This project investigates a yet understudied trend in Internet governance: the global move towards widening participation in international standards developing organisations (SDOs). As such, it explores important questions of representation of the public interest at the international level. It contributes to the study of democracy and the internet in addition to the literature global self-regulation and international decision-making processes in unstructured environments. Given the more general trend towards informal governance at the global level, the findings are of interest for a wider group of scholars in Public Policy and Global Governance. The project also addresses questions of strategic importance for internet policy-communities, international/national experts, lobbyists, civil society, national parliaments, as well as the wider public interested in internet governance issues.
The project investigates three policy areas in global standard-setting: internet, privacy/data protection and mobile communications. The research generates complementary quantitative and qualitative data to assess the behaviour and influence of experts within technical standards developing fora in order to ascertain how representation is balanced across the cases chosen. We recognise that privately owned groups can be oriented to the public interest as well as civil society solutions. The project’s main questions:
1. What are the key political problems under discussion within standard developing organisations?
2. What regulatory solutions are proposed by identifiable actors within such fora?
3. Are the US or EU able to steer actors’ agendas?
4. Which mechanisms enable or constrain actors?
5. What are the public policy outcomes?
6. Does civil society representation address public interest concerns?
In 2016, a sample of technical experts participating in standards developing organisations were asked to self-complete an on-line questionnaire. The survey will enable the research team to understand different positions and key policy debates under discussion within the fora under study. Network analysis will be used to control for overlapping membership of individuals in different organisations. Following this, face-to-face interviews will be held with a sub-sample of 130 interviewees derived from the questionnaire with experts working on the policy areas under investigation. This will allow the research team to track the decision-making process. Dissemination will take place in the form of publications, conference papers and 3 user-oriented workshops.