From Pawns to Partners: Involving U-M Students in the Development of a Policy Collaboratory at the World Summit on the Information SocietySkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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From December 6 to 14, 2004, Professor Derrick L. Cogburn led a delegation of four U-M students to the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva, Switzerland. The delegation, supported by the Advanced Studies Center of the International Institute at the University of Michigan, was part of a larger on-going research project titled "From Pawns to Partners: Policy Collaboratories and their Impact on the Global Governance of Cyberinfrastructure" being conducted under the auspices of the Collaboratory on Technology Enhanced Learning Communities (Cotelco) at the School of Information and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies. The project provides an opportunity for University of Michigan students to gain first-hand experience with the processes of global information and communication policy formulation. One important part of the study is the introduction of a nascent policy "collaboratory" — ICT Policy Collaboratory (iPC)— to involve civil society and developing countries more actively in the process of global information policy formulation.
Global information and communication technology (ICT) policy is formulated through multiple and competing institutional processes that contribute collectively to the global governance of the Global Information Infrastructure (GII), known more recently as Cyberinfrastructure. These policies range from the arcane technical issues of Internet domain names, to privacy, security and intellectual property concerns, to the more socially oriented issues of human rights and the empowerment of youth and women. Numerous international organizations are involved in these policy processes including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and other United Nations agencies such as UNESCO and UNDP. Outside of these intergovernmental organizations, you find quasi-autonomous and independent international private sector organizations wielding tremendous influence in global ICT policy formulation processes, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC), Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce (GBD), and the World Economic Forum (WEF). Negotiating within these complex processes to achieve specific policy objectives is a daunting task, even for the most seasoned governments and private sector organizations. However, it is perhaps even more challenging for the international civil society organizations that are being increasingly included in these global multi-stakeholder processes for ICT policy formulation such as the United Nations-organized World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
Through UN General Assembly Resolution 15/183, the ITU was authorized to organize, under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, the World Summit on the Information Society.
WSIS has been promoted as a step forward in the process to include diverse actors in the global ICT policy formulation processes. In this multi-stakeholder process, the civil society sector plays a critically important role, representing much of the energy and applied innovation of the Global Information Society. However, by a number of measures, the current process has not been able to include sufficiently the voices of civil society. For example, during the Third Preparatory Committee of WSIS (PrepCom-3), the civil society delegates were not allowed to participate fully in the working groups where key, and sometimes contentious, issues of the draft WSIS Declaration of Principles and theWSIS Action Plan were being discussed. This led to considerable frustration and to the production of an analysis of civil society participation in the WSIS preparatory process called, "From Input to Impact," which argued that more than 60 percent of the civil society recommendations to the final declaration had been completely ignored. Further, the subsequent decision to "resume" PrepCom-3 November 10-14, in Geneva and to resume it again December 5-6, 2003 (PrepCom-3bis), and yet again on December 9, 2003 immediately preceding WSIS itself (PrepCom-3bis), without providing fellowships for civil society delegates to attend means that key elements of the final documents were decided by a collective group that was much too small and unrepresentative of the multiple stakeholders of the global information society.
Theoretical Framework: International Regime Theory
In the broad interdisciplinary field of international studies, a group of scholars has studied problems surrounding the evolution of global cooperation and global governance in the absence of global government. These problems, sometimes called the "anarchy problematique," stem from the reality that the international system consists of anarchic nation-states possessing de jure sovereignty and equality, with a de facto imbalance in the distribution of power (represented by economic, political, technological and informational resources). Achieving levels of coordination, cooperation and decision-making within this anarchic environment, especially on issues that are transnational in scope and importance, is one of the primary challenges of global governance in a globalizing world.
Over the past two decades, scholars have attempted to address this problem by positing the existence of a construct called international regimes. The edited volume produced by Stephen D. Krasner and his colleagues forged a consensus around the theoretical and applied approaches to international regimes, which were defined as "sets of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actors' expectations converge in given areas of international relations." Principles are seen as beliefs of fact, causation or rectitude; norms are seen as standards of behavior defined in terms of rights and obligations; rules are specific prescriptions or proscriptions for action; and decision-making procedures are the prevailing practices for making and implementing collective choice. As a result of this consensus, over the last several decades, scholars have documented the emergence and efficacy of international regimes in a variety of issue areas, including: shipping, air transport, post, atomic energy and weapons, environmental issues, the global "commons" (e.g., the high seas and outer space), diamonds and telecommunications.
However, there are some problems with the use of international regime theory that are addressed in its use for this study, including: (1) its over reliance on the state as the primary unit of analysis; (2) a focus on establishing agreements, rather than on compliance with them; (3) insufficient attention to the role of agenda setting; (4) an inadequate understanding of the mechanisms through which knowledge and information influence the emergence and maintenance of regimes; and finally (5) insufficient attention to the global power dynamics that are at play in regime formation processes. An attempt to address these deficiencies in regime theory are presented in more detail in the complete theoretical model for this project, presented in detail in previous work and in forthcoming presentations at the 2004 International Studies Association (ISA) conference and the 2004 International Communication Association (ICA) conference.
In this study, we are exploring the potential emergence of an international regime to govern the global information society, or more specifically, the underlying cyberinfrastructure that makes such a knowledge-intensive global economy and society possible. Regime theory argues that in order to achieve any level of "global governance" on issues that are transnational in scope, an international regime has to emerge. Theoretically, these international regimes come into existence when the key actors have a significant convergence in the principles, values, norms, rules, decision-making procedures and enforcement mechanisms affecting the particular issue area. For over a century, an international telecommunications regime has "governed" the global communications network. However, the Internet, the World Wide Web, and the various applications that they enable bring new stakeholders into the debate, dramatically altering the process.
In previous work, we have argued that the vision for the emerging regime could take two directions: one that is driven by broad socio-economic interests, which we called the Global Information Infrastructure/Global Information Society (GII/GIS) regime; and another vision that is more narrow and driven primarily by technological and economic interests, which we called the Global Information Infrastructure/Global Electronic Commerce (GII/GEC) regime. In this work, we argued that the latter vision was winning, primarily because developing counties and civil society organizations, which would perhaps benefit most from a GII/GIS regime, were unable to sufficiently influence the regime formation process. Specifically, they are not able to mobilize the policy networks and epistemic communities required for effective participation in international ICT policy conferences such as WSIS. These international conferences are strategic locations where policy actor networks contest the principles, values, norms and rules of emerging regimes through the practice of "conference diplomacy."
From Pawns to Partners: Research Overview
"From Pawns to Partners" is a concurrent, longitudinal, mixed methods study of the World Summit on the Information Society. We are empirically testing this theoretical model of global governance for cyberinfrastructure, as well as exploring the impact of an intervention that we are calling a "policy collaboratory" on the ability for the transnational civil society and developing countries to participate more fully as "partners" in these complex processes and to move beyond being manipulated as "pawns." The project is designed to contribute to a reversal of this trend and to substantially enhance the ability for civil society and developing countries to participate effectively in these global ICT policy formulation processes. However, from previous work, we understand all too clearly that "participation" in an international conference is insufficient to be able to effectively influence the outcome. A range of strategic measures must be pursued during at least five key stages in the global ICT policy process, including preparatory processes, during the conference, drafting committees, conference follow-up, and presence in key nodal cities for ICT policy.
Strategic Intervention: The iPC-ICT Policy Collaboratory
A major component of "From Pawns to Partners" is a strategic intervention called the Information and Communication Technology (ICT Policy Collaboratory or iPC). The iPC is designed to augment the efforts of the civil society sector to organize, prepare for and participate in global ICT policy processes, of which WSIS is the most important strategic location on the immediate horizon.
Based on a collaborative action research paradigm, this project is designed to take significant lessons learned from the scientific communities' experience with collaboratories and work with leaders in the international civil society sector to adapt and apply this advanced socio-technical infrastructure to their existing structures, networks and practices in global ICT policy formulation.
According to the notes on basic structures for civil society at WSIS, the first principle for the sector is that "there must be multiple avenues and means for participation, and that all civil society entities can select the nature, level and extent of participation according to their needs and interests."
The initial development of the iPC will include the principled assembly of synchronous and asynchronous communications tools developed from prior collaboratory projects and donated by Cotelco. These tools will be integrated with the existing tools being used by the civil society sector and will support four kinds of networked organizational activity: (1) awareness of distributed colleagues and network members; (2) storage and access of digital materials; (3) distributed plenary and work group meetings, planned and ad hoc; and (4) acquisition and dissemination of knowledge and information. A more detailed description of the iPC project, including timelines, budgets and partners, can be provided upon request. In addition to being approved by the United Nations through the WSIS executive secretariat, this study has received approval from the U-M Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Involving U-M Students
"From Pawns to Partners"and the iPC, provide an historic opportunity for University of Michigan students to better understand and engage with the process of global governance for cyberinfrastructure. One example of these opportunities was the outstanding U-M student participation on a delegation to the Geneva Phase of WSIS. The summit, scheduled from December 10 to 12, 2003, was also bracketed by a dizzying array of formal and informal "side events" dealing with issues as diverse as Communication Rights in the InformationSocietyorganized by the CRIS Campaign to the Role of Science in the Information Society (RSIS) organized by the CERN Physics Research Laboratory, known popularly as the birthplace of the World Wide Web.
Our delegation focused on the official "main" events, which included the opening keynote addresses by heads of state, CEOs and civil society organizations as well as the adoption of the WSIS Declaration of Principles and the WSIS Action Plan. There were also opportunities to engage various alternative events as well. Further, I delivered an address, in conjunction with the DiploFoundation, on the possibilities and pitfalls of information and communication technologies (ITC) for online negotiation, and I delivered the opening address for the iPC on the ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) platform. The U-M delegation was officially registered for the summit under the auspices of Orbicom, the UNESCO International Network of Chairs and Associates in Communication, of which I am an associate member. Also registered on the delegation, though unable to attend the summit, was Dr. Deborah Robinson, a U-M doctoral alumna in social psychology. Dr. Robinson is the executive director of International Possibilities Unlimited (IPU), a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). IPU is partnering with Cotelco on the iPC.
The U-M WSIS delegation was supported by a generous grant from the U-M International Institute (II) Advanced Study Center (ASC). Members of the delegation were chosen based on their work within the Cotelco lab as well as their interest and availability to attend the summit in Geneva. Most of the student delegates are pursuing Master of Science in Information (MSI) degrees from the School of Infor-mation and received independent study credit for their work with Cotelco. Their participation at WSIS was optional and voluntary. Students from the School of Information on the delegation were: Ms. Jessica Goger (jgoger), MSI candidate in Information Economics, Management and Policy; Mr. Peter Keller-Transburg (peterkt), MSI candidate in Information Economics, Management and Policy; and Mr. Jacob Moskol (jmoskol), MSI candidate in Information Economics, Management and Policy.
We used this opportunity to recruit additional participants from other units relevant to the goals of the project. We believed that likely candidates would come from the U-M Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS) and the Department of Communication Studies. As a result, Ms. F. Kaluke Mawila (fmawila), a doctoral student in the Center for Studies in Postsecondary and Higher Education at the School of Education and a program assistant in the South Africa Initiatives Office at CAAS joined us.
Broader Educational Benefits
There is and has been substantial educational value to this project, both for the students participating in the delegation, graduate and undergraduate students here in Michigan who have the opportunity to participate in the Cotelco research lab, and to other students participating in the Global Graduate Seminar on Globalization and the Information Society: Information, Communication and Development (the Globalization Seminar). The Globalization Seminar is an advanced seminar that I developed in 1999. It uses advanced web-conferencing tools to create a geographically distributed learning community, bringing Michigan students together with others from the United States, South Africa and around the world. The Globalization Seminar has been integrated into the iPC initiative as a novice epistemic community, providing seminars and knowledge resources to members of the WSIS civil society and developing countries.
Finally, over the coming two years, additional U-M students working in the WSIS research lab will be able to get involved in all aspects of the study, including interviews, surveys, conducting participant observation, attending briefings on the iPC, working with the team building the WSIS-online.net site, the common platform for the WSIS community, and attending the preparatory processes of the subsequent Tunisia phase of the WSIS, scheduled for November 2005.
Impact on the Summit and the World
Civil society and developing country delegations from around the world are expected to benefit in several ways from this project. First and foremost, these groups will have the chance to participate in the iPC as described above. Beginning with the introduction of the iPC and its collaborative tools at WSIS, it is anticipated that these groups will collaborate more frequently and effectively, improving their opportunities for impacting the policy formulation process in the future. As civil society organizations come together, we expect new relationships to develop and old relationships to become stronger, and the iPC will play an integral role in continuing and strengthening these connections.
Apart from civil society, the U-M WSIS Delegation has had a wide impact at the summit through its work with <WSIS-online.net>. Team members have been working with various government, private enterprise and non-governmental representatives to develop and promote the <WSIS-online.net> website. The team will also have opportunities at WSIS to advertise and demonstrate this community website and will thereby offer tools and knowledge to a large number of globally represented summit delegates.
Derrick L. Cogburn is assistant professor of information and African studies at the University of Michigan School of Information and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies. He directs the Collaboratory on Technology Enhanced Learning Communities (http://www.cotelco.net) a social science research collaboratory that brings faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students from the United States together with colleagues from developing countries to study the socio-technical factors influencing geographically distributed collaborative knowledge work between developed and developing countries.
Thanks to all the members of the Cotelco lab, especially Jessie Goger, Peter Keller-Transburg and Jacob Moskol for helpful comments on this document. Also, many thanks to colleagues in the WSIS process, especially Rik Panginiban Robert Guerra, and Bertrand de la Chapelle for helpful discussions on these issues.
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