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GISWatch 2024 Special Edition

Twenty years ago, stakeholders gathered in Geneva at the first World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and affirmed a “common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society.” Though this vision is still a distance away, there is nonetheless a greater acknowledgement today of the need for redressing inequalities and reimagining our digital future through a social justice lens.

In preparation for the WSIS+20 review set to take place in 2025, APC is preparing a special edition of its flagship publication GISWatch, produced in partnership with IT for Change and with the support of WACC Global. The edition considers the importance of WSIS as an inclusive policy and governance mechanism, and what, from a civil society perspective, needs to change for it to meet the challenges of today and to meaningfully shape our digital future.

"In recent years, there has been growing concern about the marginalisation of civil society perspectives in global and national processes,” writes Sala Weleilakeba from Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) in the new edition. With digitalisation rapidly sweeping the globe, civil society is poised at a critical moment to deepen knowledge on the successes, failures and challenges of the WSIS process and outcomes, and to inform the discussions to take place at WSIS+20.

Throughout this special edition, titled “WSIS+20: Reimagining horizons of dignity, equity and justice for our digital future”, expert reports consider issues such as the importance of the historical legacy of WSIS, the failing multistakeholder system and how it can be revived, financing mechanisms for local access, the digital inequality paradox, why a digital justice framing matters in the context of mass digitalisation, and feminist priorities in internet governance. While this edition of GISWatch asks: “How can civil society – as well as governments – best respond to the changed context in order to crystallise the WSIS vision?” it carries lessons for other digital governance processes such as the UN’s Global Digital Compact and NETmundial+10.

Ten years after publishing a special edition on the initial WSIS forum, this new special edition of GISWatch will explore the changes to the information society over the last 20 years, revisiting the past while mapping out paths for moving forward. It calls for governments to take into account civil society perspectives on our digital future, as part of the configuration of the future of WSIS, and seeks to influence key decision-making processes, including modalities, substantive scope and outcomes of the WSIS+20 Review process.

Keep an eye on this page for special chapter releases in the lead-up to the full launch of the special GISWatch edition, in anticipation of WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event, scheduled for 27 to 31 May in Geneva.

Reclaiming a radically changed context: Introduction to GISWatch 2024 Special Edition

In the introduction to the edition, the authors discuss how 20 years ago, stakeholders gathered in Geneva at the first World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Since the framework for cooperation was set out in the Geneva Plan of Action (2003), much has changed in the global digital context, while many recognised challenges still remain. 

Free, prior and informed consent: Accountability, environmental justice and the rights of Indigenous peoples in the information society

In honour of Earth Day 2024, we shared the first report from the GISWatch 2024 Special Edition looking at the shifting landscape of digitalisation and connectivity since the first WSIS forum and how respect for the planet and meaningful access are key principles in working toward environmental justice, written by shawna finnegan (APC). 

The value of WSIS and the future of information societies: GISWatch 2024 Special Edition reports

We present a report each by Sally Burch (Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI)) and by Ana Neves (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia – Unidade FCCN). Burch presents a thoughtful analysis on the vision and agenda set up at the WSIS summit 20 years ago, while Neves reflections on its value and need in civil society advocacy as we move forward.

From the digital inequality paradox to marginalisation through digitalisation: GISWatch 2024 Special Edition reports

These two reports, written by Alison Gillwaldand Sala Weleilakeba, explore pathways for addressing the digital divide as well as the impacts of digitalisation when marginalised populations are overlooked in decision-making processes.

Exploring gender and internet governance: GISWatch 2024 Special Edition reports

In the following two chapters, APC's Paula Martins (global policy lead) and Namita Aavriti (Women's Rights Programme co-manager) expand on the power of ICTs to overcome inequalities along with feminist priorities within internet governance processes.

We will be announcing more news about the upcoming launch of the GISWatch 2024 Special Edition ahead of the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event at the end of May. And you can find the entire GISWatch archives online. Stay tuned!

These reports were originally published as part of a larger compilation: “Global Information Society Watch 2024 Special edition: WSIS+20: Reimagining horizons of dignity, equity and justice for our digital future"

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