My notes during the public lecture on ‘Digital Cooperation: Can Geneva Make It a Win-win?’

Insightful and thought provoking discussions among distinguished panel members:

  • Brad Smith, president of Microsoft;
  • Doris Leuthard, former president of the Swiss Confederation;
  • Amandeep Singh Gill, former co-executive director of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s Secretariat;
  • Jovan Kurbalija, head of the Geneva Internet Platform and former Co-Executive Director, Secretariat of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation

Amidst the conversations on the role of Geneva in Digital Cooperation, it was mentioned that:

  • the Swiss Digital Initiative (including GAFAM) to promote ethics in the digital world will to be officially launched on World Economic Forum 2020
  • Geneva is where ‘Technology meets Humanity’ referring to the early technologies, the birth of the Red Cross
  • ‘De-ideologizing’ the issue of data which ranges from private data, scientific data, business data and that emphasis on those specificities is important when discussing regulation on data
  • Inclusiveness is one of the most pressing challenge in view of ‘not missing out on opportunities’
  • only 5% of articles about Africa on Wikipedia are written by Africans yet optimism was echoed about Africa’s growth and digital transformation

Interestingly, alluding to the Cloud Act (a United States federal law enacted in 2018) and bilateral agreements, @Jovan Kurbalija referred to the creation of the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) in 1865 after bilateral agreements could not properly address issues relating to Telegraph Exchanges. The International Telegraph Convention was indeed a precursor of multilateralism, many decades before the creation of the League of Nations.

The recording can be found here .

Y. Kitaw
PhD Fellow in Governance and Policy Analysis at UNU-MERIT Maastricht University
Personal website: kitaw.info | LinkedIn  | Twitter

About Kitaw

Kitaw works in Geneva for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

Kitaw holds an MBA in Management of Technology from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and is currently a PhD Fellow at the University of Maastricht – UNU-MERIT researching on the role of the Internet in pathways to democratization of authoritarian regimes.

Disclaimer The views and opinions expressed in this blog and extracts of research work are solely those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the official position of his employer and the academic institutions he is affiliated with.

Walsh’s talk on the UN 2030 Development Agenda

I just watched an interesting 10 minutes talk in TEDx format by Patrick Walsh with an appealing title “Everyday Citizens and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda”.

He covered in a brief yet comprehensive, attention captivating style important and complex points ranging from the genesis of the UN 2030 Development Agenda to YOU and what YOU can do for the success of its implementation.

I particularly appreciated his novel example of a women, stranded on a desert island, who sets up a company, a household and a government and how she would not knowingly harm herself or the environment around her for her grandchildren. He depicted this fictional instance to illustrate the ‘disconnects’ in the current world we live in and how ‘stakeholder partnerships’ could address these issues as we go along the implementation of the 2030 agenda.

In short, his key message was to recall the responsibility for implementation by the people and to induce successful stakeholder partnership at local, national, regional and global levels.

My comments on the Freedom on the Net 2016

The annual survey and analysis of internet and digital media freedom around the world ‘Freedom on the Net 2016’ reveals yet another decline of Internet freedom around the world.
Using a methodology that includes several ITU figures (in particular for the index on ‘Obstacles to Access’ assessing to what extent infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet), the report entitled ‘Silencing the Messenger: Communication Apps Under Pressure‘ concludes with the following key findings:
    • Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.​
    • Two-thirds of all internet users – 67 percent – live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship.
    • Social media users face unprecedented penalties, as authorities in 38 countries made arrests based on social media posts over the past year. Globally, 27 percent of all internet users live in countries where people have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or merely “liking” content on Facebook.
    • Governments are increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, which can spread information quickly and securely.​

​​​Interestingly, the report displays a chart showing Internet Freedom vs Internet Penetration and GDP without providing any ​comment.

The chart triggers a variety of questions ranging from the linkages​ between Internet Freedom and GDP up to the correlations between ICT growth, development and democracy.

Indeed, the Internet presents the ‘Dictator’s dilemma’ for authoritarian regimes.

On one hand, shutting it down can hurt their economy. On the other, leaving it open and unrestricted can threaten their power grip as it facilitates their citizens’ ability to access and share political information and engage collectively.

Most often respond to this dilemma through sophisticated and opaque ways, taking advantage of the tool,  by for example promoting e-government as a means to strengthen their authoritarian rule while tightening control and surveillance. (see figure from the World Development Report 2016 – Digital Dividends​)

WB WDR 2016.JPG
Source: World Development Report 2016
While there is abundant ICT4D literature on the linkages between Information Technologies and International Development in general, much more remains to be explored on the correlation/causal linkages between ICT penetration, Development and Democratization at a global level as well as specific case studies including cultural and historical insights.