Workshop & Report: Future Paths to a Public Interest Internet Infrastructure

The governance of the Internet infrastructure is collectively enacted by the design of technology, the policies of companies, the administrative functions of global standard-setting organizations, national laws and international agreements.

A critical component of this infrastructure are Internet standards, which can affect fundamental rights such as privacy, security, anonymity, freedom of expression and information. Decision-making about the Internet infrastructure is a matter of social policy. To advance the protection of human rights online, there is an urgent need for civil society to get further involved in technical discussions, and for the broader public interest technology ecosystem to develop long term strategies to strengthen the impact of advocacy efforts.

With the intention to catalyze an opportunity for cross-domain discussion on public interest advocacy in the Internet infrastructure ecosystem, in September 2019 I co-organized and hosted at the Harvard Kennedy School a workshop entitled Future Paths to a Public Interest Internet Infrastructure.

The event brought together 26 academics, civil society actors, technologists, donors, and private sector representatives from 12 countries. The co-organizers with whom I had the pleasure to work were Niels ten Oever (DATACTIVE, University of Amsterdam) and Corinne Cath-Speth (Oxford Internet Institute).

First ideas for further collaboration shared at the meeting included:

  • Developing an ongoing effort to map stakeholder interests and participation in Internet infrastructure organizations, focusing on institutional and demographic inclusion and leverage on decision-making processes.
  • Envisioning paths to support the long-term participation of civil society actors in Internet infrastructure development forums, including sustainable mentoring and fellowship initiatives.
  • Examining what kind of cross-domain networks could be formed to support the efforts of stakeholders such as public interest advocates, smaller infrastructure providers, underrepresented communities, who are currently not participating in Internet infrastructure forums.

If you are interested in learning more about the event, please download the full workshop report here.