Capacity development

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Capacity development is often defined as the improvement of knowledge, skills and institutions to make effective use of resources and opportunities. Widespread on the agenda of international development agencies, capacity development programs range from societal to individual level and include a diversity of strategies, from fundraising to targeted training. Capacity development for Internet-related matters comprises both the strengthening of institutional capacities (in particular for technical deployment, policy-making and implementation) and the development of individual competences (skills and abilities pertaining to the information society, including computer literacy, privacy safeguards, etc.). The effectiveness and legitimacy of Internet governance depend on the capacity of nations, organisations, and individuals to participate fully in Internet governance policy processes. In the outcome documents of the World Summit on Information Society (2003/2005), capacity development is underscored as a priority for developing countries. Likewise, the outcome document of the high-level meeting of the GA on the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of WSIS calls for further investments into capacity development.

 

Capacity development could be defined by reference to types of capacities and levels at which they are developed. Types of capacities include:

  • Hard capacities include technical and specialised knowledge and know how (e.g. engineering knowledge).

  • Soft capacities are often divided in two sub-groups:

    • Operational capacities: intercultural communication, leadership, organisational culture and values, problem-solving skills.

    • Adaptive capacities: ability to analyse and adapt, change readiness and management, confidence.

Hard capacities are often referred to as being technical and visible, while soft capacities are described as rational and invisible.

The need for capacity development has been an underlying feature in Internet governance since the WSIS 2003–2005 outcome documents, which underscored capacity development as a priority for developing countries. Likewise, the 2015 WSIS+10 outcome document calls for further investment in capacity development.

Given the novel nature of Internet governance, the main focus has been on individual training and policy immersion.

Many organisations, including the ITU, DiploFoundation, and the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), APC, the Internet Society, and ICANN have dedicated capacity development programmes. Various regional summer schools on Internet governance also contribute to strengthening capacity, in particular for developing countries. Many of the available programmes focus on telecommunication infrastructure, technical standards, cybersecurity, spam, ICT regulation, freedom of expression, e-commerce, labour law, access, and overcoming the digital divide.

Hundreds of individuals have been trained in Internet governance and digital policy. The shift towards a more mature phase would require a stronger focus on organisational development, by ensuring sustained participation in policy processes. This includes developing the organisational capacities of governments, civil society, business associations, and academia in developing countries.  Organisational and system-level capacity development are becoming particularly relevant in dealing with issues such as cybersecurity.

Research on capacity development in general and experience from the Internet governance field lead towards the following highlights:

  • While the Internet is a global facility, Internet policy is often very local. It is shaped by local cultural and social specificities (e.g. cultural sensitivity for content, relevance of privacy protection). Thus, capacity development should follow local dynamics, taking into consideration local political, social, cultural, and other specific conditions in developing and implementing capacity development programmes and activities.

  • The urgency for capacity development could be addressed by providing just-in-time learning as a part of policy processes. Some elements of this approach are used by DiploFoundation and the GIP, in just-in-time training programmes for diplomats, as well as by ICANN, in its Fellowship Programme, and the Internet Society, in its IGF Ambassadors Programme.  

  • The growing need for capacity in the digital policy field has to be addressed at a more systemic level, by including Internet governance and related topics in the curriculum of academic post-graduate studies.

  • Genuine and sustainable empowerment can be achieved through holistic capacity development on individual, organisational, system, and network levels, as visualised in the capacity development butterfly.

Generally, the lack of sufficient resources and the limited sustainability of initiatives remain the main challenges for capacity development. Another challenge lies in the delicate line between neutral capacity development and advocacy.

Dr Tereza Horejsova

Project Development Director, DiploFoundation

Originally from the Czech Republic, Dr Tereza Horejsova is currently based in Washington DC. Joining Diplo in 2012, Tereza has had an international career in academia and the non-governmental sector in the Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland. During her stay in Geneva (2012‒2016), she coordinated the activities of the Geneva Internet Platform. She holds an MA in International Area Studies and a PhD in European Studies, both from the Charles University in Prague.

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