There is no debate that the Internet has become critical infrastructure for government, business and civil society. In fact it is this very importance that has led recently to a significant debate about how best to manage this rapidly growing global network.
Crossing, as it does, all national, economic and social boundaries, the rapid growth and increasing reliance on this infrastructure has led to a discussion about Internet governance and the challenges for existing policy-making, management, and technical organizations that are responsible for building the Internet as we know it today.
The Internet governance debate encompasses a wide range of issues, from security and access to Internet resources, such as domain names and IP addressing.
Additionally, Internet governance discussion can cover many other aspects of Internet functioning and use, including technical specifications and administration, content regulation, and other legal considerations.
Since ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was formed to administer and manage Internet resources in the late 1990s, the responsibility for domain names and Internet number resources (such as IP addresses and autonomous system numbers) has moved away from the US Government and is now entrusted to a series of commercial and non-profit organizations.
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), sponsored by the United Nations (UN) and held in two stages during 2003 and 2005 highlighted some of these issues and gave rise to the Internet Governance Forum or IGF.
The UN-sponsored the IGF as a result of a mandate from the WSIS to convene a new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue. The IGF meetings are now held on an annual basis for this purpose.