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Want to Make a Difference in Internet Governance? Just Show Up

It was 20 years earlier than ICANN, and 25 years ahead of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that Woody Allen said “80 percent of life is just showing up,” but he could have just as easily been talking about our current multistakeholder policy situation.

The emergence of powerful multistakeholder governance and engagement models has fundamentally changed the way we do Internet policy, and the roles that companies, organizations and individuals play in the process. The days when business, for instance, could sit on the sidelines and intercede only when policy reached an inflection point, are long gone.

To succeed in today’s landscape, industry has to show up early, often, and in force. The IGF-USA takes place in Washington DC July 16th, and my message to business colleagues can be described in two words: Show up.

This year’s IGF-USA features one of the most dynamic agendas in the meeting’s brief history. I am particularly excited to be moderating a panel on enhancing ICANN’s accountability in the wake of the US Government’s decision to relinquish its contracting role for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

National and regional IGF meetings are critical to shaping the rhetoric and focus at the annual global IGF, which has become increasingly influential in setting the global agenda for Internet governance. What we discuss in Washington next week will have a direct impact on what we discuss at the IGF in Istanbul later this year, which in turn will affect agenda for the UN and ITU meetings that follow.

Because the IGF does not create policy, most of my business colleagues have focused their energy elsewhere. While that’s understandable, it’s also shortsighted, given the growing role of the IGF and other multistakeholder forums—like Brazil’s NETmundial—in setting the agenda for policymaking bodies.

Academics, privacy advocates, and technologists have always brought strong opinions to these forums, but too often industry has relied on just a few hardy souls to represent the broad and diverse economic interests of business.

But while those proxies—among whom I am proud to be counted—have worked tirelessly to advocate for industry and the role of business in funding and operating critical Internet infrastructure, we often find ourselves outnumbered.

In a forum like the IGF, the weight of a single voice is measured not by how many people—or how much revenue—that voice represents. The greatest influence rests with those who participate most actively, including taking-up the virtual pen when developing and improving policies and principles.

In an increasingly multistakeholder world, business cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. We have important views to share at national and global IGFs, and now it’s more critical than ever that we show up.

By Steve DelBianco, Executive Director at NetChoice

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