Civil Society in Internet Governance
Robust and inclusive Internet governance must reflect the growing relevance of the Internet for global economic, social, and political life. Many small and developing countries in general and their civil societies in particular are excluded from international digital processes for a wide range of reasons, including the lack of resources, expertise, and institutional capacity to sustain an impactful policy presence. Comprehensive capacity development for missing actors in global digital policy is a relevant necessity, not only for those who are excluded from digital policy but also for the sustainable and balanced development of the global digital economy and society in general.
Internet governance issues impact political, economic, social, security, rule of law, employment, and many more aspects of a country’s current and future development. Therefore, they demand a multifaceted strategy, considering many subtleties of meaning and perception, requiring an analog approach, covering a continuum of options and compromises.
Governments of small and developing countries, while remaining the main decision-makers, find it often challenging to navigate the complex digital environment and its impact on every-day life. It is often difficult for them to involve other stakeholders – in particular the private sector and civil society (NGOs, the technical community, academia, and the media). These stakeholders should be able to directly participate in policy-shaping and impact decisions, providing they understand digital policies and the relevant political and diplomatic processes. They must be given the opportunity to meaningfully engage.
Thanks to support from the Ford Foundation, Diplo will be able to work in a more targeted way to increase the involvement of civil society actors in digital policy and Internet governance.
Civil society is a complex community consisting of organisations with different profiles, such as advocacy groups, grassroots communities, technical communities, academic and research communities, think-tanks, capacity building institutions, new media outlets, and others. While they have particular strengths – such as in understanding specific complex issues, or outreach to citizens – many need to more fully understand the greater implications of their work in the digital sphere; to follow complex political and diplomatic processes; and to influence decision-makers on a local, regional, or global level in a meaningful way. Currently, they are not adequately involved in shaping policies and decision-making on local, regional, and global levels. They are absent from (and lack engagement with) the traditional decision-making environments (like the UN settings), or have only a passive presence at major inclusive forums (like global and regional IGFs). In addition, not all processes in the field are open to civil society representatives; however, even for those, scrutiny and informed inputs or observations of civil society are essential as their decisions ultimately spill over into the work of many civil society organisations. It is therefore essential that civil society representatives are familiar not only with digital policy as such, but also with the individual processes. It is crucial that they understand the global political context and can link it to their work.
With a full understanding of this necessity, Diplo provides comprehensive capacity development combining building individual skills and strengthening civil society organisations, the private sector, and public institutions on local, national, regional, and global levels. Our capacity development programs provide in-depth knowledge of
- digital technologies, from a basic understanding of how the Internet works, to emerging technologies like AI, mixed reality, blockchain, and quantum computing.
- digital policy challenges and the impact of technologies on modern society – in particular economic development, security, and human rights, as well as the development Agenda 2030.
- relevant international and regional, and sub-regional actors from all stakeholder groups, and national structures and multistakeholder models.
- main international, regional, and sub-regional political and diplomatic decision-making and policy-shaping processes, both multilateral and multistakeholder, and the venues for influencing them.
- key international legal and policy instruments. It also offers a neutral overview of practices of national policies and processes.
- developments in contemporary diplomacy, in particular with regard to how digital technologies influence the emergence of new actors, the shaping of the diplomatic agenda, and changes in the geopolitical environment.
We also support policy spaces and develop methods and tools for e-participation. The relevance of strengthening e-participation is so vivid in the current COVID-19 crisis with the shift from onsite to online meetings and policy processes. It was in focus in previous environmental crises and conflicts as well, and will be increasingly relevant. This aspect of our work is also relevant for civil society representatives from countries with travel limitations. More and more international forums – including traditionally closed environments of international organisations, like the ITU or even the UN working groups – are opening up for observation by civil society, through e-participation and various models of e-consultations. Diplo helps organisations to map such opportunities, and use them well both in terms of mastering the conceptual and technical means of e-participation, and in terms of process and substance. In addition, most of Diplo’s learning opportunities (including courses, simulations, and event participation) are also conducted online. We walk the talk.