Exploring options for addressing the policy – technical communication barrier
Making sound decisions about the governance of rapidly emerging technologies like the Internet of Things is demanding at the domestic level. Coordination at the global level is even more difficult again. The pace of change coupled with the complexities of global supply chains, unclear lines of responsibility and liability, and problems of giving and obtaining consent make the IoT particularly challenging. For policymakers, the heightened insecurity created by the rapid expansion of the IoT marks a significant governance challenge.
The UK PETRAS Research Hub for the Standards, Governance and Policy of the IoT has been working to support the policy community in this endeavour. Poor communication between the technical and policy communities has been identified as one of the key impediments to informed policy decision making. This is not due to a lack of willingness but rather a lack of shared objectives between diverse actors.
We brought a group of people from the global policy community together with people from the security sector to work on communicating across a common problem – that of implementing a certification and labelling scheme for consumer IoT devices. The task was not to determine whether this was a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ idea. Rather, it was to identify which information policy advisors would need to help them reach a decision. In doing so, it became apparent that there was a significant gap in how these groups perceived the problem, the possible solutions and the pathway from one to the other.
Our report highlights that policymakers and those in the technical community face persistent communication challenges that go beyond terminology. Understanding one another’s perspectives better will be fundamental to moving forward with a global approach to shared cyber security problems in the IoT. The workshop marked a starting point in building a global community of technicians and policymakers who are interested in these issues and who are willing to work together to address them.
The full Global governance of the Internet of Things report can be read here (PDF).
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Dr Madeline Carr
Associate Professor of International Relations and Cyber Security