written by Prof. Milton Mueller in August 2017

The community of scholars who evolved into GigaNet first converged around the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). As documented in several books, WSIS served as the mobilization point for a new global multistakeholder network of actors interested in the problems of Internet governance. The organized participation of civil society actors in WSIS included many politically engaged academics who recognized that global Internet governance, in addition to being a source of political and policy contention, was a new and fascinating field of research. Yet, after the Tunis summit in November 2005, many of the academics realized that within the post-WSIS environment “there was no natural home for Internet Governance research and education.” In early 2006, during the formative stages of the new UN Internet Governance Forum, emails and conversations amongst a core group that included Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Penghwa Ang, William Drake, Derrick Cogburn, Milton Mueller, Jeanette Hofmann and Ralf Bendrath, among others, began to discuss this possibility (Cogburn, 2017, p.234). They decided to create their own, independent academic platform, introducing a sometimes awkward separation from civil society NGOs.

If post-WSIS specialization was the gestational period, GigaNet’s birth can be attributed to a joint ICA/IAMCR pre-conference on “Internet Governance: New Political and Regulatory Frameworks for Global Network Communications.” The event was held from 15-18 June 2006 in the tiny village of Kurort Rathen, Germany, just down the Elbe River from where the ICA meeting in Dresden would be held. The initial event was organized by Wolfgang Kleinwächter (University of Aarhus, Denmark) and Peng Hwa Ang (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore). Both had been members of the Working Group on Internet Governance created by the WSIS process to develop a “working definition of Internet governance.” Ang was also part of the leadership of ICA at the time, and Kleinwachter was president of the Communications Law and Policy section of IAMCR. Kleinwachter secured funds from UNESCO to support the initial conference. About 40 academics from 20 countries and some leading universities attended the three day expert meeting. One of the plenary sessions of the event was entitled “Enhanced Communication on Internet Governance: Towards the Building of a “Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GIGANet).”

Two key institutions emerged from this meeting: one was GigaNet, the other was the European Summer School on Internet Governance. A GigaNet Start-Up Group was formed, and it took charge of plans for a Symposium held concurrently with the first meeting of the new IGF. At the very first IGF in Athens, Greece in November of 2006, GigaNet was the first – and only – “day zero” event. The small room it was allotted by the IGF Secretariat was packed. The audience included all stakeholder groups, and interest and discussions were intense.

The success of the first Symposium prompted the actors to continue their efforts and adopt a more formal organizational structure. It developed a governance structure and elected its first Steering Committee. In the start-up phase, the Internet Governance Project, then hosted at Syracuse University, took on many of the administrative burdens, donating listserv resources, setting up the web site, and chairing the Program Committee.1 The final structure of GigaNet is not much different from what was decided then, after extensive debates about membership eligibility and the role of non-academics and activists in the organization. The network has also periodically revisited its decision to hold its annual Symposium in conjunction with the IGF, and so far has consistently decided to keep doing so. Now in its 12th year, Giganet is truly one of the original institutions of the Internet governance field.

1 Source: Internet Governance Project Progress Report – Year End 2006, Ford Foundation Grant Number 1040-1093-1

 

Full list of the Start-Up Group Members:
Peng Hwa Ang, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Seiiti Arata, Jr., University of Sao Paulo, Brasil
Ralf Bendrath, University of Bremen, Germany
Derrick L. Cogburn, Syracuse University, USA
Avri Doria, Luleå University of Technology, Sweden
William Drake, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Switzerland
Jeanette Hofmann, Wissenschafts Zentrum Berlin, Germany
Hans Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
Wolfgang Kleinwächter, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Brenden Kuerbis, Syracuse University, USA
Jovan Kurbilja, DiploFoundation, Malta
Don MacLean, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Canada
Milton Mueller, Syracuse University, USA
Mwende Njiraini, DiploFoundation, Malta
Mary Rundle, Harvard University, USA

 

Past GigaNet Officers
The inaugural GigaNet Steering Committee took over the leadership of GigaNet on 1 April 2007. Regular elections as described above commenced in 2009.
Following is the list of the members of the steering committee since inauguration:

Chair of Steering Committee: 
Peng Hwa Ang (2007), Nanette Levinson (2008), Milton Mueller (2009-14)

Vice-Chair of Steering Committee: 
Jeanette Hofmann (2007), Milton Mueller (2008), William Drake (2009), Derrick Cogburn (2010), Laura DeNardis (201-13), Rolf Weber (2014-5)

Secretary: 
Avri Doria (2007), Seiiti Arata (2008), Elena Pavan (2009-10), Roy Ballaste (2011-2012), Julia Pohle (2013-2016)

Treasurer: 
Seiiti Arata (2007), Rolf Weber (2008-13)

Chair of Communication Committee: 
Derrick Cogburn (2007-9), Brenden Kuerbis (2010-11), Dmitry Epstein (2012-15), Argyro Karanasiou (2016)

Chair of Outreach Committee:
Wolfgang Kleinwächter (2007), Slavka Antonova (2008-9), Becky Lentz (2010-11), Francesca Musiani (2012-15)

Chair of Membership Committee:
William Drake (2007), Konstantinos Komaitis (2008-10)

Chair of Program Committee: 
Milton Mueller (2007), Meryem Marzouki (2008), Raquel Gatto (2009-10), Leo van Audenhove (2011-2012), John Laprise (2013-14), Daniel Oppermann (2015-16)