[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
The session was opened by Ms Marília Maciel, senior researcher for digital policy at DiploFoundation, who reminded the session that ‘the need for capacity development is voiced substantively and regularly in calls for action, meetings, and official speeches.’ Yet there seems to be a mismatch between supply and demand. This also goes for the sources of funding for capacity development. She asked who should take the financial burden of quality capacity development programmes? The aim of the session should therefore be to try to map what are or should be the responsibilities of the various actors, be they private foundations, governments, private sector, or the recipients themselves through self-financing.
Dr Susan Teltscher, head of the human capacity building division at the ITU, stressed the desire to increase the capacities of her organisation’s membership. She pointed out that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) uses different sources of funding – regular budget and extra-budgetary funds provided by partners. She spoke about the Centre of Excellence programme which has run for several years and is self-funded as there are fees charged for the training. The ITU Academy platform provides the space for the training which runs on a cost-sharing model where 80% goes to the Centre and 20% stays with the ITU for core activities (such as content creation and running of the platform).
Mr Michael Kleiner, economic development officer at the Directorate General for Economic Development, Research and Innovation in the Republic and State of Geneva, mentioned that everyone has criteria for how funds are used. He recalled the Geneva Initiative on Capacity Development in Digital Policy which clearly calls for a multilateral approach to cyber issues. The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) receives many requests for capacity. One idea for resources for capacity development, later elaborated on in the session by Dr. Psaila, is of bonds issued by governments, which involve a responsibility to pay back as there is a contract. Maciel complemented his contribution, saying that GIP training is always demand-driven.
Ms Sarah Gaffney, senior partnerships manager at the GSMA, said that funding comes in various types of forms. There are many different models and approaches to funding capacity development by various partners. The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), as an industry body, has unique resources to commit to capacity development. The courses are therefore delivered free of charge. As the GSMA works closely with policy makers and regulators, they get a lot of demand from them directly. In order to deliver free training, the organisation needs to be smart on how to deliver and leverage on the public-private partnership. The GSMA also relies on Training the Trainers courses. Gaffney stressed that as a lot of money goes in, it is important to choose the recipients really carefully.
Mr James Howe, senior advisor at the International Trade Centre (ITC), told the session that the organisation’s primary focus is small firms and e-commerce. To focus on the problem, and linking to what Gaffney had said, he elaborated on the scale. We know we have the 2030 goals, time is moving quickly, we have discussed this at many forums, including the WSIS but the problem is in partnerships, in the case of e-commerce especially in large international private companies. There is a gap in expectations and that is where capacity development comes in. Large companies are expecting a return on investment while development organisations have a different viewpoint. The relationship needs to be properly managed to get the expectations right, because this partnership, for e-commerce, is essential.
Dr. Stephanie Borg Psaila, director for digital policy at DiploFoundation, briefed the session on some innovative ideas for approaching capacity-development. She spoke of the experience of Diplo and the way the organisation has used technology in training. In Diplo’s work, there is clear effort to distinguish the hype from what actually works. The use of technology continues to be explored with respect to the way capacity development programmes are delivered. A new concept of educoin, hinted at earlier by Kleiner, leverages the new technologies of blockchain and cryptocurrencies to encourage research in digital policy to offer capacity development and contribute to social development. This concept is in the initial stages. Exploring technologies does open new avenues. It will not solve the funding issue but will help in getting there.
Discussion with the audience continued on the impact on implemented policy, the changes it makes and how this corresponds to the needs in the countries. Mr Jorge Cancio from the Swiss Federal Office of Communication (OFCOM) reminded the session of how Switzerland co-operates closely with the GIP. He stressed the importance of striving to find the right balance between core funding and fundamental capacity development, and to give freedom and creativity to the implementers. Dr Jovan Kurbalija from Diplo appreciated this trust of Switzerland as a donor. He spoke about emotional bonds and human dynamics, building engagement, and codifying the element of engagement so that training is not passive.
Asked by Maciel for the “final tweets” of the speakers, these included:
Listen to learners
Start the innovation with the corporate sector
Responsibility on both sides (learner and donor).
The discussion on this topic will continue at the RightsCon in Toronto in May 2018.