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Illustration by Cathy Chen for APC.

In 2021, we worked for the internet to be recognised and governed as a global public good in an inclusive, transparent, democratic and accountable manner.

Prepared the African School on Internet Governance fellows for post-pandemic digital ecosystem challenges

The African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) had its first fully online edition in 2021 in the form of an interactive learning, knowledge-sharing and networking two-week online programme with sessions on selected days from 4 to 15 October 2021.

Hosted in 2021 by APC, the African Union and Research ICT Africa, the class of 2021 was made up by 37 fellows coming from 16 African countries, who were joined by 46 faculty and resource team members with regional and international expertise on various internet governance issues and processes.

The practicum of the 2021 School was “Internet governance and digital inequality challenges/opportunities related to COVID-19”, a task oriented to conduct a post-pandemic assessment of digital ecosystems across the continent that would facilitate a shift by member states from a COVID-19 response focus to COVID-19 recovery. Read all the blog posts authored by the 2021 fellows that offer a vivid stocktaking of what they experienced.

Underscored the importance of multistakeholder engagement and transparency in reforms to the internet governance ecosystem

Since the establishment of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Digital Cooperation, progress was made in shaping the roadmap for fostering improved coordination and synergy among different spaces and processes concerning internet governance and global digital cooperation.

APC engaged with the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation from its inception, providing inputs into the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s consultations, participating in the resulting Roadmap roundtables and working closely with the Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Technology since its establishment in 2021.

As part of these efforts to ensure transparency, inclusivity and meaningful multistakeholder engagement, APC called for focused discussions and consultations to specifically address paragraph 93(a) of the Roadmap to ensure the necessary transparency for any reforms to be legitimate, impactful and sustainable.

APC advocated for the digital cooperation agenda as well as the working methods and modalities of collaboration of the UN Technology Envoy mandate to build on the lessons learned from years of multistakeholder cooperation and to set parameters for safeguarding multistakeholderism, transparency, inclusivity, dialogue and accountability across the board.

This resulted in a welcomed opening of the process that, although not optimal, set the ground for further advocacy in making recommendations for an open, inclusive and transparent process, as well as to comment on the profile, roles, responsibilities and working methods of the Tech Envoy to be appointed by the Secretary-General and suggested opportunities and spaces for collaboration.

Convened stakeholders to imagine the future of global internet governance

APC works for internet governance processes that are accessible, democratic, transparent, accountable and inclusive, sustaining a commitment with the strengthening of the Internet Global Forum (IGF) as a platform to improve coordination and cooperation in global internet governance.

In order to ensure that the IGF continues to play such a role, APC believes it is important to promote strategic discussions concerning its future and the future of global internet governance more broadly, so that these processes can lead to an internet governance that contributes to social, gender and environmental justice and human rights.

This was why during the second half of 2021, APC carried out a series of multistakeholder regional dialogues hosted in collaboration with regional stakeholders in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Insights collected from different regions were shared and followed by a hands-on activity where participants built on regional outputs to identify possible common grounds for work in the run-up to WSIS+20 – the forthcoming review process marking the 20th anniversary of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) – also keeping in mind the processes that have emerged in the past couple of years towards digital cooperation, including the Roadmap on Digital Cooperation and the upcoming Digital Compact.

During the 2021 IGF, APC organised a successful session to discuss the future of international internet governance 10 years from now, in partnership with APNIC, Asociación Latinoamericana de Internet, ONG Derechos Digitales, DotAsia, KICTANet and Pollicy, and with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The framework for this workshop, which attracted 61 participants online and 20 in person in Katowice, Poland, were the preparations for WSIS+20 and the need to rethink, adapt and/or reconfirm commitments made at the first phase of the Summit in 2003 in Geneva and the second phase in 2005 in Tunis. APC plans to continue its work to contribute to shaping a digital future for social, gender and environmental justice. 

Inserted environmental concerns in the internet governance agenda

Environmental justice and sustainability continued to be a priority issue for APC engagement in different internet governance spaces and processes.

Since early 2021, APC has participated in the newly formed multistakeholder working group Policy Network on Environment (PNE), framed by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. During the 2021 IGF, on 9 December, the PNE presented a report with concrete, actionable policy recommendations. Several APC staff and members contributed to the drafting of this PNE report, which focused on environmental data, food and water systems, and supply chain transparency and circularity, highlighting that digital technologies pose risks to the environment through the extraction and use of natural resources, and made policy recommendations to help identify and address violations of environmental and human rights.

In preparation for the discussions to take place at the 2021 IGF, the APC network organised a virtual discussion in November to explore and imagine how community-led development and deployment of digital technologies around the world are shaping paths towards digital transformation that are socially, economically and environmentally just and sustainable. This virtual pre-event to the global IGF responded to perceived gaps in the official programme of the IGF Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change track, which included workshops on narrow and specialised topics with insufficient consideration or exploration of the role of local communities.

Through those discussions, APC contributed to building greater awareness and understanding of how local communities can be supported in different contexts to shape the deployment and use of digital technologies to create just and sustainable communities, leading to greater care for ourselves, each other and the Earth.

During the IGF, APC also organised the session “Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) 2020 IGF launch: Technology, the environment and a sustainable world”, which discussed the contents of the GISWatch 2020 report first launched in April 2021 in the voices of the authors of thematic and country reports. The participants provided an overview of the diverse challenges related to the intersection between digital technologies and environmental sustainability and presented action steps from an internet governance and internet policies point of view. (See also: “Created entry points to link environmental justice, feminist theory and practices with the use of digital technologies through research and discourse”.)

Read the full APC Annual Report 2021 here.