Thematic Deep-Dive: Global digital commons

Guiding questions:

  1. Which challenges in the domain of digital transformation can be addressed by strengthening “global digital commons”? What could a “global digital commons” approach entail – in terms of possible principles, values, and ideas? How should these principles influence the creation of “global digital commons” and their governance?
  2. Digital public goods (DPGs) and digital public infrastructures are increasingly part of countries’ digital transformations, including by promoting digital inclusion, as well as supporting other sectors such as health, environment, and education. What are the main challenges with regards to digital public infrastructure? How can the GDC contribute to the safety and inclusivity of digital public infrastructure and mitigate potential harm? How can the GDC contribute to strengthening the global DPG ecosystem and increase local adoption of DPGs?

Thematic Deep-Dive: Accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Guiding questions:

  1. Given existing experience, especially from the Global South, where and how is digital technology helping to deliver on the SDGs (eg health, water, jobs environment)? How can experiences be shared effectively? Are there any principles and approaches that could be generalized?
  2. How can Member States, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, and individuals work together to design and apply digital technologies for the purpose of accelerating process on the SDGs? What role could capacity-development of public officials and other development stakeholders play in this regard?
  3. Which future challenges, for example with regards to environmental sustainability, could digital technologies create or help solve in relations to the SDG? What measures could support stakeholders in tackling these issues?

UN Secretary-General issues policy brief for Global Digital Compact

As part of the process towards developing a Global Digital Compact (GDC), the UN Secretary-General has issued a policy brief outlining areas in which ‘the need for multistakeholder digital cooperation is urgent’: closing the digital divide and advancing sustainable development goals (SDGs), making the online space open and safe for everyone, and governing artificial intelligence (AI) for humanity. 

The policy brief also suggests objectives and actions to advance such cooperation and ‘safeguard and advance our digital future’. These are structured around the following topics:

  • Digital connectivity and capacity building. The overarching objectives here are to close the digital divide and empower people to participate fully in the digital economy. Proposed actions range from common targets for universal and meaningful connectivity to putting in place or strengthening public education for digital literacy. 
  • Digital cooperation to accelerate progress on the SDGs. Objectives include making targeted investments in digital public infrastructure and services, making data representative, interoperable, and accessible, and developing globally harmonised digital sustainability standards. Among the proposed actions are the development of definitions of safe, inclusive, and sustainable digital public infrastructures, fostering open and accessible data ecosystems, and developing a common blueprint on digital transformation (something the UN would do). 
  • Upholding human rights. Putting human rights at the centre of the digital future, ending the gender digital divide, and protecting workers are the outlined objectives in this area. One key proposed action is the establishment of a digital human rights advisory mechanism, facilitated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to provide guidance on human rights and technology issues. 
  • An inclusive, open, secure, and shared internet. There are two objectives: safeguarding the free and shared nature of the internet, and reinforcing accountable multistakeholder governance. Some of the proposed actions include commitments from governments to avoid blanket internet shutdowns and refrain from actions disrupting critical infrastructures.
  • Digital trust and security. Objectives range from strengthening multistakeholder cooperation to elaborate norms, guidelines, and principles on the responsible use of digital technologies, to building capacity and expanding the global cybersecurity workforce. The proposed overarching action is for stakeholders to commit to developing common standards and industry codes of conduct to address harmful content on digital platforms. 
  • Data protection and empowerment. Ensuring that data are governed for the benefit of all, empowering people to control their personal data, and developing interoperable standards for data quality as envisioned as key objectives. Among the proposed actions are an invitation for countries to consider adopting a declaration on data rights and seeking convergence on principles for data governance through a potential Global Data Compact. 
  • Agile governance of AI and other emerging technologies. The proposed objectives relate to ensuring transparency, reliability, safety, and human control in the design and use of AI; putting transparency, fairness, and accountability at the core of AI governance; and combining existing norms, regulations, and standards into a framework for agile governance of AI. Actions envisioned range from establishing a high-level advisory body for AI to building regulatory capacity in the public sector. 
  • Global digital commons. Objectives include ensuring inclusive digital cooperation, enabling regular and sustained exchanges across states, regions, and industry sectors, and developing and governing technologies in ways that enable sustainable development, empower people, and address harms. 

The document further notes that ‘the success of a GDC will rest on its implementation’. This implementation would be done by different stakeholders at the national, regional, and sectoral level, and be supported by spaces such as the Internet Governance Forum and the World Summit on the Information Society Forum. One suggested way to support multistakeholder participation is through a trust fund that could sponsor a Digital Cooperation Fellowship Programme. 

As a mechanism to follow up on the implementation of the GDC, the policy brief suggests that the Secretary-General could be tasked to convene an annual Digital Cooperation Forum (DCF). The mandate of the forum would also include, among other things, facilitating collaboration across digital multistakeholder frameworks and reducing duplication; promoting cross-border learning in digital governance; and identifying and promoting policy solutions to emerging digital challenges and governance gaps.

Thematic Deep-Dive: Digital trust and security

Guiding questions:

  1. Digital spaces and online platforms can be exploited by actors for financial,
    criminal, social, political, or malicious goals – to spread falsehood, violent and
    extreme content, perpetrate scams and other crimes, and manipulate online
    behaviors. Which collaborative measures undertaken by Governments, the
    private sector and civil society have proved effective in tackling such misuse
    so far? How can global digital cooperation strengthen their implementation?
  1. Different jurisdictions apply different norms to online behaviors. Different
    online platforms apply different policies to similar online behaviors. How can
    Member States, the private sector and relevant stakeholders engage to define
    common frameworks to address the challenges to online safety?
  2. Regarding mis/disinformation and online harm, what policies, frameworks
    and measures can be adopted by governments and companies to protect the
    integrity of public information and preserve civic spaces for public debate?
  3. What digital cooperation measures, for example trust labels, audits, and
    certification schemes, can stakeholders consider promoting trust and safety for
    consumer products and services, including AI models? How can we enhance
    digital literacy skills and training so that people are empowered to protect
    themselves?

Thematic Deep-Dive: Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies

Guiding questions:

  1. How can we move from principles to practical measures that will help guide
    and lead the application of AI technologies in different contexts, and how can
    these be aligned?
  2. How can regulators and innovators work together to promote the development
    and rollout of new emerging technologies while protecting human and
    planetary safety, human agency, and fundamental rights?
  3. What measures can be taken to ensure that AI and other emerging
    technologies promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals?

Thematic Deep-Dive: Human rights online

Guiding questions:

  1. Digital technologies can greatly contribute to the protection of human rights. However, digital surveillance, censorship, algorithmic bias, online harassment, and other forms of abuse can suppress or violate human rights. How can women and girls, children, and persons in vulnerable situations such as persons with disabilities or persons belonging to linguistic minorities be supported in exercising their human rights online?
  2. What are the gaps in terms of existing mechanisms for protection and promotion of human rights in the digital domain? How can accountability of digital platforms – public and private – be strengthened?
  3. How can international organizations, Member States and other stakeholders work together to ensure human rights offline are protected online?