Throughout history, new technological breakthroughs – from the advent of the automobile to nuclear energy – have been followed by the emergence of methods and mechanisms for addressing their social, economic, political, and legal impacts. These have included large-scale events to foster discussion and cooperation between stakeholders; guidelines, standards, and resolutions to standardize best practices; and regulations, treaties, and laws to stipulate norms of behavior.
Today, the rapid development of digital technologies has presented us with new challenges. To ensure the benefits of big data, for example, we must re-imagine how governments, businesses, and citizens share, transfer, and capitalize on it. Meanwhile, solving challenges like cyber attacks or data breaches that do not stop at national borders will require new modes of cooperation to enable rapid, cross-sector responses.
So far, we have seen many disparate methods and mechanisms emerge around digital technologies. Unlike the top-down policy mechanisms found in the radio, civil aviation and telecommunication sectors, these mechanisms are bottom-up, as in the case of domain name management. This highlights the need for greater coherence and coordination.
It appears that in their current form, many of the existing methods and mechanisms are no longer sufficient for developments in the digital age. What could new or reformed approaches to digital cooperation look like?
Some of framing questions for exploration include:
- What are some of existing mechanisms of digital cooperation? How have they served us well, and where are they lacking?
- Can these existing mechanisms be adapted to better serve us in the digital age? If so, how?
- What new mechanisms can be imagined for the digital age?
- How do we ensure a smooth interplay between new and existing policy mechanisms on global, regional, national and local levels?
- How can bottom-up mechanisms, such as Internet standardisation and ICANN, be synchronised with existing legal and policy regulations (e.g. deal with situations such as impact of GDPR on ICANN domain name policies)?