About CITI Seminars on Global Digital Governance

Global digital governance concerns the “rules of the game” set by states and stakeholders for digital communication/information networks and related technologies. It encompasses post-war rule systems such as those for telecommunications; institutions and procedures created since the 1980s for Internet governance; and current efforts to establish shared rules for data, artificial intelligence, social media, interstate cyber-conflict and other issues raised by emerging technologies.  The purpose of this new webinar series is to foster expert dialogue on the analytical and policy issues that continually arise across the heatedly contested and complex institutional ecosystem of global digital governance.  The series seeks to build on the sort of debates that occur around multistakeholder Internet governance processes but which often go dim between international meetings and negotiations.
Each session will start with a roundtable discussion among a panel of leading analysts and practitioners, followed by discussion/Q&A involving all attendees.  The sessions will be held monthly during university semesters at 11:00-12:30 (New York time). They will be organized and moderated by Dr. William J. Drake, Director of International Studies at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (www.williamdrake.org).

The ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference and Internet Governance (October 19th, 2022)

On September 29 in Bucharest, delegates to the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) elected Doreen Bogdan-Martin to serve as the organization’s first female Secretary-General.  In the run-up to the conference, many media outlets, think tanks and pundits characterized the election contest between a US and a Russian candidate as an epochal battle between good and evil that would somehow determine whether the Internet would be open or closed, democratic or controlled by dictators. Little attention has been given to significant Internet-related policy decisions that are being negotiated during the three-week conference, an event that takes place every four years.  On some of these issues, the competing visions for the Internet of democracies and authoritarian regimes do loom large, but there are many other divisions—between proponents of state-led vs. industry-led development, the global North and South, regions, industry coalitions, and so on—that also will shape the resulting treaty instruments.

This webinar will convene just five days after the ITU Plenipotentiary ends. It will bring together expert attendees and close observers to analyze the conference’s potential implications for the Internet and its global governance.  Against the backdrop of the long-standing geopolitical tensions between multistakeholder vs. multilateral as well as open vs. closed governance models, the webinar will assess the ITU’s debates and negotiations on such issues as: the Internet resolutions, the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty, the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society, the work of the Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy, cybersecurity, the treatment of “over the top” services and Internet traffic exchange, the Chinese proposal for a “new Internet Protocol,” and more.

Roundtable Panelists
Samantha Dickinson
Internet Governance Consultant and Writer
Nermine El Saadany
Regional Vice President, MENA Region, The Internet Society
Wolfgang Kleinwaechter
Professor Emeritus, International Communciation Policy and Regulation, University of Aarhus (Denmark)


Internet Fragmentation, Reconsidered (November 17th, 2022)

What exactly does “Internet fragmentation” really mean, and how does the way we define and conceptualize the term affect the lines of action undertaken in response?  A diversity of views is evident in the burgeoning global debate and growing number of pronouncements by states and stakeholders on Internet fragmentation.    For example, some participants in the debates take a broad approach and see fragmentation as having technical, commercial and governmental sources and forms, which implies that actions may be needed in each of those domains. Others take a narrow approach that equates fragmentation with only government policy, which means the only attention needed is to that domain.  Some participants see fragmentation as a continuously present condition that varies in form, intensity and impact over time and across domains of activity and the protocol stack, while others see it more in a totalized and binary manner – either the Internet is structurally fragmented at the root, or it is not fragmented at all. Some participants believe that mere differences in public policy orientation across countries or regions mean we now have multiple incompatible Internets, while others counter that such differences are simply a matter of there being one Internet with different zones of governance.  And some participants believe fragmentation is a threat that requires concerted responses and new strategies, while others see it as a matter of difficulties that can be overcome, or even as a natural and unproblematic phenomenon.  And so on --- there are many sources of difference in perspective about how fragmentation is understood and what sorts of actions by whom should be taken in consequence.

This webinar seeks to help advance our thinking about these foundational questions.  A panel of leading analysts and practitioners in the global Internet governance environment will discuss such topics as the nature, sources, forms, and consequences of Internet fragmentation, as well as the responses pursued by governments and stakeholders to date and going forward. 

(On November 28 at 9:00 EDT / 14:00 UTC a follow-up session on these issues will be held as part of the UN’s annual Internet Governance Forum meeting in Addis Abada, where fragmentation will be an overarching thematic issue.   https://intgovforum.org/en/content/igf-2022-day-0-event-68-understanding-internet-fragmentation-concepts-and-their)

William J. Drake, Director of International Studies at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information 
Roundtable Panelists
Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and chief Internet evangelist, Google
Eli M. Noam, Director, Columbia Institute for Tele-Information and Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School
Andrew Sullivan, President and CEO of the Internet Society 
Tatiana Tropina, Assistant Professor in Cybersecurity Governance, Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University, Netherlands
Related reading:
William J. Drake, Vinton G. Cerf, and Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Internet Fragmentation: An Overview. The World Economic Forum, January 2016.  
The Internet Society, Protecting the Internet 
Eli M. Noam, “Towards a Federated Internet”, InterMEDIA, vol. 41, no. 4, 2013.

Upcoming Events in the Series

January 19: Whither the Internet Governance Forum?