MacLean, D., International Institute for Sustainable Development
In the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial and economic crises, the attention of policy makers at the OECD, G20, and United Nations has begun to focus on the role of the Internet and other ICTs in enabling “green growth” — the transition to a “green economy” through policies that balance economic growth with social development and environmental sustainability. This is new terrain for policy-makers and policy researchers. Although a lot of attention has been paid to the impact of the Internet and ICTs on economies and societies, and even though work has begun on the environmental impacts of these technologies, very little has been done to systematically identify and examine policy issues arising from the relationship between the development of the Internet, the use of ICTs, and the goals sustainable development. The paper aims to help establish the foundations for a policy research program in this area. It reviews existing literature on the relationship between the Internet, ICTs and sustainable development and proposes a conceptual framework for advancing research on critical policy and governance issues related to this relationship, by identifying major knowledge gaps in the current literature. The paper then assesses the results of two multi-year research projects undertaken by the International Institute for Sustainable Development in relation to these knowledge gaps. One of these projects aimed at addressing substantive Internet policy and governance issues, while the other aimed at identifying principles and practices underlying successful policy design and adaptation in complex, uncertain environments that could apply to Internet policy as well as in other domains. On the basis of its assessment of the results of these projects, the paper concludes by proposing a aresearch agenda on critical policy and governance issues arising from the relationship between the Internet, ICTs and sustainable development.