Does civil society participation in self-regulatory fora promote public interest goals in internet governance at the international level? Over a period of three years, the project will lift the lid on standard-setting at the international level with detailed insight into a world which, although highly technical, very much affects the way in which citizens live and work on a daily basis.
Civil society participation has long been observed in international organisations with state representation such as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). However, there has been less analysis of participation of civil society groups in technical standard developing organisations (SDOs) with no formal state involvement which is the goal of the project. There have been recent moves towards active inclusion of a wider number of participants within such fora at the international level. Such developments include a 2012 Joint Statement of Affirmation signed by the IETF, the Internet Society (ISOC), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which commits the organisations to an “open participatory process” and a report in 2013 by the Internet Society which states “multistakeholder governance is the only way forward for Internet Governance”. In 2013, the European Commission (EC) established the Global Internet Policy Observatory (GIPO) which aims to establish an on-line platform to include “all stakeholders across the world in debates and decisions on internet policies” with a “core alliance of countries and non-governmental organisations”.
The project investigates solutions put forth by different actors in SDOs with case studies on standards for privacy/data protection; mobile communications and open source software. This will be an invaluable study considering that the standards have a salient role to play in the development of markets and citizens interaction in the world today but are, at the same time, immensely technical, technocratic and largely inaccessible to the non-expert.