GovLab Blog SCAN Smarter Governance

The GovLab SCAN – Issue 12

Supporting the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation.
As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our twelfth edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at
This week’s highlights:

  • The gradual roll-out of ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program (new gTLD program) is increasingly visible globally, as more and more new gTLDs open for end-user registration. Associated with the new gTLD program are a variety of new and difficult questions, such as how contentions between gTLD applicants can be resolved, and how various TLDs should be used (for example, what the guidelines should be when ccTLDs are “commercialized”).
  • Following the World Economic Forum in Davos and leading up to the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, there are many “strategy panels” and “high-level commissions” that are expected to produce reports to inform the discussions. Some have pointed out that these initiatives, in trying to change the status quo of Internet governance, in fact begin to take on very similar appearances. Coordination has therefore been identified as a key priority in aligning and organizing Internet governance debates in 2014.
  • Mobile connectivity is growing worldwide, as is the speed of broadband service. Progress in communications technology, however, does not ensure these communications technologies are always used for good. For example, while Pope Francis highlighted the Internet’s power for human connectivity “as a gift from God” –  several reports released this week show that an increasingly sophisticated Internet enhances security threats, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.


Kamau, Macharia. “Communications Commission of Kenya proposes changes to commercialise ‘.ke’ Internet identity.” Standard Digital. January 30, 2014.

  • The Communications Commission of Kenya has “proposed an overhaul of the management and administration of the “.ke” domain name in a bid to grow its popularity and uptake.” In particular, CCK will step down from its board position at the Kenya Network Information Center (Kenic) – changing Kenic from a non-profit organization to a commercial entity.

Milam, Margie. “WHOIS Resources Enhanced by New WHOIS Primer and Global Lookup Tool.” ICANN Blog. January 24, 2014.

  • ICANN has released a “WHOIS Primer” in all six UN languages. The Primer is “designed to help the average domain name user better understand the framework surrounding WHOIS,” for example “the numerous contracts, policies, protocols, and standards that collectively support today’s WHOIS system.” ICANN also published a Draft Implementation Plan for the Global WHOIS Lookup Tool currently in development, which will “provide enhanced usability for consumers” via a common interface.

Mohnot, Sheel. “Exploring the Various Options of Private gTLD Auctions.” CircleID. January 27, 2014.

  • More and more new gTLD applicants with gTLDs in contention are turning to private auctions for resolution. Mohnot argues that clear communication is the best way to build consensus, and points to three important decisions that have to be made with regards to how the auctions will work: “how is the auction designed?”, “what happens with the winner’s payment?”, and “how does the settlement process enforce the auction outcome?”

Smolaks, Max. “Scotland To Get Its Own ‘.scot’ Top-Level Domain Name.” TechWeek Europe. January 28, 2014.

  • By this summer, the new “.scot” country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Scotland will be open for registration. The .scot ccTLD will be operated by the Dot Scot Registry.

Swinehart, Theresa. “Update: ICANN’s Strategic Initiatives.” ICANN Blog. January 28, 2014.

  • There are “many moving parts” to ICANN’s strategic initiatives, and Swinehart’s blog post briefly lays out what they are and how they are related to one another. As ICANN’s Senior Advisor to the President on Strategy, Swinehart notes that ICANN’s strategic initiatives fall into two broad categories: “strengthening and continuing to evolve and improve ICANN as a multistakeholder organization; and contributing as a partner in the Internet eco-system to strengthening awareness and the evolution of multistakeholder Internet governance and cooperation, in a manner that ensures the continued flexibility to adapt to emerging issues.”

Internet Governance

Braun, S., Mendoza, M., and Ortutay, B. “Gov’t, Internet Companies Reach Deal on Disclosure.” The Washington Post. January 28, 2014.

  • This week, the United States Justice Department reached an agreement with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn –the Internet companies active in discussions with the U.S. administration regarding intelligence gathering practices. The agreement would “allow [the companies] to disclose data on national security orders the companies have received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.” The companies “welcomed the deal” but believe more reforms are needed.

Davido, Bill. “The Internet Is the Greatest Legal Facilitator of Inequality in Human History.” The Atlantic. January 28, 2014.

  • “Will poorly designed government policies aimed at ameliorating the problem of inequality end up empowering the Internet-driven redistribution process?” Davido argues that the Internet-based companies “create opportunities for only a select few” and that if policy makers “ignore the power of the Internet when making policy decisions, we are in danger of allowing it to become the greatest legal facilitator of income inequality in the history of the planet.”

DelBianco, Steve. “Playing the Long Game at the Internet Governance Poker Table.” CircleID. January 27, 2014.

  • Brazil is part of the BRIC, an alliance of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) that has advocated for putting ICANN’s functions under the control of the United Nations. Discussing the recent agreement between ICANN and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to host an Internet governance summit in Sao Paulo this year, DelBianco suggests that “the smart play for Brazil’s long game is to show support for the multistakeholder model — if only to fatten the pot for when the UN eventually plays the stronger hand.”

Fung, Brian, and Boorstein, Michelle. “Pope Francis calls the Internet ‘a gift from God’.” The Washington Post. January 23, 2014.

  • In a Papal statement reminding us that religion also plays a role in Internet governance discussions, Pope Francis called the Internet a “gift from God.” In particular, the Pope pointed to the Internet as “ultimately a human rather than technological achievement.”

Hertig, Alyssa. “Bitcon-Inspired Project Launched to Decentralize the Internet.” January 27, 2014.

  • Bitcloud developers (belonging to the same group as Bitcoin, the “cryptocurrency”) are proposing the use of Bitcloud’s decentralized structure and tools to “decentralize the Internet.” Such a decentralized architecture of the Internet would, for example, allow users to sidestep NSA surveillance through mesh networks that do not depend on intermediary ISPs.

Kerr, Dara. “Pirate Bay is Free to Sail Through Holland’s Internet Once Again.” CNET. January 28, 2014.

  • This week, an appeals court in the Netherlands ruled that Dutch Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are no longer required to block IP addresses associated with The Pirate Bay – the popular peer-to-peer file sharing site – because “the blockade was apparently impossible to enforce as users would find new workarounds to get to the site.”

Kuerbis, Brenden. “The ‘Iron Cage’ of Multistakeholder Governance.” Internet Governance Project. January 28, 2014.

  • Kuerbis argues that the upcoming Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (GMMFIG) in Brazil and 1net are examples of “institutional isomorphism” – when organizations become increasingly similar as actors attempt to change them. For example, the High Level Committee strongly resembles the Internet Governance Forum’s Multistakeholder Advisory Committee (MAG). Both have a 50/50 balance between government and non-government individuals. Kuerbis concludes, “uncertainty about how to bring governments into multistakeholder governance is driving a mash-up of existing organizational approaches.”

Mueller, Milton. “US Cautiously Encourages IANA Reform, Brazil Meeting.” Internet Governance Project. January 26, 2014.

  • Mueller points to Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda (the State Department’s Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy) speech on Internet governance last week (covered in last week’s SCAN) as the first notable U.S. official statement on the topic since the NSA spying scandal became public. Mueller suggests “the speech signaled the Obama administration’s openness to reform as long as it is conducted within a multistakeholder framework” and “solidified the sense that there are serious reform opportunities before the world in the area of global Internet governance.”

Nothias, Jean-Christophe. “The Asymmetrics, the WEF, ICANN, Brazil, and the ‘Little Red Book’ of Multistakeholderism.” The Huffington Post. January 27, 2014.

  • Jean-Christophe describes the “Asymmetrics,” a “camp” in Internet governance debates whose “holly mission is to defend and protect the current status-quo, or any thoughtful evolution so as to preserve the U.S. oversight under a MS [multistakeholder] Internet governance and its current imbalance.”

Shelach, Shmulik. “Netanyahu: We need a UN of the Internet.” Globes. January 27, 2014.

  • At the Cybertech 2014 conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed Israel lead a systematic approach to Internet privacy and security, saying that “decision-makers should meet and set up a kind of UN of the Internet,” that would be “a special organization, a cyber headquarters” made up of a “coalition of the leading companies” and government.

Papers & Reports

CENTR: Internet Governance in 2013 and What’s Coming Up in 2014.” CircleID. January 27, 2014.

  • Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries (CENTR) has published an Issue Paper entitled “Internet Governance Landscape this year and next.” In particular, the report describes the many initiatives, panels, and meetings that each will inform the tenth anniversary of the World Summit on the Informaton Society, taking place this April.

Lim, Hae-in, et al. “Netizen Report: Somali Internet Service Providers Cave to Threats From Al Shabab.” Slate. January 29, 2014.

  • This Netizen Report by Global Voices Advocacy “offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.” The report describes, for example, Somali terrorists demanding Somalian ISPs to block Internet access; new censorship laws in Kenya; new pornography filters in the UK; the largest Internet blackout in Chinese history; surveillance laws in India; and the pirating of protestors’ data in the Ukraine.

SecDev Group. Think Big on Cyber. LawFareBlog. January, 2014.

  • This report “ties together the complex dimensions of global cyber security in pragmatic terms, based upon SecDev’s experience operating at the intersection of cyberspace, social and political change, competition and conflict.” The report points out that “cyberspace is a synthetic domain, but with a very real physical and human presence,” and that “a contemporary situational understanding (SU) of cyberspace and reality is widening”.

The State of the Internet, Volume 6, Number 3 (3rd Quarter, 2013 Report). Akamai. January, 2014.

  • This Akamai report provides a view of today’s online trends. In particular, the report describes the “top countries, networks, and universities for IPv6 adoption,” emerging global security trends (e.g., the rise of Distributed Denial of Service – DDoS – attacks), and the growth of global mobile connectivity and connection speeds.


GovLab Blog

Can The Open-Data Revolution Change Our Democracies?

TED Radio Hour, a co-production of NPR and TED and hosted by Guy Raz, is meant to be a “journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approach"When it comes to privacy ... we are like the frog in the water, and the water is slowly getting hotter." — Alessandro Acquisties to old problems, new ways to think and create.” Leveraging previous TED speakers, each show is centered each week on a different common theme.
This week the TED Radio Hour focuses on the End Of Privacy. As part of the show, Beth Noveck, director and co-founder of the GovLab, was asked whether “The Open-Data Revolution Can Change Our Democracies?”.  The story is available for streaming here.

GovLab Blog Smarter Governance

Proposal 3 for ICANN: Enhance Accountability by Crowdsourcing Oversight & Developing Metrics for Success

This is the third of a series of 16 draft proposals developed by the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation in conjunction with the Governance Lab @ NYU  for how to design an effective, legitimate and evolving 21st century Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN). 

Please share your comments/reactions/questions on this proposal in the comments section of this post or via the line-by-line annotation plug-in.

From Principle to Practice

For ICANN to be a legitimate global organization operating in the public interest, it must be accountable. This means it needs to identify opportunities to engage a broader audience in overseeing the impact, the effect and the level of community compliance that results from ICANN decisions. To do so, ICANN should crowdsource oversight and develop standards to measure success.

What Does it Mean to Crowdsource Oversight and Develop Metrics for Success?

Crowdsourcing is the concept of an “institution taking a function once performed by employees or volunteers and outsourcing it to an undefined (and usually large) network of people in the form of an open call.” [1] In the context of tapping a diffuse crowd to perform oversight, we mean using the power of the crowd to evaluate the success of ICANN’s decisions, measured not only in light of ICANN’s core public interest values, [2] but also based on the impact, effect and level of compliance following ICANN’s policy development process.

Developing standards to measure success means the ICANN community should collectively develop the indicators that can be used internally or by a distributed crowd to evaluate old and new practices of problem solving within ICANN.

Why Does This Proposal Make Sense at ICANN?

ICANN is often critiqued for being unaccountable [3] or for not having a clear consensus as to whom or to what ICANN is accountable. While the Affirmation of Commitments (Aoc) to which ICANN is contractually obligated to uphold sets out that ICANN must ensure it operates in a manner that is accountable, transparent and in the interests of global Internet users – ICANN currently has no clear mechanism or metrics for reviewing whether ICANN actually operates well [4] and in the global public interest.

As such, crowdsourcing oversight and developing success metrics will help ICANN enhance accountability and thus increase ICANN’s legitimacy as a 21st century global organization. Specifically, these proposals will help ICANN:

  • Decentralize accountability by giving the responsibility for evaluating ICANN’s work to a globally distributed crowd;
  • Widen pool of participation by creating new avenues for engagement in the evaluation and review stage of policy development.
  • Alleviate stress and human error by removing brunt of oversight responsibility from over-burdened volunteers and staff;
  • Operate more directly in the public interest by involving the public in assessing whether ICANN’s practices are in line with its core values and mission;
  • Enable flexible but ongoing evaluation and assessment to help ICANN best allocate resources and change ineffectual practices over time;
  • Embrace experimentation as a means for measuring success.

Implementation Within ICANN

Crowdsourcing Oversight

Here are some initial crowdsourcing oversight pilot ideas that ICANN could test over the course of the next year:

  • Develop an Open Peer Review Platform
    • Embracing learnings from successful open peer review projects (e.g., LIBRE), ICANN could identify testbed groups, structures or topics on which work product (e.g., draft issue reports, draft final recommendations, etc.) could be posted to an open platform that offers editing, commenting, reviewing and revising functionality to users. ICANN could then invite the public to refine and give feedback directly rather than only submitting formal public comments during specific stages or after the fact.
    • Having an open platform where those responsible for work product can vet their work while still in progress or after submission to the Board will promote the development of policy recommendations that can more easily or more quickly be implemented. Increasing oversight into potential impacts and compliance issues throughout the policy development process minimizes the chance time, energy and resources will be wasted.
  • Pilot the Use of Online Ranking and Feedback Tools
    • Using annotation tools like ReadrBoard (or in time, ICANN could enable real-time evaluation of text; poll community sentiment on specific policy development proposals; or help identify potential impacts not addressed during issue scoping.
  • Crowdsource Contractual Compliance Monitoring
    • One recent accountability challenge raised at ICANN relates to its role as a contracting authority with registries and registrars. [5] As a first step toward ensuring a level playing field within the contracting processs, ICANN could, using open contracting principles, openly post all registry and registrar contracts online (along with other open data sets, such as financial data and existing compliance data) and ask the public to help monitor for compliance by all contracting parties. This could be coupled with a challenge to crowdsource the creation of a “contractual compliance” guidebook for use by the public. [6]

Developing Standard to Measure Success

To continue existing initiatives aimed at developing success standards, ICANN should not only look to the output of the ICANN Strategy Panel on the Public Responsibility Framework, but also to interdisciplinary research being conducted on developing metrics to study the impact of new, collaborative and iterative decisionmaking models. [7]
“If we are going to accelerate the rate of experimentation in governance and create more agile institutions capable of piloting new techniques and getting rid of ineffectual programs, we need research that will move away from ‘faith-based’ engagement initiatives toward ‘evidence-based’ ones.” [8]

Notably, ICANN’s development of metrics should take into account the following factors:

  • The availability and potential use of real-time data along with enhanced analytical capabilities (often called big data) to and assess outcome and impact and predict which strategies are more likely to find success [9];
  • The study of outcome and impact should be ongoing, especially considering the rapid rate at which the DNS and the Internet evolve. Therefore, metrics should be developed with an eye toward enabling flexible and continual assessment [10];
  • Devising a conceptual framework, or logic model may serve as a useful tool to help define success indicators. “The logic model makes explicit the relationships among resources available to implement an intervention, activities planned, and sought-after results. It also theorizes how the results, or outputs, of the initiative will lead to both short-term beneficial outcomes and longer-term, fundamental impact” [11];
  • Metrics for success should be based on both quantitative and qualitative factors. Experimentation provides a medium for measuring and assessing success and thus quantitative and qualitative experimentation at ICANN should be practiced.
  • Measuring success is inherently based on values and thus engaging the global Internet public through the use of online rating and feedback tools can help provide support for a change or evolution in standards for success as community values change and evolve.
  • Those with experiential know-how related to particular implementation challenges should be leveraged in the process for developing success metrics. This increases the certainty that the indicators developed to measure success will be able to practically be applied without excess burden or cost.

Examples & Case Studies – What’s Worked in Practice?

There have been a number of crowdsourced projects around the world aimed at improving oversight and measuring success in a variety of contexts that ICANN could learn from. For instance:

  • The Alliance for Useful Evidence – An open–access network of more than 1,400 individuals from across government, universities, charities, business and local authorities in the UK and internationally. The organization’s aim is to become a hub for evidence initiatives in the UK, providing a forum for members to share best practices and avoid duplication of work.
  • Asign – In 2011, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center used an app called Asign that enabled accurate “geo-referencing of photographs taken by volunteers connected to the Internet” to help monitor crisis-level floods in Bangkok.
  • FCC’s Speed Test – In November 2013, the U.S. Federal Communications released a free app that performs speed tests to measure mobile broadband network performances. The app collects this data and the FCC plans to release interactive visuals to allow consumers to see national mobile broadband network performance.
  • Libre – A free online platform offers instant accessibility to all research output, followed by dynamic and transparent evaluation through a formal open peer review process, arranged and handled by authors. It allows community-based organization and cross referencing of global knowledge.
  • Liquid Feedback – The Public Software Group of Berlin, Germany and the Association for Interactive Democracy teamed up to create an open-source platform to aid in decision-making. The platform enables polling of the public (beyond yes/no questions) and even allows for rephrasing and submission of unforeseen input.
  • Louisiana Bucket Brigade – An environmental activist group used crowdsourcing “via a mapping platform developed from Ushahidi to collect data from people who witnessed the spread of oil and the damage to the environment” after the BP Gulf Coast oil spill. [12] The group used this input to record the “magnitude of the oil leak effect.”
  • Stimulus Watch – A platform created following passage of the Recovery Act and the creation of in the United States to help track federal spending of stimulus funds. [13]
    Stimulus Watch harnesses the power of a distributed crowd in monitoring stimulus spending by the federal government by asking citizens to share their knowledge on local stimulus project by finding, discussing and rating those projects.

There have also been initiatives attempting to test new metrics for success that could be informative for ICANN. For an overview of these initiatives, see the GovLab Working Paper: “Toward Metrics for Re(imagining) Governance: The Promise and Challenge of Evaluating Innovations in How We Govern.”[14]

Open Questions – Help Bring This Proposal Closer to Implementation?

  • What institutional and cultural barriers – such as a current lack of data in accessible, open and machine-readable formats – could pose challenges to implementation?
  • ICANN has previously and is currently working on developing metrics for success. How can we work together to leverage that work to help in piloting this proposal?
  • What are specific compliance challenges that ICANN faces for which developing a crowdsourcing project may be useful?
  • What oversight responsibilities require the least specialized or nuanced knowledge (i.e. making them more ripe for crowdsourcing to the general global public)?
  • Which ICANN structures or groups (e.g., those working in the Contractual Compliance Program) would be the best testbeds for piloting this proposal?


1. Jeff Howe. “The rise of crowdsourcing.” Wired Magazine. Issue 14, no. 6 (June 2006): 1-4.
2. SeePrimer on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.” at 6. The Governance Lab @ NYU. October 13, 2013.
3. Milton Mueller. “ICANN’s Accountability Meltdown: A Four-Part Series.” Internet Governance Project. August 31, 2013; Chuck Gomez. “Examples of Where ICANN Can Be More Accountable.” CircleID. September 4, 2013;
Emily Wilsdon. “Regulating the Root: The Role of ICANN as Regulator, and Accountability.” May 1, 2010.
4. Note that ICANN does conduct annual IANA Functions Customer Satisfaction Surveys, see “2013 IANA Functions Customer Service Survey Results,” though of the 1491 survey invitations sent, only 112 responded in 2013. Furthermore, this survey only relates to ICANN’s role performing specific IANA Functions and does not request input on customer or user satisfaction in relation to other responsibilities within ICANN’s remit.
5. Chuck Gomez. “Examples of Where ICANN Can Be More Accountable.” CircleID. September 4, 2013 (Gomez argues that “these agreements from the start have been slanted to ICANN’s favor and burdensome for applicants, registrars, and registries. All risks have been flowed down to registries and registrars with requirements to indemnify ICANN while removing any chance for the contracted parties to take action against ICANN, if warranted. This was compounded further in 2013 when the ICANN staff, in a surprise move, decided to impose the unilateral right to amend clauses in the new gTLD registry agreements.”).
6. For more information on how ICANN currently handles contractual compliance, see “Contractual Compliance at ICANN.” October 23, 2011.
7. See, e.g., Barnett, Aleise, Dembo, David and Verhulst, Stefaan G. “Toward Metrics for Re(imagining) Governance: The Promise and Challenge of Evaluating Innovations in How We Govern.” GovLab Working Paper. v.1. April 18, 2013.
8. Ibid. at 1
9. Ibid. at 8 (“When designed well, big data may allow practitioners to track progress and understand where existing interventions require adjustment much faster.”).
10. Note that the annual IANA Functions Satisfaction Survey may be a good tool to use in conceptualizing metrics for success. SeeIANA Functions Satisfaction Survey Yields Overwhelmingly Positive Results.” AG-IP News. January 16, 2014 (considering factors such as documentation quality, process quality, accuracy, courtesy and transparency).
11. Ibid. at 5.
12. “Louisiana Bucket Brigade puts monitoring in the hands of citizens.” Daily Crowdsource.
13. Sanchez, Julian. “Stimulus stimulates crowdsourced oversight, activism.” Ars Technica. February 2, 2009.
14. Barnett, Aleise and David Dembo and Stefaan G. Verhulst. “Toward Metrics for Re(imagining) Governance: The Promise and Challenge of Evaluating Innovations in How We Govern.” GovLab Working Paper. v.1. April 18, 2013 at 10-11.

GovLab Blog

Proposal 2 for ICANN: Get Broad-Based Input by Crowdsourcing Each Stage of Decisionmaking

This is the second of a series of 16 draft proposals developed by the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation in conjunction with the Governance Lab @ NYU  for how to design an effective, legitimate and evolving 21st century Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN). 

Please share your comments/reactions/questions on this proposal in the comments section of this post or via the line-by-line annotation plug-in.

From Principle to Practice

The legitimacy of a 21st century global institution operating in the public interest depends on whether those affected by the decisions the institution makes are included in the decisionmaking process. Especially in the case of the Internet and of ICANN, to be legitimate, anyone must have easy and equitable access to help shape the policies and standards of the Internet that ICANN helps facilitate.

Using a variety of web, SMS-based and in-person participation tools, ICANN should test a wide array of alternative mechanisms for getting broad-based input in identifying and framing issues, drafting solutions, gathering relevant information to translate solutions into implementable policies, as well as commenting after the fact and participating in oversight and assessment. ICANN should use some of these tools in conducting its Public Forum at ICANN meetings, in which people can “make comments and ask questions on the main topics at each meeting directly to the Board and in front of the rest of the community.” [1]

What Do We Mean by Broad-based Input and Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing traditionally refers to the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees or volunteers and outsourcing it to an undefined (and usually large) network of people. [2] Crowdsourcing can be done in-person or online and serves as an important technique for broadening participation in that it involves the use of networked groups to expand the toolkit for problem-solving.

Crowdsourcing may be used in a variety of contexts and domains. For example, crowdsourcing tasks (sometimes referred to as peer production) involves spreading tasks in small bits or “chunks” of work across a crowd (e.g., Zooniverse); crowdsourcing ideas (sometimes referred to as ideation) essentially means conducting a distributed brainstorm; crowdsourcing funds (or crowdfunding) involves rallying a crowd to contribute small amounts of funds to a collective project or to help complete a goal.

Crowdsourcing can be done to broaden meaningful and global input at all stages of decisionmaking, from issue spotting to agenda setting to decisionmaking to implementation and review.

Why Does This Proposal Make Sense at ICANN?

In order to work in the global public interest ICANN must provide channels for and facilitate broad-based participation. Enabling global engagement in ICANN decisionmaking must be easy (i.e. provide accessible, legible, multilingual and low-bandwidth options) and be equitable (i.e. present fair opportunities for participation facilitated in a manner so that no one player, group or interest can dominate the decisionmaking process). At the same time that ICANN must ensure people of all nationalities and interests can join ICANN’s discussions easily and effectively.” [3] This means ICANN should proactively work to identify who in the global community is affected by its decisions and who has the expertise to bear to help solve a given challenge. Finally, to be truly inclusive, ICANN must “enable online collaboration to support distributed work for effective participation without physical attendance.” [4] At present, however, ICANN faces a variety of challenges related to these objectives, including:

  • A lack of truly global participation in working groups and as active participants in the policy development processes at ICANN;
  • A lack of metrics for resource allocation and limited data on understanding whether supporting organization and advisory committee (SO/AC) issue-framing processes are more or less effective than topically-based issue-framing [5];
  • Silo’d work departments and lack of effective communication within and across SOs and ACs [6];
  • A lack of meaningful “early engagement.” Because SO/ACs are not formally required to dialogue when producing “Issue Reports,” sometimes an SO/AC will not join an important dialogue until much later, resulting in wasted time and jeopardizing the legitimacy of outcomes. [7]
  • No formal mechanism to staff cross-community working groups [8];
  • A lack of easy-to-use mechanisms for anybody to access ICANN’s work and to participate at various stages.  For example, ICANN currently lacks useful online tools that allow for a staggered work process of people working from different places at different times. [9]

Experimenting with new techniques for getting broad input can help address these challenges. Specifically, using open, innovative and collaborative tools for reaching out to the existing community – and beyond – to help in issue framing, agenda setting, solution development, implementation and review, ICANN will be able to:

  • Create new networking channels and introduce new global players into ICANN;
  • Allow for the formation of relationships and allow participants to set agendas and collaborate on topics as they move into the “drafting” stage of decision-making;
  • Better prioritize issues and vet importance to a variety of different stakeholders by using ranking and feedback tools. This is particularly important for ICANN, where many involved have needs that are not fully defined or often vary depending on the issue;
  • Introduce new avenues for participation in stages of ICANN decision-making previously reserved for entrenched or elite participation;
  • Mitigate certain individual biases – e.g., the tendency to want to confirm prior assumptions, see non-existing patterns or be influenced by framing – by collecting and then aggregating a wide range of viewpoints on a particular issue [10];
  • Better tap a dispersed pool of expertise on subjects or issues that affect ICANN’s work (e.g., cybersecurity), but are not directly within ICANN’s remit;
  • Better facilitate a process by which relevant stakeholders can work together and talk together to solve key issues.

Implementation Within ICANN

Here are some initial crowdsourcing pilot ideas that ICANN could test over the course of the next year:

Formalize Up-Front Issue Framing by Using Open Brainstorming Tools to Identify and Rank Issues.

  • Recognizing that issues can be identified by anyone from anywhere, ICANN can use web-based tools (e.g., Google Moderator or IdeaScale) to create a structured channel for input to be used in parallel to current ICANN processes (in which SOs/ACs submit “Issue Reports” to highlight possible issues that need ICANN’s attention).
  • Such a tool should be accessible, require little bandwidth, be easy to use, and accommodate multilingual participation.
  • It should also be interactive. Participants should have the ability to not only see what others have submitted, but can also vote and comment on submissions to rank and prioritize them.
  • Open brainstorming sessions should be limited in time for efficiency, and they should be analyzed and summarized when they close.
  • In some cases ICANN should consider leveraging incentives – e.g., cash prizes or professional advancements or recognition – for participation. For example, ICANN could invite those who participated in the “brainstorming” phase of issue-framing to also participate in the “drafting” phase of a solution-proposal.

Leverage SMS-based Tools for Input

  • ICANN should pilot the use of SMS-based polling/survey tools to supplement its existing channels for input.
  • To be inclusive of a global community mandates ICANN offer low-bandwidth solutions for participation. In many places this means mobile, not broadband. ICANN could, for example, invite people to send text messages to a website that is simultaneously being used by online and physical participants of the Public Forum to see and rank what questions people have on a given topic.

Leverage Existing Multistakeholder Fora

  • The likelihood, or even possibility, of ICANN creating globally and sectorally  representative structures, without replicating existing organizations whose primary mandate is to do this, are remote. Considerable resources are already mobilized globally to bring together participants in multistakeholder forums to participate and collaborate on issues and challenges facing the Internet. While these have gone a long way in overcoming the biases in favor of one group or in exclusion from other ICT governance fora, most of these fora acknowledge the gaps in representation or participation either by one sector or dominance of another (whether government, private sector or civil society).
  • Therefore ICANN could, by allocating appropriate resources to such meetings, contribute to fulfilling their multistakeholder mandate and at the same time leverage the concentration of diverse interests,  groups, individuals and countries to contribute to processes seeking to make ICANN more representative, transparent and accountable. Specifically, ICANN could:
    • Create a more formal and continuous ICANN presence in other face-to-face multistakeholder Internet governance forums such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) or Internet Society (ISOC).
    • This relationship could be formalized through transparent agenda setting and consultation processes with clear lines of accountability on how the outcomes of consultations are implemented within ICANN structures at global and regional meetings of such bodies.
    • ICANN could support the participation of historically underrepresented groups at the meetings of organizations that are already building multistakeholder fora and in so doing could raise awareness regarding opportunities to participate within ICANN with relevant communities of interest in such forums.
    • In this way ICANN could support and improve multistakeholder participation, and thereby make claim to designated time within the program to canvas, consult and report back on ICANN issues through panel discussions and more technical side meetings.
  • Such an experiment could be instituted immediately through the piloting of proposed processes at forthcoming regional multistakeholder meetings of IGF.

Case Studies – What’s Worked in Practice?

Crowdsourcing at Various Stages of Decisionmaking

  • Dell IdeaStorm – An initiative launched in 2007, IdeaStorm allows Dell to “to gauge which ideas are most important and most relevant to” the public by enabling submission of ideas and articles by the public. The platform allows interested customers to rate and comment on ideas and has received over 16,000 ideas, nearly 500 of which Dell has implemented. [11]
  • India’s New Rupee Design – In 2009 the Indian Finance Ministry launched a public competition for new designs for the symbol for the rupee. The contest was open to all Indian residents and included a prize of 250,000 rupees.
  • Open Ministry (Avoin ministeriö) – In 2012 the Finnish government amended the national constitution so that any proposed legislation supported by at least 50,000 signatures must be put to a vote in the parliament. The Open Ministry project is a project to crowdsource legislation, which involves:
    • Ideation and Development: Proposed legislation topics need to be refined/framed into a clear proposition through discussion between interested parties.
    • Campaigning: To gain 50,000 votes, there must be a proactive outreach strategy.
    • Lobbying: Once a proposal goes to parliament there must be fine tuning and in-depth discussions with decision-makers.
    • Note, the platform on which proposals are voted on allows authenticated comments, using the same software in use by Finnish banks. [12]
  • Patient Feedback Challenge – The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) Institute for Innovation and Improvement created the Patient Feedback Challenge to generate and implement ideas to improve patient experiences at NHS organizations. Ideas were published on a web channel, and nine were chosen by an expert panel. Programs were piloted at nine participating NHS organizations and funded from August 2012 to March 2013.

Crowdsourcing via SMS-Based Input

  • Textizen – Built by Code for America, Textizen is an easy-access SMS-based tool for proactive outreach, structured input, and ongoing engagement. Without requiring people to be present at the Public Forum, a similar tool could be help to ICANN to:
    • Create custom fields to collect data with multiple question types, built-in logic, custom area codes, etc.
    • Structure and visualize data for quick insights, e.g., by exporting to CSV or using Textizen’s developer API.
    • Send follow-up texts to drive traffic and interest to a website or live meeting. ICANN could also send follow-up texts with project updates additional surveys, and event reminders.
  • Ushahidi – An open source software that allows users to crowdsource the mobile reporting of crisis information. Data collected is used for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping of crisis situations. The project began in 2007 after Kenya’s disputed presidential election as a way to provide citizens a way to share eyewitness reports of violence via email and text message to be mapped using Google Maps. [13]
  • U-report – Ureport is a free SMS-based system that allows Ugandans “to establish and enforce new standards of transparency and accountability in development programming and services” [14] by becoming “U-reporters.”
    • U-reporters share ideas on a range of development issues and the initiative consists of weekly SMS messages and polls to and from a growing community of U-reporters; regular radio programs that will broadcast stories gathered by U-report; and newspapers that will publish stories from the U-report community. [15]
    • Notably, by 2012, over 200,000 people have subscribed to the system, which started receiving more and more unsolicited messages.  Thanks to the creation of a text classification algorithm, UNICEF can categorize and sort the messages both category and by UNICEF “branches,” e.g., education, health, employment. Messages can also be ranked by severity so that UNICEF teams could prioritize messages at the top of the list.

Open Questions – Help Bring This Proposal Closer to Implementation

  • What institutional and cultural barriers could pose challenges to implementation?
  • What tools and designs would work best for ICANN considered?
  • How will ICANN perform outreach to ensure the global public is aware of new participation opportunities?
  • How will input be curated/evaluated? How will ICANN do “quality assurance”?
  • How to balance efficiency with broad-based participation?
  • What metrics will determine whether there has been “sufficient inclusivity”?
  • How able are the participants to meaningfully engage? How much of a learning curve exists?
  • How can ICANN take a benchmark of current practices in order to facilitate meaningful comparison with parallel crowdsourcing processes?
  • Which ICANN structures or groups would be best to facilitate such a pilot?
  • How can crowdsourced input on “issue framing” be incorporated into ICANN’s current practices?


1. “ICANN Public Forum.” July 18, 2013.
2. Jeff Howe. “The rise of crowdsourcing.” Wired Magazine. Issue 14, no. 6 (June 2006): 1-4.
3. “Internationalization & Regional Development.”
4. “ICANN Community.”
5. “GNSO Improvements – Opportunities for Streamlining and Improvements.” January 16, 2014 at Proposal 9: 7.
6. Ibid. at Proposal 4: 4 (noting that current GNSO Working Group guidelines do not mandate any “required participation,” but only suggest that “a Working Group should mirror the diversity and representatives from most, if not all, GNSO Stakeholder Groups and/or Constituencies.”).
7. Accountability and Transparency Review Team 2. “Report of Draft Recommendations for Public Comment.” December 31, 2013 at 40 (“[T]here continues to be a lack of GAC early involvement in the various ICANN policy processes.”).
8. “GNSO Improvements – Opportunities for Streamlining and Improvements.” January 16, 2014 at Proposal 3: 3.
9. Accountability and Transparency Review Team 2. “Report of Draft Recommendations for Public Comment.” December 31, 2013 at A-46.
10. Eric Bonabeau. “Decisions 2.0: The Power of Collective Intelligence.” MIT Sloan Management Review 50, no. 2 (2009): 45-52.
11. “About Ideastorm.”
12. Dawson, Ross. “How Finland’s Open Ministry Is Crowdsourcing Legislation.” Getting Results From Crowds. June 5, 2013.
13. Jeffery, Simon. “Ushahidi: crowdmapping collective that exposed Kenyan election killings.” The Guardian. April 7, 2011.
14. UNICEF. “U-report application revolutionizes social mobilization, empowering Ugandan youth.” November 20, 2013.
15. See

GovLab Blog Smarter Governance

Proposal 1 for ICANN: Get Smart With Expert Networks

This is the first of a series of 16 draft proposals developed by the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation in conjunction with the Governance Lab @ NYU  for how to design an effective, legitimate and evolving 21st century Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN). The MSI Panel has been specifically chartered by the ICANN President & CEO to:

  • Propose new models for international engagement, consensus-driven policymaking and institutional structures to support such enhanced functions; and
  • Design processes, tools and platforms that enable the global ICANN community to engage in these new forms of participatory decision-making.

Please share your comments/reactions/questions on this proposal in the comments section of this post or via the line-by-line annotation plug-in.

From Principle to Practice

For ICANN to be an effective institution operating in the 21st century it needs to be smart. This means it needs access to the best possible ideas in forms and formats that are useful and relevant to the decision at hand from sources inside and outside the institution. ICANN should, therefore, together with the other Internet governance organizations, adapt expert networking technologies for identifying and making searchable technical expertise worldwide, where expertise is defined broadly to include not only credentials (such as formal engineering and computer science degrees), but also technical experience and skills (e.g., as evidenced by GitHub commits or answers on Q&A sites), as well as interests (e.g., as measured in response to questions on

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

What Are Expert Networks?

Expert networks are platforms or communities that provide individuals with the tools for representing information about their expertise (e.g., “scholarly works, research interests, and organizational relationships” [1]) and for enabling easy search of that expert information. Instead of looking for answers from an undefined crowd (crowdsourcing widely), expert networking seeks to “involve experts on particular issues and problems distributed anywhere in the world” [2] (crowdsourcing wisely). For instance, expert networking tools such as VIVO – an interdisciplinary network of research scientists [3] – “when installed and populated with researcher interests, activities, and accomplishments … [enable] the discovery of research and scholarship across disciplines at that institution and beyond.” [4]  

Such networks are being deployed in a variety of fields and contexts, from academic and research networks like VIVO to industry-specific networks (e.g., for data scientists or for advertising and marketing creatives) to skills-based collaboration communities (e.g., TopCoder for computer developers).

Why Expert Networking at ICANN and Across the I* Organizations?

Foundational to ICANN as an institution is its open nature of welcoming broad-based input; ICANN appeals to the global community, allowing anyone to join a working group or participate at ICANN’s triannual global meetings. But ensuring the stability, security and operability of the DNS includes multi-faceted and often highly technical work requiring specialized knowledge and skills. And some have assessed that ICANN’s current working group (WG) model for developing consensus around how to solve such complex problems “often appears to be lacking – especially when dealing with complex issues compounded by widely disparate points of view and/or strongly held financial interests in particular outcomes.” [5] Moreover, many issues at the forefront of the Internet governance debate today are “new” – previously unaddressed or nonexistent – and lack the governance mechanisms for finding solutions (e.g., privacy). Many issues are intractable or contain extremely nuanced policy and technical implications. Finally, there are no institutional or cross-institutional frameworks for addressing Internet governance issues comprehensively.

In such a case, for ICANN to be smart and thus effective, it should use a distributed yet coordinated approach to tap expertise for new and complex problem-solving. Specifically, leveraging expert networks has potential to:

  • Increase diversity, reduce redundant participation and remove vested interests from stakeholder groups and working groups at ICANN. [6]
  • Move ICANN from a representation-based to expertise-based organization. In fact, leveraging expert networking technologies would enable ICANN to organize its participants topically rather than by constituencies that are defined by interest. This could help streamline and depoliticize the solution development process and avoid redundant work.
  • Inspire and incentivize collaboration within and across silod ICANN structures.
  • Save time and resources by crowdsourcing technical know-how wisely rather than widely. This is especially important given the complex and sometimes opaque nature of ICANN’s work and the often-times slow-moving policy development processes, which serve as barriers to meaningful participation globally.
  • Provide ICANN a means of locating needed, but previously dormant, specialized expertise to solve problems facing the DNS.
  • Empower netizen-experts with the willingness to participate in ICANN decisionmaking to engage. Experimenting with incentives – e.g., reputation points, prizes or badges – will ensure ICANN finds the best means for reaching those most willing to bring their expertise to bear for ICANN.
  • Help match those with the skills and knowledge to bear to particular problems and needs – from figuring out how to mitigate name collisions to how to support internationalized domain name variants within the DNS to how to best balance data privacy and data security in configuring the next generation system of Whois.

ICANN can use expert discovery and networking tools to better target requests for participation in all stages of ICANN decisionmaking. This could be especially useful for helping to staff working groups [7] (in the solution development stage) and review teams (in the evaluation and review stage). The use of technologies that enable real-time translation could also help motivate participation from regions beyond North America and Europe. [8]

Implementation Within ICANN

While we believe using expert networking technologies would help ICANN become a truly smart and thus effective institution – we believe that testing this hypothesis is vital. Moving this proposal from principle to practice is key. With that said, here are some initial steps ICANN could take to begin piloting this proposal:

Phase 1: Hone Research & Assessment Agenda

  • Here are some initial research questions to study and test that ICANN should review and expand on given particular organizational and community needs:
    • What kinds of expertise are most helpful to identify?
    • Where can ICANN find people with the kinds of skills and knowledge and experiences identified above?
    • What are the ways in which the needed expertise can be represented and collected? What can ICANN learn from the following:
    • Reputation-based systems (e.g., Linkedin Recommendations); credential-based systems (e.g., ResearchGate); experience-based systems (e.g., StackOverflow); self-reported systems (e.g., Catchfire).
    • What are different ways ICANN could target calls to participate once needed expertise has been identified?
    • What kinds of incentives for participation make sense? Which may work best depending on the problem at hand?
      • For example, would experts respond best to the prospect of a monetary reward? The chance to gain reputation or recognition (e.g., Amazon’s Mechanical Turk)? Or do factors like autonomy, community, learning (e.g., Wikipedia), or altruism have greater effects on meaningful participation at ICANN?
    • How does the level of expertise impact people’s willingness to collaborate?

Phase 2: Create or Build-out Ontology

  • ICANN should create a standardized ontology for describing skills and categories of expertise needed at ICANN and across the Internet governance ecosystem. ICANN could start by building out a VIVO-like ontology [9] (described briefly below).
  • To capture this information, ICANN could begin by developing different versions of questionnaires to determine the best ways to accurately capture expertise data. These should be distributed to all currently active ICANN community members as well as to other Internet governance organizations, community groups and listservs for self-reporting. The budding 1Net community is another potential data source, as is the ICANN Labs Peer Advisory Network.

Phase 3: Create Framework for Absorbing Expert Input

  • Identify which ICANN structures or groups would be best to pilot expert networking technologies. Reach out to these groups to discuss where in their work leveraging expert networks will be beneficial and get agreements to run parallel processes alongside current practices for testing.
  • Determine how and where ICANN will use expert input when identified issues are cross-institutional or interdisciplinary.

Phase 4: Operationalize/Pilot

  • Run parallel pilots coordinated by different internal groups and using different techniques for identifying and motivating participation to test what works and to enable analysis and comparisons.
  • As pilots progress, ICANN should explore strategies for creating a linked data infrastructure, to connect and make searchable the skills and expertise of individuals across all Internet governance organizations.

Potentially Relevant Expert Networks/Communities – ICANN Experts in Hiding?

ICANN should similarly explore integration with other popular international, regional and local sources of relevant expertise as well as open datasets on publications and grants. This would help ICANN test whether tapping into existing databases is effective in supplementing and vetting self-reported data. It also has potential to help locate currently non-active individuals who may have the requisite skills and interests that could be brought to bear for ICANN.

Some potentially relevant networks and communities include the below. These examples also provide certain functionalities that ICANN should study and possibly emulate in creation of any independent network.

  • Epernicus  – An expert network and knowledge-sharing platform for science researchers. Epernicus captures recently added expertise, provides interconnected communities for different disciplines and has related software that allows research organizations to create their own internal expert network.
  • Kaggle – An expert network and competition platform for data scientists. Kaggle incorporates user tiers to highlight engagement milestones (rather than more granular points and leaderboard functionalities). Something similar could be applied at ICANN – perhaps a tier for newcomers, explorers, researchers and leaders. [10] Kaggle also provides users with goal-based incentives.
  • Stack Exchange – A question and answer forum to get expert advice on a diversity of topics. Stack Exchange gives users the ability to upvote questions and answers, provides distinct, topic-based Q&A sites within the larger Stack Exchange framework, including the computer programming Stack Overflow community (note that a simple search for “ICANN” on Stack Exchange brings up thousands of results of Q&A threads related to ICANN and ICANN’s work).
  • Technical Expert Network (TEN) – A platform for finding and contracting international technical expert consultants. TEN allows users to tap experts in the network for different technical skills: interviews, surveys, moderated discussions, consulting, proposals and collaboration, and recruiting. It also provides the ability to articulate preferred types of projects.
  • TopCoder – A programming expert network, collaboration engine and contest platform. The network provides users a “reputation score” that is listed on their profile page, alongside a set of various statistics regarding their participation in TopCoder challenges. The network also uses competitions and tournaments to drive and incentivize engagement.
  • VIVO – An interdisciplinary network of research scientists. VIVO allows users to tag their research areas, publications and research communities, and provides users the ability to browse expertise by People, Organization, Publications or Research. The network also provides linked, graphical representations of co-author and partnership networks and its creators are developing a central VIVO interface linking organization-specific implementations using semantic web methodologies [11] and an open ontology.

Case Studies – What’s Worked in Practice?

ICANN could also learn from the following case studies, whereby expert networking technologies have been deployed to help solve real and complex challenges in a variety of public interest contexts.

  • Kaggle & 311 – The data scientist network has been used successfully to convene a challenge to “quantify and predict how people will react to a specific 311 issue,” taking into account factors such as urgency, citizen priority and location.
  • NASA – NASA has successfully used Innocentive – an online platform that broadcasts carefully defined problems to a community of experts and researchers – to find a solution for conducting “non-invasive measurement of intra-cranial pressure,” a physiological condition that results from space-travel.
  • Peer to Patent – A history initiative of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), Peer to Patent leverages the use of citizen experts in examining and vetting patent applications. It is an online system that connects an open network of scientists and engineers with the aim of improving the quality of patents issued by the USPTO. In its initial pilot in 2009, community experts supplied information and research based on their relevant area of expertise and patent examiners retained final decision-making authority to grant or deny an application based on the legal requirements. Peer to Patent pilots also exist in Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
  • U.S. Federal Drug Administration [12]–  The FDA is currently experimenting with using VIVO to help the agency more quickly identify those with technical know-how and experience who could help determine whether a new medical device is safe.

Open Questions – Help Bring This Proposal Closer to Implementation?

  • What institutional and cultural barriers – such as entrenched processes – could pose challenges to implementation?
  • What techniques could we use to measure the impact of expert networking against existing models of decision-making at ICANN?
  • At what stage of the decisionmaking process or policy development process would using expert networks be the most beneficial for ICANN? For developing recommendations? For developing implementation strategy?
  • What types of expertise, if any, are currently lacking within ICANN?
  • What physical or organizational communities already exist that comprise individuals with relevant expertise for ICANN? For example, ISOC, WSIS, IGF, etc.
  • What topics or structures in ICANN lend themselves best to using expert networking?
  • How can we be sure that expert input from any region or in any language can be absorbed into ICANN decision-making?
  • What do current ICANN community members believe are the greatest motivations or incentives for participating in ICANN decision-making?
  • How can expert networks for I*s be built-out to include the kinds of peripheral expertise that are not necessarily obvious? For example, what if a systems biologist has a better idea for how to organize the distributed DNS than a systems engineer?
  • What would the framework of accountability for decisions being made by experts look like?


1. Börner, Katy, Michael Conlon, Jon Corson-Rikert, and Ying Ding. “VIVO: A Semantic Approach to Scholarly Networking and Discovery.” Synthesis Lectures on the Semantic Web: Theory and Technology 2, no. 1 (October 17, 2012): 1–178.
2. Dutton, William H. Networking Distributed Public Expertise: Strategies for Citizen Sourcing Advice to Government. One of a Series of Occasional Papers in Science and Technology Policy, Science and Technology Policy Institute, Institute for Defense Analyses, February 23, 2011.
3. “About.”
4. Ibid.
5. Accountability and Transparency Review Team 2. “Report of Draft Recommendations for Public Comment.” December 31, 2013 at 61.
6. Ibid. at 62 (highlighting public comments on the policy development process that called for “The need for wider participation and cross-community interactions. . . . [and] The need for participation by groups without business-related incentives for participation.”).
7. For a full review of the qualitative and quantitative current state of participation in ICANN working groups, see ibid. at 31-48.
8. Ibid.
9. See Bibliometrics by Librarians and Information Professionals National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library. “Professional Network Analysis and Expertise Mining at FDA” at slide 9. January 31, 2013.
10. These example categories were developed based on input from comments to the Panel’s engagement platform.
11. W3C. “Semantic Web Activity.” June 19, 2013.
12. Bibliometrics by Librarians and Information Professionals National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library.
Professional Network Analysis and Expertise Mining at FDA” at slide 9. January 31, 2013.

GovLab Blog Smarter Governance

The Quest for a 21st Century ICANN: A Blueprint

 The ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation, supported by the GovLab, has been working over the past several months to develop recommendations for ICANN on how the organization can evolve the ways it engages with global stakeholders in coordinating the Internet’s unique identifier space. Specifically, the panel has been tasked with:

  • Proposing new models for broad, inclusive engagement, consensus-based policymaking and institutional structures to support such enhanced functions; and
  • Designing processes, tools and platforms that enable a global ICANN community to engage in these new forms of participatory decision-making.

According to Panel Chair Prof. Beth Simone Noveck, the aim of the panel has been not to tackle global issues of Internet governance, but to “articulate what a 21st century ICANN, whose functions are quite narrow, could look like and how it could operate given the innovations in governance happening across the world.” With that in mind, the below presents the initial draft blueprint summarizing the Panel’s recommendation to ICANN for evolving how it operates and collaborates across borders in the 21st century. This draft blueprint can also be accessed in pdf form here.

A 21st century organization responsible for coordinating a global, public good such as the Domain Name System (DNS) that ensures the operability, stability and security of one global Internet has to abide by key principles embodied by the type of governance institutions to which we aspire, and which are possible in an era of ubiquitous information and communications technologies.


The 21st century organizations to which we wish to submit ourselves are characterized by three key principles. They are effective, legitimate and evolving.


Effective institutions solve problems well and in a timely fashion. They have the capacity to identify and implement approaches to tackle challenges while minimizing cost and unanticipated consequences. Such institutions need to be smart. Smart is not about having more information. Rather, smart institutions need to have access to the best possible ideas in forms and formats that are clear, useful and relevant to the decision at hand from sources inside and outside the institution. This means they have to have strategies for soliciting and absorbing input from those with relevant expertise, where expertise is understood broadly to include people with experiences, skills, interests as well as credentials that could be brought to bear. There must be a constant process of identifying who within and outside the organization knows what and for cultivating and developing the intelligence of the community to participate effectively. Effective institutions are transparent because they cannot obtain the best solutions if they aren’t open about what the problems are, including through sharing in accessible ways and formats all data they possess relevant to the issue at hand. To be effective they also have to be agile and innovative, namely capable of identifying and deploying innovative, workable solutions in a timely fashion. Finally, effective institutions allocate funds and resources toward solving problems in the most strategic and economically sound manner (i.e. they are cost-effective).
We also recognize the value of having institutions that are legitimate in addition to effective. Legitimate institutions operating in the public interest are inclusive in that they involve the people who are affected by their decisions in the process of making those decisions. In the case of the Internet and of ICANN’s legitimacy, inclusivity matters because the Internet impacts all corners of human activity around the globe, even to those who are not yet connected. Anyone must therefore have easy and equitable access to participate in the process of shaping the policies and standards of the Internet that ICANN helps facilitate. In this context, affected parties go beyond stakeholders whose immediate economic interests might be implicated by, for example, a contract, a license or a grant. They include the broader members of the affected community. Hence opportunities for participation must not only include those whose expertise is specifically likely to yield workable solutions to problems, but all members whether individuals or other groups and institutions. Participation must include undirected opportunities to deliberate as well as engagement focused on solving a particular problem. Legitimate organizations are accountable to their members both as a consequence of procedural fairness before the fact and adjudicatory processes after the fact that help ensure that decisions serve broader principles of the public interest. Legitimate governing institutions also embrace the principle of subsidiarity; they operate within a remit comprising only those responsibilities or tasks for which their centralized or authoritative position makes them best equipped and most competent to handle.
Finally, history and science both teach that rigid structures are more likely to break rather than bend. Successful and lasting institutions are those that are able to withstand unanticipated change as a result of their flexibility. A 21st century institution must be evolving both in how it makes decisions and what it makes decisions about. To improve on its own practices over time, it has to be explicitly experimental, adopting such techniques as randomized and controlled trials, pilot projects and new initiatives. Organizations evolve by learning, done through the uses of quantitative and qualitative methods for rigorous assessment to figure out what works and in order to change what doesn’t. Finally, a dynamic and living organization embraces games and supports serendipity and fun as part of its culture. For an institution to merit the people’s trust, it first has to trust its people. While a 21st century global organization must take seriously the capacity of its own community, this does not mean that the practices by which it governs must be humorless. To the contrary, human beings learn through play, games and exploration. In the future, we need to eschew the kind of self-serious pomposity that gets in the way of change and embrace humility and fallibility as touchstones to progress.


Designing 21st century institutions — and we can design them anew — requires paying close attention to practices as well as principles. It is important to keep in mind what an organization actually does, the subject matter it works on, and the ways it goes about identifying problems, scoping solutions and implementing policies. ICANN’s role in governing the Internet is to coordinate the Internet’s unique identifier system to ensure the operability, stability and security of one global Internet, and to balance these needs with innovation as the Internet evolves. This means that ICANN coordinates the DNS as well as number resources and protocol assignments. When Internet users connect to websites or other Internet servers, they do so by typing a domain name. A domain name is a unique, “human memorable” identifier such as However, connected devices to the Internet do not communicate via domain names, but communicate through Internet Protocol (IP) and IP addresses (’s IP address, for instance, is The way that domain names are “resolved” (mapped to their correlating IP addresses) is called Domain Name Resolution. These resolutions are performed through the DNS, a hierarchical, distributed database operated by millions of different entities around the world. ICANN coordinates both the names and the numbers of Domain Name Resolution.
The Internet plays an important role in all areas of political, economic, and cultural life across the globe. For the Internet to function well, the DNS has to work for everyone, and this means ICANN has to function well for everyone, too. But engaging people in meaningful and productive conversations about how to redesign the way ICANN runs itself is difficult because the conversation gets caught, on the one hand, between the scylla of broad generalities and geopolitics without regard to the specifics of ICANN’s day-to-day work, and the charybdis of mind-numbing technical detail on the other. It is true that ICANN’s remit is technical but the specificity of the subject matter combined with the importance of successful outcomes for the future of human creative and economic flourishing online should, in fact, make it far easier to go from broad principles to concrete practices.


The below are blueprints for sixteen concrete proposals for how ICANN can transform how it governs itself over the next five years. These proposals were developed from contributions shared and vetted during the Panel’s “Idea Generation” stage of work via an online engagement platform (; the collective input from our Panel; and those ideas shared during interviews and conversations conducted with ICANN insiders and through independent research. We thank people who gave their time and ideas to inform our work. [1]
While these proposed initiatives could all be rolled out within a one-year time frame after approval, it is important to let them run long enough to gather data about what works. It is also critical that ICANN test these experiments in a manner that allows people to participate without the need to know specific jurisdictional boundaries as they currently exist. Just as citizens around the world may not necessarily know which government agencies make decisions that affect them (e.g., in the United Kingdom, the public may not know which agency regulates their food – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the Food Standards Agency or both; in the United States, the differences between the sixteen different federal agencies tasked with financial literacy are not publicly well-known; and in Kenya, the differences and overlaps between the National Environment Management Authority, the Kenya Forest Services and National Land Commission may similarly puzzle citizens), as it stands the global Internet public may not understand the specific remits of the various Internet governance organizations.
ICANN should therefore consider establishing an Internet Governance Laboratory. iGovLab would function as a Governance Experimentation Collaborative aka a Skunk Works among all the Internet governance organizations, including those at the national as well as the supranational level, to try these and other experiments. Doing this means ICANN could test what works with a broader audience than its currently active members. ICANN must also produce and prepare clear, jargon-free visual materials about the kinds of decisions it makes both as a policy development facilitator and as a contracting authority – materials that can be understood by both engaged and active participants and newcomers (an issue identified by many contributors on the engagement platform). Without an understanding of those specifics, we will remain at the level of principle and never get to practice.

Toward Effectiveness


Use Expert Networks – ICANN together with other Internet governance organizations should adapt expert networking technologies for identifying and making searchable technical expertise worldwide. Expertise should be measured, not only on the basis of credentials such as formal engineering and computer science degrees but on the basis of technical experience and skills (e.g., as evidenced by GitHub commits or answers on Q&A sites), as well as interests (e.g., as measured in response to questions on ICANN should pilot the use of different techniques for targeting those with relevant know-how and evaluate what works and what doesn’t.


Embrace Open Data and Open Contracting – ICANN should make all of its data from all sources, including its registry and registrar contracts, freely available and downloadable online in machine-readable, usable and structured formats. Owen Ambur on the engagement platform emphasized this suggestion. [2]
Consistent with learnings on the value of open data since the movement began in recent years, ICANN should foster an ecosystem of users for this data including independent, academic and corporate developers interested in helping spot and solve problems relevant to ICANN’s work through using the data to make apps, models and other products of use to ICANN and the Internet community. For example, as one participant suggested, ICANN could build an “acronym helper application” that combines all three datasets that allow the public to look up ICANN acronyms to facilitate easier search and provide “a quick method to use if you are in a conference or . . . using a tablet or a phone.” Layering new gTLD applicant data with publicly available corporate ownership data (to help understand application trends and the level of diversity in new gTLD program applicants) is another idea for how open data would improve both transparency and engagement.
As for opening contract data, this could increase and diversify opportunities to participate in monitoring for contractual compliance, and would enable a deeper understanding over time of the roles of ICANN vs. contracted parties, problems or areas for improvement to the procurement process at ICANN, and opportunities and/or needs for contract evolution. In a related suggestion, one participant proposed that ICANN could also experiment with an open procurement platform that allows the crowd to suggest, rank, vote and evaluate purchase options within ICANN.

Agile & Innovative

Enable Collaborative Drafting – As Bertrand de la Chapelle suggested at ICANN 48, ICANN should test the use of online tools that enable people in different parts of the world to collaborate on work (e.g., using a wiki to draft working group reports) at different times in ways that allow individuals to make genuine contributions in a variety of forms (e.g., providing edits, research, data or comments), which are seen and deliberated on by others. Coupled with more formalized document management procedures (a need identified online by “Chris”), ICANN could experiment with new techniques for streamlining timely workflow.

Toward Legitimacy


Crowdsource at Each Stage of Decisionmaking – Using a variety of web, SMS-based and in-person participation tools, ICANN should test a wide array of alternative mechanisms for getting broad-based input in identifying and framing issues, crafting solutions, gathering relevant information to translate solutions into implementable policies as well as commenting after the fact and participating in oversight and assessment. For example, ICANN staff or working groups could use an open brainstorming tool like Google Moderator to vet the importance of issues to the community, get input on recommendations, and encourage community discourse around specific topic areas before and throughout policy development, expanding engagement opportunities while simultaneously making participating in ICANN in new ways easier for a broad and busy global audience.
ICANN should also leverage other multi-stakeholder governance fora, like IGF, to crowdsource input, consult on ICANN issues and broaden involvement outside of the traditional internal channels. As a related suggestion, one contributor suggested an app that categorizes open participation opportunities at ICANN via topic (to help spot engagement opportunities by area of expertise).
Move from “Stakeholder” Engagement to Global Engagement – As Elliot Noss noted, “ICANN has largely failed in its goals of broad involvement. This is structural, not the fault of participants.” ICANN should therefore experiment with running parallel processes for one year side by side with existing stakeholder groups to prepare for their possible phase-out in some cases. For instance, ICANN could pilot organizing participants topically rather than by currently existing constituency groups (defined by interest). Within such an experiment, the crowdsourcing practices described above can be used as alternatives and complements to existing stakeholder group practices. ICANN could then test empirically which organizing principles are more legitimate, inclusive and efficient, and which seem to lessen the need for gatekeepers or decision-makers as opposed to facilitators or coordinators.
Impose Rotating Term Limits – As a way to increase and diversify engagement in existing ICANN voting bodies, ICANN should experiment with imposing rotating term limits over the course of the next year for all voting positions within ICANN. This will require that new representatives be selected, which ICANN could use alternative voting methods such as preferential or ranked-choice voting to accomplish. Craig Simon suggested that ranked-choice voting could be “an attractive solution for any scale of participation” and noted that “done right,” the method has the “potential to empower massively scalable venues for online discourse and priority selection.” There was discussion during the public consultation about whether this proposal should apply to consensus-based working groups, a question we will put out for further comment.
Experiment with Innovative Voting Techniques – ICANN should run experiments with different voting methods for decisionmaking, such as Elliot Noss’s suggestion to use liquid democracy (e.g., proxy or delegated voting), or preferential or ranked-choice voting. This would enable ICANN to test the effect of organizing around specific issues rather than around specific constituencies when and where voting occurs within ICANN.
Innovate the ICANN Public Forum – ICANN could experiment with running a virtual public forum in parallel to the physical one conducted during ICANN meetings. As Mikey O’Connor suggested, ICANN could pilot the use of virtual reality to enable face-to-face interactions online to encourage participation from “people who will never be able to afford to travel to face-to-face meetings.”

Accountable & Adjudicatory

Establish “Citizen” Juries – To enhance oversight of ICANN officials, ICANN should use randomly assigned small public groups of individuals to whom staff and volunteer officials would be required to report over a given time period.
Crowdsource Oversight and Develop Standards to Measure Success – ICANN should identify opportunities to engage a broader audience in overseeing and measuring the impact, effect and level of community compliance that results from ICANN’s decisions. For example, within the United States, there have been crowdsourced projects to measure throughput of broadband connections that ICANN could learn from, as well as crowdsourcing efforts that engage a distributed crowd in monitoring stimulus spending by the federal government. Developing success metrics – an initiative already underway at ICANN – should progress in a manner that engages the global public to help define what success in the public interest looks like. It should also make certain to leverage the unique experiential knowledge of those responsible for implementing ICANN policies and of those familiar with the implementation challenges (cost or otherwise) that result.
Decentralize Accountability – ICANN should facilitate the development of standards for what it means for national Internet governance organizations (for example, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee) to be “open” organizations in the 21st century (e.g., those that are transparent, enable easy and equitable access, and are supportive of innovation and civic participation).
Use Participatory Budgeting – ICANN should experiment with different methods for directly involving the global public in certain budgeting decisions (e.g., deciding how to use funds received from “last resorts auctions” in the new gTLD program). Learning from best practices from the participatory budgeting movement around the world, ICANN could test different approaches for eliciting community input on identifying and prioritizing community needs and for enabling public voting on spending decisions. This is also a mechanism for devolving accountability and infusing public interest considerations more directly into ICANN’s work.

Toward Evolutionary


Be Experimental – The proposals discussed here should be designed explicitly as pilot projects that sunset with the analytics and tools put in place to gather robust data about what happened, what worked, what did not and why. In addition, experimentation on what incentives work best could be designed and baked into approaches (including the concept of federated participation by national entities that abide by a set of principles and practices that qualify them for participation in setting the agenda. Including national-level entities allows nation states to play a role through their relationship with the Internet governance organization in their home country while avoiding direct management by national governments.).


Generate New Insights and Evidence – Today a patchwork of Internet governance mechanisms operates under the oversight of many different public and private bodies and institutions. A distributed governance structure, that integrates and improves the current patchwork, seems the only sustainable and feasible path forward to avoid harmful fragmentation of the Internet. To achieve trust and interoperability at an international scale and develop a blueprint of how global coordination can take place, however, requires serious research on distributed governance structures and identification of those topics and functions that can be regulated at a supranational level. New insights and evidence are needed on how to provide for the necessary incentives and responsibilities to achieve governance objectives effectively without undermining the potential for adjusting its mechanisms to accommodate new findings and developments. Such incentives may include for instance technical requirements, consumer expectations, and others. We need to understand better how to identify issues and areas that demand national intervention or guidance and develop options, through a common framework, for when and how such global guidance or intervention would support global information exchange, allowing for a devolved implementation and adjustment. Global responsibilities may involve harmonization and compliance requirements, reporting on metrics, and others. Identifying a toolbox of leverage points, incentives and responsibilities that may allow for effective yet flexible ways of governing is another useful research product.
Embrace Evidence – ICANN should create an institutional assessment network that develops current benchmarks for existing practices. Enabling a more formalized R&D function within ICANN would make evaluating ICANN’s work and procedures with both foresight and hindsight and responding to change a more attainable and sustainable goal.


Encourage Games – Use prizes, games and challenges to solve problems. For example, an open data initiative should be complemented by the use of prizes to create incentives for developing useful tools. Contests – of the kind employed by the X-Prize or to help solve such wicked problems as sequencing the human genome or protecting astronauts from radiation exposure in space – can be set up to attract the best possible solutions to hard technical problems ICANN tackles. Consider using “grand challenges,” highly compelling, very measurable, super specific competitions with large prize purses to solve extremely hard problems, e.g., minimizing abuse of the DNS infrastructure, identifying the best technique for mitigating name collisions or dealing with IPv4 exhaustion. A currently running example of a grand challenge is the Progressive Auto X-Prize to design a 100-mile-per-gallon production-ready vehicle.
ICANN should make the complexities of Internet governance and ICANN’s work more open, accessible and interesting to people with games and activities aimed at the next generation. For instance, we could practice taking ourselves less seriously by crowdsourcing the “translation” of ICANN’s webpages into plain English (and other languages). As Mikey O’Connor suggested, “setting goals and rewarding people who help” at ICANN might inspire greater engagement. We believe challenges and games may be one way to effectively do this.
Mr. O’Connor also added that “people need to develop a clearer understanding of the many different roles that people play as they progress toward becoming an effective participant in the [ICANN] process.” To help deepen that understanding and create resources and processes for capacity building, ICANN could run contests to design short videos, graphics and other strategies to engage a more diverse audience to the end of making ICANN’s work more accessible to everyone – from newcomers to active technologists. ICANN Learn could serve as the appropriate platform to help experiment with such contests.


These proposal ideas are explicitly experimental and should all be tried, assessed and evolved against current practices. Hence it is important to take a baseline today and then to measure the effectiveness, legitimacy and evolutionary quality of decisionmaking and problem solving before and after.
While ICANN is sometimes critiqued as being excessively unaccountable, inaccessible, inefficient, complex, opaque, and coopted by entrenched interests – we believe that by testing these experiments and others, and adopting those that work, ICANN can fluidly transform itself into an expertise-based, open, responsive, streamlined, simple, legible, global, diverse and collaborative organization accountable to the global public. ICANN can serve as the paradigmatic example to the rest of the Internet governance community for how 21st century governance of a shared, global public resource can work and evolve.


Many of the proposals articulated herein touch on harnessing the power of new and innovative technologies to engage a wider network of participants in ICANN decisionmaking. However, access to technology is not equal across communities or regions, and high-speed bandwidth is not the global norm. Recognizing this constraint, we stress that ensuring all individuals affected and interested in ICANN have easy and equitable access to participate in decisionmaking will require consideration of the disparate and unequal connectivity that exists across the globe. As we build out designs for piloting these proposals, therefore, we acknowledge that low-bandwidth solutions must be considered and promoted.
Additionally, many of governance and institutional challenges ICANN currently faces are issues that technology alone will not solve. Therefore, piloting these proposals at ICANN will require attention to human-centered design. We recognize that true progress will involve developing the needed support mechanisms within ICANN to experiment with new ideas. With that in mind, we acknowledge that piloting and implementing these proposals will require a concerted commitment to shifting cultural norms in order to build the requisite mutual trust and ownership that the outcomes of these proposals demand.


  1. We will develop each of these suggestions into 1-2 page proposals with supporting examples, illustrations and case studies.
  2. We will again invite comment on each proposal from Panel members, the ICANN community and the wider public as we did during the initial “Idea Generation” stage of the Panel’s work (Phase 2). We will finalize the proposals into a blueprint that we post on a wiki for further comment (Phase 3) before concluding and submitting the work of the Panel.
  3. We believe that the work of the Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation should then be transitioned into one or more working groups that turns the 2-pagers into implementable proposals, working with ICANN experts to develop concrete plans for applying these suggestions to the workings of ICANN and the Internet governance ecosystem. The GovLab will bring the capacity of its diverse and international network to bear on finishing this important work.


The Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation is an international, seven-member, external advisory group formed to bring fresh insights and outside perspective to ICANN’s ongoing process of planning its own evolution.
The Panel has been specifically tasked by Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO of ICANN to:
Propose new models for international engagement, consensus-driven policymaking and institutional structures to support such enhanced functions; and
Design processes, tools and platforms that enable the global ICANN community to engage in these new forms of participatory decision-making.
The Panel is chaired by Dr. Beth Simone Noveck, co-founder and director of the Governance Lab at NYU, and former United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer (2009-2011). The Panel’s members include:

  • Alison Gillwald — Executive Director, Research ICT Africa
  • Joi Ito — Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab
  • Karim Lakhani — Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard University
  • Guo Liang — Associate Professor, Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
  • Geoff Mulgan — Chief Executive, National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts
  • Bitange Ndemo — Former PS of the Ministry of Communications

The Panel receives research support from the Governance Lab at NYU. The support team includes:


Primers on ICANN:

The GovLab SCAN – Weekly “Selected Curation of Articles on Net-governance.”
Relevant Panel Posts to The GovLab Blog:


The GovLab’s Open Governance Knowledge Base.

1. Some ideas shared with us have been passed along to other Strategy Panel Chairs to whose work those suggestions were more applicable.
2. Mr. Ambur highlighted in his submission that structuring data (e.g., through the StratML format) enables “potential performance partners [to] more easily discover each other and work more effectively together in pursuit of common objectives.”

Data and its uses for Governance GovLab Blog Selected Readings

The GovLab Selected Readings on Personal Data: Security and Use

As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. In this edition, we explore the literature on Personal Data. To suggest additional readings on this or any other topic, please email

Data and its uses for GovernanceAdvances in technology have greatly increased the potential for policymakers to utilize the personal data of large populations for the public good. However, the proliferation of vast stores of useful data has also given rise to a variety of legislative, political, and ethical concerns surrounding the privacy and security of citizens’ personal information, both in terms of collection and usage. Challenges regarding the governance and regulation of personal data must be addressed in order to assuage individuals’ concerns regarding the privacy, security, and use of their personal information.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Cavoukian, Ann. “Personal Data Ecosystem (PDE) – A Privacy by Design Approach to an Individual’s Pursuit of Radical Control.” Privacy by Design, October 15, 2013.

  • In this paper, Cavoukian describes the Personal Data Ecosystem (PDE), an “emerging landscape of companies and organizations that believe individuals should be in control of their personal data, and make available a growing number of tools and technologies to enable this control.” She argues that, “The right to privacy is highly compatible with the notion of PDE because it enables the individual to have a much greater degree of control – “Radical Control” – over their personal information than is currently possible today.”
  • To ensure that the PDE reaches its privacy-protection potential, Cavouckian argues that it must practice The 7 Foundational Principles of Privacy by Design:
    • Proactive not Reactive; Preventative not Remedial
    • Privacy as the Default Setting
    • Privacy Embedded into Design
    • Full Functionality – Positive-Sum, not Zero-Sum
    • End-to-End Security – Full Lifecycle Protection
    • Visibility and Transparency – Keep it Open
    • Respect for User Privacy – Keep it User-Centric

Kirkham, T., S. Winfield, S. Ravet, and S. Kellomaki. “A Personal Data Store for an Internet of Subjects.” In 2011 International Conference on Information Society (i-Society). 92–97.

  • This paper examines various factors involved in the governance of personal data online, and argues for a shift from “current service-oriented applications where often the service provider is in control of the person’s data” to a person centric architecture where the user is at the center of personal data control.
  • The paper delves into an “Internet of Subjects” concept of Personal Data Stores, and focuses on implementation of such a concept on personal data that can be characterized as either “By Me” or “About Me.”
  • The paper also presents examples of how a Personal Data Store model could allow users to both protect and present their personal data to external applications, affording them greater control.

OECD. The 2013 OECD Privacy Guidelines. 2013.

  • This report is indicative of the “important role in promoting respect for privacy as a fundamental value and a condition for the free flow of personal data across borders” played by the OECD for decades. The guidelines – revised in 2013 for the first time since being drafted in 1980 – are seen as “[t]he cornerstone of OECD work on privacy.”
  • The OECD framework is built around eight basic principles for personal data privacy and security:
    • Collection Limitation
    • Data Quality
    • Purpose Specification
    • Use Limitation
    • Security Safeguards
    • Openness
    • Individual Participation
    • Accountability

Ohm, Paul. “Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization.” UCLA Law Review 57, 1701 (2010).

  • This article explores the implications of the “astonishing ease” with which scientists have demonstrated the ability to “reidentify” or “deanonmize” supposedly anonymous personal information.
  • Rather than focusing exclusively on whether personal data is “anonymized,” Ohm offers five factors for governments and other data-handling bodies to use for assessing the risk of privacy harm: data-handling techniques, private versus public release, quantity, motive and trust.

Polonetsky, Jules and Omer Tene. “Privacy in the Age of Big Data: A Time for Big Decisions.” Stanford Law Review Online 64 (February 2, 2012): 63.

  • In this article, Tene and Polonetsky argue that, “The principles of privacy and data protection must be balanced against additional societal values such as public health, national security and law enforcement, environmental protection, and economic efficiency. A coherent framework would be based on a risk matrix, taking into account the value of different uses of data against the potential risks to individual autonomy and privacy.”
  • To achieve this balance, the authors believe that, “policymakers must address some of the most fundamental concepts of privacy law, including the definition of ‘personally identifiable information,’ the role of consent, and the principles of purpose limitation and data minimization.”

Shilton, Katie, Jeff Burke, Deborah Estrin, Ramesh Govindan, Mark Hansen, Jerry Kang, and Min Mun. “Designing the Personal Data Stream: Enabling Participatory Privacy in Mobile Personal Sensing”. TPRC, 2009.

  • This article argues that the Codes of Fair Information Practice, which have served as a model for data privacy for decades, do not take into account a world of distributed data collection, nor the realities of data mining and easy, almost uncontrolled, dissemination.
  • The authors suggest “expanding the Codes of Fair Information Practice to protect privacy in this new data reality. An adapted understanding of the Codes of Fair Information Practice can promote individuals’ engagement with their own data, and apply not only to governments and corporations, but software developers creating the data collection programs of the 21st century.”
  • In order to achieve this change in approach, the paper discusses three foundational design principles: primacy of participants, data legibility, and engagement of participants throughout the data life cycle.

To stay current on recent writings and developments on Personal Data, please subscribe to the GovLab Digest.
Did we miss anything? Please submit reading recommendations to or in the comments below.

GovLab Academy GovLab Blog

Gov 3.0 and The GovLab Academy – Providing Opportunities for All Kinds of Learners

At the GovLab at NYU, we’re about to begin an exciting new venture in teaching and learning for people who are committed to finding solutions to public problems. Our Gov 3.0 program, which GovLab director Beth Noveck described in a recent post, will launch on January 29, 2014 at 5:00PM EST.

We were thrilled to receive over 200 applications to Gov 3.0 from people around the world including the US, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Australia, Kenya, New Zealand, and Turkey. We are inspired and humbled by the ideas we heard from community leaders, public officials, students and citizens. Applicants to Gov 3.0 are thinking big: They’ve signed up to take on projects like improving citizen engagement, helping the formerly incarcerated re-integrate into society, improving access to quality education with digital tools, and developing new approaches to environmental sustainability through urban farming.

Having served as a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU and worked with Ashoka, a global network of social entrepreneurs, to identify changemakers around the world, I know first hand the value of project based, mentored learning for effecting change. The problem is that too few program focus on creating policy entrepreneurs, not just social entrepreneurs, who also know how to leverage the power of institutions and tools of law and policy combined with technology to bring about systems change.

The 14-week mentoring and learning program that will endeavor to help them do all this is unique in many ways. It’s designed to be taught both in person and online in real time. It draws on the expertise of students in a skill-sharing approach that treats everyone as a potential mentor to others. And while it is designed as a sequential curriculum, it also organizes information and exercises in a way that allows maximum flexibility for students who want to learn in their own way, at their own pace, about the subjects that are most important to them.

Bundled and Unbundled Content

The full Gov 3.0 program will be offered in-person to graduate students across NYU and to a community of  select online learners who want to learn how to apply evolving technology to design and implement effective solutions to public interest challenges. The program “bundles” knowledge in a way organized by expert instructors to jumpstart learning in current approaches to smarter governance. Learners will also gain access to network of mentors with subject matter expertise to coach them; develop presentation, innovation and prototyping skills by building their own projects; and connect with a community of peers dedicated to solving public problem.
The Gov 3.0 program syllabus pulls together materials directly from, our online platform that offers an “unbundled”, free multi-disciplinary platform with topics, modules and instructors on innovation in governance for independent learners to study at their own pace. The GovLab Academy currently has two themes – Data and Its Uses For Governance and Solving Public Problems with Crowdsourcing. Each theme is further broken down into subtopics such as open data, big data and crowdsourcing expertise. Each subtopic is complete with reading lists, podcasts, videos, activities, and tools designed to help learners think creatively and concretely about the issues they care about most.

To build more content areas in the future, we actively collaborate with “Channel Partners”, who have deep subject matter expertise. Channel partners provide:

·      A theme title and several topics that fit within the topic

·      Curated sets of readings, videos, infographics, toolkits and podcasts for each topic area

·      Ideas for short courses and other learning activities

·      Mentorship to learners

Forthcoming modules with our channel partners include modules on social and behavioral insights, performance management for governance, open contracting and human centered design.

Here are five concrete ways to stay involved and build your own Gov 3.0 journey:

1. Utilize the resources on the unbundled online platform as an a la carte learner and learn at your own pace. The platform is designed for self-driven learners who want to explore topics at their own pace.

2. Download and listen to the recording of the Gov 3.0 program. We’ll be uploading the recorded  content for public access as we move along in the program.

3. Develop a reading group and use the syllabus to guide your learning. We’ll be sharing discussion questions and tweeting ideas openly at #gov30.

4. Help contribute other resources to the GovLab Wiki.

5. Become a channel partner and help curate a learning module on your / your organizations’ subject areas of expertise. Submit your ideas here.

Also, tell us what you need and what you’re interested in learning by submitting this quick survey.
Coming Soon
Gov 3.0 is one part of a larger initiative of The GovLab Academy to learn, test and refine ways we can train the next generation of public problem solvers. Our team at The GovLab Academy is dedicated to developing new approaches and innovations to train the next generation of game changers with the skillsets and mindset to solve public problems We’re interested in researching and developing models for innovative approaches to peer-to-peer training, collaborative problem solving and mentored learning.

In June 2014, The GovLab Academy will introduce The GovLab Academy Fellowship, an application-based opportunity to support graduates of the Gov 3.0 program to carry their ideas through to completion.The GovLab Academy Fellowship is an opportunity for those whose project proposals in the Gov 3.0. Program show exceptional promise for implementation. The purpose is to build a network of civic-minded people who are passionate about using their skills and new technologies and teaching one another to create measurably positive impacts in communities.

We want your feedback!
As we build out The GovLab Academy, we are eager to hear from you and what you’re interested in learning! Please share your feedback with me here or email me directly at  As the The GovLab Academy program coordinator, I am eager to learn know what you think and how we can help. Let us know what additional resources you’d like to see and what you would like to learn in the future. And stay tuned for more updates on our blog!

GovLab Blog

Beth Simone Noveck Named a Pioneer of the New Economy

We are honored that Beth Simone Noveck, founder and director of the GovLab, has been selected to the Purpose Economy 100 – announced today.
Press Release: “Imperative and CSRwire today unveiled The Purpose Economy 100 (PE100), a list of the top 100 pioneers shifting the economy to better serve people and the planet. Selected based on their innovative models, philosophies and inventions, these 100 catalysts span a wide array of industries and geographies, all united by a common purpose. The Purpose Economy 100 are the first to research, develop, and shape markets that foster community, personal development and impact.
Inspired by the upcoming book The Purpose Economy, by Aaron Hurst, the PE100 highlights leading examples of a global economy where ‘purpose’ is supplanting ‘information’ as its primary driver. Based on his research, Hurst articulates personal growth, relationships and societal impact as the principal factors affecting the next economy. For Hurst, the PE100 pioneers are living proof of his research in action.

“Just as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were crucial in bringing about the Information Economy, the PE100 will be catalysts of this new phase of the economy in the US and worldwide,” says Hurst, CEO of Imperative. “These pioneers have proven that new models driven by purpose are not just advantageous, they’re necessary.”

The Purpose Economy 100 cohort spans every sector of the U.S. economy, from startups, corporations and academia to government and nonprofits. Covering nearly 20 industries and almost every state in the purpose economy 100US, the list spans from people of great notoriety to emerging innovators. It includes social entrepreneurs such as Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s, to more recent market makers like the founders of Airbnb and Kickstarter. From grassroots community organizers, such as Sara Horowitz of Freelancers Union, to such corporate leaders as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo. From innovators in government like Fmr. US Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, to academic thought leaders like Brené Brown of the University of Houston.
With hundreds of nominations received, the selection of the The PE 100 were based on three key factors:

  • Their scale of impact, the degree to which they engage in purposeful work on an individual, organizational or societal level
  • Their fit against one of five core levers proven to drive changes in markets: research, policy, public perception, disruptive technology and bright spots (redesigning existing systems)
  • Finally, their domain of focus and the sector where they are effecting change”
GovLab Academy GovLab Blog

The Evolution of #Gov30: Training the 21st Century Public Problem Solver

gov30Last week, we put out a call for applications to participate in the Gov 3.0 online mentoring and learning program.  With only a few days notice, we received over two hundred applications from officials in federal, state and local government, community activists and organizers, professors and students, consultants and CEOs. They all shared a passion for solving some of the most compelling public problems of our time, ranging from food security to mental health to climate change. They told us they were looking for help developing innovative solutions and wanted better methods and tools for tackling public interest problems more effectively.

In its original incarnation a decade ago, the Gov 3.0 course (known as Law, Tech and Democracy or the Law of E-Govt and E-Democ or Networked Governance!)  was designed to teach non-engineers about how technology is transforming the way we govern. Law schools typically teach their students how to use the tools of lawsuits, legislation and contracts as tools for social change. If being a lawyer was about solving problems, we wanted to think about how the latest tech trends can be applied to tackle legal and social issues

The idea was to:

  • Blend insights from law, policy and technology to create more realistic and expeditious solutions to problems.

  • Offer an active learning environment working on stuff that matters.

  • Flip the classroom and offer content online and via video and audio, reserving in-person time for group collaboration.

Over the ensuing years we’ve started to focus less on general trends and more on how to develop effective solutions to specific problems. Project based learning works! (Check out what Steve Zipkes has accomplished at Manor New Tech High School) Students coming out of this program, for example, designed, built, ran and assessed Peer to Patent and a wide array of projects (, such as a kiosk to help indigent litigants navigate landlord tenant court and expert systems to make law more accessible to the layperson. The program rapidly transformed from a lecture course about technology and innovation to an active learning environment where we used technology combined with law, and other strategies in order to:

  • Design new platforms and policies to support their use.

  • Learn by doing, working in collaborative teams to design every aspect of real world projects, requiring mastery and integration of legal, financial, design, communications and tech skills. Inspired by the work of Kip Hodges at MIT (now Arizona State) (this is a must read by him on solving complex problems) and what it means to be a good lawyer, the goal was to learn by solving complex problems.

  • Demonstrate the kinds of innovations in governance we were studying by applying them to real world institutions. We knew we’d have a better chance of getting institutions to collaborate if these were student-led projects.

Last semester, I taught a version of this class to students from the graduate schools of public policy (Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service), interactive design (Interactive Telecommunications Program) and engineering (Poly) at NYU. From them, I learned what has been the most valuable aspect of this program all along: It’s not about solving specific problems as much as training effective problem solvers. We are committed to focusing on this objective and improving our training this term.

We have two goals:

To help problem solvers learn how to apply technology, legal, policy and other strategies to challenging public problems, and to help them develop the mindset and skillset for taking an innovative idea from concept to implementation.

It is not enough, for example, to study how open data can improve healthcare outcomes or how crowdsourcing can be applied to anti-crime efforts. Good ideas, by themselves, are worth little (see Albert Savoia on “Pretotyping” on the Gov 3.0 Syllabus) without the knowledge needed to turn them into implementable solutions in real world institutions. As we take the program online and attempt to make it available to more people, we are seeking to:

  • Afford everyone who participates an opportunity to work on stuff that matters to them. You come to the course with a topic about which you are passionate and a willingness to devote time to it, which may be far in excess of whatever credit hours are awarded.

  • Help people understand the problem as well as possible before developing a solution. The best approach may not be to build an app or a website, but fighting to change a law, designing a compelling visual, or combining different small pieces into a larger approach.

  • Teach a method for solving problems that combines Innovation Skills, Prototyping Skills and Presentation Skills. Innovation Skills include applying novel approaches to problems. Prototyping focuses on learning to embody and represent an idea visually. Presentation Skills focus on the ability to communicate an idea in a compelling manner. It will be a challenge to deliver this training effectively in a short time frame. We’ll say more about what we are planning and seek your feedback in our next post.

  • Get people to set their own goals for skills acquisition. One size doesn’t need to fit all: Participants can customize what they would like to learn.

  • Invite a network of mentors with subject matter and skills expertise to coach participants at every stage, from developing ideas to devising solutions and mastering the skills to implement them. Effective problem solvers need help from those who are working in the field they’re interested in, whether it’s biofuels or prison reform. They need to know what else has been tried and whom they might partner with to be truly effective.

  • Connect people to each other by forging a network of like-minded peers dedicated to solving problems that matter. We incorporate Skills Sharing into the course under the theory that every student can be a teacher. With the group we are assembling this semester, that’s never been more true.

Despite the fact that I’ve taught versions of this course at law, communications, and design schools for a decade, it is still very much in permanent beta. This term will continue to be an experiment in two ways.

First, we will be trying ways to combine online and offline real time learning to create an active, vibrant and enriching environment for traditional and nontraditional learners. The online course complements the in-person version I teach at NYU. It’s unique in that the online course is not a MOOC where people sit at home and watch videos of lectures. It’s a real time, peer to peer learning environment where we’ll try to connect (fingers crossed) people across a distance or in the same room to mentor, coach, cajole, encourage and support each other’s desires to become more effective problem solvers. View the full syllabus.

Second, and most important, the goal of this term is to develop a v. 1.0 of the curriculum for training the 21st century problem solver and learn how to deliver it at scale. I’ve been teaching long enough to know that the only real learning happens when students teach themselves and each other. All we can do is inspire and support them. With the generous support of the Knight Foundation, the hope is to form a “Rebel Alliance”: partnerships with organizations around the country — whether universities, companies or governments — who want to become part of a network offering their own training programs. We are happy to supply content and a platform to support those who want to give of their time, energy and talents to doing stuff that matters and who have the mindset and skillset to be effective.
If you read the applications to Gov 3.0 that I had the privilege to see, you would be heartened and inspired by the number of dedicated, creative, interesting and passionate people who want to contribute to the life of their democracy. Our program is designed to help give them the chance to do so.
For more on Gov 3.0, visit
Or Follow along on Twitter at #gov30