CNN reported A summit focusing on narrowing the digital divide between the rich and poor residents and countries opened Wednesday with an agreement of sorts on who will maintain ultimate oversight of the Internet and the flow of information, commerce and dissent.... Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit.
This is very good news. The incompetent UN would have screwed up the internet beyond recovery.U.S. officials said early Wednesday that instead of transferring management of the system to an international body such as the United Nations, an international forum would be created to address concerns. The forum, however, would have no binding authority.... The accord reached late Tuesday also called for the establishment of a new international group to give more countries a stronger say in how the Internet works, including the issue of making domain names -- currently done in the Latin languages -- into other languages, such as Chinese, Urdu and Arabic.
That is reasonable, but it needs to be checked carefully to make certain that domain names in those other languages are consistent with existing design specs.Under the terms of the compromise, the new group, the Internet Governance Forum, would start operating next year with its first meeting opened by Annan. Beyond bringing its stakeholders to the table to discuss the issues affecting the Internet, and its use, it won't have ultimate authority. Gallagher said the compromise's ultimate decision is that leadership of the Internet, and its future direction, will remain in the hands of the private sector, although some critics contend that the U.S. government, which oversees ICANN, if only nominally, could still flex its muscle in future decisions. "The rural digital divide is isolating almost 1 billion of the poorest people who are unable to participate in the global information society," the agency said in a statement.
The rural digital divide is caused by political and economic problems in some countries, not with who controls the root servers for the internet.Claudia Rosett wrote in Opinion Journal Why dictators are cheering the U.N. Internet turf grab.... The United Nations' so-called World Summit on the Information Society opens today in Tunis, Tunisia, proposing to set up U.N. sway over the Internet under the slogan of bridging the "digital divide." But that's the wrong metaphor. This three-day jamboree is a U.N. turf grab: the latest case of the U.N. misinterpreting its noble mandate to promote peace as a license to take a piece of anything it can get.
The corrupt UN wants a piece of the pie, and authoritarian and totalitarian countries want to be able control the flow of information into (and out of) its countries.For anyone who cares about the vast freedoms and opportunities afforded by the Internet--for pajama-clad bloggers, for journalists, for businessmen and especially for people in the poorest countries--it is time for a call to arms. Sen. Norm Coleman, whose investigations into U.N. corruption have provided him with more insight than most into the cracks and chasms of that aging institution, has already warned in The Wall Street Journal against the possibility of Tunis becoming a "digital Munich." Whether America retains control over the root directory or some other setup ultimately evolves, the clear bottom line right now is that allowing the U.N. to involve itself in these questions is the wrong answer. A U.N. unable even to audit its own accounts or police its own peacekeepers has no business making even a twitch toward control of the Internet.
Worse, the corruption and incompetence at U.N. headquarters, however disturbing, are the least of the problems linked to the U.N.'s bid to control interconnectivity. The deeper trouble is that the U.N. has embraced the same tyrants who in the name of helping the downtrodden are now seeking via Internet control to tread them down some more.... Mr. Annan concluded with what I suppose was meant to be a clarion call: "I urge all stakeholders to come to Tunis ready to bridge the digital divide," etc., etc.
What Mr. Annan evidently does not care to understand, and after his zillion-year career at the U.N. probably never will, is that for purposes of helping the poor, the problem is not a digital divide. It is not the bytes, gigs, blogs and digital wing-dings that define that terrible line between the haves and the have-nots. These are symptoms of the real difference, which we would do better to call the dictatorial divide.
In free societies, all sorts of good things flourish, including technology and highly productive uses of the Internet. In despotic systems, human potential withers and dies, strangled by censorship, starved by central controls, and rotted by the corruption that inevitably accompanies such arrangements. That poisonous mix is what prevents the spread of prosperity in Africa, and blocks peace in the Middle East, and access to computers, or for that matter, food, in North Korea (which is of course sending a delegate to Tunis).
But never mind the realities, as long as Mr. Annan and his entourage see an opportunity for more U.N. turf, job patronage, global clout and funding (including the prospect of a "ka-ching" for the U.N. cash register every time someone logs on). Leading the charge, with policy documents posted on the U.N. information summit site, are such terrorist-breeding blogger-jailing regimes as those of Iran and Saudi Arabia, and such millennial pioneers of backward motion on free speech as Belarus and Russia. China's rulers, who have recently been availing themselves of modern technology to censor the Chinese word for "democracy" out of Internet traffic, and to track down and punish its users, have been toiling away to add their two cents to this summit. Sudan, better known for genocide than free speech, has registered to set up a pavilion. Were Saddam Hussein still in power in Iraq, as Mr. Annan tried to arrange, the odds are good that a front company for his regime, with U.N. blessing, would be setting up a booth in Tunis as well.