Indigenous Voices in Internet Governance
“Most people take the Internet for granted if they have it. And nearly everyone I know pays little attention to who makes the rules, policies, standards, and practices that coordinate and shape our global cyberspace,” states Loris Taylor, President, and CEO of Native Public Media (NPM).
NPM is the only U.S. Indigenous representative from the North American Regional At-Large Organization (NARALO) to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN, a non-profit, is responsible for Internet identifiers such as domain names and IP addresses. The role of ICANN’s Internet governance has expanded to include economic, political, social, and military implications.
Given the digital divide among Indigenous Peoples and communities, NPM advocates for policies that promote tribal broadband deployment, Internet access, and adoption. Only 68 percent of tribal citizens have access to the Internet compared to 94 percent of the entire population in the United States. With a seat at the ICANN international policy table, NPM provides education and awareness on how the Internet impacts Indigenous communities.
For NPM, Internet access is essential for U.S. tribes to further sovereignty, economic development, education, public safety, cultural preservation, and to stay connected. NPM is one of many voices in the telecommunications sector that includes telephone (both wired and wireless), satellite companies, cable companies, Internet service providers, and broadcast facilities.
At the recent NARALO General Assembly, October 19–20 2022, in Los Angeles, California, Melissa Begay, NPM Operations Director said, “I believe it’s important to have more Indigenous organizations or individuals participate in Internet Governance. Our inclusion and proactive participation can create and shape international telecommunications policies that affect our everyday lives across Indian Country.”
Greg Shatan, NARALO Chair agrees, “ICANN offers a unique opportunity for all people and organizations to participate in policy development and decision-making for the Internet's domain name system. This system of multistakeholder governance depends on people and organizations showing up to make their voices heard. In the ICANN system, the "At-Large Community" within ICANN represents the best interests of end-users. Indigenous people and organizations must participate in making their voices heard. NARALO is the umbrella organization for end-users in North America, and we welcome participation from indigenous people, communities, and organizations. It's your Internet! Join us in shaping its future.”