Digital Governance Cluster

New sources of multipolarity are emerging in the world: once the haven of states, new actors are emerging that are rapidly ‘taking control’ of the core functions of our digitalised public lives. This growth of new actors comes to the fore at a moment when key supporters of the global order are rethinking their approach to the multilateral system and are even making efforts to reassert national sovereignty.

However, the monopoly of the state in global governance is being fundamentally questioned, if not challenged, by the digital transformation. The rapid pace of technological diffusion and innovation upends existing forms of governance and necessitates the development of novel approaches. We see growth of regional poles, where regional powers respond to pressures of globalisation by resorting to traditional mechanisms of power and diplomacy in the digital sphere. We also see the emergence of ‘policy poles’, with different combinations of private and public actors vying for attention in specific policy fields in the global marketplace of ideas.

Digital technologies contribute to this set of profound challenges to the authority and legitimacy of the multilateral world order. Does technology break down barriers to participate in decision-making? Can governance of global technologies be entrusted to private actors alone or is there a way to ‘cascade’ global governance through regions and localities? Such questions address the difficulties in leveraging new technologies to enable effective participation in sub- and transnational institutions and the growing need for continued stakeholder engagement in global, regional and local governance.

UNU-CRIS conducts cutting-edge academic and policy-relevant research on the ongoing digital transformation of society. It critically examines the evolution of multistakeholder and democratic processes that relate not only to the governance of technology, but also how these processes use technologies in other policy spheres. It focuses, thereby, on the (potential) role of regional organizations in digital governance.

Current streams of research within the digital governance cluster include:

  • Chair in Digital Sovereignty 
  • mapping of regional organisations competences, discourses and policies in digital governance
  • understanding the tensions between legitimacy and efficiency in multistakeholder internet governance institutions
  • the reassertion of the state in global digital governance (‘digital sovereignty’)


Global and Regional Multistakeholder Institutions (GREMLIN): The Legitimacy of Multistakeholderism in Internet Governance

Chair in Digital Sovereignty

Completed projects

The Age of Digital Interdependence? A Critical Discourse Analysis of EU, US and ASEAN Digital Strategies

  • Researchers: Orsolya Gulyás, Haydn Wiles, Jamal Shahin
  • Funding: UNU-CRIS
    • 1 October 2020 – 31 December 2020

 Mapping Digital Governance Institutes

  • Researchers: Charlotte van Wieren, Jamal Shahin
  • Funding: UNU-CRIS
    • 1 November 2020 – 31 January 2021

Mapping Regional Competences in Digital Governance

  • Researchers: Jamal Shahin, Mansour Farah, Kimberly Anastacio
  • Funding: UNU-CRIS
    • 1 December 2020 – 28 February 2021

The Formulation of Cybersecurity Policies in Regional Organisations: Space for Manoeuvre?

  • Researchers: Charlotte van Wieren, Jamal Shahin
  • Funding: UNU-CRIS
    • 1 November 2020 – 31 January 2021

The Role of Emotion in the Exercise of Online Multistakeholder Dialogues: A Language Analysis

  • Researchers: Ferran Davesa, Jamal Shahin
  • Funding: VUB
    • 1 October 2019 – 31 December 2020