UNESCO launches a new study on internet governance


An audience of 80 digital experts at a conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday 28 October 2017 welcomed the launch of a new UNESCO study titled What if we all governed the Internet? Advancing multistakeholder participation in Internet governance.

“UNESCO promotes participative decision-making about the Internet,” said Guy Berger, director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, providing background to the study.

“This is in line with our Member State’s decisions and the UN General Assembly’s resolution on the 15 year review of the World Summit on the Information Society,” he told participants at the 60th general meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Berger said the new study addressed current questions such as whether multistakeholder goverance:

  • Is a figleaf that allows corporates to dodge being properly regulated,
  • Is a protection against the capture of the Internet by governmental actors,
  • Is being overtaken in practice, by other decision-making modalities,
  • Is becoming an obsolete concept in the face of intensifying integration of the Internet into daily life.

In assessing these issues, the study examined experiences in Kenya, Brazil and South Korea as well as at the global Internet Governance Forum, Berger told the audience.

In response to a question, the UNESCO official explained the selection in terms of interest in regional diversity as well as covering cases of policy-making, law-making, law-reform and the shaping of norms.

“The research concludes that the multistakeholder modality remains relevant and that it adds substantial value to Internet governance, but also that it should not be taken to be a uniform model - let alone an ideology,” said Berger.

He added that UNESCO was developing indicators to assess multistakeholder participation, which is one of the four principles of UNESCO’s concept of Internet Universality. The others are: human rights, openness and accessibility, with the package summed up under the acronym of ROAM.

Published as part of UNESCO’s Internet Freedom Series, the full study is available on the Organisation’s website, as well as a 6-page summary. The research was supported by ICANN and The Internet Society (ISOC), and written by Anri van der Spuy.