With digitalisation affecting practically every aspect of our lives, the policy area around digital and technological developments is becoming increasingly broad and complex.
Referring to his ongoing work for Fondation de Geneve on Internet governance as a centre of excellence in Geneva, Prof. Michael Kende (Visiting Professor, Graduate Institute in Geneva; Senior Advisor, Analysys Mason) said that Geneva-based actors are often quite shy about promoting their work in Geneva regarding digital issues.
Relying on the taxonomy of issues and GIP’s descriptions of what global actors do, Kende explained that interviews and personal contacts are needed to dig deeper into the work of Geneva-based actors. He encouraged organisations to be more forthcoming with details on their digital policy work, as well as their collaboration with other organisations, especially on their websites. This would help map and weave areas together.
Kende said that, in addition to existing mapping initiatives, actors working on policies should also come together to promote Geneva-based work beyond its shores, and build on the cross-cutting work of other policy hubs.
Referring to DiploFoundation’s 20-year experience in mapping initiatives, Prof. Jovan Kurbalija explained how the GIP started the mapping of Geneva actors for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) five years ago. The GIP is now working on The Geneva Digital Atlas which will emphasise collaborations among organisations regarding digital policy.
As the coverage of the World Health Organization (presented at the conference as an example from the Atlas) shows, mapping initiatives need to bring out the interlinkages among the work of actors, and emphasise the various entry points in order to connect what is being done in various areas. The Atlas, which is powered by AI analyses of documents and instruments, will encourage actors to approach digital policy through various angles, and strengthen collaboration among stakeholder groups.
Kurbalija also explained how the Geneva digital policy landscape is evolving. Permanent missions will face increasing pressure from capitals to follow digital policy discussions which are becoming mainstream issues (e.g. ‘digital health’ is becoming ‘health’). Complex policy issues are additionally requiring actors to analyse issues deeper at the risk of reducing the chances of horizontal, cross-cutting analyses.
Mr Chengetai Masango (Head, UN Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)) said that a common taxonomy, such as DiploFoundation’s taxonomy of digital policy issues, helps people speak the same policy language and understand each other.
On the evolution of Geneva’s policy landscape, Masango explained how COVID-19 has impacted policy processes by shifting many meetings from in situ to online. In the process, the pandemic is exposing limitations related to voting procedures, as they move from conference halls to the Internet.
COVID-19 has also highlighted certain issues, including the spread of misinformation and propaganda, as well as access and connectivity as prerequisites for fulfilling basic human needs (such as healthcare and education).