Preface to the First Edition
At the start of 2005, there were an estimated 750 million Internet users worldwide. This figure is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world’s population. In fact, the Asia-Pacific region already contributes a larger share of users (about one-third of the total) than either North America or Europe.
Inevitably, such numbers will have a profound impact on the structure and use of the Internet. In turn, this impact will have a transformative effect on development around the world. Making the Internet work for sustainable human development, therefore, requires policies and interventions that are responsive to the needs of all countries. It requires a strong voice from different stakeholders and their constructive engagement in the policy-making processes related to Internet governance.
Achieving these goals is a challenge, especially for developing countries who participate in the governance process at a disadvantage. Most of the foundational rules of the Internet are already well-established, or under long-term negotiation. Newcomers to the Internet have had little opportunity to generate awareness among stakeholder groups, mobilize the required policy expertise and coordinate strategies for effective engagement.
Developing countries are further challenged by the global nature of the Internet, which means that many areas of governance require cooperation at the global level, often in fora dominated by the developed world. Furthermore, participating in conferences and meetings at these fora is often expensive, or otherwise difficult for stakeholders from developing countries.
In sum, the continuing march of Internet governance threatens to leave behind developing countries. Fortunately, such an outcome is not inevitable. The Open Regional Dialogue on Internet Governance (ORDIG) is a response to this threat, and an attempt to transform the challenges of governance into an opportunity. Since October 2004, ORDIG has gathered and analyzed perspectives and priorities through an extensive multi-stakeholder and participatory process that has involved more than 3,000 people in the Asia-Pacific region. This represents the first step in greater involvement by the region, and particularly by traditionally under-represented nations.
ORDIG activities thus far have included a regional online discussion forum involving more than 180 participants; a multilingual survey on Internet governance that collected 1,243 responses from 37 countries; a series of sub-regional consultations; and a variety of research on various topics and issues such as access costs, voice over Internet protocol, root servers, country code top-level domains, internationalized domain names, IP address management, content pollution, and cybercrime.
Based on these activities and research, ORDIG has produced a report entitled, “Voices from Asia-Pacific: Internet Governance Priorities and Recommendations”, which was considered by the High Level Asia-Pacific Conference for WSIS in Tehran, 31 May–2 June 2005, and was tabled at the Fourth Meeting of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance in Geneva in June 2005.
This primer is another important output. It is designed to help all stakeholders (government, private sector and civil society) gain quick access to basic facts, concepts and priority issues, laying the foundation for a comprehensive understanding of Internet governance issues from a distinctively Asia-Pacific perspective.
We welcome and encourage feedback from any constituency in the Asia-Pacific region. For more information on ORDIG, please visit the online knowledge portal at www.igov.apdip.net or contact <email@example.com.>
Programme Coordinator, UNDP-APDIP