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  • Author: Stefaan G. Verhulst, Beth S. Noveck, Jillian Raines, Antony Declercq
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: The growth and globalization of the Internet over the past 40 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Virtually all sectors, from development to health care to education to politics, have been transformed. Yet developments in how the Internet is governed have not kept pace with this rapid technological innovation. Figuring out how to evolve the Internet's governance in ways that are effective and legitimate is essential to ensure its continued potential. Flexible and innovative decision-making mechanisms are needed in order to enable disparate governance actors to address and respond effectively as changes in the network occur. Actors need mechanisms to coordinate and cooperate around a variety of different governance approaches that may be used to address urgent issues that impact users in various ways from the local to global level. As for legitimacy in decision making, this is typically derived from citizen participation, or membership in a territorial community — an unobtainable metric for Internet governance given the global, cross-sector nature of the network. Internet governance frameworks have traditionally handled this challenge through interest group or stakeholder representation, limiting broader participation in certain kinds of governance decisions that increasingly impact all users across borders and cultures — and also by treating technical and informational Internet practices as falling within national borders, which has led countries to adopt divergent or competing approaches on issues that affect the stability of the global network, risking Internet fragmentation. enhanced coordination and cooperation across institutions and actors; increased interoperability in terms of identifying and describing issues and approaches for resolution throughout the ecosystem (i.e., creating a common Internet governance ontology); open information sharing and evidence-based decision making; and expertise- or issue-based organization to allow for both localization and scale in problem solving. In proposing ways to realize this framework, the paper draws on the lessons of open governance, adopting innovative techniques such as opening data, crowdsourcing and expert networks to facilitate coordination, information sharing, and evidence generation by and across increasingly diverse and global groups of Internet actors, who seek to address the current complex and pressing issues — from increasing access to privacy to cyber security — without risking the stability of the underlying network. The paper also calls for creating practical tools to support such an effective, legitimate and evolving Internet governance ecosystem, including an issue-based map and data repository of current responses to Internet-related governance issues, which can serve as a resource for modelling alternative approaches to tackling urgent issues. Although no right answer or single model for how to manage all issues of relevance to the Internet is suggested within this paper, the proposed framework intends to allow for diverse experiments in distributed governance approaches to learn what works and what does not.