IGP New Paper: Digital Object Architecture and the Internet of Things

Nowadays the Internet community has a laundry list of things to be frightened about. In the Internet Governance Project’s new paper, we try to reduce that list by one. With the governments’ attempts to localize data, increase surveillance and curb freedom of expression, civil society especially is concerned with how the governance of IoT will play out. Since the ITU-T SG 20 meeting on IoT is forthcoming, we are receiving calls for civil society to fight against the adoption of the Digital Object Architecture as the IoT standard at ITU. But is this really an issue we should be worried about? Karim Farhat’s paper “Digital Object Architecture and the Internet of Things: Getting a ‘handle’ on techno-political competition“, provides a more realistic look at ITU standard setting for IoT devices.


The promise of vast new markets has created an array of alliances and consortia to develop competing standards and protocols for the Internet of Things (IoT). The ITU – DONA Foundation alliance is one such example. DONA’s Digital Object Architecture (DOA), a name-attribute binding service for managing distributed databases, presents itself as a potential solution for IoT challenges. But this proposed solution has been greeted with intense political opposition. Some have even called it an “Authoritarian Internet Power Grab.” This working paper aims to answer the question of why a 1990s-vintage technical proposal regarding naming and addressing has generated such polarization. Although part of a broader debate on critical IoT considerations, deconstructing the politics of the DOA debate will help uncover whether it is a viable competing technology for the IoT or, as its critics argue, a threat to multistakeholder Internet governance.

Citation: Karim Farhat (2017) ‘Digital Object Architecture and the Internet of Things: Getting a ‘Handle’ on Techno-Political Competition’; Internet Governance Project, Georgia Institute of Technology, Available at  http://www.internetgovernance.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Karim_Farhat_IoT_IGP.pdf




One comment

  1. Richard Hill

    Thank you for posting the link to this excellent paper. It corresponds well to my understanding of the situation. But please forgive me for the following quibbles:

    At the top of p. 3 the paper states “embraced by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)”. In reality, as the paper points out later one, there is significant lack of consensus in ITU regarding many aspects of DOI, in particular regarding how it can or should be used in IoT. The only agreement in ITU is to maintain the MoU with DONA, and this despite objections from the US and others.

    At the top of p. 6 the paper sates “WTSA-16 was seen as a break in the ITU’s technology-neutral stance.” Actually no meaningful agreements regarding DOI were reached at WTSA-16, so I think that it would be more accurate to say “WTSA-16 was seen as an attempt to break the ITU’s technology-neutral stance”. But I would argue that the ITU has not always been technology-neutral, X.509 being an example. However, I would agree that it would not be appropriate for the ITU to adopt some of the proposals that were presented to WTSA-16 regarding DOI.

    The text at Footnote 29 states “The ITU stated”, but the quotation is from the co-chairmen’s summary of a workshop. So the quotation is not a formal ITU statement, it is an informal statement from the co-chairmen. The workshop in question is at:


    In Footnote 41: the paper states “processes of the ITU and the DONA Foundation lack transparency”. I cannot speak for DONA. Regarding ITU, it is true that the processes are not fully open to the public, and were not at all open to the public in the past. However, any ITU member does have access to all the documentation, including archives, so ITU is transparent if you are a member (or can get access through a member, for example a Member State).

    But these are just quibbles which do not detract from the overall excellence of the paper.

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