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UN creates Internet governance working group

Keeps the diplomatic conflict simmering nicely

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The row between UN countries over the management of the Internet is set to move into next phase. The organisation has selected members for the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) who will be meeting in Geneva at the end of next year.

This is an attempt to solve a long-running debate between the US and the members of the EU, and the developing countiries, particularly China and Brazil. The former grouping support he private sector-led Internet management arrangement provided under the aegis of the US-based ICANN, while the developing countries are looking for some sort of inter-governmental framework, preferably under a UN umbrella.

The working group, which will be chaired by Nitin Desai, special advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will include 40 members from governments, the private sector and civil society, a term collectively applied to non-governmental organisations representing a wide variety of interests from human rights to free software. A list of the members is available at the WGIG website

The first of between four to five meetings is scheduled to take place in Geneva from 23 November next year, although a preliminary report is planned for July.

Delegates at the initial WSIS in Geneva last December agreed to set up a working group to discuss management of the Internet at both technical and policy levels after failing to reach a consensus on this contentious issue.

WGIG has its work cut out, according to the group's executive coordinator Markus Kummer.

"We will have to discuss a wide range of contentious issues, beginning with a basic question like: What is the Internet?" Kummer said. "The answer isn't as easy as you would think because we need to determine whether we are talking about just a set of protocols or also about IP (Internet protocol) services, which can lead to a whole other dimension."

Developing countries, in particular, are concerned about the delegation of country-code top-level domain names being left to a privately-run organisation, according to Kummer. "Many countries want a greater say in this process," he said. "They view the issue as one of national sovereignty - almost akin to their national flag and anthem."



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