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How to Govern a Digitally Networked World

Because the Internet is a network of networks, its governing structures should be, too. The world needs a digital co-governance order that engages public, civic, and private leaders on the basis of three principles of participation.

WASHINGTON, DC – Governments built the current systems and institutions of international cooperation to address nineteenth- and twentieth-century problems. But in today’s complex and fast-paced digital world, these structures cannot operate at “Internet speed.”

Recognizing this, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres last year assembled a high-level panel – co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma – to propose ways to strengthen digital governance and cooperation. (Fadi Chehadé, a co-author of this article, is also a member.) It is hoped that the panel’s final report, expected in June, will represent a significant step forward in managing the potential and risks of digital technologies.

Digital governance can mean many things, including the governance of everything in the physical world by digital means. We take it to mean the governance of the technology sector itself, and the specific issues raised by the collision of the digital and physical worlds (although digital technology and its close cousin, artificial intelligence, will soon permeate every sector).

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