There's a fierce, significant debate—globally and within states—to set the rules for governance of the Internet. This is a debate about the nature of Internet freedom, about the structure of industry and about the fragility and stability of governments and the vitality of civil society. How the Internet eco-system will continue to have vast implications for institutions and, of course, individuals.

The Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) is a project at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. The overarching goal of the program is to deepen the reservoir of researchers and advocates in regions where Internet freedom is threatened or curtailed and to support the production of innovative, high-quality, and impactful internet policy research. The IPO facilitates collaboration between research and advocacy communities, builds research mentorships between emerging and established scholars, and engages in trainings to build capacity for more impactful digital rights research and advocacy. 

Through the IPO’s three-pronged approach, the program seeks to educate a network of advocates and researchers, produce high-impact, locally-relevant research in furtherance of Internet freedom objectives, and help connect researchers and mentors to foster collaboration, mobilization, and increase research impact.

Research Capacity building among Civil Society, Journalists, Scholars and Other Stakeholders 

Through its programming, the IPO seeks to provide resources, programs, and trainings in order to build capacity for conducting research and to link relevant and methodologically sophisticated internet policy research with advocacy efforts. 

Our Research Methods for Advocates Workshops bring together young scholars, technologists, policymakers and activists working in digital rights and Internet policy spaces around the world to regional intensive training sessions that seek to provide tangible and relevant research skills with the goal of enhancing and advancing advocacy efforts. The IPO’s Research Mentorship Program provides seed funding for early career researchers from the Global South and matches them with experienced research mentors to build, implement, and publish internet policy research. The IPO continually provides resources and guides for conducting internet policy research and using research for advocacy. 

Producing Impactful and Locally Relevant Internet Policy Research 

As part of its mission, the IPO seeks to support and generate innovative research examining the dynamic technological, legal, political, social, and economic factors that influence the evolution of internet policies at the local, regional, and international level. As part of this research, the IPO is particularly interested in the relationship between national efforts and international policy formations, the role of civil society in domestic Internet policy processes and control, the negotiation of public and private governance online, and comparative approaches to understanding how regimes adapt, evolve, and learn methods for controlling content online and stifling internet freedom.

Please click here to see our recent publications. For current call for proposals, please click here.

Building, Connecting and Expanding the Internet Policy Research Community

The IPO maximizes the impact of research projects through leveraging strategic partnerships with policymakers, activists, and researchers who are important nodes in the internet governance ecosystem. Serving as a nexus between academic and advocacy spaces, the IPO calls on activist organizations to identify important research gaps and data needs and then works with academic partners to train researchers, collaborate with NGOs, and develop targeted research products. Through events and collaborative partnerships, we seek to engage in conversations about making research more impactful and encouraging empirical, data-driven advocacy and policymaking efforts.

To learn more about the project, please email internetpolicy@asc.upenn.edu