The growth and globalization of the Internet over the past 40 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Virtually all sectors, from development to healthcare 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. This paper seeks to address the need to develop an effective and legitimate Internet governance ecosystem by proposing a distributed yet coordinated framework that can accommodate a plurality of existing and emerging decision-making approaches. It draws on the lessons of open governance, adopting innovative techniques to facilitate coordination, information sharing, and evidence generation by and across increasingly diverse and global groups of Internet actors, and calls for creating practical tools to support such an effective, legitimate and evolving Internet governance ecosystem. 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.

The Global Commission on Internet Governance was established in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance. The two-year project conducts and supports independent research on Internet-related dimensions of global public policy, culminating in an official commission report that will articulate concrete policy recommendations for the future of Internet governance.