Shifting terrain: Standards, Protocols, Ecosystems

a report on a round-table discussion
December 21, 2023

In June 2023, together with the critical infrastructure lab, we organized a round-table discussion called “Standards, Protocols, Ecosystems”. Our goal was to discuss actionable policy proposals related to the principles of interoperability and sovereignty.

With this workshop, we wanted to provide input to conversations organized collaboratively by the Missing Layers, as it explores ways in which digital ecosystems, enabled by open protocols, can be people-centric and function as digital commons. The collaborative is a joint initiative by the Ford Foundation, New America’s Digital Impact and Governance Initiative, and Microsoft. We share a collaborative interest in policies and infrastructural designs that build on the principle of openness and balance innovation with the protection of fundamental values.

During the workshop, we explored how the Missing Layers vision can be promoted – and made a reality – in Europe, taking into account the specific context of European digital policymaking. The European perspective, quite different from that of the United States, considers that the European Union is increasingly willing to secure some public interest goals through regulation.

This report summarizes a conversation on the principles of sovereignty and interoperability, the ways in which they interact, and the means through which they can be secured. We were particularly interested in protocols and standards as a governance mechanism through which these principles can be secured. Together with a group of experts and representatives of organizations involved in these policy debates, we considered what kind of sovereign powers and forms of interoperability we need and how the governance of protocols and standards interplays with legislative measures.


Read the paper


You can also find the report on Zenodo. This work was generously supported by the Digital Impact and Governance Initiative (DIGI) at New America


Alek Tarkowski
with: maxigas (critical infrastructure lab),
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