located in developed countries especially in the United States and Europe2. The use of the Internet as an essential communications tool means that consumers and business organizations round the world are demanding a stable and efficient Internet system. Another governance concern relates to the way Internet resources are managed and allocated such as domain names and Internet numbers. Policy-making processes and all major decisions affecting the Internet internationally have until recently been determined by the United States which financed the research for the its development [3].

Three main areas of the Internet have been identified that requires some form of policy-making or governance4, briefly described below:

  • Technical Standards
  • Accessibility and Architecture of the World Wide Web
  • The Management of Internet Names and Numbers



Setting technical standards requires the work of technical experts, but often involves much wider issues than just technical ones. The setting of standards often has political and economic implications and can be a means of protection, domination and exclusion5.

Internet standards were initially set by small groups of technicians or individuals, when neither the private sector nor governments paid too much attention to the governance of the Internet. This situation still exists in some countries in Africa and elsewhere e.g. small countries like Curacao in the Caribbean. Standards setting took place within a culture of computer technicians who favoured openness and consensus and was commonly referred to as ‘self regulation’. The prevailing view was that governments should stay out of Internet governance, market forces and self-regulation were sufficient to create order and enforce standards of behaviour, but this view has proven inadequate, as the Internet has become mainstream6.

Further to this, the ‘self regulation’ has not created appropriate standards in a diverse world, as shown by the fact that for many years Internet protocol standards only accommodated Latin characters and demonstrated the fact that early Internet standards were determined by North Americans and Europeans.

The body responsible for technical standards is the Internet Engineering Task Force

The IETF sets the underlying technical standards for the Internet such a determining the standard for how information is transmitted from one computer to another and security. It describes itself as a “loosely self-organised group of people who make technical and other contributions to the engineering and evolution of the Internet and its technologies”.

Membership of IETF working groups is open to anyone who chooses to participate via e-mail. These working groups develop technical specifications based on “rough consensus and working code”.

In recent times the IETF has come under increasing pressure from private sector organisations complaining that its policy of reaching wide consensus makes it too slow, and from governments and law enforcement agencies wanting to impose legal obligations on it to incorporate such elements as wiretapping facilities and trace-ability of users into its standards7.



The World Wide Web is a system of servers or computers around the world connected to the Internet that support specially formatted documents such as html pages through use of technologies or protocols. The protocols ensure that documents can be accessed via the Internet and also support links to other documents, as well as graphics, audio, and video files. This means you can jump from one document to another simply by clicking on hot spots or links are commonly referred. Web browsers such as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer make it easy to access the World Wide Web8.

The body responsible for WWW standards is the World Wide Web Consortium

W3C develops these technologies or protocols to lead the Web to its full potential. Its structure differs fundamentally from the IETF in that participation is restricted to member organisations willing to pay annual membership fees or to “invited experts”. The W3C has maintained relatively open standards, partly as a result of the powerful participation of one individual, Tim Berners-Lee, the “inventor” of the World Wide Web, who sees W3C as a place for open and free information exchange.

The sustainability of this “benevolent dictatorship” is questionable. There are great pressures on W3C to introduce ways of filtering out “harmful” content. Such mechanisms could potentially be used by governments to restrict content that criticises their policies. At the same time, commercial interests and law enforcement bodies are demanding standards that will enable collection of data on users, and make it possible for the publishers and users of content to be easily traced9.

Recently, the W3C introduced a recommendation draft policy that would allow the W3C to incorporate patented technology into web standards as long as the patent holder agreed to license the technology in a “reasonable and non-discriminatory” manner. After receiving lots of complaints especially from the public, W3C reversed their recommendation, to exclude patented standards10. The proposed policy would have meant the start of a future web whose standards include patented technology that could only be accessed with proprietary (commercial) software – would make certain vendors very happy – and a very different web than the one we have now which only uses open non-commercial standards.



Internet numbers technically known as IP (Internet protocol) numbers are used to identify computers connected to the Internet so messages sent on the Internet can find their way to their final destination. An example of an IP number can be something like, but since these numbers are difficult to remember a name that identifies one or more IP addresses are used. These names are called domain names, for example

As the Internet growth expanded, the need to review the process of managing Internet domain names and numbers, which naturally have to be unique, was recognized by both users and domain name administrators. These administrators were often voluntary.

The body responsible for managing Internet domain names is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

ICANN was set up in 1998 by the Clinton administration as a US not-for-profit organization with international participation, based on consensus, to administer the Internet domain name system. It was intended to increase efficiency and coordination in the management of domain names, and to manage the creation of new top-level domains to join the existing .com, .org, .ac, .edu, .net, etc. ICANN also manages the network of thirteen computers around the world commonly referred to as root servers that are essential to the proper functioning of the Internet11.

Since its inception, ICANN has faced open controversy as it attempted to increase efficiency without clear accountability, legitimacy and oversight. Many have questioned ICANN’s decision-making and governance processes with a focus on two major issues, legitimacy and equity12. The ICANN governance process, initially based on self regulation, kept governments and civil society out on the notion that only technical experts like computer engineers could keep up with the technology and little consideration was given to the need for consultation or involvement of the
wider community who were impacted by the decisions made.

Many people feel that even though ICANN formal mandate is only technical in nature, the decisions made concerning the management of Internet resources have substantial political, economic, cultural, and social implications that affect all Internet users and service providers around the world [13]. And several of the decisions made by ICANN in response to applications for new top-level domains (tld), such as. union, have proved very controversial precisely because the decisions taken by ICANN were indeed based on non-technical reasons.

  • Managing Internet Names At Numbers At Regional And National Level:

ICANN has regional “subsidiaries” or Regional Internet Registries (RIR), which are responsible for the management of IP numbers and domain names for each region of the world (Asia/Pacific, Latin America, Europe/Middle East, North America and Africa).

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other selected organizations that satisfy certain criteria obtain IP addresses from the RIR that serves their area; other Internet users ordinarily obtain their IP addresses from their ISP. At present, there are four RIRs: the RIPE (serving Europe and surrounding areas, including parts of Africa), the APNIC (serving the Asia and Pacific Rim region), the ARIN (serving the rest of the world, including parts of Africa) and the newest RIR set up last year, LACNIC (serving Latin America and some Caribbean Islands).

An neutral, African-based non-profit regional registry (AfriNIC) has been nominated to act in the long-term best interests of the entire African community by managing IP in the continent. Once AFRINIC is implemented and regognized, it is expected that African organizations that presently obtain IP addresses from RIPE or the ARIN will in future obtain IP addresses from the AfriNIC.

In each country there is a national managing entity (designated by ICANN), with attributions similar to ICANN’s but limited to the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) (e.g. the .za in a South African email address). This entity is organized by different bodies (when it is at all) depending on the country in question – many are run by government departments, others are non-profit organizations, some are academic entities and still others are private for-profit companies. In many developing countries these managing entities are located outside the country to which the domain name
relates. A detailed list of who is who can be found on the ICANN website, see details on:



When the managing entity for domain names in a country has not been established in an acceptable procedure by all stakeholders, often for historical reasons, it is clearly better governance to ‘redelegate’ management of the ccTLD, and make the administration of the domain name more responsive to the public interest14. This is especially true when
the ccTLD of a country is being administered from another country. This is actually the case in The Gambia and Libya15. The process of assigning domain names, and the control of those domains, needs to be transparent and
accessible. Mismanagement can result in your website being knocked offline or your website address stolen.16.

  • Examples of Redelegation of ccTLDs:

The two case studies from Africa are highlighted to describe the process of ‘redelegation’. The third, from Brazil, demonstrates how redelegation to improve accountability will increase public revenue that can be used for digital inclusion.

  • South Africa:

The county Domain name (.za) administration was initially conducted by a volunteer, who later initiated a process to shift responsibility for the domain to a non-profit entity, Namespace ZA with the support of the local Internet community, the South Africa Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), ISOC and the government’s Department of Communications17.

Under a new bill that was introduced at about the same time, named the Electronic Communications Bill, Chapter 10 proposed the set up of a new .za domain name authority with board members effectively chosen by the Ministry of Communications. The new authority proposed to bring a more representative entity to enable all South Africans to have a say in South African Internet administration and governance, which is seen by many as an important national asset.

The bill provoked a huge debate and clashes between the differing groups around domain name administration in South Africa, and was highly publicised by the media.

Those opposed to the Bill at the time said they preferred government involvement, rather than control while ICANN forbade a takeover of domain administration by any body that was not sanctioned by the local Internet community.

On behalf of civil society interests, APC sent a statement with this regard emphasizing the reflecting a need to create a truly democratic, accountable and representative domain name authority in South Africa. The statement concluded by reflecting the importance of taking into consideration the interest of Internet users, including those potential users that do not yet have access, can be served better by a domain name management system which is independent from government and from the Internet industry, but that works closely with both, and that includes civil society representatives18.

The Minister of Communications is currently appointing a panel who will recommend board members to make proposals regarding the regulation of the .za ccTLD and ancillary matters.

  • Kenya:

The Kenya Network Information Centre (KENIC) was formed in 2002 as a result of a consultation process between multiple stakeholders consisting of government representatives, the private sector and civil society organizations. Just as in many other developing countries around the world, the technical functions and administrative functions of country domain management was being carried out by individuals who were becoming overwhelmed by the administrative work and growing responsibilities involved. A new body was established on the understanding that domain names are a public resource that should be managed in the interest of all sectors. [19].

KENIC’s membership is made of Board Members and Associate Members. The current membership comprises of a good cross-section of the Kenyan Internet community and the Government. KENIC’s board members are drawn from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), Computer Society of Kenya (CSK), Kenya Information Society (KIS), Kenya Education Network (KENET), Nationwide Taskforce on Electronic Commerce, the Government, and the Telecommunications Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK). The East African Internet Association (EAIA) is an associate member20.

The benefits of redelegation in Kenya are already bearing fruits which will greatly benefit Kenyan Internet service users and providers. According to Mr Michuki Mwangi, a Senior Systems Engineer at KENIC, registering a .ke domain has plummeted to 25% of its price just a few months ago [21].

Apart from the reduced costs, it now takes at most 24 hours to have a domain registered and working, whereas it used to take at least 48 hours. KENIC is also inviting the public to influence the policies and services of KENIC through a public mailing list for which people can register from their website.

  • Brazil:

In Brazil, civil society has come together to change the way the Internet is governed – having grown fed up of the anti-democratic nature of the management of the Brazilian Internet which is in the hands of a group of volunteers and there is no accounting for the millions of dollars raised in the sale of .br Internet addresses every year22. A seminar23 was held February 25-26 2003 in Rio de Janeiro and partly as a result of discussions with government officials and the seminar recommendations, the government has decided to support the transition to a new Internet governance structure for Brazil. It is proposed that the profits from the sale of .br addresses go to create a new digital inclusion fund.



The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) has included in its deliberations the issue of Internet governance with various stakeholders voicing their concerns around governance issues during the recently concluded call for inputs to the WSIS draft declaration and action plan. Chakula staff took a look at some of those inputs, which focus on the role
of different stakeholders in the management of public resources such as the country top level domains (ccTLDs) and some reflections on the overall governance of the Internet at global level.

The draft declaration of Principles and Action Plan of the WSIS dated March 21st 200324 suggested the following wording regarding the management of Internet names and addresses:

  • Principle:

Under item No.44. “Management of Internet names and addresses: Internet governance must be multilateral, democratic and transparent, taking into account the needs of the public and private sectors as well as those of the civil society, and respecting multilingualism. The coordination responsibility for root servers, domain names, and Internet Protocol (IP)
address assignment should rest with a suitable international, inter-governmental organization. The policy authority for country code top-level-domain names (ccTLDs) should be the sovereign right of countries.”

  • Action Plan:

Under item No.33. “Internet governance”: A transparent and democratic governance of the Internet shall constitute the basis for the development of a global culture of cyber-security. An [international] [intergovernmental] organisation should ensure multilateral, democratic and transparent management of root servers, domain names and Internet Protocol
(IP) address assignment.

(Note -square brackets above mean the phrase or word bracketed is a subject for negotiation and has not been accepted)

Read the review of inputs that were made by different organizations including governments and civil society organizations in reaction to the above item numbers of the draft principle and action plan of WSIS as of 21st March 2003



For now the debates on Internet governance will continue, especially since the WSIS process is taking this debate amongst other issues to a wider audience who would otherwise perhaps have not been aware or concerned about Internet governance. As some of the inputs from different sectors and governments naturally conflict, there will be a lot of negotiation involved in the upcoming intersessional meeting of the WSIS in Paris next month and also during the third and final preparatory conference (“PrepCom”) in September in Geneva. Then we’ll have to work to ensure the UN action plan will be implemented in our countries and not become just another political statement.

ICANN just held the second of this year’s ICANN meetings, in Montreal, Canada last week (22-26 June) – see details below. ICANN meetings are usually open to anyone wishing to participate. Those unable to attend the meeting physically can also take part in the web-cast and remote participation via mailing lists. Full details can be obtained from the ICANN website

As a final word, it is very important that civil society organizations and especially those from developing countries take interest in these developments and participate in debates as opportunity arises. This can be at international level as well as at national levels with regard to the management of your country’s top-level domain names and resource allocation to ensure that management is transparent, accountable and equitable. Follow Brazil’s example with us over the next few months, to see how civil society is working to change Internet governance in Brazil.

This introduction merely scratches the surface of issues and debates around Internet governance and related public policy issues. We hope to bring you more issues in the coming months.



News emerging from the latest ICANN meeting says it will involve the global internet community in its decision-making.

A framework to form local, regional and global groups was approved by ICANN’s board and an interim At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) will accept applications from groups seeking input.

It is a critical step, says ICANN president and chief executive Paul Twomey. The organisation has been criticised for being ineffective.

ICANN gave some examples of issues of interest, such as new domain names and privacy in the WHOIS database.

The board agreed to improve communication with country code top-level domain registries and a Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) was formed.

More details can be found on the address:



  • APC Internet Charter on Internet Governance:

The APC Internet Rights Charter for social justice and development has a section on national, regional and global governance of the Internet.

A complete glossary of terms and abbreviations is available from the ICANN website, please visit to view a comprehensive description of common Internet terms and organizations.

The Global Internet Policy Initiative supports adoption in developing countries of the legal and policy framework for an open and democratic Internet. The project works with local stakeholders in consultative, coalition-based efforts to promote the principles of a decentralized, accessible, user-controlled, and market-driven Internet. is a news and commentary website forum for people interested in questions about the doing of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

The Internet Democracy Project recognizes that the Internet is a unique medium in which key governance decisions about the Internet’s central resources and operations are being made by quasi-governmental agencies such as ICANN. The primary goal of the Internet Democracy Project is to enable a critical mass of non governmental organizations to work on creating Internet governance structures that preserve and promote the principles of a civil society.

The Africa – ICANN Group an open forum whose primary objectives is to support and promote Africa’s interests in ICANN.

The African Network Information Center (AfriNIC), is the emerging organization that will administer Internet number resources for the continent of Africa on behalf of the Internet community.

AFTLD acts as a focal point for all the African ccTLDs), to discuss matters of policy that affect country domains (ccTLDs) globally and then, where possible, to present the group’s position as one voice. One coherent voice from a large group of African ccTLDs will have more influence and will make it easier for external parties to gauge the opinion of the AFTLD registries.

The use of the Internet has grown relatively rapidly in most urban areas in Africa, in much the same pattern as the adoption of the mobile phone, which followed shortly after. As an indication, five years ago, only a handful of countries had local Internet access, now it is available in every capital city. But although these are encouraging trends, the differences between the development levels of Africa and the rest of the world are much wider in this area than they are using more traditional measures of development.

Africa Domain Names (AFRIDNS) is Africa’s parallel organization to the Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) of ICANN. This is supposed to enable Africans to discuss DNSO issues, how it affects us, determine and articulate positions for mutual benefit, plan and coordinate the African constituencies of the DNSO etc. There are only two ICANN regions with this parallel organization, Asia Pacific Domain Names (APDNS) and AfriDNS.

Article from the Digital Freedom Network on the growing knowledge and participation divide between “developed” and “undeveloped” countries on decisions regarding the global structure of the Internet that is currently under the mandate of ICANN (May 2003).

This project reviews the relationship between country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) and governments in 45 countries. Included are 1) tables which highlight the main relationships, and 2) country-specific information.

This website describes the level of involvement of Governments in ccTLD administration, with details such as legislation, whether the administrator is a private sector or non-profit and any details on contract with ICANN.


[1] ITU 1999: Challenges to the Network
[2] The State of the Internet, growth and gaps
[3] Wolfgang Kleinwächter, 2001: Global Governance in the Information Age
[4] Kate Wild, 2001: ICT policy for civic networking
[5] APC Internet governance pages
[6] Zoe Baird, 2002: Governing the Internet, governments, business and non profits
[7] APC Internet governance pages
[9] APC Internet governance pages
[12] Tracy Cohen, 2000: ICANN Primer for the Internet Service Providers Association
[13] Wolfgang Kleinwächter, 2001: Global Governance in the Information Age
[14] GIPI Project 2003: Redelegation of Country Code Top Level Domains
[16] APC Internet governance pages
[17] Phillip de Wet, ITweb 2002: Govt, Namespace find compromise on .za
[18] South Africa Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill APC Press Release
[19] Report on the Kenya ccTLD Delegation
[21] Tom Kwanya: Kenya Network Information Centre (KENIC) finally gains control of the dot ke (.ke) domains
[22] “Dangers of monopolies and closed practices are key to debate on digital inclusion” — APCNews 26/Jan/03


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