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The Pragmatic School of Thought in Open Science Practice: A Case Study of Multi-stakeholder Participation in Shaping the Future of Internet Governance



The internet is a disruptive technology that continues to define our modern world. However, numerous ethical challenges remain for internet governance going forward, e.g. surveillance capitalism, terrorism and radicalisation. The ‘pragmatic’ school of thought in open science advocates for collaboration between diverse stakeholder groups (e.g. citizens, academics, practitioners, policymakers) to ensure an informed, and positive imprint for change. However, our understanding of how open science can be used for assimilating knowledge on complex socio-political issues remains nascent. To address this gap, we present findings from ‘We, the Internet’, a global consultation project which utilised open science practices such as stakeholder-led evaluations and open access publications to engage stakeholders in dialogue around the future of internet governance. Our findings discuss emergent themes on the future of internet governance, and highlight the potential of open science to mobilise groups and combat public scepticism in policy-making.
The Pragmatic School of Thought in Open Science: A Case Study of Multi-
stakeholder Participation in Shaping the Future of Internet Governance
Stephen McCarthy
University College
Carolanne Mahony
University College
Wendy Rowan
University College
Huy Tran-Karcher
Missions Publiques
Manon Potet
Missions Publiques
The internet is a disruptive technology that continues to
define our modern world. However, numerous ethical
challenges remain for internet governance going
forward, e.g. surveillance capitalism, terrorism and
radicalisation. The ‘pragmatic’ school of thought in
open science advocates for collaboration between
diverse stakeholder groups (e.g. citizens, academics,
practitioners, policymakers) to ensure an informed, and
positive imprint for change. However, our
understanding of how open science can be used for
assimilating knowledge on complex socio-political
issues remains nascent. To address this gap, we present
findings from ‘We, the Internet’, a global consultation
project which utilised open science practices such as
stakeholder-led evaluations and open access
publications to engage stakeholders in dialogue around
the future of internet governance. Our findings discuss
emergent themes on the future of internet governance,
and highlight the potential of open science to mobilise
groups and combat public scepticism in policy-making.
1. Introduction
The internet is the apotheosis of the Pragmatic
revolution [in open science], bringing together radical
empiricism and democratisation of information in
community practice.” [1, pg. 1412]
Over the last 40 years, the internet has transformed
human relationships and society as we know it. Recent
statistics suggest that nearly 59% of the world’s
population are now connected to the internet, with high
growth rates projected in developing nations going
forward [2]. This multiplication of networks has brought
with it opportunities for individuals to connect almost
instantaneously with friends, family, co-workers and
other social groups across the world. The internet also
offers an open resource for education and innovation,
allowing individuals and entrepreneurs to draw on a
treasure trove of online content for upskilling,
awareness building, and new product development [3, 4,
5]. Upcoming developments such as Artificial
Intelligence bring an astonishing range of further
opportunities for industries, governments, and societies
worldwide including the automation of tasks (e.g.
Chatbots for customer service [6]) and augmentation of
knowledge work (e.g. clinical decision support [7]).
However, despite these technological and societal
advances, numerous ethical challenges remain for
internet governance going forward. Firstly, significant
concerns have been raised around the integrity of
information provided over the web, given the rise of
‘fake news’ and the distribution of disinformation and
misinformation to potentially vulnerable groups [8, 9].
In addition, much of this digitalisation of life has been
brought about by large companies who seek to connect
people via internet platforms for commercialisation
purposes. In particular, the profit motives of these
companies have driven the emergence of surveillance
capitalism [10], where internet platforms are used to
track citizens activities online with the objective of
profiling and influencing behaviour, e.g. Cambridge
Analytica. This has raised new concerns around data
privacy and security in the digital age, and the meanings
we place on our digital identity [11, 12]. Political
decisions are, therefore, urgently needed to steer the
future of internet governance in a more responsible,
ethical, and inclusive direction. This requires the voice
of numerous stakeholders (e.g. citizens, academics,
policymakers) to be heard across the world, to ensure an
informed, and positive imprint for change [13].
Open science practices provide a means of engaging
diverse groups in research and policymaking [14, 15, 16,
17]. The primary objective of open science is to
encourage more equitable and transparent collaboration.
In particular, the ‘pragmatic’ school of thought in open
science centres on how collaboration between multiple
stakeholder groups can make knowledge-creation more
Proceedings of the 54th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences | 2021
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(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
effective and efficient [14]. Indeed the internet is a core
technology enabling this transformation of open
science, as stated by Nielsen [18, pg. 111]: “We need to
imagine a world where the construction of the scientific
information commons has come to fruition. This is a
world where all scientific knowledge has been made
available online. Pragmatic open science aims to foster
knowledge-creation through interactions between
scientists and other stakeholder groups [14]. This fosters
networked science, where open collaboration is used as
a means to transform how we understand the world and
how science is conducted [18].
However, our understanding of how open science
can be used for tackling socio-political issues such as
the future of internet governance remains nascent. In
this paper, we take steps in this direction by addressing
the following research question: How can open science
practices be used to explore socio-political issues of
public concern? To explore this question, we draw on
case study findings from ‘We, the Internet’, a global
consultation project which seeks stakeholders’ thoughts
and feelings on internet governance using participation
events and forecasting methods. This input will help to
shape this technology for a better future, with the
support of a strategic network of partners such as the
United Nations, European Commission, World
Economic Forum, Wikimedia Foundation, and Google.
The primary aim of the project is to explore the
importance of internet governance and different
perspectives on the digitalisation of life. Questions
which will be explored include: (i) How should the
Internet be managed and governed? (ii) What is the role
of the different actors in this interdependent system?
(iii) What will be the impact of emerging technologies
such as Artificial Intelligence on internet governance?
We extend this dialogue to include not only scientists,
but also wider stakeholder groups of citizens,
practitioners, and policymakers [14].
Based on our case study findings, we contribute
insights into how open science practices can harness the
power of collectives such as stakeholder groups who can
become the new pioneers of evolved and ethical
technology use. In particular, we report on stakeholder-
led evaluations of different models of internet
governance proposed by experts. The views of
stakeholders will later be shared with strategic partners
such as the United Nations and help combat public
scepticism in policymaking. We assert that open science
can yield valuable insights in shaping a digital policy for
the future and explore broad questions for debate such
as "what do we want our technology interaction legacy
to look like?" Internet governance is not a trivial
question to be relegated to the domain of 'armchair
experts' and large companies, but a global issue
demanding engagement from all members of society.
2. Background
2.1. The Future of Internet Governance
The rapid adoption of advanced technologies
suggests we are progressing towards a new post-
humanist era, where the lines between technology and
the human race are becoming increasingly blurred [11].
With the development of Artificial Intelligence,
Machine Learning, and connected 'smart' devices, there
is immense potential to realise significant improvements
in all walks of life: from the use of decision tools for
complex processes to the creation of assisted living
robots for people with chronic health conditions. The
internet is a core technology enabling the rapid
transformation of human life and represents a complex
socio-technical network of people, systems and
information [19].
The use of this technology is also intimately linked
to our social and psychological being [11, 13]. For
instance, many experience the internet as both a
benediction and a malediction: while it provides a useful
resource for connecting with others and obtaining
information, internet addiction is an increasingly
widespread phenomenon where individuals stress that
they cannot live without it [20]. In addition, this
digitalisation has transformed what we believe, how we
think, feel and act: the most extreme case of this being
when terrorist groups can connect and radicalise citizens
using internet platforms. Our engagement with this
medium can, therefore impact and be impacted by our
attitudes and behaviour. At times we find ourselves
misusing technology, which can lead to unintended
negative consequences, e.g. smartphone use while
driving which increases the level of risk taken [20]. This
is reinforced by poor self-regulation and a failure to
comply with laws prohibiting such practices.
IT ethics concerns the study of how humans select
between technology features, rejecting the misaligned
use, or disengaging where there is an assessment of little
value. However, ‘learning to swim’ in this ocean of new
technologies does not come instinctively; in general, we
undertake lessons to master this skill. The same applies
to our use of technology: we must learn how our
engagement with technology increasingly shapes the
reality we experience - for better or for worse.
Nevertheless, to date, questions around the use of
technology for beneficial purposes has often been
sidestepped in lieu of our fetish for innovation. Instead,
such questions are left to the individual's own ethical
decision-making process on how to regulate their use of
technology in the wider world. Is it time to call for a
change? Do we, as a society, want to learn how to
engage with technology in a more informed manner?
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After decades of relative light intervention to enable
the internet to flourish more freely in its infancy,
decision-makers globally and the general public have
become increasingly aware of the imperative for more
stringent regulation in order to continue harnessing the
benefits while containing the drawbacks. It is therefore
increasingly urgent that different stakeholder groups
have their voices heard on the next steps for this
incredible technology. A key question occurs - are we in
need of new approaches for educating how to use
technology for more ethical and beneficial purposes?
The next subsection looks at how open science practice
can help provide insights into this question.
2.2. Open Science Practice
In recent years, ‘openness’ has become an
increasingly important topic for information systems
research and practice. The term ‘openness’ can be
defined as a lack of restriction or boundaries in
participation (i.e. egalitarian), transparency and
accountability in decision-making (i.e. meritocratic),
and receptiveness to change in processes (i.e. self-
organising) [21, 22]. Openness is an embedded feature
of areas such as: open innovation [4, 5], open data [23],
and open-source software [24, 25], to name but a few.
Open science is another core component of the
openness philosophy which aims to embed equality of
participation and transparency in scientific research [14,
15, 16, 17]. Open science can be viewed either in a top-
down or a bottom-up approach. From a top-down
perspective, open science is focused on making
scientific research more easily accessible to a broader
range of stakeholder groups [17]. From the bottom-up
approach, open science can be viewed as collaborations
between researchers and members of the public. This
perspective is epitomised in the pragmatic school of
thought in open science, which aims to make research
easier to access, easier to participate in, and more
inclusive [14]. Stakeholders are empowered by the
opportunity to participate in research.
Examples of open science practices include the use
of open citizen dialogues on policymaking issues (e.g.
CIMULACT project), citizen engagement in
hypothesis-driven research (e.g. Project PigeonWatch),
and volunteer mapping and monitoring of a research
area (e.g. British Trust for Ornithology).
To make open science more collaborative, online
communication tools can be used to support knowledge
creation and dialogue. Tacke [26] sees the internet as an
open door for practising collaborative research,
breaking down traditional barriers, encouraging
diversity and inclusion by harnessing the “wisdom of
the crowds”. The internet has enabled the hosting of
social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook,
Instagram, which are open to stakeholders for self-
expression. Studies suggest that there is an ever-
increasing thirst for the distribution of knowledge via
social media [27]. These are also viewed as vital
ingredients for the recruitment of citizens in research
and the soundbite reporting of open science findings.
Social media is also well placed for global community
self-organisation and the promotion of bottom-up open
science activities [15].
Open science raises the question of whether we are
doing science for people, or doing science with people?
Science communication can be a dialogue that involves
all aspects of the research process and can make a
practical scientific impact on a broader policy level [28].
Our understanding of open science for developing
policy, however, is only emerging with several factors
yet to be considered, e.g. the fit between research
purpose and project design, technology use, the quality
of the data, and whether the resulting findings stand up
to scrutiny [29]. Nevertheless, there is potential for open
science to enable democratic dialogue and future-
oriented decision-making through stakeholder
2.3. Citizen Science and Participation
Citizen science (CS) is a type of open movement
which encourages participation in science from diverse
populations [30]. CS democratises science which can
help concerned communities to create data to influence
policy and promote political decision-making [31]. CS
is valued by politicians throughout Europe as a method
for creating socially relevant research [32].
CS and multi-stakeholder participation are important
partners in the rethinking of how science and the public
engage with each other [14, 16]. CS changes the way
science is conducted by involving different stakeholders
(e.g. public, academics, practitioners, policymakers)
throughout the research process, e.g. idea generation,
conduction of research, and dissemination of findings.
CS is about inclusiveness and transparency in research
be it data, publications, the evaluation of science or the
resultant policies driven by this science. The imperative
for inclusiveness and transparency means that multi-
stakeholder participation is a driver for open science.
Stakeholder participation relies on deliberative
methods, backed by a vast amount of research from all
around the world, ranging from political sciences to
sociology, from neurosciences to psychology and from
communication to philosophy. Collective deliberation is
an ancient motive for political thought: the "ability to
participate in deliberative or judiciary power" defines
the work of Aristotle and the theories on communicative
rationality and consensus decision-making of the
philosopher Jürgen Habermas [33]. French philosopher
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Bernard Manin [34] also discussed the importance of
diverse group deliberation where “the rules can… be
legitimate only as long as they arise from the will of all
and represent the will of all”. In a nutshell, deliberation
groups deliver informed, non-volatile and
argumentative opinions. They are said to suffer less
polarisation and have a much lower level of volatility
than any other channel of opinion gathering.
Participatory design offers one means of engaging a
broad range of stakeholders in research, innovation, and
public policy decisions. Participatory design aims to
increase stakeholder involvement and exposes decision-
makers to a wider variety of perspectives, requirements,
and potential solutions [35]. Stakeholder participation
efforts can, in turn, lead to increased interest and
participation in the democratic process and contribute to
a more scientifically literate society [35]. Participatory
design comes from the perspective that those who are
impacted by a system should have a say in how it is
designed [36, 37]. It emerged from the ‘Scandinavian
approach’ of the ’60s and ’70s which was concerned
with the shifting of power dynamics in the workplace
due to the introduction of information systems [38, 39].
The aim is to bring together different stakeholders to
collectively shape a better future [40]. This is achieved
by using a range of different practices, which involve
working directly with stakeholders. As stated by
Dalsgaard [41, p. 37] participatory design centres on
concerns and values that connect existing techniques,
and that are vital and malleable enough to embrace new
challenges and inform new techniques”.
No permission is required from a central
authority. Implies freedom from
indiscriminate censorship and surveillance.
Also termed ‘Net Neutrality’. All
communication over the network should be
treated equally.
Design and development are done openly.
The community are actively encouraged to
All hardware must be able to communicate
with each other to facilitate people sharing
A transparent, participatory process to
create universal standards.
Table 1: World Wide Web Ideals [42]
Early internet communities established participatory
ideals that are still practised today and have spread
outside the IT sector (See table 1). These ideals have
been credited as forming the basis for open data in
politics, science, education and culture [42]. They are
based on the concepts of stakeholder involvement and
participatory design, moving away from centralised
control and encouraging community involvement in
design, development, and decision-making
3. Research Design
An in-depth case study [cf. 43] was selected as the
most appropriate approach for our research as it
supports the investigation of environments in which
there are contested meanings, and for studying non-
linear, fragmented, and multi-dimensional phenomena.
Our case study centres on the global citizen science
project ‘We, the Internet’ (, a
mixed-methods study of citizens’ and stakeholders
attitudes towards the opportunities and challenges
provided by the internet, and future developments in this
technology. The project is coordinated by Missions
Publiques (France) in collaboration with national
organisers across the world. These national partners
recruited stakeholders in their respective countries and
were part of the facilitation team during the online
dialogue. In addition, the project has support from
public and private strategic partners such as the German
Federal Foreign Office, the United Nations, European
Commission, World Economic Forum, Wikimedia
Foundation, Internet Society and Google. The strategic
partners constituted the advisory board and scientific
committee to provide conceptual and scientific
guidance. The network of partners is essential in
ensuring global outreach with a diversity of participants,
as well as enhancing the impact on decision-making
processes. This feeds into the key aim of citizen science,
to democratise research and enable citizens to impact
policy-making. Figure 1 illustrates the timeline.
Figure 1: Project Timeline
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The initial concept of We, the Internet was designed
around two pillars: a citizen dialogue discussing digital
identity, digital public sphere, and artificial intelligence;
and a stakeholder dialogue which centred around the
future of internet governance. Both dialogues were
planned to take place simultaneously in face-to-face
meetings on June 6th. However, due to the COVID-19
pandemic, the stakeholder track was implemented on
June 5th and 6th online, and the follow up dialogue was
postponed to October.
The stakeholder dialogue builds on the
comprehensive global initiative set out by The United
Nations with the High-Level Panel on Digital
Cooperation. In June 2019, the Panel published their
report “The Age of Digital Interdependence” and with
it, a series of recommendations to improve digital
cooperation. We, the Internet, used the process and
infrastructure to initiate parallel, but independent
stakeholder discussions on Digital Cooperation.
3.1. Data Collection and Data Analysis
On 5 and 6 June 2020, Missions Publiques, with the
support of a broad coalition of partners worldwide, held
a series of four online dialogues tackling the challenges
of internet governance. Stakeholders from more than 80
countries around the world came together during three-
hour online sessions. They discussed the three models
proposed by the High-Level Panel of Digital
Cooperation launched by Antonio Guterres, Secretary-
General of the United Nations [44]. To enhance the
deliberation, participants were gathered in subgroups of
3 to 6 stakeholders, plus two facilitators. Discussions in
subgroups were conducted in English, French or
Spanish, according to the stakeholders’ preference.
An open registration process was utilised to ensure a
diverse geographical spread among participants, with
representatives across six continents Asia, Africa,
Europe, North and South America, and Australia. 39.2%
of participants were female, 55.7% were male, and 5.2%
preferred not to say. In terms of age breakdown, 12.4%
were under 25 years, 32% were 26-35 years, 22.7% were
36-45 years, 16.5% were 46-55 years, 13.4% were more
than 55 years, while 3.1% preferred not to say.
Data was collected and analysed through a collection
of open science practices which are detailed in Table 2.
In terms of data collection, a fundamental principle of
the deliberation was facilitating an informed discussion
among participants. Therefore, participants to the
deliberation were sent open access material beforehand,
so that each participant was able to have a similar level
of knowledge. This material was essential to enable a
qualified debate on such a complex issue, as one
participant expressed: “What really caught my attention
was the way the different internet governance models
were presented, with a concise and clear explanation of
their scope.” (participant from Argentina).
An online platform matched registered
volunteers with available discussion
sessions. This supported our sampling
strategy which aimed at global coverage
across countries. Volunteers did not require
expertise on the topic to register, and the
final sample had representation for
different demographics e.g. levels of
internet connectivity.
Open access
Resources were provided to volunteers
before the dialogue through a centralised
repository. These resources offered
supporting background information which
helped ensure that volunteers were well-
prepared to provide informed responses
during the dialogue.
World Café
The views of volunteers were collected
through a set of structured steps during
roundtable discussions. Facilitators were
present who worked with volunteers as
partners to generate insights into the
effectiveness of potential future
governance models using questionnaires.
Data analysis was driven by volunteers
who evaluated proposed internet
governance solutions put forward by
experts / scientists e.g. models of
distributed governance. Participants views
were collated, aggregated, and then
analysed by the experts.
Open access
The final report was published on the
project website, accessible by all. The
results were approved and disseminated by
the German Federal Foreign Office with
the aim of influencing policymaking going
forward. All peer-reviewed articles
delivered by the research team will be open
access on Zenodo.
Table 2: Adopted Open Science Practices
In order to assess pre-existing opinions, We, the
Internet provided balanced briefing material as well as a
questionnaire ahead of the dialogue. A World Café
Method was used to divide participants into small sub-
groups to facilitate the deliberation. In each group, a
facilitator moderated the discussion while a note-taker
recorded key points within worksheets for the analysis.
The sub-groups encompassed about 5-8 participants
each to ensure a trusted atmosphere for everyone to
engage in a meaningful deliberation: “I enjoyed […] the
frank discussion in the focus groups on the advantages
and disadvantages of each of them. I was surprised by
the wide range of participants and appreciated the
willingness of colleagues to discuss and share their
thoughts and opinions openly and honestly.
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(participant from Trinidad and Tobago). After each
session, participants were then asked to fill out surveys.
Ninety-seven participants responded.
For data analysis, stakeholder-led evaluations of
different models of internet governance was facilitated
throughout the discussion. For the analysis, participants
used thematic analysis [45] to discuss the produced
material and cluster together similar ideas. The
facilitators began by continuously rereading the
transcribed content from the consultation to generate a
set of codes which they judged as meaningful and
important to the study in question. Researchers then
grouped these initial codes together to form overarching
categories of codes which helped organise the content
according to similar themes. This process allowed
strongly expressed ideas to emerge.
4. Findings
This section presents findings from stakeholder-led
evaluations of different models of internet governance.
Based on the adoption of open science practices
described in Table 2, these will be used to derive key
actions points for policy-makers going forward.
4.1. Improved and effective inclusion must be
at the heart of internet governance reform
There was unanimous agreement among participants
that internet governance reform needs to be guided by
the involvement of diverse stakeholder groups across
different sectors of industry and society. Participants
noted that reform initiatives must expand to incorporate
views of the private sector (both small, medium size
enterprises and multinational corporations),
governments (in particular from the legislative branch),
as well as citizens. They articulated a desire to make the
existing Internet Governance Forum (IGF) more than a
civil society chamber” with little implementing power.
With such considerations taken into account,
participants noted inclusiveness could serve as a
precondition” for good leadership and legitimacy in the
system. However, they cautioned that inclusion requires
an increase in both quantity and quality.
Another sentiment from stakeholder-led evaluation
was to increase the level of dedicated funds available for
the Global South to enable their participation in IGF
meetings and other relevant fora. New or improved
digital formats could also be introduced for
marginalised groups to effectively join remotely. This
would allow different affected stakeholder groups to be
included in the whole decision-making process, from
agenda-setting to discussion, and implementation. As
stated by a participant from the Ivory Coast “We need
more cooperation between key players to reduce the
digital divide at all levels. We want a governance system
that facilitates dialogue between the different actors of
the Internet community in the country.”
However, external and independent evaluation
mechanisms were noted as a priority by participants to
ensure adequate representation across all stakeholder
groups. Participants also noted that the role of the
National and Regional Initiatives (NRI) should be
strengthened across all levels: local, national, regional.
4.2. Transparency and guidance are essential in
navigating this complex system
Participants also discussed open access resources
and noted the need for increased transparency on
governance processes in order to provide systematic
guidance for navigating through the various layers and
platforms of internet governance. Participants felt it was
vital to communicate clear definitions and
understanding of roles and relationships,
responsibilities, and accountabilities. However, due to
different levels of available resources and capacity, they
felt it is difficult to ensure a simple entry point for
marginalised stakeholders. The motto keep it simple
was mentioned on several occasions, as the stakeholders
acknowledged the high complexity of the governance
system. Despite this, there was little discussion on how
to reduce this complexity. It was however discussed that
entry points should be made more accessible by
leveraging the vertical levels of the NRI structure.
Participants asserted the need to define the roles and
function of elements in the IGF+ structure. Participants
also spoke about raising Digital literacy via capacity
building and targeted support: What is needed in IGF+
is more inclusivity through education. People must be
encouraged, from a young age, to be interested in all
internet governance issues in school and upwards.
Internet Governance doesn’t concern only
professionals; it concerns everyone, whether they have
the internet or not.”. In particular, they felt the
observatory/help desk could be mandated as a
proactive facilitator to help navigate the system. Finally,
participants noted that in order to enter the governance
system, stakeholders need clear procedural rules on the
election/selection process of various bodies so that there
is an understanding about how to participate
meaningfully. The process within the policy incubator
and how it develops policy proposals was also said to
need more clarification.
4.3. Trustworthy and stable leadership are
required for fair coordination
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There was agreement that ensuring transparency is
not only crucial for navigating the highly complex
internet architecture but is also at the core of increasing
and maintaining trust among all stakeholders. In
particular, participants noted that coordination efforts
must build transparent rules so that stakeholders can rely
on fair procedures. Although informal and confidential
discussions remain a valid part of international
diplomacy, participants cautioned against behind the
scenes” decisions. It was seen as essential that decisions
and the decision-making process are open and
transparent. To achieve this, participants recommended
that the allocation of funding must be open for tracking.
The UN itself generally enjoys a high level of trust
among stakeholders, and the IGF has proven to be a
reliable forum for internet governance discussion.
Initiatives can build on existing and trustworthy
institutions. The IGF+, with a continued UN mandate,
can build on this trust by enhancing effective and stable
leadership. However, transparent and clear rules were
still noted as necessary by participants, with established
rotations within the secretariat. This would ensure that
everyone can have a fair share in taking up important
roles: Having some clear rules about rotation in
positions of the secretariat and other relevant organs
would weaken the arguments of digital colonisation.
4.4. Strengthen coordination and cooperation
between stakeholders and different bodies
There was an understanding among participants of
the already very high number of existing fora and
discussion groups as well as the complexity of the
overall internet governance structure(s). Thus,
discussions noted that introducing new platforms must
be considered carefully and only introduced if effective
and in support of better coordination: “There are so
many actors, with so many different interests and all
from very different parts of the world, with very different
cultures. Despite all these differences, we try to
cooperate to find common values, which is difficult, to
say the least.” Overcoming the divide between technical
knowledge and policy and process expertise was said to
be critical. In particular, internet architecture was said to
call for a strong global moderation.
Participants noted that this requires an open
communication channel between NRIs at country level
and the “policy incubator” to improve national policies.
Panels must be re-organised around current or emerging
specific issues instead of broad areas of work to produce
more targeted solutions. One suggestion for doing this
recommended by participants would be to introduce a
two-step approach in which tech and policy community
discuss specific challenges individually and then come
together to develop joint policy solutions. However,
participants asserted that this must ensure a diverse
range of stakeholders in this Advisory Group to
facilitate a holistic approach.
It was also noted that global vision is needed to build
consensus and generate support for needed policies.
However, concerns were raised that leaders must
establish a regulated involvement for the private
sector (also at national level) as it is the source of
technical innovation and funding and also the direct
channel to the end-users of digital products/services.
4.5. The right resources must be allocated fairly
way is key to an impactful digital cooperation
According to participants, the key to unlocking the
potential for improved digital cooperation is the delivery
of adequate and sustained funding. A majority (60%) of
participants see the current IGF trust fund as a useful
mechanism that needs to be increased. This was
encapsulated by one action point raised by participants
Strengthen the trust fund as the vehicle for funding”.
Participants also believed that increased funding
contributions from large companies was required. The
participants debated interesting issues such as the
potency and responsibility of the private sector and also
the risk of undue influence. However, they conceded
that this is an area which requires further research.
However, beyond the question of the amount of
funding, a critical question remained around its
distribution. Participants identified funding distribution
as a key gap on the road to improved digital cooperation.
They noted the need to have a transparent and fair
distribution of funds between the Global activities and
secretariat, and the local and national initiatives. To
quote one participant from Africa: “So, if the funding is
there and adequate and equitable representation is
secured, then we need to have the regional and national
IGF strengthened which serves as backbone”.
5. Discussion
This section provides a discussion concerning our
research question: How can open science practices be
used to explore socio-political issues of public concern?
To answer this question, we presented a citizen science
study of stakeholders’ attitudes towards the
opportunities and challenges provided by the internet,
and future developments in this technology. Our paper
focuses on the online dialogue, which adopted open
science practices such as open registration processes,
stakeholder-led evaluations, and open access materials.
Our findings showcase how open science is a key
means to mobilise citizens to create data that influences
policy and increases political engagement even among
marginalised citizens. The importance of results from
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the dialogue is that they will also influence models of
internet governance going forward ensuring that the
interests, and concerns of stakeholders are represented
in future discourse. The results will be presented to
strategic partners including United Nations, World
Economic Forum, and UNESCO which can help combat
public scepticism of science by building long-term
relationships between citizens, research, and policy.
The purpose of this process is to make
recommendations emerge and then transmit them to the
political authorities. It is not only about deliberating for
the sake of deliberating; the aim is furthermore to
improve decision-making and governance. Findings
from the Stakeholder Dialogue will now be integrated
as one of many contributions collected by the German
Government over the past half-year as part of the High-
Level Panel’s follow-up process. Germany is one of the
three co-champions in charge of delivering an options
paper on the Future of Internet Governance to the UN.
More broadly, the results of the Dialogue will feed into
the process of the Roadmap on Digital Cooperation
issued by the UN Secretary General’s (UNSG) Office.
The results of the dialogue are well aligned with the
Roadmap presented by the Office of the UNSG [44].
Results from the formal multi-stakeholder roundtables
were incorporated in the official options paper on the
Future of Digital Cooperation.
Indeed the internet was founded on the ideals of
openness and transparency which makes it the ideal
testing ground for exploring the applicability of open
science practices for issues of public concern [14, 16].
The father of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee,
is a vocal proponent of open data and open government.
He has promoted open government worldwide and co-
founded the Open Data Institute (ODI) in 2012 [46].
Unfortunately, the ideals of the early internet and the
aims of Open Government have yet to be achieved. Two
key early ideals of the internet, bottom-up design and
consensus [42] are particularly relevant to our study.
Bottom-up design encourages community involvement
in design and development [36, 37, 38, 39], while
consensus aims to create standards through a
transparent, participatory process [33]. Both ideals are
relevant to the aim of using input from diverse
stakeholders to build a better governance structure.
However, online censorship and digital surveillance
are tools employed by governments which limit the
collective action potential of open science [47].
Governments engage in surveillance and censorship for
commercial reasons; for example, economies heavily
invested in the knowledge-producing sectors will work
to restrict citizens access to information to promote IP
generation [48]. In an open letter on the 28th birthday of
the worldwide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee highlighted
the danger posed by companies and governments
working together watching our every move online, and
passing extreme laws that trample on our rights to
privacy”[49]. Similar to censorship, surveillance creates
an imbalance in power between the watcher and the
watched. This imbalance is incompatible with debate,
census [47, 50], and democracy. It’s estimated that 71%
of those with internet access live in countries where they
can be imprisoned for posting content on political,
social, or religious issues [51]. Academics have also
signalled that their academic freedoms are being
compromised by online censorship and surveillance
To enable new forms of public action, it is necessary
to see the emergence of a "deliberative imperative", as
epitomised by the pragmatic school of thought in open
science. According to French sociologists, Loïs
Blondiaux and Yves Sintomer, the success of the
“deliberative democracy” studies coincides with the
spreading of deliberation and a growing number of
deliberative and participative institutions in the political
action sphere. These “democratic innovations” mostly
follow a deliberative ideal such as defined by Habermas
[33], informed groups deliberate together to formulate,
in a rational way, concrete solutions by seeking the best
decision for the community. The stakeholders’ and
citizens’ dialogues are one of these mechanisms that aim
to give different groups an active place in the definition
of public policies. Such a mechanism intends to bring
together stakeholders around issues of general interest
that concern them so that they can take up political
issues and debate them collectively. These issues may
be directly related to their daily lives or longer-term
social issues.
‘We, the Internet’ contributes insights into how open
science following the pragmatic school of thought can
allow researchers towards engaged scholarship. It builds
on the ethos that collective intelligence emerges from
constructive, non-partisan forums. Proposals on internet
governance centre on core elements of the philosophy of
openness: inclusiveness, transparency, trust, and
cooperation. In this model divergent mind-sets are put
aside, and everyone is given a chance to speak out to
form enlightened, shared and inspiring viewpoints and
recommendations for decision-makers.
Our participants expressed their willingness to
engage in open science practices going forward, with
92% stating that they would continue their engagement
or recommend their friends/colleagues to participate in
such a dialogue. Feedback and statements during the
stakeholder dialogue were anonymised, but in post
interviews, participants have expressed their
motivations to join the deliberation and their lessons
learned. On their experience, one participant from
Argentina explained their motivation for joining: “I
participated in the dialogue to learn about different
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perspectives and ideas for the future of Internet
Governance. I was not only able to get my ideas across,
but they were also enriched by listening to other
colleagues from all over the world.
6. Conclusion
In this paper, we discussed the pragmatic school of
thought in open science and its applicability to exploring
the issues of public concern, such as the future of
internet governance. In terms of contributions, we
discuss how open science practices were leveraged to
derive insights into five emergent themes on the future
of internet governance. This first stage of the WTI
project has shown that open dialogues can create impact
in the political sphere by providing critical input for the
future of internet governance. Moving into the next
phase, comprehensive citizens’ deliberations at a global
scale will enable a broader discussion on controversial
issues of our time (the (mis)usage of data,
disinformation, and the ethics of artificial intelligence).
Here the open science approach will be applied to
address issues of public concern that significantly
expands the insights, attitudes, and opinions over a
traditionally more “closed” approach. Future research
will contribute insights into the potential of open science
to foster change - beginning at the individual level, and
moving through groups to eventually support societal
level acceptance. In terms of practical contributions, we
provided an account of how IS researchers might
support openness by engaging diverse stakeholder
groups on socio-political issues.
One limitation of the paper is that the case study was
primarily focused on the initial stages of engaging
stakeholders in dialogue around current challenges. As
a result, an in-depth study of potential solutions and the
impact derived from the project outcomes on the future
development of internet governance was outside the
scope of our paper. Future studies can seek to provide a
longitudinal analysis of the impact of open science on
issues of public concern. The analysis and evaluation of
the next stage of the “We, the Internet” project offers
such an opportunity. As briefly outlined in Section 3,
citizens´ assemblies will be held on October 10th around
a broad range of internet topics in over 80 countries
simultaneously, with an estimated participation of about
100 citizens per country. Research on this international
process can provide valuable insights into the impulse
for transformative change, beginning from how an open
and inclusive deliberative process affects the attitudes of
individuals, to impact the collective, non-expert
recommendations for global public discourse and
political decision-making. The continued analysis of
this and other case studies are vital elements for a better
understanding of complex issues, such as the interaction
between open multi-stakeholder dialogues and the
ethics and governance of the internet going forward.
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