World Economic Forum: An open dialogue for collaboration in the digital economy and society

17 Dec 2017 15:00h - 16:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

Mr William Hoffman, Project Lead, World Economic Forum (WEF), opened the session and added that the IGF is all about collaboration and cooperation. Although WEF is not necessarily a technical partnership, it gives visibility to the IGF and gives it access to the Forum’s community. He highlighted WEF’s involvement in public-private partnerships

Mr William Drake, International Fellow and Lecturer, University of Zurich, spoke about data localisation and how governments are demanding data to be stored and processed within the country. This, he pointed out, restricts the free flow of data, and allows some countries to establish strong sovereignty-based policies. Even though data is integral to all economic trade, censorship of data, blocking access to major platforms, restricting freedom of expression, and other varieties of digital protectionist policies are having a negative impact. The negative impact is not just on global firms, it is also local as it affects small and medium level companies within the country by giving them less access to global content. He urged the mobilisation of Internet-based stakeholder groups to engage and provide input on data localisation issues.

Ms Marietje Schaake, Member, European Parliament, opened her remarks on a sceptical note by raising questions about the current methods of stakeholder engagement and planning. She raised the issue of a lack of understanding between governments and the tech community when it comes to framing policies for the Internet. She further added that the focus should be on bridging this gap in understanding and bringing the two multistakeholder platforms together for a positive impact.

Making a brief comment, Mr Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, said that technical solutions are not going to solve everything. He added that there is a need for newer mechanisms to solve policy issues. He criticised the irresponsible use of the Internet by a few users which affects the use of the Internet by all other users.

Answering the question on cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders. Drake called for the creation of informal agreements to find policy solutions. He stressed the need to have a broader pallet of governance tools and creativity in the process to reach a solution. Schaake called for the recognition and participation of other stakeholders who are equally relevant and can play a role in the process but are very often overlooked. She called on civil society to work with positive agendas to solve issues, as protesting is not always beneficial in reaching policy goals.

Drake stressed the need to stimulate both the global and multistakeholder communities for tackling policy challenges. Hoffman summarised the session and highlighted the need to bridge gaps between stakeholders, and the need for a better understanding, more creative policy tools, and more positive agendas for better functioning.

By Krishna Kumar Rajamannar