What will be the top Internet Governance issues in 2014?

Based on a recent webinar by the DiploFoundation, we summarise the seven predictions of top Internet Governance issues for 2014.

Calendar 2014 On Smartphone Shows Future Missions by Stuart Miles (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Without a doubt, most of us take the Internet for granted – that it is available for us for us to use at any time. However, the (somewhat) cohesive network that is the Internet exists thanks to a cooperation and collaboration of international organisations, governments and other entities that manage and oversee the Internet and facilitate its continued evolution.

One of the contributors to that Internet Governance (IG) system is the Diplo Foundation, which aims to improve diplomacy and participation in international discussions, especially in the areas of climate change and IG. On Wednesday, 14 January, Dr. Jovan Kurbalija, Diplo’s Director, hosted a webinar, “Internet Governance in 2014: Between change and continuity”, in which he highlighted the seven major topics likely to feature prominently in IG in 2014. The predictions are summarised below. A video recording of the entire webinar is also available on YouTube.


1.  Global IG architecture. Currently, there are a number of organisations globally that contribute IG framework. It is anticipated that there will be more conversation on how those supporting structures are arranged and linked, as well as how they shape international law and policy on IG.

2.  Internet and human rights. Thanks to the revelations made by Edward Snowden, this topic (unexpectedly) was quite prominent last year, and is expected to continuewell into 2014. However, in addition to the debate on privacy, Diplo predicts that the link between human rights and the standard Internet business model, which is used by companies such as Facebook and Google, will be widely debated.

3.  Data protection and cloud regulation. Linked to the previous trend, especially the anticipated discussion on Internet business models is the handling of personal data, and the ownership of data, in particular.  Further, recognising the growing importance of cloud computing, it is expected that steps will be taken to begin to address, for example, how, or the extent to which clouds (cloud services) can be regulated, standards that can be employed, and systems facilitating better cooperation between countries.

4.  Anchoring IG into existing law.  Although the importance of and need for IG is widely acknowledged, in fact, there are few laws on the subject. This year, Diplo predicts greater focus is likely to be given to integrating key IG elements into international law, which would help to foster common, recognised policies and positions on key issues.

5. Cybersecurity.  Cybersecurity has reportedly been on the global agenda for at least the last 10 years. However, in 2014 and into the future, the scale, scope, and complexity of threats and attacks are expected to increase, which emphasises the need for continued national, regional and global engagement on this issue.

6.  ICANN and new domains. Although news from ICANN was relatively low key in 2013, the continued introduction of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), which could total up to 1,400 from the current 22, is likely to revive debate on the issue. Some of the arguments previously made were that the expansion of gTLds was deeply flawed, costly, introduce undue complexity, and confuse consumers (Source: Wikipedia).

7.  Intellectual Property and IG.  Typically, Intellectual Property has been a perennial issue in the IG landscape, though, according to the Diplo, it did not feature prominently in 2013. However, topics such as innovation and linguistics, and how they affect Intellectual Property and by extension, IG, are expected to feature on the global agenda in 2014.

The caveat

… there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.

There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.

But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

The above quote has been attributed to Donald Rumsfeld, former United States Secretary of Defense, and was highlighted by Diplo during the webinar. Essentially, during the year, issues might emerge that cannot be foreseen – the unknown unknowns – and these can change the direction of, or even overtake, the current thread of discussions. Hence, while there is some confidence that the above issues will be highly topical during 2014, there is a recognition that other topics that could never be foreseen might come to the fore and can turn everything on its head.


Image credit:  Stuart Miles (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)