Research project by University of Malta

By on 26 Mar 2015

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Editors note: You may have seen this announcement on the APNIC-Talk mailing list about a global survey being conducted by University of Malta’s program in Internet governance, which is examining the trust that RIR Members have in the RIR’s work and overall governance processes.

We asked the post’s author, Désirée Miloshevic, to provide some more information about her research the APNIC community, and she has written this post.

Why is trust relevant?

In general, societies cannot function without trust at a variety of levels. Discussion and gossip, meaning informal communication among individual members of society – that may relate to discussing trustworthy behavior – play an important role in decision-making for individuals and these impact trust in various social, economic and political interactions.

As the world in the 21st century is becoming both more complex and “smaller”, due to the power and prevalence of media and the Internet, it is becoming increasingly easier to monitor the behaviour of individuals and companies, organizations, governments and societies to assess and review their actions against original goals, commitments, promises and moral values. This allows individuals to have a greater range of information on which to base judgments of trust in these entities.

And this ability, along with the actions of organizations, both perceived and observed, has an impact on trust over time. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2015 shows that between 2014 and 2015 the amount of trust its survey respondents had for organizations in a variety of sectors had mostly fallen: trust in NGOs had decreased from 66% to 63%, trust in the media from 53% to 51%, and trust in businesses from 59%–57%. Trust in government had risen from 45% to 48% however, although government was still the least trusted type of institution of the four.

What function does trust have in organizations?

It has been shown that societies with higher levels of trust tend to have stronger economies, and therefore trust must play an important role in businesses and other organizations, indirectly impacting GDP at some level.

And this is to be expected, the completion of large or complex tasks, or operations at an organizational level requires multiple people to be involved in order to each handle aspects of the work. If no trust existed between those carrying out the work that the others would complete their parts to the required quality, timescale and specification, it is difficult to see how any project would proceed.

This idea of trust has been shown in research to be essential for cooperation in a variety of organizations operating in different sectors, but there are also additional factors that may be said to impact trust in Internet governance organizations in particular.

Why is trust particularly relevant in Internet governance?

The Internet is characterized by the widespread sharing of personal information. Websites, software, company systems, banks, government services and individuals share personal and financial information constantly in order to benefit from the vast array of opportunities provided online.

In order for there to be sufficient trust in the Internet itself for such activity to be undertaken, it is important that there is also trust in how the Internet is governed. The activity of Internet governance institutions is therefore a field that should be examined in terms of trust issues; their activity clearly impacts the individual end user of the Internet at some level, as well as the governments, businesses and other organizations that require a stable and effective Internet to operate at scale.

In addition, there are two other reasons for looking at trust in Internet governance – firstly, due to the nature of Internet governance itself, a large number of networks, communities etc. have a say in important issues – and trust plays a crucial role in how they operate.

Secondly, the 2013 Snowden revelations, among other issues and examples, showed that it is possible for parties willing and able to dramatically abuse and subvert trust online – with wide-ranging impacts.

How can trust in Internet governance institutions be evaluated?

There is no empirical definition or set of criteria by which trust may be objectively analyzed. Therefore, my research will instead look to determine at a set of trust indicators and use them alongside observed trust processes in a set of organizations to determine how trust is defined and considered – and the implications this has for their activity.

The survey on Trust in RIRs is part of my research to study trust in Internet governance.

Trust in RIRs

The RIRs and their Members have done a huge amount of good work during the past year on the IANA Stewardship Transition Process.

The protocol parameters and numbers proposals submitted to the ICG in January 2015 have moved into Step 2 of the Proposal Assembly and Finalization Process.

This work is very important and will be ongoing. A number of issues will arise; two of them being governance and trust.

I would be grateful if Members of RIRs could spare up to 10-15 minutes of their time and complete my survey on Trust in RIRs.

It closes next Monday, March 30th 2015. Thank you in advance for participating.

Désirée Miloshevic is Senior Public Policy and International Affairs Advisor in Europe for Afilias, the domain name registry and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society.

email: desiree (at) relax.co.uk

twitter: @Des

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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