Academic background: My academic background consists of high school and university attendance years before the Internet was born. I studied history and modern languages and worked as an educational researcher. As the Internet became publicly available, I began researching the history and the impact of previous disruptive technological change, especially communications. Over the years, I have written and published many articles on the subject, organized and contributed to five edited collections on social and political impacts of new media, spoken at dozens of conferences and participated in university initiated research on community impact. I would describe my education as a process of autodidactism.
Report on European Summer School on Internet Governance (Eurossig)
by Marita Moll, September 2018
From July 29 to Aug. 4, 2018, I attended the European Summer School on Internet Governance (Eurossig) in Meissen, Germany. This was the 12th year for Eurossig and 60 individuals from various disciplines and backgrounds came from around the world to participate in this session. Thirty fellows and thirty faculty members lived in a former monastery in this small medieval town. Needless to say, modern air conditioning had not yet reached the rooms or study halls in this exceptionally hot summer. But that did not detract from this rare opportunity to spend a week immersed in internet governance issues and the chance to learn from some of the key players in the field.
Professor Wolfgang Kleinwächter, one of the founders of this school, set the tone for the week with a high level scan of how the internet evolved from a „technical problem with political implications“ in 1998 to the current „political problem with a technical component“. He introduced many of the issues which would be addressed in more depth over the next 5 days. Cybersecurity, human rights, governance organizations (e.g. ICANN), the role of governments, the private sector and relevant international organizations (ISOC, Rights and Jurisdiction Policy Network, etc.). There was an internet governance ecosystem day, a cybersecurity and human rights day, a technical regulation and management day, a business and internet governance day, and a wrap-up day of future challenges and perspectives. Most of the faculty were in residence the entire week so, beyond the interactive breakout sessions after presentations, the exchange of information was constant.
My many take-aways from this unique experience included:
- an increased awareness of the complexity of the internet ecosystem — with government and non-government players attempting to address a situation the world has never seen before. In less than 50 years, the internet has become part of political, economic and social realities around the world and finding solutions to looming problems that are facilitated by this intense interconnectedness will be a world priority in the coming years.
- increased awareness of the tension between national cyber sovereignty/security where cyberspace is divided into national units governed by state authorities vs. societal cyber sovereignty/security where cyberspace is a globally interconnected system managed collectively. In cases of cyber intrusions, be they fake news or malware attacks, the ability to hold perpetrators to account assumes control within borders while cyber criminals operate in a borderless world. Any solutions will require a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches — cooperation between governments, law enforcement, the private sector while maintaining transparency, accountability and human rights protection.
- On the technical side, a better understanding of the role of regional internet registries (RIRs), the different operating models in the ccNSO world, the role of Verisign and the other root server operators, and how IXPs work.
- Some examples of how the private sector is struggling with these larger issues with presentations about the Global Internet Index — a project launched in 2017 by Facebook and The Economist seeking to map the global state of internet connectivity and inclusiveness; Microsoft’s „Digital Geneva Convention“ and „Cybersecurity Tech Accord“ initiatives; and Sieman’s „Charter of Trust on Cybersecurity“.
- The concept that internet governance is the laboratory for global governance in the connected age. Bernard De La Chappelle, Executive Director of Internet and Jurisdiction Policy Network outlined how the current hierarchical intergovernmental system suited to a world with few countries, clear separating frontiers and few cross-border interactions is now being challenged with complex societies, connected through cross-border online services. We must learn how to enable the coexistence, in shared cross-border digital spaces, of billions of people with very diverse personal values and legal frameworks and how to cooperate to manage common spaces.
The week’s tasks also included a practicum where presentations took on some reality in a multistakeholder role playing activity. Fellows were offered a scenario in which one (fictitious) country claimed it had been attacked by another (fictitious) country through cyberattacks on infrastructure, ransomware, interference in elections and fake news. The incident was to be brought to a mock United Nations Security Council and all fellows were assigned a role (a country or other stakeholder group). Daily negotiations ended in one final marathon evening when discussions continued into the early morning hours until the wording of a document addressing the issue was agreed upon. It was a brief taste of multistakeholder negotiations in action.
It wasn’t all work and no play. We had time for a tour of the Meissen porcelain factory which ended in a fine dinner and an excellent presentation on city TLDs by one of the founders of .berlin. We visited the local cathedral, parts of which originated in the 12th century, for a lunchtime organ concert. We were treated to a special concert in the city hall of well known opera singers who were just finishing their own extended study program for master opera singers. We toured a local winery and enjoyed a dinner with fine local wines. At our finale gala evening held at a very traditional local restaurant, fellows and staff participated in a multicultural song party in which everyone presented a song from their country. As the only Canadian, I chose to honour our recently deceased poet-songwriter Leonard Cohen with a verse from his song „Suzanne.“
As is the case with such „boot camp“ experiences, the opportunity to work with group of people of all ages, from different locations and disciplines, but all committed to aspects of internet governance in their own context was both exhilarating and exhausting. The lingua franca was English but the contexts and perspectives brought to the table were very diverse. Out of 159 applications from 64 countries, 28 were selected from 22 nations. Countries represented included Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Pakistan, Laos. and Afghanistan. Many fellows had postgraduate degrees or were working on postgraduate degrees in internet public policy issues like privacy, human rights and cybersecurity. Others came from business, civil society and government sectors. Among these were certainly some of the future leaders in internet governance world.
Over two days before the formal school started, I was also able to participate in a field-testing of an ISOC sponsored 2 day practicum on multistakeholder negotiation techniques led by Larry Strickling formerly of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The 15 fellows in attendance were given various situations to resolve and roles to play.
This kind of intensive immersion experience into the complex field of internet governance is not regularly available in Canada, although there are plans to offer a 2 day pre-ICANN 66 event in Montreal. If, indeed, as was often expressed, our collective future depends on whether or not we learn to adapt to global governance models, we need to make such educational initiatives more accessible.