A map for distributed Internet Governance: Findings from interviews with potential users and global experts

As part of the ongoing NETmundial initiative to generate a distributed model of Internet governance, it was decided to create a “Solutions Map” that would map problems and solutions, visualize gaps across issues and actors, and more generally enable a distributed Internet governance framework. Towards this end, the GovLab (NYU) recently conducted several interviews with experts and potential key users of such a map – all working on Internet governance around the world. Our goal was two-fold: to understand the current state of information regarding Internet governance; and to better understand the steps required to develop the proposed Solutions Map.

Current state of information

The individuals we interviewed represent a geographically diverse set of experts from stakeholder groups in the academic, business, civil society, government, and technical communities. Held throughout the month of November, the one-on-one interviews gave our team of researchers important insights into what types of information people currently seek on Internet governance, and what they find.

In general, we found broad agreement that there exist significant informational shortcomings, and recurring concern about a lack of background, context and guidance when it comes to Internet governance. Some of the specific concerns raised by interviewees:

  • There exists no single resource or map that helps navigate the growing field of issues, responses and actors related to Internet governance;
  • Finding and collecting information about what responses exist regarding what issue tends to be very ad hoc, and dependent upon whether they can tap into networks or talk to experts that may provide them pieces of the landscape;
  • Once information is collected, it is difficult to figure out who to contact and how to get involved;
  • The complexity of which actors are involved is hard to understand or comprehend absent a map;
  • There are very few resources and websites where people can go to act upon information;
  • Currently, you need to have a clear idea of what information you are seeking and where to find it because there exists no tool to identify all possible information sources;
  • Most interviewees find out about Internet governance by tapping into their own network rather than through public dissemination channels;
  • What information does exist is often stripped of context and history, both of which are essential to really understanding the Internet governance landscape;
  • There exists a notable lack of connection between issues, concerns and actions at global level and what is actually going on at the national and sub-national levels;

Towards a Solutions Map

Many of our interviewees also had experience with information mapping and crowdsourcing content. They offered important advice regarding the development of the proposed Solutions Map. Some key takeaways:

  • Any map must include a simple taxonomy and easily understandable navigation;
  • To incentivize people to use and contribute, there must be clear relevance to their interests – including local needs;
  • A mapping project should make an extra effort to “mainstream” Internet governance for developing countries, i.e. to explain why Internet governance matters to people in developing countries;
  • It is very important to ask for contributions through structured, targeted templates that are short and clear;
  • It is worth doing some promotional activities at the regional and national levels, and to have some regional and national partners “on the ground” to offer guidance;
  • The map should encourage users to take action—for example, to contact and engage with relevant people, to add comments, and to participate in other ways;
  • There is a need for a comprehensive calendar of Internet governance events that can help stimulate and guide engagement by key stakeholders;
  • There must be a simply way to create visualizations to analyze and better understand key issues:
  • There is a need to have a directory of in-depth resources on particular issues, as well as an overview of where one can access training materials on particular topics (in addition to finding out what has been developed by whom on what issue).

These points—and others we collected during our interview process—will be combined with the results of the NETmundial Solutions Map Digital Survey and will help inform the prototyping of the Solutions Map as well as the next phase of the broader engagement strategy.

Please take a moment to help us develop the NETmundial Solutions Map by completing the map survey. The survey takes a few minutes to complete, and will be open through the end of December 2014.

In addition, we recently mapped existing efforts to develop Internet Governance Maps and would also like to hear from you whether we missed any important undertaking.

Global Experts and Potential Users that were interviewed

Among those who were so kind to make themselves available for a face-to-face interview include:

  • Alison Gilwald (Research ICT Africa, South Africa)
  • Anja Kovacs (Internet Democracy Project, India)
  • Babu Ram Aryal (Internet Society, Nepal)
  • Bitange Ndemo (Former Minister of Government, Kenya)
  • David Solomonoff (Internet Society, USA)
  • Desiree Miloshevic (Afilias, UK)
  • Janis Karklins (Internet Governance Forum and UNESCO, Latvia)
  • Jeffrey Jaffe (World Wide Web Consortium, USA)
  • Marilia Maciel (Center for Technology and Society – Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil)
  • Raul Zambrano (UNDP, USA)
  • Romano Righetti (Vimpelcom, Italy)
  • Xianhong Hu (UNESCO, France)

For more information on the NETMundial Solutions Map, contact sverhulst at thegovlab.org

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