Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Faculty Publication on Information & Communication Standards

Jane K. Winn, Globalization and Standards: The Logic of Two-Level Games, 5 I/S: J. L. & Pol'y for Info. Soc'y 185 (2009).

Professor Winn’s article addresses the interaction of national and international organizations as they attempt to set technical standards for information and communication technology (ICT). Using Robert Putnam’s “two-level game’ analysis (from his article Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games, 42 Int'l Org. 427, 436 (1988)), she suggests ways that international bodies (Level I) can adopt ICT standards that will satisfy sometimes very different national (Level II) regulatory processes and priorities.

The emergence of global information products and services has led to “regulatory competition" between the United States and the European Union. Winn explains that the two are leaders in establishing ICT standards, but their approaches are based on very different regulatory cultures.

The European Union is a “coordinated market economy,” in which formal processes for developing standards is deemed legitimate. On the other hand, the United States, with its liberal market economy, perceives as legitimate both formal and informal standard-setting groups (such as private consortia that have been active and successful in developing ICT standards in recent decades).

The nimbleness of these private consortia in enacting national standards has repeatedly resulted in their ending up as de facto international standards in the marketplace. But these informal groups concern the European Union because, for instance, their processes are often not transparent nor open to all interested stakeholders. Other regulatory concerns, such as privacy, may also not be specifically addressed. Winn’s article proposes some alternatives that would preserve the agility of the informal processes while ensuring that regulatory concerns are met.

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