Critical Internet Uncertainties: How will governance, evolution and growth of the Internet affect sustainable development?

By Maja Andjelkovic, Tony Vetter, Heather Creech on January 20, 2009

In 2006, IISD began to explore how the future of the Internet, its development and deployment, might affect progress towards sustainable development. As an early adopter of the Internet and the Web as our primary communications channel, we saw, as did thousands of other institutions, the potential for innovation and collaboration supported by a growing global infrastructure. But this potential may now be at some risk, given a number of critical uncertainties related to the governance of the system, the evolution of the technology, and concerns over its security and stability.

We have chosen to use scenarios as a methodology for better understanding what the future of the Internet might look like, and how possible futures might contribute to, or lead away from, sustainable development.

The introduction to this paper contains a brief description of what we are beginning to understand as the "Global Connectivity System" followed by an outline of the important choices the stakeholders and actors within that system are facing. Our goal is to stimulate further inquiry through illustration, rather than, at this stage, provide an exhaustive treatment of the issues or a comprehensive analysis of policy choices.It is written as much for the sustainable development community, which is for the most part, unfamiliar with the emerging challenge of managing global connectivity, as it is for those with more technical backgrounds, who are immersed in the details of particular choices but seek to better understand the broader implications of Internet policy decisions for global futures.

Report details

IISD, 2009