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Organized Chaos: Reimagining the Internet

Project Leaders: Gordon Smith and Fen Osler Hampson

Historically, Internet governance has been accomplished en passant. It has emerged largely from the actions of computer scientists and engineers, in interaction with domestic legal and regulatory systems. Beginning at least with the 2003–2005 World Summit on the Information Society process, however, there has been an explicit rule-making agenda at the international level. This strategic agenda is increasingly driven by a coalition of states — including Russia, China and the Arab states — that is organized and has a clear, more state-controlled and monetary vision for the Internet.  Advanced industrial democracies and other states committed to existing multi-stakeholder mechanisms have a different view — they regard Internet governance as important, but generally lack coherent strategies for Internet governance — especially at the international level. Given the Internet’s constant evolution and its economic, political and social importance as a public good, this situation is clearly untenable.

A coherent strategy is needed to ensure that difficult trade-offs between competing interests, as well as between distinct public values, are managed in a consistent, transparent and accountable manner that accurately reflects public priorities. Guided by these considerations, CIGI researchers believe they can play a constructive role in creating a strategy for states committed to multi-stakeholder models of Internet governance.

In aiming to develop this strategy, the project members will consider what kind of Internet the world wants in 2020, and will lay the analytical groundwork for future Internet governance discussions that consider the pros and cons of a variety of governance models. This project was launched in 2012.

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