A quick look: the Internet Society

Recently, two Caribbean countries launched Internet Society Chapters. However, many of us have never heard of that organisation. Here we provide an overview.

 

In the news roundup published last week, one of the items featured was that an Internet Society Chapters recently have been launched in Guyana and Saint Vincent  and the Grenadines (Source: Stabroek News). Designated contact person for the Guyana Chapter, Lance Hinds, emphasised the importance of having such a unit to help the country navigate the numerous Internet issues that must be addressed:

“The creation of the Internet Society Guyana Chapter comes at a critical time in Guyana where international issues, such as the .amazon TLD, net neutrality, internet governance, connecting the next billion users and Guyanese issues, such as liberalization of the telecommunication sector becomes paramount in national and international  dialogues”

(Source: Stabroek News)

However, what is the Internet Society? Many may not be familiar with the organisation, but with a name like that, it is easy to assume that it is some kind of an exclusive club that only a select few can join. That is not the case.

What is the Internet Society

Established in 1992 and headquartered in the United States of America, the Internet Society (ISOC) is a non-profit organisation that seeks to provide leadership in Internet-related issues, such as access, policy, standards and education. With a vision of “The Internet is for everyone”, the organization seeks to “promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world” (Source: ISOC). To that end, some of the issues the organisation has been focussing on include,

  • Connecting the Unconnected
  • Building Trust in the Internet
  • Internet Governance
  • Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security
  • Open Internet Standards, and
  • Privacy

In order to foster global participation in its work, ISOC has been structured in a manner that allows it to have members and chapters. In becoming a Global Member of ISOC, which is free, individuals have a direct channel to learn about, engage and connect with others on the key Internet issues that are being grappled with worldwide.

Chapters support the work of ISOC by establishing communities and national focal points that can identify priorities and coordinate efforts within a particular country or region. Additionally, and as umbrella organisations for its members, Chapters can facilitate participation, and ensure that its members’ view are represented in the global conversation. According to ISOC, several benefits can be realised by joining a Chapter:

  • the opportunity to network and meet like-minded people
  • helping your local community through grants and schemes designed to help further our mission of a free and open Internet for all
  • honing your skills and increasing your visibility among prospective employers and customers, and through the broad range of programmes and events organized by ISOC
  • making a difference in people’s lives.

How much of a presence does ISOC have in the Caribbean?

Within the Caribbean/CARICOM (Caribbean Community) region, and in addition to Guyana and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, only six other countries have established Chapters:  Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago (Source: ISOC). Although other countries, such as Jamaica, had begun the process to establish a Chapter years ago, it does require organisation and commitment to not only get it the Chapter registered and off the ground, but also to maintain it and have it thrive.

Although it is not essential for an ISOC Chapter to be established for a country, or more specifically its citizens, to participate in the global Internet discussions, it is always useful to have a formally established and recognised group through which to do so – which ISOC offers. Hopefully, in the coming months (and years), more Caribbean countries will make a greater effort to organise presence on the global Internet stage, to ensure their voices are heard.

 

Image credit:  ISOC

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3 Comments

  • Isn’t this adequately represented or covered by IT Societies ( sometimes called Computer Societies )?

  • Is it? Are there truly representative and active IT / ICT / Computer Societies in the Caribbean?

    Especially, are there a significant number of them, do they experience good longevity in the locales, do they mix generations of members and genders well? Do they celebrate significant global IT events, comment on topical items from a local professional perspective and participate actively in regional and international fora? Most importantly do they develop their sector or the nation?

    In general, an Internet Society Chapter can be more focussed on being inclusive and tackling national Internet development issues, and tracking and evolving inline with local to international Internet Governance (IG) discussions (see http://intgovforum.org).

    The Internet Society is not just another IT or Computer Society. It is potentially for everyone, regardless of sector or professional alliance.

    It is potentially for any Internet user or prospective user who finds value in the basic mission and direction and is willing to be a local to international change-maker with respect to opportunity development linked to the Internet.

    It embraces a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach. It tries to promote openness, inclusiveness and border-less connections.

    It is an instant link to a community that is active and involved in several streams of projects and conference spaces.

    Many of the change-maker members are not IT professionals. Yet there are so many interesting and well impacting activities that they pursue. See more at http://isoc.org.

    If you wish to use the Barbados context as an example, it has an Internet Society Chapter http://fb.com/ISOCBB and an ICT organisation http://fb.com/BarbadosICT. The activities on the Events page and posts have different leanings.

    Similarly T&T has an ISOC Chapter (http://isoc.tt) and a Computer Society (http://www.ttcsweb.org).

    In both case though, there are usually some shared membership and joint interests.

    For situations where both exist, they likely challenge each other to higher activity and provide an easy link to the local technical community that may be needed to create, implement, configure etc.

  • Thanks Jason for that contribution. It augments the article significantly, and helps to draw a clear line between computing groups and Internet groups.

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