Engaging Digital actors, fostering effective digital policy and monitoring digital governance

2 May 2016 11:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

The session featured discussions on solutions aimed to assist business, academia, government and civil society stakeholders in navigating the Internet governance policy space and staying up to date with evolutions concerning various digital policy-related issues.

Dr Tereza Horejsova (Project Development Director, DiploFoundation, and Coordinator of the Geneva Internet Platform) opened the floor by introducing the GIP Digital Watch initiative and speaking about its benefits for stakeholders who want to keep up with global and regional Internet governance updates.

Mr Tomas Lamanauskas (Director of Public Policy at VipelCom’s Group) stated that the market for mobile operators is no longer national, but global, which makes the business landscape more intermeshed and complex. According to Lamanauskas, navigating through this landscape involves three pillars: quantitative data, policy updates in different countries, and accessibility challenges. He mentioned that the GIP Digital Watch observatory helped navigate these pillars.

Ms Constance Bommelaer (Senior Director of Global Internet Policy, Internet Society) explained why the Internet Society has decided to support the GIP Digital Watch observatory, by pointing out the importance of synthesised information for capacity building, and explaining the useful role of the observatory as a one stop shop where government officials can find information about Internet governance issues, without having to read 500 page-reports. A survey conducted by the Internet Society in March 2015, with approximately 800 participants, pointed to a saturation of forums and platforms for discussions on Internet governance issues, but underlined  a demand for better tailored resources for specific needs. Bommelaer mentioned there are quite a few initiatives doing similar work, and it would be more beneficial to all stakeholders if these efforts could be combined.

Prof. Jean-Henry Morin (Institute for Information Service Science, University of Geneva) shared his concern about two facts: the academia not being included enough in digital policy and governance discussions, and the discrepancies between local and global policy discussions. Morin also spoke of the need for sources such as the GIP Digital Watch observatory that could contribute to a better understanding of the Internet governance landscape.

Taking the floor afterwards was Mr Miguel Candia Ibarra (First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Paraguay to the UN), who spoke about the involvement of governmental bodies in different digital policy discussions on a global scale, and about how crucial the information provided is to the decision making processes. Underlining how valuable verifiable information is, Ibarra stated that the flexible, neutral, and timely updates provided by the GIP Digital Watch observatory are important for diplomats as himself.

Dr Jovan Kurbalija (Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform) summarised the panellists’ views with keywords such as: synthesised info, linking the local and global, verifiable, neutral, and timely information. ‘These keywords are the building blocks of an ideal platform.’ Kurbalija said, as he explained how GIP Digital Watch observatory operated.

Remote participants’ questions mainly focused on the neutrality of information platforms such as the GIP Digital Watch observatory, and on how to foster digital policies in developing countries. Kurbalija explained the training process for curators for the GIP Digital Watch observatory, along with the practice of giving space for different and opposing views as ways to ensuring the observatory’s neutrality. He also mentioned the plan to launch regional-national updates by the end of the year. Ibarra pointed to the importance of bringing ICT companies to be in dialogue with higher levels of government bodies. Lamanauskas emphasised the usefulness of using global tools to seek out familiarities and differences between countries with regard to digital policies.

The benefits of having printed material which reflects annual global developments were voiced by a participant, while another pointed to the absence of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the policy making discussions which is bound to affect them. There was consensus on the fact that remote participation and fellowships were not enough for digital policy discussion spaces to be considered open and inclusive.

by Su Sonia Herring