Internet Governance — if you’re into it, you’re all over it. If you’re not into it, you probably think it’s somebody else’s problem. But, the issue with that thinking is that governance (note the small “g”) of the Internet was specifically designed to be the business of everyone who uses and builds it. The further away we get from that mentality, the more the Internet becomes an industry-driven product and not an inter-network.
Such was the message I delivered when, in June, I gave a keynote lecture to introduce the graduating class of MSISA (Master of Science in Information Security & Assurance) at Norwich University to the rudiments of Internet governance. I’ve posted my slides for the talk on my Publications page (See: 20140617-NorwichResidencyWeek-MSISA-cc).
The Internet has so infiltrated our daily lives that it is changing how we go about many aspects of our non-digital lives. Just imagine trying to buy a house, the most physically-rooted, tangible object many of us aspire to owning, without having the resources of the World Wide Web. It’s not just the realty sites — you probably also want to review the local schools, perhaps check out the social and civic activities in the area, and generally inform yourself with what people who live there have to say.
Many of those resources are available because the Internet allows “innovation without permission“. Concerned citizens and enthusiastic locals who never would have thought of themselves as “content publishers” can readily set up information resources. (Seriously — I can check out the food safety inspection report for our local grocery store online). Of course, the World Wide Web itself is the poster child for the value of allowing innovation (on the Internet) without requiring permission.
The Internet’s management, or governance, has grown up over the decades of its existence. No longer uniquely the purview of a handful of (primarily US) researchers, the Internet’s developers/deployers/users have set up open institutions to engage successive generations of Internet supporters in the process of thoughtful management of its resources.
Understanding the impact and value of the existing institutions, as well as ensuring the Internet’s users don’t become a simple “audience” to its services, are key challenges of evolving the Internet’s governance in the face of today’s political pressures.