IGF 2019 WS #107 Digital enlightenment: Ways out of the digital adolescence

Organizer 1: Jimmy Schulz, German Bundestag
Organizer 2: Leena Simon, Digital Courage e.V.
Organizer 3: Max Senges, Google

Speaker 1: Tijani BEN JEMAA, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Nigel Hickson, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Milton Mueller, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

How can institutional rules or a consensus about digital enlightenment lead governments out of “digital puberty”? How can members from civil society, governments, members of parliament, media, economy and the technical community contribute to enlighten people and empower them to build mature digital societies? What are the single stakeholder’s responsibilities and capabilities in educating users, influencers and governing bodies of the digital society? Where should they work together and are there even challenges where single stakeholder´s responsibility is required? What kind of differences in education and attitude to digitisation exist in different countries (e.g. North / South)? What efforts need to be taken in order to tackle the challenge of enlightening people and empower them to build mature digital societies? What are the individual user’s own responsibilities?

Relevance to Theme: A question of digital inclusion:
This discussion comprises the question, how to include people who are not already connected to the digital world, to enable them to profit from digitization and how to prevent a digital social gap and exploitation due to unawareness (e.g. lack of data protection). Its aim is also the prevention of exclusion in digital societies.

Relevance to Internet Governance: To encourage people to rethink the lack of sovereignty of their own digital lives (e.g. privacy), an international enlightenment movement following the idea of Immanuel Kants mission statement "Have courage to make use of your own reason" is necessary. This could empower people to break free from their "partly self-imposed" immaturity when it comes to a lax and unaware approach to handling technical developments.
Multi-Stakeholder discussion: The debate about digital enlightenment requires several perspectives and mutual efforts of diverse and global protagonists to succeed. To start and encourage such a process, it is necessary to coordinate these efforts within an institutional multi stakeholder framework.


Birds of a Feather - Auditorium - 90 Min

Description: We are in the middle of a collective state of digital puberty. People have only just discovered digitalization and need to learn how to navigate their way in a globally connected world. In this youthful state we are constantly testing the limits of these new opportunities. It is time to start a global discussion about how we want to handle these new challenges arising from the digital age. We need to establish a well-defined and broadly accepted common consensus: Which limits and rules should be established to achieve a more mature level of our digital society?

With the format “birds of a feather”, we want to start and bring forward an international debate about how to empower people to build enlightened and mature digital societies.

The aim is to create an international movement of digital enlightenment, which involves diverse stakeholder groups!

Based loosely on Immanuel Kant, digital enlightenment is the only way out of digital immaturity. "Have courage to make use of your own reason" became the mission statement of the enlightenment movement in the 18th century which changed the world. At that time, churches and elites tried to suppress critical thinking and individual advancement. Nowadays, mainly private companies shape the way we navigate the digital world - at the real risk that certain decisions are taken out of our hands without our explicit consent. This is especially important as we can currently see real implications for our democratic systems, if we e.g. simply ignore the potential for abuse in algorithm-based communication platforms. While these algorithms can inspire us and make our lives easier, they also have the potential to make us lazy in terms of no more need for taking responsibility for our own decisions.

In order to find a way out of our "selfimposed immaturity" we want to start a debate with representatives from civil society, governments, members of parliament, media, economy, academia and education sector and the technical community to discuss each stakeholder's responsibilities and capabilities in educating users, influencers and governing bodies of the digital society.
We are happy to collaborate with other workshop organizers in the same field to ensure that our session is complementary.

Expected Outcomes: Highlighting the role of philosophy, we want to find out, if the challenges of the digital age are only the result of our collective immaturity or might also have other reasons - thus defining potential future objectives for improving Internet Governance and defining institutional rules or a consensus about how digital enlightenment can lead governments and citizens out of “digital puberty”. Furthermore, an important step will be to define the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders within this process.

Onsite Moderator: 

Leena Simon, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Max Senges, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Jimmy Schulz, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

Since the aim of this workshop is starting a diverse and inclusive debate about the future of our digital societies, we wish to encourage as many (online & offline) participants as possible to actively share their thoughts on this topic. Therefore we will attempt to facilitate a multi-stakeholder brainstorming. To create an open and non-discriminatory atmosphere, we suggest the following rules for this brainstorming: Defer judgement, go for quantity, one conversation at a time and encourage wild ideas. With this strategy we hope to collect an extensive list of challenges, best practices and possible governance questions.

Online Participation: 

We will promote online participation especially to a younger audience and encourage online participants to submit ideas, questions and other contributions to the brainstorming.

Proposed Additional Tools: We are considering to establish a Hashtag for this session to include a wider online community via Twitter. We will promote this Hashtag in advance.


GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions