IGF 2020 Messages

November 2020

1. Data

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 1

What policies and concrete actions are needed to ensure that data collection and use can benefit all – including those in developing countries, marginalised communities and the unconnected?

  • Artificial intelligence relies on the data sets it is fed. This means that when content is missing from data sets, or actively excluded, it can result in artificial intelligence deepening existing divides, marginalisations and exclusions. In the area of health, particularly, this can have fatal consequences.
  • Significant efforts are needed to provide wider, more inclusive data sets and to take active measures to counter bias by those who gather, process and use data.
  • “Nothing about me without me”. Consent processes for data collection should be strengthened and made more transparent, in particular, for marginalised communities and people in developing countries.
  • The concept of data-self determination should be explored as a possible core principle for data governance.
  • Internet connectivity isn’t just about connecting the remaining billions. It’s also about enabling big data and Artificial Intelligence technologies. Artificial intelligence can function offline, but in many circumstances, Internet connectivity is necessary to collect data for processing. With 3 billion people still offline, that is 3 billion people whose needs are not being fully addressed by the opportunities that big data and Artificial Intelligence can contribute to their development and well-being.
  • Developing countries with low levels of Internet connectivity and digitalisation are unable to fully benefit from the opportunities that big data, AI and open data can provide. One-off initiatives are not the solution. Instead, long-term strategies need to be developed that connect data strategies to connectivity and digital development strategies.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 2

In a world where technology will always develop faster than laws and regulation, what needs to be done to ensure people’s rights are protected in regard to the collection and use of their data, from localised misuse of data for surveillance of citizens to international data flows related to increasingly globalised trade and use of online platforms, without undermining the lawful economic and other advantages that data processes can provide to citizens, companies and governments?

  • Governments and the private sector – the primary collators of data on individuals – need to ensure that inequalities and marginalisation in the real world are not replicated, and not amplified, by the collection and potential (mis)use of data related to marginalised communities. The inclusion of marginalised communities and minorities in data sets is an important part of improving representation and visibility, but equally, this must not make such communities more vulnerable to adverse actions such as targeted surveillance and restricting access to services available to
    people considered “mainstream”.
  • Data localisation is one policy that governments employ to protect their citizens’ data from being used in ways contrary to their national laws, if that data were to cross borders. However, that localisation can also have an adverse effect on small to medium businesses and startups who lack the resources to comply with the complexities of such legislation, hampering economic development. Data legislation must, therefore, consider innovative mechanisms that can balance both privacy concerns and the economic and other benefits that can result from the sharing of data across borders.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 3

With COVID-19-related expedited policy making on data collection and use successfully meeting immediate policy goals as well as helping mitigate long-term economic fallout, what lessons can be learned from the quickly established coalitions of often silo-based stakeholders and decision makers who developed and implemented these policies, and how can the innovations in data policies made during the pandemic be applied in other non-pandemic-related contexts?

  • Countries that had existing open data policies and standards were able to quickly build on those standards and existing data sharing structures and relationships to quickly develop targeted COVID-19 related data initiatives that respected human rights. Governments without open data policies or standards should consider developing these to not only support quick responses in future times of crisis, but to also democratise and enable evidence-based decision-making in everyday situations.
  • The rapid deployment of contact tracing apps during the pandemic has demonstrated that citizens are willing to share their data for the wider public good, as long as they can trust that the information they are sharing is secure, does not collect more information than is necessary, and is not used for purposes other than which it was collected, including long-term surveillance of citizens’ movements and activities. While some governments’ tracking apps did not always fulfil these requirements, governments and the private sector should endeavour to develop such transparent standards to ensure citizens are willing to participate in data collection processes in future, where such data collection can benefit the wider community.
  • Data sovereignty has emerged as a growing trend over the past few years, with a number of countries passing legislation to keep their citizens’ data within their national borders. However, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how applying borders to data can have a negative impact on the ability to respond to global challenges.
  • Over the past few years, there has been a lively debate about how privately owned online public spaces such as social media platforms should be governed, and whether, and how much, regulation is needed by governments of these spaces and the data that is collected on their users. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that it is possible for private sector entities to work closely with governments, to share data and coordinate on public information campaigns, to support more accurate policy making and empower citizens to make well-informed decisions about their lives. While many of these partnerships between governments and the online platforms were improvised during a time of great need, such relationships could set a good example for future co-governance models of privately owned online public spaces.

2. Environment

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 1

How can the benefits of the Internet and digital technologies continue to be harnessed (capacity for greater inclusiveness of marginalised communities, etc.) while at the same time reducing their environmental and climate impacts throughout the lifecycle, from creation to use to disposal of digital devices?

  • The digital divide poses a challenge: People need to be connected, but in a sustainable way.
  • With studies showing a negative correlation between increasing digitalisation and progress towards the UN 2030 Agenda’s climate and environmental goals, unless there are significant and rapid efforts by all stakeholders to find and deploy solutions to reverse this trend, bringing connectivity to the remaining three billion unconnected people could have major ramifications for global survivability. The scale of the challenge means that no stakeholder can afford not to be part of the process to reduce the impact of digital technologies they create, use and discard at the end of the technology lifecycle.
  • Governments and the private sector need to develop standards for environmentally responsible creation, use and disposal of digital technologies.
  • Environmental legal principles, such as the “precautionary principle”, provide a basis for developing sustainable digital technologies that can minimise and prevent the harmful impacts that today’s adoption of digital technologies have often led to.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 2

How can the Internet and digital technologies be further developed and leveraged, particularly by sectors that traditionally have not considered themselves to be stakeholders in digital and Internet policy (such as the agricultural sector, construction industries, and retail supply chain) to aid in combating climate change and environmental degradation and instead promote sustainable, inclusive economies?

  • Accurate data and data measurement is essential to helping address sustainability goals. Much of this data already is being collected, but not necessarily shared, or available easily for stakeholders to act on. Online platforms and AI developers can play a key role in enabling this by storing, aggregating, and analysing and sharing this data in interoperable formats.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 3

How can the Internet’s infrastructure be made more resistant to damage caused by climate change related weather events and how can the Internet be leveraged, through developments such as big data, distributed networks of Internets of Things, and community networks, to monitor and provide alerts when infrastructure, systems and ecosystems face imminent threats or have sustained damage, with the aim of repairing life?

  • The decentralised nature of the Internet, with most of the core infrastructure having multiple redundancies, means there is less likely to be a single point of failure during any incident resulting in physical damage to part of the network, and the Internet can act as a vital communications mechanism during times of disaster. However, at the more localised level, connectivity can be severed, and prevent first responders from knowing where they are needed, and preventing data from other forms of infrastructure (roads, train lines, dams, sensors on buildings and in water bodies,
    etc,) alerting caretakers to potentially deadly compromises to the infrastructure’s
  • As with other infrastructure, providers of ICT infrastructure and services need to engage in disaster planning, particularly in a world where climate change is resulting in an increased rate of severe weather, resulting in not only more flooding but also landslides, more extreme temperatures and wind-related damage.
  • There is a need for ongoing investment in disaster-resistant Internet and digital infrastructures that can continue to provide access to services and applications, such as environmental monitoring via Internets of Things, after disasters, or increased levels of usage following crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. Inclusion

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 1

What do stakeholders need to do to develop and implement sustainable initiatives and policies that foster meaningful digital inclusion for all and eliminate all forms of digital divide?

  • Meaningful and inclusive Internet access should be a guiding principle for all policies and initiatives dedicated to eliminating the digital divide. Meaningful access means that users have access to the Internet constantly, with enough data, a fast connection, and an appropriate device. It also means that users are able to access content and services (especially local) that are relevant for their needs and realities. Policies focused on enabling such access need to be anchored into local contexts and respond to real needs.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted digital inequalities and the need for more action to ensure universal access and leave no one behind. Accelerating infrastructure roll-out is therefore urgent and must be encouraged by governments through more flexible, innovative and agile regulatory frameworks that benefit both telecom companies and alternative solutions such as community networks and rural operators. Revising universal service funds approaches, facilitating access to spectrum, and simplifying the issuance of authorisations needed for deploying infrastructures are examples of what could be done in this regard.
  • Community networks are enablers of affordable and meaningful connectivity.
    Technical capacity building for local communities is needed to ensure that they have
  • the skills and knowledge to build and run safe and sustainable infrastructures. Traditional operators should enable interconnection with these networks.
  • Financial resources are key in achieving universal connectivity; beyond government funds and telecom sector investments, identifying innovative funding models deserves more attention. Lowering taxes and prices for infrastructure equipment and devices could also make the Internet access more affordable.
  • More sustainable policies are needed to eliminate the digital divide that affects women, girls, and gender-diverse people. Beyond connectivity, empowering them to create digital content is essential for building a more inclusive Internet. Countering online gender-based violence should also be a priority; stronger legal frameworks and enhanced enforcement capacities, as well as sustained action by the online platforms are essential building blocks.
  • Tech companies, public institutions and other organisations have a responsibility to ensure that digital products, services and content respond to the needs of persons with disabilities. A stricter enforcement of accessibility-related regulations and embedding the concept of universal accessible design in the development of digital technologies are essential. Proper legal frameworks are also needed to address intellectual property barriers and market failures related to the production and distribution of accessible digital content.
  • Promoting multilingualism online requires the mobilisation of more institutional and financial resources. Governments, the private sector and nonprofit entities should empower local communities and indigenous people to produce digital content in their languages, and manage the associated intellectual property rights. The tech community can also help by developing technologies that enable the digital inclusion of low resource languages (oral languages, endangered languages, etc.). In addition, governments and tech companies should be more active in enabling the universal acceptance (UA) of internationalised domain names (IDNs) and email addresses within their services and technologies. More awareness raising and capacity development are needed – on both the demand and supply side – to enable stakeholders to better understand the social benefits and long-term business benefits of supporting UA- readiness.
  • More investments are needed (from the public and private sector) to develop digital skills among citizens. Beyond acquiring technical skills, people need to be empowered to exercise critical thinking and use technology in a safe and meaningful way to advance their rights.
  • Collaborative efforts are needed to ensure equitable access to digital content for education, research, culture, work etc. Solutions to be further explored include open access models, digital-ready sets of limitations and exceptions to copyright (including across borders), and addressing the challenges around e-book pricing, access and delivery models.
  • Online education needs to be fair, inclusive and qualitative. Governments, educational institutions and the private sector must cooperate to ensure meaningful access to the Internet, but also to online learning environments that consider the needs of all children and learners, including the most vulnerable ones. Simply transposing face-to- face learning to an online setting is not enough; schools and universities need to design innovative approaches for learning and teaching, and rethink curricula and pedagogical models. Creating frameworks to develop the digital capacities of teachers is key. And so is ensuring the safety, security, privacy and wellbeing of children and students.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation worldwide; governments and other stakeholders need to build on this and further leverage the potential of digital technologies as enablers of social and economic development. The international community has a duty to support developing countries in these efforts; this could be done through capacity development instruments that (1) help countries build regulations and institutions to govern the development, deployment and use of digital technologies that benefit society at large, and (2) empower other stakeholders to contribute to such governance processes.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 2

What policies, regulations and support structures are needed to build the enabling environments for inclusive digital economies that allow everyone to have access to their benefits in both developed and developing countries?

  • More needs to be done to empower individuals, especially in developing countries, to benefit from the digital economy and be prepared for the future of work. Policy makers need to develop and implement agile and enabling policies and regulations that focus on ensuring meaningful access to infrastructure and technology; reforming educational systems to put more focus on both digital skills and soft skills; and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. Regulatory sandboxes could also help in the development and testing of adequate regulations to support inclusive digital economies.
  • Small businesses will benefit from support (from governments and bigger players) in their efforts to join the digital market. Capacity development initiatives, mentorship programmes, and easy access to e-commerce platforms are examples of such support.
  • Governments and the private sector need to address inequalities related to the participation of women, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups in the digital economy. Eliminating barriers to accessing the platform economy or other digital businesses, and ensuring equitable treatment for workers are examples of required actions.
  • The transborder harmonisation of policies could help accelerate the development of more inclusive and sustainable digital economies. Policies focused on eliminating barriers to cross-border digital trade are one example in this regard.
  • Accelerating financial inclusion and ensuring that everyone has access to fast, reliable and secure digital payments can support inclusive economic development, boost
    entrepreneurship, reduce the informal economy, and improve citizens’ life. Governments need to work together with other stakeholders to build adequate infrastructures for digital payments and encourage their use by merchants (e.g. via tax incentives) and consumers (e.g. via capacity development, reduced VAT for digital payments).
  • Legal frameworks are required to uphold labour rights in the digital economy and promote fair work principles (fair pay, fair contracts, fair wages, ability to collectivise). Such frameworks should focus on protecting people, not jobs, and should be properly implemented. Private-sector-driven codes of good practices for fair work could be a complementary solution.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 3

How can we ensure that policy spaces and processes that address digital inclusion issues are inclusive and foster the active and meaningful participation of those people and communities whose digital inclusion issues they hope to overcome?

  • If digital inclusion policies are to be effective, efficient and sustainable, they need to be developed and implemented with the active participation of the targeted communities (youth, women, rural communities, etc.). Digital inequalities are different, so it is important to contextualise such policies and adapt them to the needs of the targeted communities.
  • Inclusion should not be only about policy spaces, but also about technology spaces. These too need to integrate the views and interests of various communities such as women and persons with disabilities. For instance, the private sector needs to look at disability inclusion at all levels of the organisations, truly understand the challenges and needs of persons with disabilities, and involve them in the design of digital tech and products.
  • More inclusive, participatory, and innovative models of Internet governance are required at the national and international levels. One way to drive more engagement in Internet governance processes is by better connecting them with the realities on the. Citizens and other stakeholders are more likely to get involved if they understand how Internet governance issues impact them directly.
  • Stakeholders should create more opportunities for an effective, sustainable, and meaningful participation of youth, women, gender-diverse people, and other underrepresented groups in Internet governance spaces (including the decision- making ones). Ensuring that these spaces are safe and secure, avoiding tokenism, and allocating more resources (including financial) to capacity development programmes are essential elements.

4. Trust

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 1

What building blocks are essential to ensuring a functioning, stable and resilient Internet and online world both now and, robust enough to continue working well into the future, regardless of the constantly evolving environment and changing threat landscape?

  • COVID-19 turns our lives upside down and restrictions to control the spread of the pandemic limit us in our most normal daily activities. The e-solutions that allow us to continue to work or study from home, require a secure and stable connectivity to a reliable Internet.
  • Users and nations must be able to trust on a well-protected and fortified Internet infrastructure.
  • Countries that establish a national emergency telecommunications plan are better positioned to manage disaster responses more effectively during times of crisis, like COVID-19. Disaster response strategies should ensure coordination and alignment across all levels of government. – Federal, state, local, tribal and territorial partners are important for developing a cohesive, meaning response to national disasters,
    even when infrastructure isn’t impacted such was the case with the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to assess and identify gaps and bottlenecks in the digital infrastructure, and start preparing action plans for
  • affordable and reliable connectivity, ensuring sufficient bandwidth through each leg of the network, and expanding connectivity to those not yet connected or not yet well-connected.
  • The Internet was explicitly designed to encourage global interconnectivity and oblivious to international borders. It was and continues to be a core goal to get as many people, devices and networks as possible connected in a global network of networks.
  • The current situation with large parts of the workforce working from home, as an abrupt and unforeseen measure to fight covid, creates new security risks and increases existing ones, because employees connect to their home networks instead of the well protected company network. This requires special efforts to strengthen their cybersecurity readiness. Improved and continuous capacity building, education and training contributes to the creation of a culture of cybersecurity.
  • The fast growth in IoT home devices raises concerns about security and privacy implications for their users. Guidelines, publications and recommendations need to be published in a user-friendly format and use a language with less jargon and technical terminology.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 2

What can stakeholders do, ranging from government models to concrete initiatives to create an Internet that is a safe and secure online space for all, supported by the respect for human rights and the protection of our children, minimise the risks and potential harm to users, and eradicate discrimination?

  • Online channels are critical to communicate and ensure that citizens have access to important information in times of crisis. The digital transformation of governments needs to continue and where possible accelerated.
  • Digital transformation within the government sector is critical to ensuring citizen access to important information during times of crisis.
  • Fact-checking requires local and international cooperation, and the skills and resources to cope with an avalanche of information, a variety of sources and diversity in languages. On top, adequate fact-checking is being hindered by political pressure, and financial and legal threats.
  • Fact checking will remain ineffective if there’s no trust in the fact checkers.
    Government involvement in fact checking initiatives can strengthen or undermine this trust.
    Bots are important, innovative and compelling tools to automate tasks in the fight against disinformation, and save resources that can be concentrated on tasks where human oversight is needed. Transparency is crucial to avoid that bots limit essential
  • rights, such as freedom of expression and access to information, and has many layers: the inner working of the tool, the used criteria and their effects, but also who is deploying the tool and their objective.
  • Education, media literacy and a public dialogue that fosters respect for facts and science are central in combating misinformation online, as is restoring trust in journalism, and more transparency in how social media companies (and their algorithms) handle information.
  • Stakeholders, researchers and developers from academia and business in particular, should partner to develop technical tools to address disinformation and fake news online, for example, how to apply AI and machine learning to recognise hate speech.
  • Combating fake news is a shared ánd individual responsibility, every user has to remain vigilant when encountering information and hold themselves accountable when sharing or helping to spread information on social media, and not hide behind the technology or shift all responsibility on social media. The debate and awareness raising on tackling disinformation and hate speech cannot be postponed and should be strengthened. Training young people’s skills to critical thinking should start from an early age.
  • Academics and specialists in behavioural science and mental health must amplify their research into the positive and negative impact of online activities, including the influence of gaming on children’s development and wellbeing, so that their findings can guide policy making and industry practice.
  • Technology can be a solution as well as part of a problem. The digital world creates opportunities for children to learn, play, develop their potential and protect their rights, but is also full of dangers that can harm or undermine their rights.
  • The protection of children online requires a careful balance that manages the risks while maximizing the opportunities. A successful approach should involve children, parents, educators, industry, and policymakers ensure cyberspace is as safe and empowering as possible.
  • The production and dissemination of illegal and harmful content are two different things that both require a high level of vigilance. On top of that, one needs to avoid that algorithmic amplification automates the dissemination of the bad.

Messages related to Overarching Policy Question 3

How to create an environment that fosters a stakeholder dialogue, where mistrust, fear and misunderstanding makes place for mutual trust and recognition of each other’s role, and players collaborate on holistic answers to the safety and security challenges of our online world?

  • Through collaboration and cooperation, business, government, the technical community, and multilateral organizations can develop adequate answers to challenges at national, international and global level, arising from crises such as COVID-19.
  • The pandemic has shown how technology and social media can be a lifeline to stay connected with friends and family, to continue economic activity and to gather information. The IGF should facilitate the dialogue on the shared responsibility and actions of stakeholders, including regulation where needed, to make sure that users are able to interact and communicate in a secure online environment at all times.
  • Initiatives to include multistakeholder views and perspectives in the UN cybersecurity dialogues are well received, but more effort is needed to make the dialogues and opportunities to provide input more visible, including support and capacity building to involve nations and communities across the digital divide.
  • All stakeholders share responsibility for the protection of children online, including in online games. They should strengthen their coordination, and work on a systematic approach towards an evidence-based governance of online gaming, with a combination of public, private, legal and voluntary measures at national and international levels.
  • Concerns about the protection of children in the online world are shared by many. Parents, educators, the industry, and policy makers should, as standard practice, consult with children on matters that have an impact on their lives, and this includes their online lives.
  • Trust, legitimacy and the involvement of all relevant stakeholders are the pillars for any beneficial capacity building project. Trust among stakeholders within and between regions will foster the exchange of good practice.
  • Differences between regions (geography, economics, politics, culture) may be significant and make that best practices are not directly applicable to every region. The involvement of multiple partners is beneficial to a sustainable cyber capacity building. Cooperation and good practice sharing between more and less advanced regions and countries is as important as the cross-regional sharing amongst equally advanced partner regions.
  • Capacity building initiatives for governments in developing countries should prepare them to participate in international and global cyber norms discussions and initiatives.
  • Governance in child online gaming is an emerging and rapidly developing policy area, and an indispensable part of global internet governance. The protection of children in online gaming requires a careful balance between managing the risks and maximizing the opportunities. All stakeholders shouldering responsibility for protecting children online should strengthen cooperation and coordinate an adequate combination of public, private, legal and voluntary measures at national and international levels.
  • Trust mechanisms in cyberspace should be established, based on principles of responsibility, transparency, respect, mutual consultation and mutual understanding. Initiatives should establish an open cooperation among parties including governments, international organizations, enterprises, technical communities, scientific research institutions and individuals as the main actors, and explore a wide range of tools such as laws and regulations, IT capabilities, social responsibility, ethics, supervision and self-discipline, as well as norms and standards.
  • Ensuring the security and privacy is essential for the IoT ecosystem to thrive while the guidelines and related decision-making process have to involve diverse stakeholders including civil society and policy makers. There’s a lack of knowledge about the IoT associated risks and the need of capacity building actions to present best practices and prevent threats. The IGF is well placed to intermediate such a process.