Improving Governance of Next-generation ICT Infrastructure (Fall 2009 to Fall 2012)

Date: Fall 2009 to Fall 2012

Funding: $698,030

SBE Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences
NSF Program(s): CDI TYPE I

Authors: Principal Investigator: Johannes Bauer Co Principal Investigators: Erik Goodman, Kurt DeMaagd

Information and communication technologies (ICT) have become an integral part of work and social relations. They enhance the quality of life and are prerequisites for continued economic growth and international competitiveness. Next-generation ICT infrastructure (e.g., fiber optical networks, broadband wireless) will support further innovative applications and services in health care, education, and commerce and expand the opportunities for civic participation in public affairs. Successful deployment of next-generation networks and services requires the collaboration of an increasing number of specialized firms. Their working is therefore contingent upon many technical, legal, regulatory, and business agreements.

Some of these governance arrangements will emerge from private, decentralized negotiations but others will have to be developed jointly by users, suppliers, and government. Past experience and existing tools used by managers and policy makers are deficient for addressing the upcoming challenges. Most importantly, they do not take into account the multiple interdependencies and feedbacks that characterize modern ICT. This project sets out to develop new conceptual foundations and practical modeling tools that are appropriate for state-of-the-art ICT. These tools will help improve governance arrangements (including voluntary industry agreements, government regulation, and legislation). To this end, the research team will develop simulations of the U.S. ICT infrastructure that capture the key technological, economic, and policy aspects of the ICT infrastructure.

Combining genetic programming and agent-based modeling techniques will allow first finding a reasonable representation of this complex adaptive system. This framework will then guide systematic exploration of the effects of different governance choices on ICT infrastructure performance. Alternative governance choices modify behavior of individuals or groups of stakeholders which will be captured in the rules followed by the agents in the simulation. The computational approach allows the systematic exploration of how such governance choices affect the performance of the ICT system after relevant feedbacks and indirect effects are taken into account.

During the next decade, the U.S. will have to make important ICT governance decisions that may influence the course of ICT development for a long time with substantial economic and social implications. The project will develop a modeling framework in which, for the first time in the field of ICT, the performance consequences of alternative management and public policy choices can be explored in virtual space rather than by potentially costly trial-and-error. It will contribute to the formation of new theories of the interaction between governance and the performance of complex adaptive systems but also spawn practical tools that can be used to improve such decisions. Experts in industry, government, and research will be briefed and consulted throughout the whole project to improve the relevance of the research and share preliminary findings with practitioners. Moreover, the project will generate new modules that can be used in teaching. As ICT infrastructure is one example of a class of complex adaptive systems, the project will also develop groundwork for similar approaches in other areas.

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