Internet Governance

Governance of the Internet, and therefore eCommerce as they inextricably linked, until the mid 1990s was largely based with bodies in the United States (US) as those systems were developed originally for the use of academia and military in that country. Since then, global widespread adoption of the system for eCommerce has presented many issues for regulators than cannot be managed at the global level. Differences in law, culture, morals, ethics and economies in different countries, states, counties and communes (Switzerland) make a standard global system of governance impossible in all other respects other than technology (e.g. domain name system, IP address allocation, Secure Socket Layer standards, etc.).

The essential technological components of an eCommerce system include a great deal of standardisation and therefore control over the Internet domain servers remains with the US with a proviso that this will be discussed in future years. Personally I cannot see any way to improve governance of technology matters as, with interoperability being paramount to the success of the system, a single, global entity with participation of all involved (in this case the International Telecommunication Union ITU, a United Nations UN agency) can effectively ensure that political decisions are minimised to produce a standardised working system.

The challenges for eCommerce in social respects are enormous from government to personal. Government regulation since 1998 in many countries has decided what the people in those countries were allowed to see as “the Internet is technically very easily controlled, monitored, and regulated from central locations” Laudon & Traver (2010, p547). Every level of router, be it at country, internet service provider or organisation level can perform such actions and therefore there are often unseen multiple levels of control, sometimes seemingly without good reason to the user (e.g. banning certain sites, control and monitoring of employee Internet usage). For example, in Switzerland, we have a famous euthanasia clinic named “Dignitas” (http://www.dignitas.ch) which in eCommerce terms states their services and encourages people to contact them. Many of their customers come from outside Switzerland where voluntary euthanasia is illegal and a topic of great heated debate yet being from the UK where self regulation is given priority over government regulation, we are able to access the Dignitas web site, despite its services being illegal. The country and personal level perspective differ greatly however in my opinion governance rests in the same place as law as in such democratic countries, you would like to expect that large enough issues would be dealt with in the best interests of the population under those laws, something I am sure those from restrictive government regimes would not agree with, unless of course their ideologies matched.

The governance system is not perfect as a single monolithic body could not accommodate all of the requirements of any particular group of users, however it is difficult to see in a situation with so many variables how a more effective system could be introduced than we have today.

References

Laudon & Traver (2010) E-Commerce: Business. Technology. Society. (6th Edition). Pearson Prentice Hall.