Engaging the International Community on Internet Governance

The U.S. must engage the international community regarding the proper governance of the Internet to ensure that information in cyberspace remains free and accessible to U.S citizens and the global community. A deeper understanding of the complex socio-technical nature of cyberspace is needed to govern and secure the Internet in ways that achieve strategic and democratic objectives. Framing this complex challenge requires understanding the ways in which cyber strategy, policy, regulation, and security all play Internet Governance. It is also important to assess whether our efforts to secure the Internet and protect information and privacy rights are consistent with our overarching ‘governing’ objectives (that is, information freedom and net neutrality) and to ensure that our security efforts do not inadvertently take away the very liberties they are intended to protect.

This is not to suggest that U.S. engagement can wait. The pace and scope of the Internet’s growth and the infinite ways it is evolving (with economic, political and social implications) necessitate a deliberate and decisive engagement.  A coherent strategy is needed to ensure that difficult tradeoffs between competing interests and public values are managed in a consistent, transparent, and accountable manner.[1] While the Internet has ushered in great societal benefits, it has also introduced new risks such as crime, terrorism, and warfare that threaten critical infrastructure and services on which societies depend.

The risk being born by individuals and societies continues to expand as complex and tightly coupled systems[2] such as electrical power grids, services such as health care, and the emerging ‘internet of things’ are being increasingly interconnected.  This process is transitioning us from the information age to a “network society.”[3] As with any technology, there are intended and unintended uses and users. There are some who desire to leverage the Internet to bring local, national, and global services and benefits. There are others with nefarious intentions, introducing crime, exploitation, and terrorism into cyberspace. With low barriers to entry, criminal behavior, terrorism, and acts of war are being propagated across the cyber domain, increasing the importance of proper internet security and governance. Going forward, I make the following recommendations:

First, a whole of government and industry approach that puts forth a clear and consistent internet governance policy that takes into consideration the multi-dimensional nature of this environment.

Second, the U.S. must strengthen its multilateral ties with allied nation-state while engaging in the emerging multi-stakeholder governing model.[4] Engagement, at the multilateral level, should include developing national strategies and policies that protect the privacy, data and transactional rights of citizens operating in cyberspace (e.g. source, ownership and proper use of data). This effort, should include incorporating cyberspace policies and standards into future bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to establish and reinforce needed international cyber norms and global alliances.

At the multi-stakeholder level, the U.S. needs to develop new ties with a variety of non-state actors including industry, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations (e.g. International Telecommunications Union, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and the Internet Engineering Task Force, etc.). This will build a coalition of governing actors that share our democratic values, particularly as they relate to information and speech in cyberspace.

Finally, the U.S. must engage the public in this policy formation process, as their understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the internet is key to its future security and resiliency. This can be accomplished by creating public forums where views from various sectors of society can be considered.  Policy thinkers also need to understand that governing tools, being built into the technical designs and security architectures of cyberspace for the protection of infrastructure and information, could also be could be misused. Therefore, it is critical that the privacy, security and monitoring controls are adequately limited legally and technically to ensure that the very controls being designed to protect are not also exploited by nefarious actors.

[1] Raymond, Mark and Gordon Smith, 2014. Organized Chaos: Reimagining the Internet, Centre for International Governance Innovation.

[2] Perrow, Charles, 1984 Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk TechnologiesNew York: Basic Books

[3] Castells, Manuel. 2004.“Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint”. In Castells, Manuel, ed. The Network Society: A Cross-           Cultural Perspective (Edward Elgar Publishers, 2004)

[4] DeNardis, Laura and Mark Raymond 2013. Thinking Clearly about Multistakeholder Internet Governance Paper Presented at Eighth Annual GigaNet Symposium Bali, Indonesia October 21, 2013 Washington, DC

About rogerskd

I am currently a PhD candidate at Virginia Tech's in the School of Science & Technology Studies. I have a diverse business background with continued academic professional training including graduate degrees in science and technology policy, information systems & technology, international finance/management, and in development economics and graduate certificates in Asian Studies, International Political Economy, and CIO/CTO Innovation. Currently, I am seeking ways to apply my experiences, academic endeavors and lessons learned to strengthen the role and effect of diplomacy around the world. Diplomacy has been referred to as a soft or smart power and today 'good' diplomacy is in high demand. In the world system, a failed state has global implications and diplomacy, including economic and social development, are essential tools needed to prevent fragile states from failure. In seeking ways to strengthen diplomacy, I am specifically looking at how ICT’s, and the emergence of cyberspace, can be leveraged in this process.


  1. Interesting. It sounds very complicated. I wonder, has research been done (or is it being done) on:

    * Visions, goals, values, needs, and preferences of diverse communities using (or wanting access to) the internet?
    * Overlaps and divergences between diverse a) community, b) national government, and c) industry visions, goals, values, needs, and preferences vis-a-vis the internet?
    * Who the governing actors ought to be and what alternative schemes of membership in such a governing entity might achieve different outcomes?

    Curious to know which ideas from our class/readings inspired this post and how.

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