The first steps toward the new Internet Governance Forum, which will take a lead role in how the internet will be run now and in the future, have been taken.
A website for the IGF has popped up on the net, and the first official convening meeting has been scheduled for 16-17 February at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. Invitations to interested parties were sent out yesterday.
The establishment of the IGF was decided on at the World Summit in November, where UN secretary general Kofi Annan was asked to "to convene a meeting of the new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue".
As was widely expected, Mr Annan asked the man behind a highly commended report on internet governance last year, Nitin Desai, to head discussions on the IGF. The other key figure in the earlier report, Markus Kummer, will also be pivotal in discussions.
Under the terms agreed in Tunis, Greece is due to hold the first official meeting of the IGF sometime this year. That meeting will most likely take place in autumn, as there are a huge range of issues to be sorted out beforehand including the nature of the forum and what its priorities are.
The IGF is charged with discussing all public policy issues surrounding the internet and will be multi-stakeholder in that everyone and not just governments will be given equal billing in its processes. It will be expected to come up with solutions and best practices to accepted problems such as security and availability of the internet.
While its conclusions will not be binding, they will carry enormous weight.
Its formation and remit is likely to prove controversial however. Some governments, and in particular the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), are hoping to use the IGF as a backroute for taking power away from the US government and US private company ICANN, which currently act as internet authorities.
There also remains tension between governments and civil society, with both sides continuing to suffer mutual culture shock.®