Governing the Intangible: Applying Georgia Tech’s Internet Governance Policy Topics for Indonesia’s Possible Path of Internet Regulation

July 1, 2021 12:09 pm || By

The advancement of science and technology has literally created a concept into an abstract reality: namely cyberspace itself. Blount[i] argued that cyberspace has become alternative geography that facilitates the world’s ‘respatialization’, and this new space will bring upon new issues with it. This alternative geography then brought upon a massive change to almost all nations on earth. Schmidt and Cohen[ii] explained how nations all over the world will miss the days when they only need to think about foreign and domestic affairs in real world, because it will be difficult to replicate a nation’s policies into the cyberspace; they also stated that in the future, a country will have two sorts of territories: the real-world territory and the virtual one.

But this new ‘virtual territory’ is quite complex on its own since the Internet itself is a complex design. The Internet has many aspects that overlap each other to function, and each of said aspects became a problem for regulations itself. The Internet has physical infrastructure that is governed by a set of policies while the application of said infrastructure, namely what happened in cyberspace, also has its own set of policies[iii]. Nevertheless, the ever-present Internet has become an integral part of people’s everyday lives who live in the digital age, and the government has always been historically present for such an important infrastructure.

As with everything that is new, cyberspace presents a daunting challenge for governments all over the world. Angela Merkel, back in 2013, has described the Internet as a terra incognita (unknown land) for Germany’s political administration[iv]. Nevertheless, an effort should be made for us to understand the Internet and its Governance better since none of us can ever really live without such technology in the future.

The need for Internet Governance can be explored with various lenses. In my previous article titled New Normal for Crime[v], I have highlighted the need of Internet Governance in Indonesia as a response to the rising cybercrime attacks during the pandemic. Though in this article, I will explain what Internet Governance is and a possible model for Indonesia’s Internet Regulation.

Literature on Internet Governance suffers from narrow technocratic conceptions, insufficient attention to governance dynamics within countries, and limited appreciation for the micro-level political and social roots of governance[vi]. But the term “Internet Governance” itself is first used in connection with the governance of the Internet identifiers such as domain names and IP addresses leads to the formation of ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)[vii]. Nowadays, though, Internet Governance refers to the rules, policies, standards, and practices that coordinate and shape global cyberspace[viii].

For the past 15 years, the Internet Society has advocated for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance[ix] and it is currently the most used model[x]. According to the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), those stakeholders are: 1) country/government, 2) private sector/commercial companies, 3) civilians, 4) trans-government organization, 5) international organizations (non-commercial, non-civilian, private organizations), 6) academic communities, and 7) technical communities.

Internet Governance itself is composed of three broad areas[xi]:

1) the tools that govern the functioning of the Internet and behavior on it;

This includes the laws, policies, technical standards, or codes of conduct that are formed, monitored, and enforced by numerous actors.

2) the layers upon layers which these tools are used at the local, national, regional, and global levels,

These above-mentioned tools are then applied across different layers, making the entire functioning and usage of the Internet possible. Said layers are:

·       The infrastructure layer—the physical structure needed to send data from one point to the other in the giant network of the Internet. It consists of hardware needed for creating and passing information such as computers, terrestrial and undersea cables, satellites, exchange points, wireless systems, and wires.

·  The logical layer—instructions for how information travels through the infrastructure layer and ensures compatibility between different networks. Most importantly, it is responsible for governing the domain name system (DNS), which translates domain names to IP addresses.

·       The applications layer—software and applications that allow us to access the Internet via electronic devices and use different online services.

·       The content layer—all of the information that can be found within the application layer.

3) the actors that are involved in shaping and applying these rules.

The actors mentioned above.

Governing the Internet is not a straightforward task as it covers diverse issues, including physical infrastructure, management of unique identifiers (DNS & IP addresses), and the Internet’s technical standards. Internet governance debates bring to the surface issues such as security, privacy, and the impact of communications technologies on society and democracy[xii]. As such, for my next point on Internet regulation, I will be limiting my discussion around the first area: the tools that govern the functioning of the Internet and behavior on it, specifically on laws and policies of the Internet Governance.

Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Public Policy through their Internet Governance Project has created some policy topics such as: cybersecurity, digital trade, free expression online, privacy and surveillance, Internet of Things, Internet Governance Institutions, Internet Identifiers, and Geopolitics of Internet Governance[xiii]. And I believe these policy topics may be helpful to create a comprehensive framework for Indonesia’s Internet regulation because despite being the fifth-highest number of Internet users, Indonesia does not have an integrated digital strategy on the Internet Governance[xiv].

Let us examine how Georgia Tech’s Internet Governance Policy Topics may help in creating a Public Policy Framework for Indonesia:

  • Cybersecurity Regulations

Currently, Indonesia does not have a clear legal framework for cybersecurity; hence the legal framework for cybersecurity tends to vary depending on the context of the crime. Therefore, a framework of national cybersecurity strategy is necessary to create a comprehensive list of cybersecurity regulations.

  • Digital Trade Regulations

Digital trade in Indonesia is currently regulated in UU ITE (Law No. 11 of 2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions). It encompasses consumer rights, financial services sector, and electronic contracts. UU ITE is still used as a ‘free-for-all’ law that regulates the Internet in Indonesia. If we are to base Internet regulations in all the aforementioned policy topics, it means that Indonesia will have to create separate law for each topic, including digital trade so that UU ITE will exclusively deal with digital trades.

  • Free Expression Online Regulations

Indonesia does not have any free expression online regulations, quite the contrary, we have a censorship law in place at Article No. 27 Verse 3 about defamation which has been used to criminalize freedom of expression. To create a regulation on free expression online, Indonesia can revisit the updated version of United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ Article 19 which explicitly states that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ and its subsequent addition in Part 32 which explicitly states: ‘promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights in the Internet’.

  • Privacy and Surveillance

Indonesia currently has no comprehensive data protection law, as it is still in development, but there are sectoral laws governing data privacy.

  • IoT

As Indonesia is still in the early stages of regulating the Internet, we currently do not have a specific law pertaining to the Internet of Things. However, as we progress on our comprehensive cyber law, the Internet of Things should be made one of its sub-regulations.

  • Internet Governance Institutions

Indonesia’s Internet Governance institutions currently consist of the Ministry of Communications and Information (Kemenkominfo) and the National Cyber and Crypto Agency (BSSN). Arguments have been made to create a ministry exclusively for digital affairs[xv]

There are still missing components of the model, such as Internet Identifiers and the Geopolitics of Internet Governance, which I deem irrelevant in the current situation in Indonesia’s Internet Governance.

As previously mentioned, governing the Internet is not a straightforward task. Internet regulation is probably the most complex undertaking of governments all around the world. As Indonesia is still in its early stages of creating our Internet regulation laws, we must take this as an opportunity to create our laws based on data and evidence given by nations that have created their own Internet regulations for a better, safer Internet for us all.

Author: Irnasya Shafira
Editor: Amelinda Pandu Kusumaningtyas


[i] Blount, P.J. 2019. Cyberspace and the Problem of New Spaces accessed from https://www.e-ir.info/2019/11/25/cyberspace-and-the-problem-of-new-spaces/ on 30 April 2021

[ii] Schmidt, E., & Cohen, J. (2013). The new digital age: Reshaping the future of people, nations, and business. Hachette UK.

[iii] Thierer, A. D., & Crews, C. W. (Eds.). (2003). Who rules the net?: Internet governance and jurisdiction. Cato Institute

[iv] Langner, R. (2016). Cyber Power: An Emerging Factor in National and International Security. Horizons: Journal of International Relations and Sustainable Development,(8), 206-218. DOI:10.2307/48573698

[v] https://cfds.fisipol.ugm.ac.id/new-normal-for-crime-the-urgency-of-better-internet-governance-for-indonesia/

[vi] Wilson III, E.J., 2005. What is internet governance and where does it come from?. Journal of Public Policy, pp.29-50.

[vii] Mueller, M. L. (2009). Ruling the root: Internet governance and the taming of cyberspace. MIT press.

[viii] https://www.internetgovernance.org/what-is-internet-governance/

[ix] Wentworth, S., 2017. Internet multi-stakeholder governance. Journal of Cyber Policy, 2(3), pp.318-322.

[x] Hill, R., 2014. The Internet, its governance, and the multi-stakeholder model. Info.

[xi] Hoxtell, W., Nonhoff, D. 2019. Internet Governance: Past, Present, and Future. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. 2019, Berlin

[xii] Wentworth, S., 2017. Internet multi-stakeholder governance. Journal of Cyber Policy, 2(3), pp.318-322.

[xiii] https://www.internetgovernance.org/what-is-internet-governance/

[xiv] https://theconversation.com/indonesia-needs-a-digital-affairs-ministry-heres-why-122724#:~:text=Indonesia%20does%20not%20have%20an%20integrated%20digital%20strategy,and%20private%20sectors%20to%20govern%20the%20digital%20sector.

[xv] https://theconversation.com/indonesia-needs-a-digital-affairs-ministry-heres-why-122724#:~:text=Indonesia%20does%20not%20have%20an%20integrated%20digital%20strategy,and%20private%20sectors%20to%20govern%20the%20digital%20sector.