Leveraging sustainable digital transformation

9 Dec 2021 15:50h - 17:20h

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Event report

This workshop discussed ways to build more inclusive digital cooperation and reflected on regional initiatives leveraging sustainable digital transformation in the Global South. In the first part of the session, participants discussed the legal prerequisites for enabling free, secure, open internet and digital cooperation. In the second part, participants discussed data governance and its role in sustainable digital transformation. 

Reflecting on the enabling regulatory environment to promote a free, secure, open internet, Ms Nnenna Nwakanma (Chief Web Advocate, World Wide Web Foundation) stated that it is most important to keep the original vision of the internet in mind when talking about regulatory policies. Nwakanma pointed out that the government or any other stakeholder alone will not be able to address this issue and that multistakeholder involvement is crucial.

Speaking from the perspective of Latin America, Mr Edwin Fernando Rojas Mejia (Senior Economic Affairs Assistant, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)) noted that internet access is a major issue. He emphasised that in the current context, the digitalisation of companies is not only a question of productivity but of survival. Speaking of the joint UN ECLAC and Internet and Jurisdiction Policy Network report, Rojas Mejia summed up its findings by stating that the cross-border legal challenges and insufficient coordination of all actors involved have a major impact on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region.

Mr Didier Nkurikiyimfura (Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Smart Africa) presented the African perspective. He pointed out the main issues to be addressed: access to broadband, innovative financing to scale up the digital economy, the need for content in local languages, and digital literacy. Nkurikiyimfura agreed with Nwakanma on the need to implement the multistakeholder model to address these issues and further stated that the exchange of practices and the harmonisation of laws are major contributors to the digital transformation of the whole region.

Discussing the interplay between national, regional, and global policies and regulations and the related forums, Nwakanma and Nkurikiyimfura agreed that the national level matters the most due to direct accountability and proximity to internet users. Rojas Mejia added that given the global nature of technologies and the internet, there is a need for coordination between national and global regulatory formulation.

The first part of the workshop concluded with a question from Ms Sonia Jorge (Executive Director, Alliance for Affordable Internet) regarding examples of successful policy and regulatory frameworks. Nkurikiyimfura cited the examples of the Council of African Regulators and the Council of ICT Ministers, while Rojas Mejia named the work of the Pacific Alliance on strategies for digital markets.

In the second half of the workshop, participants discussed the role that data governance and digital ID frameworks play in leveraging sustainable digital transformation.

Mr Christian Minoungou (Policy Officer, African Union Commission) spoke about the current work within the African Union (AU) to address data governance and digital ID challenges through new policies. The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa 2020-2030 identifies data governance and digital ID as two of the measures for digital transformation. The AU is currently drafting a data policy framework to guide AU member states in developing national data systems, as well as a framework on digital ID.

Speaking about data governance from the global trade perspective, Ms Maria Fernanda Garza Merodio (First Vice-Chair, International Chamber of Commerce) spoke about the importance of common agreed frameworks on how data is shared, secured, and regulated for the future of digitalisation and reinvigoration of the economy and of the international trading system. She identified as main challenges the need for a global interoperable network to reduce barriers to the free flow of data across international borders, and trust to ensure important policy objectives such as privacy and data protection continue to be addressed.

Ms Georgina Núñez (Economic Affairs Officer, UN ECLAC) explained the complexities of data governance, data protection, and cross-border data flows in Latin American countries. She pointed out that Latin America is far from harmonising with the global level and pointed out three main issues of importance for data governance: cross-border data flows, the necessity to recognise the value of data, and the need to create a data marketplace to enhance competition and data interoperability.

The session concluded with a question from Mr Atsushi Yamanaka (Chief Advisor, Rwanda ICT Innovation Ecosystem Strengthening Project and Professor, Kobe Institute of Computing) regarding the possibility of mitigating the different paces of technology development and passing related regulation. Participants concluded that there is an urgent need to enhance cooperational governance, explore commonalities in the approaches, and promote interoperability to find ways of avoiding duplicative requirements and needless administrative burdens.

By Pavlina Ittelson

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