EdBoard – New gTLDs for the public good and the opportunities and issues around “smart” contraception

The GovLab Editorial Board Meetings (“EdBoard”) showcase news and events that encourage thought and discussion about GovLab’s work.

EdBoard is an opportunity for the GovLab team to reflect on a) how approaches and technologies could help solve problems differently, and b) how news items relate to our projects with an eye toward ensuring our work creates real-world impacts. More than anything, EdBoard is about getting people talking.

EdBoard has three sessions over every two-week period, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each EdBoard is led by a member of The GovLab team. We will post recaps of each week’s EdBoards on our blog.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jillian Raines

Naimark, Marc. Can dotHIV Turn ICANN’s Domain Name Boondoggle Into an Opportunity to Do Good? Slate. July 7, 2014.

  • Summary
    • This piece touches on concerns from the LGBTQ community around the possible fate of the new “.gay” generic top-level domain name (gTLD); many fear ICANN (the non-profit coordinator of the Internet’s domain name system) will award the string to the highest bidder “for purely commercial operation,”opening up the possibility of abuse. The article contrasts this concern by highlighting the possibility for new gTLDs to be used for social good, drawing attention to a Berlin-based non-profit’s plan to use “.hiv” as a “red ribbon for the digital age,” and to monitor and convert clicks on .hiv websites into real-world micro-donations from registry’s general fund to HIV/ADIS programs. The article also notes that users of .hiv domains will be able to track and compare the effectiveness of their domain uses.
  • Why it’s relevant for the GovLab
    • As part of GovLab’s mission, we seek to learn how innovations in technology and the governance of those innovations can positively impact society and improve real people’s lives. We also work to identify and articulate new ways of measuring and assessing the impact of new models of tech-enabled governance. Finally, GovLab has worked closely with ICANN, in connection with the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation, to study how ICANN could leverage innovations in governance and tech to better collaborate and make decisions with its growing global community.
  • Main highlights from discussion
    • Do new gTLDs present the “next frontier” for activists? GovLabbers believe that well-governed new gTLDs have potential to serve as a powerful tool in the activist’s tool-kit, providing a mechanism to not only inspire awareness around a cause (think #hashtags), but to also contribute funding directly to the cause—all while giving organizations the ability and data they need to better assess the effectiveness of the online communication strategies they use to engage people in solving public problems.
    • The article noted that well-intentioned dotHIV was the only applicant to ICANN for the “.hiv” gTLD. Given the 100k-plus application fee for new gTLDs and the fear of corporate capture that emerged around .gay and .lgbt—our discussion highlighted how it is imperative that ICANN collaborate with the global community to develop and establish policies that ensure protection against abusive uses of new gTLDs.

Cooper, Daniel. Future contraceptives will let women remote-control their fertilityEngaget. July 7, 2014.

  • Summary
    • Thanks to the Gates Foundation and a Massachusetts biotech company, MicroCHIPS Inc., “smart” contraception may soon be possible, enabling women to store contraceptive hormone in a small implantable device that could be activated and deactivated at-will via a wireless device. But before seeking FDA approval, the MicroCHIPs team is experimenting with ways to figure out how to prevent the “intelligent drug delivery system” from being controlled by anyone but the user.
  • Why it’s relevant for the GovLab
    • At GovLab, we focus on both finding ways to leverage experimentation as a useful and legitimate tool for policymaking, and on developing governance frameworks for new applications and uses of technology where no framework currently exists. Looking at “smart” contraception as an emerging case study, what can we learn along both of these lines?
  • Main highlights from discussion
    • This piece is an inspiring example of what technology makes possible; exploring how this technology could be applied to help deal with addictions or in the event of rape, for example, suggests enormous potential. However, the privacy and security challenges presented, and the education and capacity-building required to support effective use of “smart” contraception deserve equal attention and focus. This is especially the case when we consider widely held notions that all technological systems can be hacked and the fact we do not yet understand what incentives might exist for “hacking” in this particular context (especially if this technology is to be deployed, as the article suggests, to help solve “the family planning crisis that exists in the world’s poorest countries”). In short, let us not just passively accept the enormous technological promise presented here; let’s collaborate around the development of an effective governance framework to make “intelligent drug delivery” a positive reality.


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