Main Session of the Dynamic Coalitions
As an active and growing community in the IGF ecosystem that is dedicated to various Internet governance issues, the IGF Dynamic Coalitions (DC) organise again this year a DC main session at the IGF. While the individual DC sessions organised at the IGF focus on a specific area of expertise and topic of their choice, the main session is based on a common theme that touches upon the work of every Dynamic Coalition and that is of broad interest to the public.
Like the global IGF, Dynamic Coalitions all adhere to the main IGF principles of being whole and open; universal and inclusive; free-flowing and trustworthy; safe and secure; and rights-respecting with multi stakeholder participation in line with a bottom-up decision-making process. Through substantive activities, Dynamic Coalitions enrich conversations around the Internet we want by benefiting from academic research, policy analysis, and lived experiences of numerous communities. Being dynamic not only in their name and title but also in their nature Dynamic Coalitions benefit from their work on the pulse of time in all areas related to the Internet thus being able to address the challenges associated with rapidly evolving innovations in the digital area.
In light of this year’s IGF 2023 theme “The Internet We Want - Empowering All People”, the DC main session will focus on the community’s role and the dynamic nature of DCs to contribute to human rights in the digital space. The aim of the main session is to showcase the substantial contribution of the Dynamic Coalitions towards the Internet we want to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
While the DCs own areas of focus might differ, the discussions very often concern similar topics. The structural advantages of Dynamic Coalitions help achieve the same mission and vision within the IGF: to bring people together as equals, inform policymakers with useful current findings, and address evolving Internet opportunities and risks. In line with the five sub-themes of the paper issued by the IGF Leadership Panel “The Internet We Want”, this DC main session will showcase the expertise of the community towards achieving the Internet we want, especially through its unique structure and bottom-up approach that empowers all people.
Lisa Petrides, DC Open Educational Resources
Muhammad Shabbir, DC on Accessibility and Disability
Alejandro Pisanty, DC Core Internet Values
Avri Doria, DC on the Internet-of-Things
Phyo Thiri L., Youth Coalition on Internet Governance (YCIG)
Jutta Croll, DC-Children's Rights and DC co-facilitator
Markus Kummer, DC co-facilitator
Priya Shukla, DC on Internet & Jobs
Stephen Wyber, DC on Public Access in Libraries
Moderators: Mr. Markus Kummer, co-facilitator for the Dynamic Coalition Coordination Group & Ms. Jutta Croll, DC-Children’s Rights & DC co-facilitator
The session opened with scene-setting by the moderators, who underlined the historic place of Dynamic Coalitions in the IGF architecture, providing a structure for mobilizing energies and reaching outside of the IGF system. While they were diverse, collectively, the DCs shared a focus on upholding Human Rights and striving to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, as well as an acute consciousness of the digital divide & how to overcome it, and how to build a network of people and organizations that address and engage the community beyond the Internet Governance ecosystem. Together, the DCs represent a strong potential to make the connection between the IGF and SDG agenda.
Lisa Petridis (DC Open Educational Resources) shared the background of the Dynamic Coalition on Open Educational Resources, which had been started by UNESCO to build on the OER Recommendation of 2019. OER in turn as a concept is deeply connected with the internet itself, given the possibilities created to share, adapt, use, and re-share materials freely. The Coalition itself focused on capacity building; developing supportive policy; inclusive and equitable access to quality, multi-lingual, open formats of educational resources; sustainable model; and facilitating international cooperation. In particular, it addressed the challenges of how to contextualize educational materials and make them truly accessible to all.
The DC’s work connected the human right to education and SDG 4 on quality education, emphasizing the need to deliver quality OERs and the capacity to be adopted and adapted to local context, which includes Localization of Language and Culture; portable and interoperable with other libraries; well-described, pedagogically sound & transformational. Success here would bring wider dividends. For example, by promoting the uptake of OER (in particular around sustainable development education) more people could be mobilized to work towards the SDGs. More broadly, delivering the right to education online could be a catalyst for the delivery of other rights and goals.
Through this, the DC helped make a reality in particular of work around a Whole and Open, and Universal and Inclusive Internet.
Muhammad Shabbir (DC on Accessibility and Disability – DCAD) recalled that DCAD had been one of the first dynamic coalitions to form, focusing on ensuring that Digital Spaces, and IGF meetings and platforms themselves were accessible for Persons with Disabilities. The DC works on the principle of ‘Nothing About Us Without Us,’ and on this Principle, the DC started a project to bring actual People with Disabilities to these forums. DCAD was successful in bringing 3 fellows from different regions, namely Africa, Asia Pacific, and Europe, to IGF 2023, thanks to the support of Google and Vint Cerf.
Crucially, by providing a channel for bringing the voices of persons with disabilities to the IGF, divides and gaps that would otherwise have been overlooked could be brought to the fore, taking full account of intersectionalities. For example, those developing content are not sufficiently aware of the devices that people use, making interaction unnecessarily difficult, while 97% of website homepages have accessibility-related problems. A lack of action in this space contributed to a lack of progress toward SDG goals related to persons with disabilities.
Through their work, the DC therefore provides a vital channel for ensuring that the diverse needs of the community of persons with disabilities are brought to the fore – an essential step if internet governance is to be inclusive and work to provide better outcomes for all. It contributes to the goal of an internet that is Universal and Inclusive.
Avri Doria (DC Internet of Things) underlined the example that DC IoT provides of how DCs can allow the IGF to address emerging issues comprehensively, even before they rise up the political agenda. It offered a space to discuss how we interact with and treat connected objects, how we maintain them, how we ensure that they are human-centred and benefit them (not harm them), what impact and implications their use has (in particular around the treatment of the data they collect), what happens as they become more autonomous in triggering actions, and what happens when they reach the end of their lives.
Through the DC’s work, it had rapidly become clear that a values and rights-based approach was key for developing best practices, even if (at least at first) these would be more aspirational than real. The DC had also looked at the role of the IoT in addressing the policy priorities defined in the SDGs – both in terms of supporting and hindering processes. By bringing together a wide community of expertise, it was possible to take an inclusive overview of the state of play and understand the gaps between norms and reality in this space. Through their work, the DC contributes strongly to creating an internet that is universal and inclusive, safe and secure, and rights-respecting.
Alejandro Pisanty (DC Core Internet Values) echoed the messages from DC IoT about the potential of DCs to offer a forum to establish insights and build understanding about emerging issues before they rise to the top of the policy agenda. The DC had, for example, addressed AI, looking both at its potential, but also the role of the IGF going forwards. It allowed a more mature look, going beyond just Generative AI and Large Language Models (LLMs), and interacting with a wide variety of other goals. It needed to be looked at holistically, and the DC provided the basis for developing a truly multistakeholder approach to questions around the topic.
The format of the DC was also powerful in helping to address questions around values and emerging issues (such as AI), national differences, challenges of scalability, standards, cooperation, and engagement with national structures. At the same time, it allowed the flexibility to keep all actors on board, knowing that too strict or restrictive an approach would see key actors simply go elsewhere. Through this, the DC offers a means of promoting an internet that is free-flowing and trustworthy, safe and secure and rights-respecting.
Phyo Thiri L. (Youth Coalition on Internet Governance) stressed the need for channels to ensure that youth were empowered and their voices were heard in internet governance discussions, as part of a broader imperative to respect and reflect the needs and experiences of young people in decision-making at all levels. Failing to engage risked creating a sense of disconnect and being left behind.
The Coalition had therefore invested in parallel in strengthening the space for youth voices at the IGF, and working with youth directly in order to give them the knowledge and tools needed to engage. Through this, they also built-up valuable experience of what was really necessary to make these perspectives count. Through their work, the Coalition contributes strongly to creating an internet that is universal and inclusive and rights-respecting.
A range of DCs then also offered quick presentations, developing on the themes already raised. DC Environment highlighted that Human Rights and Human Duties go hand-in-hand and that it is imperative to think in terms of our duty to leverage technology to address climate change and mobilize action. DC Children’s Rights spoke to the value of ensuring that the importance of children’s rights was understood in all internet decision-making and referred to General Comment #25 as a basis and obligation to do so. DC Digital Health, DC Environment & DC Internet and Jobs presented their reports - ‘State of Digital Health’ spanning 58 countries; ‘Urbanization, Biodiversity, and Mental Health’; and ‘Internet & Jobs’ spanning 75 countries, Framework of ‘Project CREATE that can be applied to 9 sectors creating jobs and livelihood for all through internet for all. DC Internet Standards, Security and Safety highlighted the significant gaps between standard-setting and uptake, a lack of the training needed to implement cybersecurity standards (something the DC was addressing through bringing together materials), and different routes for promoting spread – such as through procurement contracts. DC Public Access in Libraries noted work to build a stronger sense among librarians that they were actors in internet governance, with the right and knowledge to engage proactively.
In the subsequent discussion, a number of key themes emerged:
· Dr. Vint Cerf suggested that creating standards doesn’t necessarily create capacity to use those standards effectively and that there was a need to increase capacity to enable the programmers and developers gain an intuition for how to make use of technology for accessibility.
· The risks of internet governance and broader production that aren’t based on a thorough knowledge of the needs of communities. A particular case is around persons with disabilities – developers too often simply don’t understand their needs. However, bringing in developers from these communities has paid off, for example, live transcription at Google and captioning at YouTube had both been the initiatives of developers with deafness. This is necessary if we are to make products that are born accessible.
· The value of standards, and their subsequent implementation as a way of ensuring that systems and products not only comply with key norms and values from the start (bearing in mind the differences between systems and uses), but also allow for interoperability where it matters. There was a case for standards allowing for interoperability between LLMs. However, the pace of defining standards meant that these risked sometimes being overtaken by innovation (in the case of GenAI).
· The varied roles that Dynamic Coalitions themselves play in making the connection between action on the ground (through mobilization, education, training, and capacity-building), and discussions at the IGF (through advocacy, representation, and carrying out comprehensive and high-quality research to inform wider decision-making).
· They had an important part to play in making the multistakeholder nature of internet governance into a reality throughout the year, not just at the IGF. At the same time, there is a need to think continuously about how to find a balance, and not follow paths that squeeze out any players. Better information flows could help in this regard. Similarly, DCs helped give form to the idea that internet governance should have an important bottom-up component, allowing different constituencies and intersectional groups to be heard. Through this, they could also act as a sounding board, giving feedback on how trends and decisions would affect people in reality.
· DCs could also help provide a link with wider policy agendas by ensuring an ongoing discussion about how the internet serves, for example, the goal of inclusive and quality education.
Looking ahead to the outputs of the Global Digital Compact, participants agreed that these characteristics of the DC community made them collectively an essential actor in any ongoing work on internet governance. They offered protection against an excessively top-down approach, ensuring a diversity of experience, expertise, and information into wider discussions.
Their broader way of working – through inclusion of a wide variety of stakeholders, also beyond the IGF ecosystem, collaboration and participation, dialogue and learning, and combining action and advocacy offers a strong model for delivering the internet we want.
Online Moderator: Ms. Mevish Vaishnav
Ms. Priya Shukla, DC on Internet & Jobs
Mr. Stephen Wyber, DC on Public Access in Libraries