Capacity development


According to a report, Facebook on 6 February 2019 announced the GOAL (Going Online As Leaders) programme, which seeks to empower, guide and inspire tribal girls across selected communities in India to become young digital leaders in their communities.

According to the report, the programme which will run in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh states, will nurture and train young girls from India’s tribal villages on core competency areas such as digital literacy, life skills, leadership and entrepreneurship.

Facebook, in a reported session at the 2019 edition of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, held in Sri Lanka from 16-21 January, has outlined its efforts at curbing misinformation and promoting online safety through digital literacy skills programmes.According to Shelley Thakral, head of policy programmes (India, South Asia and Central Asia) at Facebook, the company has partnered with civil society organisations in Sri Lanka to promote digital literacy and economic development. Thakral cited an initiative in collaboration with Sarvodaya, one of the oldest civil society organisations in Sri Lanka, that aims to train up to 20 000 school children by the end of 2019 on how to stay safe on social media.

In order to answer to industry shortages, the United Kingdom has launched a new cyber skills strategy that will be supported by a newly formed independent body. The move confirms that cybersecurity will remain an important priority of the government and "central not only to our national security but also fundamental to becoming the world’s best digital economy". The launch of the strategy was preceded by a two-year multi-sectoral consultation process and a research into cybersecurity skills gap in the country.

Re:publica, Europe’s largest conference on the topics of Internet and digital society has successfully concluded its first ever conference Africa in Accra, Ghana dubbed Re:publica Accra. The 2-day conference which took place on the 14-15 December 2018 was organized in collaboration with Impact Hub Accra with support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Corporation and Development (BMZ). The conference discussed issues on such topics as Net Neutrality, Data Protection, Civil Rights and other digital and societal issues bothering on ‘Access’, ‘Gender’, ‘Waste’, ‘Future’, ‘Tech for Good’ among others.

At the opening of the annual UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF), held at UNESCO premises in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron launched the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace”, a high-level declaration on developing common principles for securing cyberspace. The Paris Call builds on the WSIS Tunis Agenda’s definition of the ‘respective roles’ of states and other stakeholders. It also resonates with the UN Group of Governmental Experts reaffirmation that international law applies to cyberspace. The declaration invites for support to victims both during peacetime and armed conflict, reaffirms Budapest Convention as the key tool for combating cybercrime, recognises the responsibility of private sector for products security, and calls for broad digital cooperation and capacity-building. It than invites signatories to, among other, prevent damaging general availability or integrity of the public core of the Internet, foreign intervention in electoral processes, ICT-enabled theft of intellectual property for competitive advantage, and non-state actors from ‘hacking-back’. The Paris Call has strong initial support from hundreds of signatories, including leading tech companies and many governments. Yet the USA, Russia, and China are missing. The declaration and its effects will be discussed again during the Paris Peace Forum in 2019, as well as during the IGF 2019 in Berlin.

At the first official update to the community, Jovan Kurbalija used a virtual town hall meeting to talk about the role of capacity development in the work of the High-Level Panel on Digital Co-operation. He stressed that all stakeholders need capacity development to deal with digital policy issues and that the process of the Panel as such already increases the capacity due to its efforts for inclusivity. In fact, capacity development has been one of the success criteria as identified by the UN Secretary General. Kurbalija reassured that the Panel work will not just bring general concepts but will try to submit suggestions for very concrete next steps.

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.




As part of its Emerging Security Challenges Programme, the GCSP has a


As part of its Emerging Security Challenges Programme, the GCSP has a cybersecurity cluster which tackles cybersecurity issues through education and training activities, as well as policy analysis and events. The cluster also provides a platform for dialogue and exchanges on cyber challenges, among cyber experts from the public, private, and civil society sectors. The training and education activities cover areas such as cybersecurity strategy formulation, cyber diplomacy, and broader capacity building initiatives (e.g. workshops and student challenges). Policy papers produced by the GCSP examine issues such as computer network defence, future challenges in cyberspace.

(Graduate Institute)

Internet governance and digital policy are part of the educational, training, and research activities carried out by the Institute.


Internet governance and digital policy are part of the educational, training, and research activities carried out by the Institute. Its master programme in international affairs includes one course on Internet governance, aimed to introduce students to the economics of the Internet and its underlying governance. Researchers at the Institute often choose Internet-related topics for their studies, such as: multistakeholderism and Internet governance organisations; jurisdiction, international law, and the Internet; the digital sharing economy; and cybersecurity. Workshops, seminars, and other events organised by the Institute also cover Internet-related issues, ranging from the digital divide, through cloud computing, to cybersecurity.



In the area of online content policy, the ICT for Peace Foundation is engaged in activities concerning the use


In the area of online content policy, the ICT for Peace Foundation is engaged in activities concerning the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes. The Foundation is organising events and producing publications on this issue, with the main aim of raising awareness and promoting a multistakeholder dialogue on possible solutions for countering terrorist use of the Internet. Together with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, the organisation runs a global engagement project working with other stakeholders to develop community standards around the prevention of violent extremism online, consistent with UN principles, including in the area of human rights.


In line with its objective to build strong and democratic parliaments, the IPU assists parliaments in building


In line with its objective to build strong and democratic parliaments, the IPU assists parliaments in building their capacity to use information and communications technologies (ICT) effectively. In 2005, the IPU, together with UNDESA, established a Global Centre on ICT in Parliament, mainly aimed at promoting the use of ICTs in parliaments as a mean to increase transparency and effectiveness. The IPU has also been mandated by its member states to carry on capacity development programmes for parliamentary bodies tasked to oversee observance of the right to privacy and individual freedoms in the digital environment.


UNCTAD’s activities in the field of capacity development cover various issues.


UNCTAD’s activities in the field of capacity development cover various issues. The entity helps build the capacity of policymakers and lawmakers at national level in understanding the underlying issues underpinning e-commerce (ranging from e-signatures, to privacy and data protection) and in developing enabling legislation and policies. It also works on building the capacity of developing countries to produce official statistics on the information economy, and to use those statistics to guide ICT policies. UNCTAD assists countries in developing enabling policies for science, technology, and innovation as key drivers of economic and social development.  The organisation also focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs through technology.


The University of Geneva provides courses focused on Internet and law.


The University of Geneva provides courses focused on Internet and law. It also organises an annual Internet L@w Summer School, aimed at providing participants with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the framework of an Internet law clinic, and discuss Internet law and policy issues such as cybersecurity, privacy, freedom of expression, and intellectual property. In 2016, UNIGE launched a Geneva Internet L@w Research Colloquium. Research carried out at UNIGE covers digital policy issues such as freedom of expression online, copyright, and the Internet of Things. The University also organises seminars and conferences focused on a broad range of digital issues.


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Childnet International
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Resolutions & Declarations

Wuzhen World Internet Conference Declaration (2015)


Other Instruments

ITU: Reviewing Global Internet Governance Capacity Development and Identifying Opportunities for Collaboration (2017)
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

Blockchains for Sustainable Development (2018)
Data & diplomats: capacity development for diplomats and policy-makers in the data age (2018)
The Global i-Guides Meeting: How the Online Investment Guides Can Help Promote and Facilitate Investment (2018)
Closing session: Implementation of the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data – the way forward (2018)
The Open Algorithms (OPAL) Project: What has been achieved in Senegal and Colombia and how can it scale? (2018)
Relevant to everyone’s sense of “me, here, now”: data literacy as the means towards a social inclusion revolution (2018)
Matchmaking for the data revolution: bringing data producers and users together (2018)
Increasing Trust in Data and Statistics (2018)
Developing Capacities for the 2030 Agenda: Moving towards Implementation (2018)
Effective Capacity Building and Technical Assistance in a world of data: How to say no and better coordinate technical assistance (2018)
Sustainable technology-enabled trade and a more inclusive trading system - Small state, ACP States, LDC and SSA perspective (2018)
Competition issues in the context of technology and internet-based firms (2018)
Closing Session - Future of the IGF (2018)
The Domain Name System – How It Works (2018)
Open Mic Session (2018)
Create Your Digital Future: Transforming Lives and Businesses in Europe (2018)
Converging Markets and Blurred Borders – Challenges for E-commerce in Europe (2018)
Building on a Blockchain (2018)
The elephant in the room: The funding dimension of capacity development (2018)
Disrupting Development through Science, Technology and Innovation (2018)
Remedy against the Machine (2017)
Safer Internet for Children, Mitigation of Conflicts and Language and Communication for Peace (2017)
How Can Technological Solutions Advance Cybersecurity? (2017)
E-Caravan for Peace: Promoting E-commerce in Conflict and Post-conflict Situations’ (2017)
High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (2017)
Digital citizenship, Integration, and Participation (2017)
From Internet Users to Digital Citizens (2017)
Critical Internet Literacy (2017)
NRI Assembly – European Contribution to Global IG Process (2017)
Internet in the ‘Post-truth’ Era? (2017)
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


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13th IGF 2018


WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WTO Public Forum 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WTO Public Forum 2016

WSIS Forum 2016


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

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