The policies and mechanisms for Internet governance were the subject of discussion at the US Mission in Geneva (May 20) in preparation for the 6th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) scheduled for September in Nairobi, Kenya.

The roles of government, civil society and the commercial sector were all discussed although no conclusions were reached other than a vague commitment to keep the Internet open to all.  

Google's chief promoter, Vinton Cerf, one of the founders of the Internet, delivered a prerecorded address from the US, underlining his view that governments should not “have a monopoly on Internet policy development.”

Cerf acknowledged that the UN favors a government approach to regulating the Internet but that Google firmly opposes this, “because the private sector is not only a stakeholder but (also) the providers and the owners of the Internet and should have a role to play in the IGF.”

At present, the California-based company ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) administers all technical and policy aspects of the World Wide Web, including domain names and IP (Internet Protocol) addresses.

Although not discussed in Geneva, a hot subject on the Nairobi agenda is sure to be the recent licensing by ICANN of the controversial pornographic domain name .xxx and the growing use of social websites in fomenting rebellion in the Arab world and elsewhere.

The explosion of the Internet and mobile technology throughout the developing world has also increased concerns about how best to keep the Internet open while curbing its abuse. 

Alice Wanjira-Munya, who chairs the organizing committee for the Nairobi forum, told the Geneva meeting that Africa is emerging as a major player in Internet governance. “The role of civil society is very important,” when regulating things from banking security to using phones for money transactions.

Ambassador Betty King, of the US Mission in Geneva said the meeting was a continuation of US efforts "to demonstrate the importance of a free and multi-stakeholder Internet for democratic societies and vibrant market economies."