IGF 2019 Messages

November 2019

Data Governance

To provide a high-level overview for decision-makers of the most current thinking on key Internet governance issues, discussions from IGF 2019 sessions on the theme of data governance have been distilled into the following Berlin IGF Messages.

Cross-border data flows and development

  • Flows of data and information link up communities, cities, countries and continents, bringing people together beyond traditional barriers established through politics, through religion or social status.
  • As data crosses borders, multiple legal and regulatory frameworks, such as personal data protection regulations, data disclosure requirements and judicial redress processes often apply, with the potential to produce uncertainty in global data-driven supply chains, with the potential to adversely affect economic and social development, innovation, and as well as place constraints on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and introduce security risks.
  • Working collaboratively in a global context on developing commonly agreed values and principles for data frameworks could assist in building confidence in cross-border data flows, with resultant economic and social benefits. Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) lacking the resources to map differing national legal regimes would particularly benefit from increased confidence in their ability to reach out to customers in other national market.

Data: the key resource of our economy and society

  • Evidence shows that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and open data can assist in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals by contributing to the establishment of inclusive and empowered knowledge societies. Already, today, our everyday lives are being supported and influenced by digital applications that rely on big data and algorithms.
  • The global trend towards urbanization has brought about challenges in urban mobility, public health, and equitable access to public services and equal opportunities. Increasing uptake of Internet of Things (IoT) in urban infrastructure also inevitably results in more data being produced, collected and shared. It is essential to ensure public services are people-centric and data-driven, with participation and transparency in the design of services. Sustainable development and the protection of fundamental rights of all people, including marginalized groups, should be the overarching goals for policymaking, that also allows for integrated services and innovation to drive efficiency and equality.
  • A lack of adequate global and national human-centric data governance limits data’s potential as a key resource for sustainable development. Current data governance models support the concentration of access to data to only a few very large technology companies. Meanwhile, the human sources of data, as well as smaller businesses and developing countries, are excluded from sharing and benefitting from the value of their own data, while simultaneously being vulnerable to data breaches and attacks on their privacy rights.
  • Data governance challenges are also increasingly seen through the lens of human rights risks and not just as ethical dilemmas. This lens has widened to bring into context issues related to corporate environmental and social responsibility, and the sufficiency and accountability of the current global governance and public policies related to the Internet.
  • Effective data governance is essential in building smart cities that foster the creation and delivery of effective, innovative and sustainable public services. Data-driven public services, including mobility services, should be governed in a manner that is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals through a holistic and integrated approach.

Data governance, ethics and fundamental rights

  • Data governance challenges are increasingly seen through the lens of human rights risks.
  • Artificial Intelligence and algorithms, if not governed effectively, can be used to monitor and manipulate behaviour, to besiege us with ever more targeted and intrusive advertising, to manipulate voters and stifle freedom of expression. Algorithmic discrimination affects labour market, the criminal justice system and access to public services.
  • There needs to be a balance between the need to protect children’s data and children’s ability to participate online in meaningful ways. In particular, parental control – both too much and too little – can limit children’s ability to benefit from digitalization with both the data protection rights and active permission of children to use their data often overlooked. Integrated digital literacy programmes at school are essential to improving children’s digital literacy at both the national and local levels.
  • Use of AI on anonymized big data sets can de-anonymize and identify specific individuals within the data sets.
  • When developing algorithms there should be a policy balance between being able to extract knowledge that can be used for good and knowledge that can be used to infringe on the fundamental rights of people whose data has been collected.
  • Appropriate protocols for data interoperability need to be part of data governance models.

Digital Inclusion

Inclusive Access to the Internet and Its Infrastructure

  • For developing and least developed countries to truly benefit from the potential of the Internet for development, it is important to build a culture of trust and knowledge exchange among governments and other stakeholders at national level.
  • Digital infrastructure development should not come at the expense of the development of other physical infrastructure.
  • Internet user growth has slowed down and connecting the unconnected remains a huge challenge. At the same time, attacks against Internet connectivity have become a dangerous instrument of politics. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 9.c on access is unlikely to be reached, with only 60-70% of the world’s population projected to be connected by 2025.
  • Mobile phone penetration is not a good way to measure progress towards achieving digital inclusion. Instead, assessment of digital inclusion is more usefully framed as assessing how many people are connected to a safe and secure Internet, and how many of people have “meaningful connectivity” – that is, connectivity to do what people find useful online, delivered at the right speed with sufficient data.
  • Community networks, where infrastructure is locally owned and managed, not only help connect the unconnected, but also create social bonds, strengthen local economies, increase access to knowledge and help achieve the SDGs, such as empowering women in getting online.
  • To be open to and supportive of community networks, regulators and policy makers should consider simplifying licensing regimes, providing dynamic spectrum access, and sometimes recognizing that the regulatory rules that apply in an urban environment might not necessarily work for remote and rural communities.
  • To achieve digital inclusion, there is a need to understand the differences between access and accessibility and to recognize and cater for their different requirements when engaging in policy dialogues. Access comes first, then comes the harder work of accessibility.
  • To improve the experience of persons with disabilities – the world’s largest minority, making up around 15% of the world’s population or one billion people – there is a need to agree upon and use universal design principles for accessibility across countries and regions. ICTs, including specially- developed technologies for persons with disabilities, to help break through communication and access barriers, enhance mobility and foster independent living and societal integration.

Capacity and Skills for Digital Inclusion and Innovation

  • Digital skills and literacy are as integral to digital inclusion as the ability to read and write are to social inclusion. Access to education and training are essential for people to gain employment. Schools and tertiary education institutions are well positioned to deliver on digital literacy needs, but educators may need help to better prepare for their increasingly important role in transferring digital skills to those who need them. Internet governance schools have also emerged as a targeted and effective platform for building knowledge and leadership across the diverse and growing field of Internet development, policy and regulation.
  • More resources are needed for capacity building across stakeholder groups. People must be empowered to articulate their own capacity building needs and be actively involved in efforts to respond to these needs. Effective governance is crucial to anticipating and meeting these needs, as building skills and social welfare systems requires time and creativity.
  • AI is creating new social challenges and affecting the labour market. Jobs of the future require skills that many people – particularly those who are already marginalized and those who live in the Global South – do not have. Policy and regulation needs to be developed inclusively to ensure that the jobs of the future offer decent and sustainable livelihoods for women and populations at the margins.
  • With employment opportunities are increasingly falling into the categories of “micro-work” or the “gig economy” and platform work replicating existing exclusions and gender divides, fair work principles for platform work are being developed and should be taken on board by policy-makers. Policies need to balance the ability of workers to do well with the ‘freedom’ many gig-workers enjoy while also providing an appropriate safety net to ensure these jobs are able to provide a decent and appropriate standard of living.

Social and Economic Inclusion, Gender Equality and Human Rights

  • Taxing social media use creates new barriers and restricts people’s day-to-day communications as well as their use of ICTs to generate income and is not an effective way for states to gain revenue.
  • Digital technologies have transformed the economy, creating extraordinary opportunities for economic development and commercial success across all sectors. As connectivity increases in low- and middle- income countries, remote and platform- mediated work provides an opportunity to overcome pervasive unemployment and provide new sources of income for qualified populations.
  • Technical innovations are there to serve people and not the other way around. We need to better understand the relationship between digital advances and inequality: inequality and exclusion drive social unrest and conflict; digital technologies can either widen digital, social and economic divides, or be a force to help reduce them.
  • Least developed and developing countries should be able to benefit from an equitable share of the digital wealth that the Internet enables. To achieve this, regulators and policy makers can support conducive environments that can incubates, develop, and grow local technology companies that can grow into large domestic, regional, and continental tech giants – the so‑called “new Silicon Valleys of the Global South”.
  • Bias and exclusion continue to be deeply imbedded in digital spaces. Discussion about inclusion of marginalized people should be at the centre of Internet governance and public policy conversations and not in the margins.
  • Securing work remains challenging for many, particularly for women, and working conditions are often dire. Everywhere, women, gender-diverse people, people from the global South and people of colour do not have the same opportunities, presence or influence in digital spaces as men, and people from the global North. Solutions have to be value based and practical. Infrastructure and connectivity issues must, therefore, be viewed from a gender perspective to understand and respond to the specific inclusion of women and gender-diverse people.

Local content and language diversity

  • Unconnected citizens of the Global South should be viewed as more than potential digital consumers of the tech giants of the north. Instead, it is important that as more people have access to the Internet from least developed and developing countries, that they are active contributors to the digital environment and not just consumers.
  • The adoption of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) needs further encouragement and support by all stakeholders to increase the benefits made possible by having Internet domains in local languages and scripts but.
  • Universal acceptance of IDNs and internationalized email addresses is not just a technical issue, it is also a policy issue. Governments and public entities should promote universal acceptance and lead by example through using IDNs themselves.
  • Copyright can be both an enabler of local content production as well a barrier to content creation and distribution. Creative Commons licences give content creators control over how their content is shared and re-used.
  • Digitization of local content and cultural heritage that does not take place with the active involvement of local communities generates a form of “extractivism” and exploitation.
  • Preserving heritage and promoting local content needs sustainable local production infrastructures and markets so that people can make a living out of creating content.

Security, Safety, Stability and Resilience

Safety and Security Online

  • The Internet will only achieve its potential as a channel of free speech and an engine for economic growth if it remains a safe place where people feel secure. Any cybersecurity approach must seek to preserve the benefits people enjoy while tackling the risks. This calls for holistic approaches to protect online users while building or keeping their trust in using the Internet.
  • Tackling hate speech is a shared responsibility of stakeholders. Different opinions on mechanisms or instruments should not stand in the way of working together towards a clearer and shared understanding of hateful content.
  • Security and people’s fundamental freedoms and rights can coexist, but sometimes there need to be trade-offs. However, prioritizing security over people’s freedoms and rights, including freedom of expression and privacy, must be legitimate, proportionate, and based on the rule of law.
  • Discussions on online safety need to rely on robust data.
  • Children’s rights are no different in the online or offline world – in particular their rights to play and their rights to protection from inappropriate, illegal and bullying behaviours as well as their rights to be protected from sexual abuse and commercial exploitation.
  • Making the Internet a safer environment for children can only be achieved by a diversity of measures and through collective responsibility, including recommendations for parents and caretakers to guide their children cope with potential risks and harms.
  • The international multistakeholder community needs to accurately define scope and terminology of issues on disinformation and interference of electoral processes, and to have a common understanding of what is considered acceptable and responsible behaviour and to make progress on capturing and raising awareness of accepted norms.
  • Achieving safety online requires involvement of stakeholders at different levels. Industry players and stakeholders should explore what is tangible and achievable when it comes to gathering and sharing information to prevent online abuse. A shared understanding amongst all players can lead to agreement on ways to act and cooperate.
  • Strengthening digital and media literacy is key to combatting the online and real world harms of the distribution of online misinformation. Strengthening people’s capacity to protect themselves, adapt and become resilient is key to minimizing the harmful effects of cyberbullying.

Security of the Infrastructure

  • While the current trend to tackle illicit or abusive content is to cancel, transfer, delete or suspend domain names via the Domain Name System seems like a quick and easy solution, it does not provide an effective and sustainable way to remove malicious content.
  • Online platforms and providers, while taking appropriate measures to delete or block illegal content, should also reach out to and cooperate with law enforcement agencies to provide information for preventive measures. Policy makers and responsible parties should gain more insight in the possibilities and limitations of technical measures solutions through collaborative multistakeholder partnerships.
  • More than a quarter of the Internet’s traffic now runs on IPv6. Stakeholders need to continue engaging and collaborating, so that this important transition continues to happen.

Policy and Cooperation

  • The future of the Internet is a shared responsibility. Multistakeholder and multidisciplinary dialogues are the most appropriate ways to find policy solutions and to identify physical world implications of behaviour and policy decisions in the online space.
  • For multistakeholder dialogue to evolve into effective consensus building and, finally, effective and predictable policy implementation, it would be helpful to standardize definitions and terms.
  • A safe space in dialogue and policy-making to disagree, to dissent and to protest should be preserved as it provides a valuable opportunity to achieve better outcomes, to correct course and to learn from each another.
  • Norms become embedded in behaviour over time. When actors feel the need to hide their behaviour from others, it is an indication that a norm has become established. Every effort to pursue what is considered proper behaviour contributes to establishing community-wide supported cybersecurity norms. This process benefits from the creativity of a multistakeholder and multidisciplinary approach.
  • The pace of technology development is outpacing traditional processes to put in place policy and regulatory processes to address security issues in a timely way. It is necessary to enhance collaboration to develop and implement policy solutions, and for norm development processes to be inclusive and respecting human rights.
  • Amidst the current atmosphere of escalating tensions between countries in cyberspace, resulting in the development of increasingly sophisticated cyberweapons, both defensive and offensive, it is ever more important to pursue effective confidence building measures (CBMs) to establish trust and promote global stability online.

Capacity building

  • We need to foster a more informed dialogue between stakeholders, based on a better understanding of the technical, legal and economic feasibility of the various digital sovereignty models being considered or implemented around the world as well as their implications for Internet governance.
  • Internet users have an obligation to contribute to their personal security online. However, they can only be expected to act as responsible users if they understand what is at stake, are aware of the risks, know their rights, and have learned how to act. Users, in particular children, need to be empowered. Cybersecurity training and capacity building should enable all users, including the more vulnerable groups and minorities, to become more secure online and able to demand and defend their human rights safely.
  • Significant opportunities exist to improve the global ecosystem security through meaningful actions that promote trust and increase capacity among nation states, and between states and other stakeholders. There are various forums, including the IGF, and initiatives for multilateral, regional and bilateral engagement, where states can build up relationships, exchange experiences and learn from innovative new approaches.
  • There is a need for curated, accurate information on security and safety best practices to be localized in many languages.