Preparations are in full swing for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) later next year.
The United Nations (UN), which is hosting the follow-up event in Tunisia in November 2005, has selected members of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), the organisation said.
The group, which will be chaired by Nitin Desai, special advisor to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, will include 40 members from governments, the private sector and civil society, a term collectively applied to non-governmental organisations representing a wide variety of interests from human rights to free software. A list of the members is available at the WGIG website.
The first of between four to five meetings is scheduled to take place in Geneva from 23 November 2005 to 25 November 2005. A preliminary report is planned for July.
Delegates at the initial WSIS in Geneva last December agreed to set up a working group to discuss management of the internet at both technical and policy levels after failing to reach a consensus on this contentious issue.
Many countries, particularly the US, UK and members of the European Union (EU), support the private sector-led internet management arrangement provided under the aegis of the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann). But others, notably Brazil, China and numerous developing countries, see a need for some soft of inter-governmental framework, preferably under a UN umbrella.
WGIG has its work cut out, according to the group's executive co-ordinator Markus Kummer.
"We will have to discuss a wide range of contentious issues, beginning with a basic question such as: What is the internet?" Kummer said.
"The answer isn't as easy as you would think because we need to determine whether we are talking about just a set of protocols or also about IP [Internet protocol] services, which can lead to a whole other dimension."
Developing countries, in particular, are concerned about the delegation of country-code top-level domain names being left to a privately-run organisation, according to Kummer.
"Many countries want a greater say in this process," he said. "They view the issue as one of national sovereignty."
John Blau writes for IDG News Service