Capacity development


13 Apr 2017

In many nations, and especially those in the process of developing their ICT infrastructures, security often remains an afterthought. Cybersecurity capacity building is key to both mitigating negative cross-border externalities and maximising the benefits of ICT-led development, concludes a study by the Global Public Policy Institute. The authors argue that no country will be able to reap the full potential of ICTs without also building cybersecurity capacity to address the risks associated with connectivity, such as losing trust in digital infrastructures, cybercrime, or even threats to national security.

18 Feb 2017
A UK government programme led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will train at least 5700 teenagers in the country in cybersecurity skills by 2021 in order to boost Britain's defences against online attacks. The government has decided to do so after warnings of future skills shortage and concerns about security of the country's economy and infrastructure. Officials say the new Cyber Schools Programme aims to support and encourage pupils to develop some of the key skills they would need to work in cyber security and help defend the nation's businesses against online threats. Ministers are making up to £20 million available for extracurricular sessions which will see expert instructors drafted in to teach, test and train teenagers selected for the initiative. A "cyber curriculum" will be drawn up to mix classroom and online teaching with real-world challenges and hands-on work experience.
19 Nov 2016

The Council of Europe Octopus Conference 2016, held in Strasbourg from 16 to 18 November, gathered 300 cybercrime experts from 90 countries from all the stakeholders. The conference noted that cybercrime is increasing, while attacks against critical infrastructure, fraud, hate speech and terrorist activities were recognised as major threats. It was confirmed that the Budapest Convention, which celebrates its 15th Anniversary with 50 Parties of the treaty - Andora depositing the instrument of ratification during the meeting - remains the most relevant international agreement for combating cybercrime, both in terms of guidelines for national legislation and as a framework for capacity building and cooperation across stakeholders. Important improvements in legal environment have been recorded in Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America, mainly guided by the Budapest convention. Cooperation among stakeholders and law enforcement agencies was underlined as a key message of the conference.


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.



(G20 )


World Bank
(World Bank)

Freedom House
(Freedom House)

Childnet International
(Childnet International)


Access Now




Resolutions & Declarations

Wuzhen World Internet Conference Declaration (2015)


Other Instruments

Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (WSIS) (2005)



The UN GGE on Cybersecurity: The Important Drudgery of Capacity Building (2015)
Cyber Capacity Building in Ten Points (2014)
Capacity Development. How Should We Reframe it for the Digital Age? (2014)
Internet Governance and Capacity Building: A View from the Developing World (2013)


Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)


One Internet (2016)
Internet for All: A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption (2016)
The Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI) 2016 (2016)
Best Practice Forum on Strengthening Multistakeholder Participation Mechanisms (2015)
Developing Local Digital Leadership Skills and Capacity (2015)
Mobile for Development Impact (2015)
Cybersecurity Capacity Building in Developing Countries. Challenges and Opportunities (2015)
Riding the Digital Wave. The Impact of Cyber Capacity Development on Human Development (2014)
Best Practice Forum on Developing Meaningful Multistakeholder Mechanisms (2014)
Renewing the Knowledge Societies Vision for Peace and Sustainable Development (2013)
Smart Policies to Close the Digital Divide: Best Practices from Around the World (2012)

Conference proceedings

Message from the Geneva Internet Conference on Capacity Development (2015)

GIP event reports

Youth Employment in the Digital Economy (2017)
Special Session on Assessing eTrade Readiness of the Least Developed Countries (2017)
Kickstart of the Just-in-Time Course on Digital Commerce: Internet Functionality and Business Models (2017)
E-commerce in Africa (2017)
Cybersecurity and Cybercrime: New Tools for Better Cyber Protection (2017)
Dialogue on the Way Forward – World Café (2017)
Good Practices in Knowledge Management in the United Nations System (2017)
ICANN58: Joint Meeting ICANN Board & Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group (2017)
ICANN58: Public Forum 1 & 2 (2017)
ICANN58: Internet Governance Public Session (2017)
Report for Briefing for Heads of Missions: Digital Policy in South Eastern Europe (2017)
Report for Second Physical Meeting of the WSIS Forum 2017 Open Consultation Process (2017)
Report for the Second meeting of the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (2017)

Other resources

The Digital Economy & Society Index (2016)
ICANN Meetings Fellowship Program
Education and Leadership Programmes by ISOC


Sessions at IGF 2016

Sessions at WSIS Forum 2016

Sessions at IGF 2015

WSIS Forum 2016 Report

Capacity development depends on, but also complements efforts to, bridge the digital divide and ensure equal and inclusive access. ICT was unanimously described as a great enabler to bridge gaps between and within countries. Many panellists emphasised the importance of multistakeholder cooperation, private-public partnerships, and achieving local buy-in for successful capacity building.

The Moderated High-Level Policy Session (session 204) underscored the crucial importance of capacity development by linking it to the wellbeing of populations, economic and social development, justice, equality, and social inclusion. 

A number of panels stressed that capacity building is about expertise but also inclusion. Gender Equality and e-Skills Gap (session 178) emphasised gender equality and highlighted examples of individual ca-pacity building initiatives that aim to enable women to enter digital professions. Similarly, Acceleration of Girls Education and Rights to Ensure Sustainable Gender Empowerment Through ICTs (session 157) explicitly stressed the need to achieve gender equality in education and to include ICT skills in school curricula. SDG 4, calling for inclusive and equitable quality education, was the focus of Action Line C7 (E-learning) - Ensuring Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promot- ing Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All (session 189), which also directly addressed WSIS Action Lines 4 (capacity building) and 7 (ICT applications, especially e-learning). Looking at Action Line 4, the WSIS Action Line Facilitators Meeting (session 236) argued that it is not the infrastructure we need to focus on but rather improving people’s abilities to use applications. Inclusion in the IG process was the topic of Engaging Under-Represented Communities in Regional and Global Internet Governance Debates (session 138) which focused on challenges to participating in regional and global debates and suggested ways to better engage underrepresented countries and communities. Funding participation in national and regional IGFs and supporting local initiatives were important topics in the IGFSA Informational Session (session 227).

Examples of capacity building, including regulatory capacity and projects to build knowledge societies, were shared in Capacity Building, a Gateway for Development (session 156). From the perspective of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) and the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3), The Contribution IFIP IP3 Makes to WSIS SDGs (session 170) addressed issues of building capacity for a professional ICT workforce. 

A number of sessions outlined key issues to be addressed to support capacity building. Advancing Internet Governance Principles and Practice (session 107) stressed the importance of developing IG principles. Existing principles need to be communicated and disseminated so that they are well understood at the local level, and the drafting of these principles needs to be inclusive. Focusing on the African context, How to Develop Appropriate Strategies for Linkages Between ICT and SGDs (session 171) emphasised the importance of creating infrastructure for access to ICT. Building institutional capacity needs to include African diplomats and leaders as well as NGOs, businesses, and universities. WSIS+10 and Beyond: Where do we Stand in Africa? (session 140) also addressed capacity building in Africa and focused in particular on infrastructure needs. Engaging Digital Actors, Fostering Effective Digital Policy and Monitoring Digital Governance (session 167) stressed the need for and value of synthesised knowledge on capacity building and discussed the key contributions of the GIP Digital Watch observatory in detail. With similar intentions, session 130 showcased the work of the Global Internet Policy Observatory Tool


The GIP Digital Watch observatory is provided by

in partnership with

and members of the GIP Steering Committee


GIP Digital Watch is operated by

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