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IGF 2020 - Day 5 - NRI Digital rights and impact on democracy

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the virtual Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), from 2 to 17 November 2020. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> MODERATOR:  I'm Anja Gengo.  I work with so many of you for a couple of years now, it is a true pleasure to work with colleagues actively.  We have had last‑minute changes on who will moderate the session.  Usually I'm a backup to all of the NRI sessions, but you never know what will happen with technology and I'm very, very happy to be actively with the participants and the panelists here in this session.  I think it is one of the most important topics, probably the most broadest topic that the NRIs were addressing in this week, this is the seventh and the last NRIs collaborative session this week, we're having a main session next week and that will conclude our collective organized participation.

Before I come to the brief explanation of the process and who are our distinguished speakers today and what the topic is about, I would like to start this session with quite a shocking inside news for many of us in the NRIs community who were close colleagues and friends of Ms. Marilyn Cade, you know, unfortunately Marilyn has left us, there was a shocking news for all of us, she's not among us anymore and out of the respect for a great collaboration we had for so many year, great friendship, we have developed, I'm going to ask for a minute of silence in the honor of Marilyn in this session.  Thank you.

With that, I would like to officially start this session, for the quick introduction, the NRIs collaborative sessions are a result of several months long process organizing the sessions by the NRIs, all of the topics were developed through an open consultive bottom‑up process through the network and we have had 7 other session, this particular one, it is addressing digital rights and how digital rights are impacting our democracies.  It is a broad topic but following the inputs that I have received from the speaker, I have no doubt that we're going to narrow down the focus on where we see the biggest impact on people related to this topic.  With that, if you allow me, I would like to quickly introduce our panelists that are with us today.  This session is being organized by four participating NRIs, Nigeria IGF, France IGF, Mauri ITU s IGF in access the Italian IGF and we have Mr. Gbenga Sesan from the Nigeria IGF, I hope that Mr. Gbenga Sesan will join us very soon ‑‑ you are here!  Welcome!  Excellent to have you!  In addition to Gbenga Sesan, we have Jennyfier Chretien, my French is very, very bad.

We have our dear colleague and a friend, Mahendranath Busgopaul, and we have Andrea Beccalli who has worked in his capacity at ICANN but on behalf of the Italian IGF this evening with us. 

I'm referring this evening, because here in Geneva it is close to 8:00 p.m. I think we are in a similar zone, all of us, at least the speakers, the attendees may be coming from different zones so it could be that for you it is maybe convenient work hour.  In any case, it is a nice topic to conclude this workday.

I would like to open the floor to our speakers relating to contemporary challenges for our societies facing it is a relates to digital rights, as the global internet penetration is growing as a digitalization process, they're more and more integrated in our life dynamics, we're seeing differences in how the public services are being delivered, nothing has better proven the purpose of the internet as the ongoing pandemic when all of the schools went digital, when our work went digital, when our social interactions went digital and all in different aspects of our life.  It is something definitely to address this evening and I would like to on this topic maybe to start from our very interesting part of the world, beautiful country, Mauritius, Mahendranath Busgopaul, can you give us reflections on the concept of digital rights and how digitalization has impacted the democracy and the democratic processes in your community?

>> MAHENDRANATH BUSGOPAUL: Thank you.  Hello, everybody.

As Anja introduced me, I'm Mahendranath Busgopaul today we'll look on the issues of the content challenges regarding digital rights and let me just start by saying we cannot halt progress, that would be like sit sitting on the beach thinking we can stop the tide, instead we must learn, adapt, and that's what we have learned from our IGF.  Globally the population, they're getting online, recent events accelerated this, but soon it will become a Human Rights.  The growth of global internet penetration as a digitalization of society intersects more intensively with delivery of public services, social interaction, business efficiency.

The advances in internet applications in these areas have changed the way we're receiving information and participating in public discourse.  It is time to ask what are the contemporary challenges and changes for our society regarding the digital inclusion and rights?  How should this new media appreciation ‑‑ applications be governed and regulated.  What's the Best Practice, how can it be enforced?  A 100% digitalized society with everyone included and online, which is an inevitable outcome and we must address the subject of digital rights, appropriate enforced, formal digital rights and the best practice essentially are the trajectory of this technology development and the good process and how it will allow us to enjoy new intellectual property on our digital assets because they would be covered with an ethical and practical legal boundaries. 

Here some legislations are already in place to safeguard the digitalization of citizens with regard to innovation and information.  However, numerous challenges prevail which do not motivate our citizens to fully embrace the innovation that we're seeing.  Citizens know their digital rights?  Probably not.  People have a right to own their data, but too often this can be hijacked by cooperations and governments alike, depriving citizens of choice, freedom and sometimes even free will, there should be a mechanism in police beyond consent of every citizen to reclaim his or her data and this is precisely what cooperations and governments have done with them and being able to reviews data or personal identity information to be stored.  Best Practices should be enforced so that the behaviors of big tech giants and governments are aligned with the needs of individuals in our society.  We have an intellectual property act in 2019 with a view of addressing issues related to intellectual property rights.  This act provides setting up of an intellectual property council, the role of which is mainly advisory and which is to ensure coordination among the public and private sectors in the formulation of intellectual property policies and enforcement of intellectual property rights.  The intellectual property office which is under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the mission to assert an effective protection of industrial property rights, creates an environment for innovative and inventive activities here.  They are also required for an orderly exchange on goods and services in the marketplace in compliance with hybrid standards and treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization..  Nevertheless, the structure of the PU has to be further consolidated to encourage our citizens, particularly the use to combat with innovative ideas and contribute to the emerging economy.  Furthermore, the associated course in securing patents to enjoy intellectual property are extremely high which is the emergence of the local inventions and the innovative products and the services, given the lack of such facilities with regard to patenting, the country experiences considerable difficulties to be protected globally.  The registration of software, hardware solutions is quite few in number.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

I have to say, you surprise me.  Thank you for this.  Usually when I listen to these types of dialogues and information they start with the more traditional narrative of going into the field of Human Rights and freedom of expression and privacy.  I think this is a needed input for us and we'll definitely come back to the protection of Intellectual Property.  I would like to now move just quickly to the Italian IGF, the same question for you, just on understanding where is the biggest impact of digitalization on the delivery of public services in Italy, how do you see the concept of digital rights in general?  Is that something that has different views and different narratives across the communities?

>> ANDREA BECCALLI: Hello.  Thank you for the question.

Let me just express my condolences for the sad loss of Marilyn Cade.  I have been fortunate as many of us in this community to know her and it is a good example of cross utilization of longstanding, even before I existed community member in ICANN that kept being very active and promoting the multistakeholder approach under the same ethos of multistakeholder work and engaging new communities within the IGF.  It is indeed an example for many of us.  You may have liked it or not, but you have to recognize that she was an incredible worker, engager, mover, productive and if all of us did 1%, 5% of her drive, we would really accomplish something, see real change in these environments.

On this discussion, on digital rights, this is something that the Italian IGF this year given the consistency of being in the COVID crisis, being a country that firsts that Europe, we had a very severe lockdown, and suddenly it was a wake‑up call for everybody on the internet test, something that we all shared.  For how traumatic and dramatic it was, and it still is, it did bring back to the center of the policy public discourse the attention of internet, the economic, social impacts and other things connected with that.  That was very welcome in Italy within the framework of the IGF actually going back to the very first versions of the IGF promoting this idea of internet Bill of Rights, a sort of document that's a Bill of Rights that would frame those rights and make sure that these rights would be part of the national institution and part of our global recognition from all users of the internet.  We go back into really 2008, 2009 and then with ups and downs, this work, it had a boost in 2015 with the declaration of the internet rights, of the charter of the internet rights, it was 10%, it was actually drafted by multistakeholder experts team, Chaired by the speaker of the representatives and then the document that we're speaking about, in 2015.  Suddenly, or not suddenly, but, you know, evidently this document disappeared, the discussion disappeared from the landscape and unfortunately the governments that followed after, they didn't take this charter, they didn't try to implement it and everything changed during the IGF and probably as a side effect of the pandemic and suddenly basic issues, such as ensuring everybody has equal access when you put as a decree that everybody has to work at home and suddenly you figure out that there are huge differences in connectivity costs, in bridge, in literacy, and that became even more evident with remote learning, the schools, having and sharing the ‑‑ I remember the first weeks, we all remember the first weeks or days, you know, nobody thought how do we do that?  There was no plan to do remote learning and people started running around, trying to figure out if there were some recommendations and documents done and all of this, it wasn't there, but it did push again the awareness that the internet is no longer a leisure, it is no longer another means of communication, it is no longer cyberspace but a central part of our societies and our economy and of ensuring that our rights are fulfilled.

A whole session was approached during the Italian IGF, and the interesting part, it is that there was this exercise in bridging the Italian charter of rights with the UN high‑level panel recommendation on the digital cooperation and how the two documents are looking at the same aim in ensuring that internet, that it is taken seriously as part of the ‑‑ not as other Human Rights but as ‑‑ as ‑‑ you know, as an essential function of a society.  That was one of the main ‑‑ it was one of the main probably highlights of the discussion hopefully in Italy, the Italian IGF would push through, this will move forward back from 2015.

Another part of the other side of the internet and we see it and we have had discussion about this also at the Italian IGF, it is how at the same time the internet, the platforms, they have an impact on public discourse which by also they have an impact on basic rights and they have an impact on the legislative process, they have an impact even on in the case of a pandemic, of misleading, pushing for false information and health and safety.  This is something that also became quite prominent into the discussion.

And I remember one session that I attended with the Italian IGF, it was mentioned today, still how many people were not sure a vaccine for the seasonal flu was needed and how much that was pushed through the internet and social media.  Of course, this is the other side of the discussion that we need to take into consideration because now, you know, we have more and more evidence on what a social media driven algorithm and attention to the economy can have as an impact on our rights and our societies.  Both these things were discussed in the Italian IGF and I want to stop here because I would continue with other questions.

If I may close, one of probably the most important resolutions to me for the Italian IGF, it was this idea of getting back, even the Prime Minister, one of his televised speech, one of the very first one announcing the restriction, he himself said I personally believe that the internet should be a democratic institution and I will work for this to happen.  You know, it suddenly reached this level of political attention and I hope that it will follow-through and that's ‑‑ you know, we'll have a good positive impact also on the work of the global IGF in achieving that.

Thank you.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much for the excellent inputs.

I have quite a bit of notes from you.

Both you and Mahendranath Busgopaul had mentioned the legislation, how basically our laws and policies are being changed.  I would like us to continue in that spirit, maybe go now with the French IGF and maybe you can start by pronouncing your last name so I can see how close I was and to tell us, yes, in France, what do you see as a priority of the impact of digitalization processes on the overall democracy especially what's happening on a field of legislation, you're known as probably one of the leading countries that's actually changing laws and policies.

>> JENNYFER CHRETIEN: Thank you.  My last name, it is Jennyfier Chretien.

>> MODERATOR: I was not even close!  Thank you!

>> JENNYFER CHRETIEN: I will speak with two hats on, both as representative of the IGF France and as representative of Renaissance Numerique.  To contribute to the discussion I would like to share two reflections:

First, a general observation:  The Universal Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, it is being lost in digital globalization, there is no fundamental rights or freedom related to digital matters that escapes regionalization.  The internet that we wish open is being put in line with national and international regulations that are being developed and with growing concerns about consolidation of the internet economy.

Moreover, the contractualization takes presence dense over the universal, democratic consensus on digital regulation.  Digital regulations through standards and non‑state bodies such as the W3C has become the norm.  New transnational bodies, creators of standards like the global internet forum to counterterrorism or the Facebook, this membership issues in the context of multistakeholder participation.  Citizens are moving from private spaces to public spaces, it poses an issue.  A place where democratic issues are applied, it is shrinking, not only on the surface but in terms of time spent in such spaces.  We have observed with intensity in context of the COVID crisis.

Before democratic spaces have transformed in which we wish to take the refuge in order to regain our fundamental rights and freedom, it has become important to define what governs the private spaces which is also our civil space.  We have to have firms of governance to escape this current unbalanced relationship and have democratic components in the mode of operation of digital services beyond the terms and conditions.  You need to facilitate collaboration with diverse user, both at the company level and at the macro level.  My second point deals with our local context in Europe.  The European Union has developed a strong framework to protect citizens in the digital age, in particular with the general data protection regulation.  The European Commission published in June its first text which leaves room for maturing of improvement in terms of harmonization between Member States and better appropriation by citizens who are urging the rights to them and by organizations and businesses with regard to the implementation of the rights.  Beyond the protective framework, we have a progressive version the fundamental rights and freedoms, this version, it is a long‑term and has a lot of conjecture which in crisis, like the COVID pandemic, it grows in multitude.

Both France and the European Union are wondering how to balance these rights, in particular, between security and freedom issues, the COVID crisis, it has looked at the difficulty of achieving the balance once again.  In France, debates on technologies of the censorship by the Constitutional Council of the Law aimed at combating online hate speech have crystallized the discussions this year.

About this, the current Articles of the text and in particular the first Article on the obligation for platform on operators to remove the content within 24 hours and the freedom of expression and the communication in a manner that is unnecessary in inappropriate and disproportionate.  This suggestion is perfectly inline of the position of some members of IGF France in creating Renaissance Numerique, it is interesting to note that in the two cases social connection, content regulation, the framework putting the fundamental rights and freedoms already exists.  However, it suffers from an insufficient application and from attempts to weaken it.  In the context of the terrorist attacks in France, the security where this was discussed, it correlates to the general surveillance and it is calling into question a number of protective conditions.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.  I want to thank you for drawing the attention to the legal procedures if we see breaches of any rights or freedoms online through the digitalization means.  I think you brought an important factor in our discussion for this is subjective, what I'll say, I think we're always missing in our global discussions, which are the courts and the prosecutors, those are the ones that are at the end, they come up with decisions while we're still struggling to extend the normative side of the digital processes and the digital rights.  Thank you so much.

I would like to come back to that later.  Let's continue with our introduction remarks, I ask that you keep it concise, we have a bit more than half of an hour I think to conclude this session and I can tell from profiles of the colleague that are present with us today that they want to come in on the open discussion when we open the floor.  On that, the same question, I would like to give the floor to Mr. Gbenga Sesan for the perspective from Nigeria, do you see the digitalization processes and how they're impacting the democratic processes in your country?

>> GBENGA SESAN: Thank you.  The challenge of speaking last, it is that you're the one that gets the notice of the Chair that you have to keep the time.  I will do my best.

Of the Nigeria IGF, the theme, like many other things, it was influenced ‑‑ first of all, it was virtual and the theme for Digital Economic Development in a Post‑COVID‑19, and the focus was the digital economic development.  That's why I want to talk very quickly about four points and on the first, it is what I consider a major opportunity for Nigeria, something that we're not doing well with, but that obviously was discussed with IGF and is a major point for all of the countries that may have similar experiences and we know for a fact that kids who are out of school because of COVID‑19 or because they also cannot have access to the internet, which is basically the bottom 40%, not just in Nigeria, across the world, they have two challenges.  The first, they can't learn things others are learning and the second challenge, they have forgotten all of the things they learned before schools closed and this is research cutting and talked about over time.  I think if there was any time for us to talk a lot more about digital inclusion, making sure that broadband is not something just limited to companies and people of means that internet access is affordable and reliable, and it is now.  The consequences are more dire than they were before.  You know, people who are supposed to work remotely, study remotely, practice social distancing, you know, being able to buy things online, if they're not connected I have always say there are three categories, there are the unconnected, those not connected, there are the disconnected, who were connected but were cutoff either because of at times government over reach, you know, and those that are connected.  We need to pay attention to the unconnected and disconnected.  As I speak, we all know that we're dealing with different terms right now.  It is weird for a year like this.

The opportunity of the universal service funds that Nigeria, many other countries have, is with the fact that there is now an agreement between the governance forum which is made up of all of the states that are across Nigeria and, you know, the ministry in charge of infrastructure to reduce the right‑of‑way which basically is the cost it will take to bring this fiber cable into the innerland, it is just competition between states, if it stays in the southwest, for example, the states declared we're going to have this so cheap and another state, northwest, they decided guess what, it is not cheap, it is free and that's the kind of competition that allows Telecom companies to lay more fiber and to do more of that.  That's the first point.

Second point, in terms of the role that digital rights will play in the digital economy because the digital economy is the answer for many countries, including Nigeria, in terms of socioeconomic growth.

Everyone knows the numbers for Nigeria, 500 million eventually, poverty capital of the world, things like that, but a digital economy provides a huge opportunity for us to set people on the path towards opportunities and that I think can only happen if we promote the Rights of the citizens and that leads me to my fourth point, the legislative challenge we have, this is not a Nigerian debate alone but a global debate, we have a dichotomy between the security and the rights which by the way is not in reality, the reality is the fact that in many cases security has become an excuse to infringe on rights but I'm glad to see a lot of push back by citizens and conversations across the world, including in Nigeria, a practical example, a few weeks ago, last week actually there were more conversations by some government representatives about introducing social media bill that could clamp down on social media users and it is exciting to see the kind of reaction by young people on social media towards that.  Nigeria is now thankfully making the leap from just having a regulation to having a proper digital privacy and protection law.  That's commendable as well because in society, it was also included.  I will make a last point because I can see that Madam Chair is looking at me already.

The last point, it is a huge opportunity that Nigeria had for the last ‑‑ we came very close to having digital rights and freedom law in 2019 when the parliament passed the bill, digital rights and freedom bill which goes to the President's table but was not signed into law.  Thankfully, it is now back in parliament, in fact, it has enjoyed some form of fast tracking and this I'm happy to talk a bit more as we go into details.  I think that legislative environments that focus on innovation are not in focus on a climate of fear and punishment and that's what we need to promote digital rights and to make sure that right now and even post‑COVID we have a better digital economy.

I'll stop here for now.  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.  I thank you for respecting the time.  You have said quite a lot.  We'll have opportunities later to it come in with expanding on this excellent point that you have shared.

Before we open the floor, I'm going to ask all of the participants to think about the questions that they would like to ask you or maybe from their own countries and communities would like to bring inputs.  Some, if not all of you mentioned the impact of the pandemic.  I remember we almost in April had a proposal completely ready while still thinking the IGF will happen on site and I do remember us, a couple of us, there was more of us involved in preparing this session, when we said that despite the unbelievable challenges, the harm that the COVID pandemic has done to the world, at least one good thing has come out of it, which is what some of you have said, it is really prompting some decision maker, leadership, experts to think about the importance of being meaningfully connected to the internet.  With that in mind, I wanted to ask all of our panelists what are the good practices, good actions that were prompted in yarns thanks to the pandemic and thanks to the enforce basely of the digitalization processes and so many aspects of our lives as I said from the beginning, schools, digital overnight, some of us being fortunate to work from our homes online, some unfortunately losing jobs but then forced to go to the digital market and to find new ones.  Were there any good actions?  In addition to that, speaking about the currently present issues on public digital policy in our communities were they may be exacerbated by the pandemic COVID‑19 or do you think that the growing use of people of the internet services did not impact the issues that are present in the countries.  Maybe with these questions to start from, I think on my list, it is maybe to go back to Jennyfier Chretien if Jennyfier Chretien, if you agree, just to give us an overview on this question.

>> JENNYFER CHRETIEN: This questions, there is uncertainties and we have to consider the internet as a common good and digital access as a Human Rights.  The crisis has shown all of the digital divides and without this access people can't imagine the digital society, we have to define what is the minimum acceptable level of digital access and this has to be universally shared.  Moreover, as I explained the pandemic has shown the difficulty of obtaining the balance between security and freedom principles in a period of crisis.  For example, in order to enforce confinement, forces to move to the movement of the populations in Paris, and the council of states in France, they judge that the deployment within that framework, it is an infringement to a right of privacy.

That's an example of the question.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much for that.

Let's briefly move 1, 2 minutes to let me see, maybe to Andrea Beccalli, from the Italian IGF.

>> ANDREA BECCALLI: Yes.  Hello again.

This is an interesting question.  As I said, the worst is the general recognition and awakening on the impact of the internet on digital rights and it was multifaceted so for instance suddenly after months of GDPR being bombarded on everyone suddenly people are surprised in Italy that the contract tracing app wasn't being used, people were not loading it on their phones.  The general sentiment is that people were not sure about their data.  To someone that observes and studies and works in this environment it is kind of making you laugh because you think well, I'm sure that you have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, you never think about what happens with your data.  In this case, you know, probably because it was in an emergency situation, with the health crisis, there is this kind of science of threat of the personal space that already the virus is taking, that's something that is exacerbated and this awareness of your personal data and at the same time, on other fronts, the government is able to thanks to the emergency to push on the digital identity for instance, they used probably the oldest trick to take the digital identity, many of the countries in Europe, around the world, they do to follow worker, to get unemployment benefits, it has been online you're asked to register to get this information, so that way, a spike of, this is one side, it is more how do you interface with the public authority which is different discussion than your personal digital identity on the internet in general.  There is more general awareness actually.  I myself realize still how much the discussion that we had with the IGF, the Italian IGF, it is a small niche of people and I myself was surprised to see the number of participants from this year, the Italian IGF, we went to the thousands and some sessions, 15,000 participants, I wouldn't believe it myself, but it is this strange combination of everybody being at home, everybody suddenly being aware that, you know, the government is asking you to download this app for contact tracing, you have these feelings of, well, will they track me for something else, and then suddenly you have more awareness about your right to privacy that you never had before, even though you have been using the social media platforms for many years.  There are some interesting side effects on that.  Probably one that is not really related to the digital policy issues, but as part of that, it is the recognition that the next phase, hopefully there will be a next phase will have to be way more digital than it was so far.  That goes primarily on the economic level and getting back into a situation where most economies are in recession but also on the rights level.  Of course, it is easier to see the economy side of things, for instance, the next generation, E.U., the funds that the European Union will ‑‑ the countries within Europe agreed to put for the recovery, 20% of the 750 billion will have to be on digital and that has to be specified.  That's something that the Italian IGF, we were aware, we need to get ready for that, it will be resources come, we need to be sure that we'll not go back in this situation where suddenly you realize there are huge gaps in access, huge access in literacy, remote learning, it is a nightmare, and we have to deal with that.  This is something that prompts good action, one, from the government, okay, this time we have to put money, one from the general public that suddenly sees that the internet is something more than just another means of communication, that the rights on the internet are count an important element and even sometimes there is a realization that their own rights are part of the internet economy and people are asking, well, is that something they're continuing.  The fact that the discussion is happening, it is actual something very good and they didn't see that before at that level of participation.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you.

I have actually two keywords for you, one, trust, centralized trust and another one, it is that it helps in raising awareness.  I think that's something that we'll come in concluding remarks on just to tackle a little bit on the cause from that.  Before that, let me please go back to Mr. Mahendranath Busgopaul, the same question I have for you, I'm not aware of what was the situation with COVID‑19 and I know that the country was affected, how did it effect the internet related policies and practices in the country.

>> MAHENDRANATH BUSGOPAUL: Thank you.  The outbreak of COVID‑19 pandemic has witnessed dramatic economic downturn globally.  Here some businesses managed to survive thanks to the digital framework and strategies which have driven online trading activities during the confinement period.  We had the confinement period.  The pandemic has in fact created opportunities for leveraging our digital facilities to sustain and grow equal activities.  In so doing, new threats are also a reason and an appropriate measure has had to be implemented to circumvent the adverse effects.  For instance, to curtail fake news and misinformation, a dedicated website and mobile app known as be safe Maurice on COVID‑19, it has been launched, measures introduced have also restricted the extent to which internet users could post online contents on social media and other platforms.  Many believed it is able to spread misinformation.  In this spirit, some citizens considered the measures introduced as impacting negatively on the digital rights and freedoms while others welcome the controls and the initiatives.  Our physical rights and freedoms have deeply declined because of the necessity to limit the spread of the disease to protect citizens.  Sure, COVID‑19, it is a threat but not the plague, nor Ebola, social media has disinformation through polarizing opinions, this is in fact a way to reduce our rights and freedom.  We have to reclaim access to the knowledge and be willing to take our own risk with our deep understanding of the situation.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

We'll come as well to the concept of the epidemic that emerged in the pandemic, the spread of inaccurate information through the means of social media and internet in general.  I think it is very important to be addressed as well and it is a good practice for you to learn about.  Thank you.

I would like for us to just give word to the Nigeria IGF, to Mr. Gbenga Sesan, same question for you.  You have touched upon quite a lot in your first remarks, so I'm going to ask you to just focus concretely on the impact of COVID‑19 pandemic on the digitalization processes and on people and on the internet users in Nigeria, have any issues emerged, whether it prompted any good actions.

>> GBENGA SESAN: I think it is two things.

One, it is the fact that it has put pressure on the bottom of the pyramid who didn't really have opportunities before, you know, somebody who was already in public school and you're now asking them to go learn online, that's tough call.  You know, it takes a lot to have a device that can do that and also to make sure that he has internet access and that is able to charge with enough battery power to be able to use it.  Good news is, you know, the pressure has always brought the issue of the importance of access to the fore, right now we know for a fact that many government processes that were physical are now virtual and so there were Claims by the government institutions or with authorities, this and that, that's good, that's signaling, when you begin to see a lot more government processes go online, then you can be sure that citizens will engage with that process.  Like I said earlier, I think if there is any lesson that Nigeria has learned for this period, it is the fact that if we get people connected, you know, to socioeconomic opportunities then we must also factor reliable and affordable internet access to the equation.  Fortunately for Nigeria, the revised, which is now the broadband plan from 2013, it was on to 2018, and a new broadband plan has now been introduced, you know, it is supposed to be implemented right now.  We're not exactly pleased with the implementation of the first plan, but Nigeria now has an opportunity to, you know, definitely make sure that implementation of the new version is much better and reality ‑‑ I have said it many times, Nigeria can never build enough schools, physical schools for the number of children that come through high school.  You have upwards of 1.8 billion people writing exit exams from secondary schools, high schools each year, colleges, universities, they can only admit about 800,000, it is roughly 48 to 50% of that.  It means that the rest of the kids have to wait until the next year but now that people are learning online, there is no limit to the size of the classroom because it is not physical and that's a huge opportunity for Nigeria and other countries.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.  This is a positive note.  Excellent message to send on the point of schools, sometimes we don't think like that, that actually internet is such a good alternative for educating everyone in a meaningful way.  Thank you.

I think we have a request for the floor from Daphne Stevens, you have the floor.

>> Daphne Stevens:  Yes.  Thank you.  Thank you for giving me the floor.

I think I definitely agree with the points that were brought up by Andrea Beccalli with regard to the more awareness among the citizens.  I saw in the Netherlands where I live that a lot of people started thinking and realizing, hey, we have a right to privacy when the COVID app was introduced and people were scrutinizing and in the process, it even led to a more privacy friendly COVID app showing where citizens can have a big impact and now with regards to the epidemic of disinformation linked to it, I think that governments are playing big roles as well to create awareness that they never really had done before, before the pandemic took place because now they're saying, hey, how can you see this information, how can you check whether the information you see online is actually true or not?  I think that's not something that's only taking place in the Netherlands, but I think if you remember it properly, it took place in the U.K. and other countries.  That's a good step in the right direction.

I wanted to bring that to your attention as well.  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR: I truly appreciate you bringing that input and confirming what colleagues were saying as well.

I have to say, in completely agreeing with you, on the agenda of the NRIs across the world, that's what I have been see, that the main panels were organized on the matters of awareness raising, on trust, but also concepts of privacy and access as a right or a utility in Kenya.  It is definitely on the global agenda.  You are completely, right.  Thank you.  We have a couple more minutes.  I want to ask our participants if they would like to take the floor and to ask our participants any specific questions.

You can raise your hand or let me know in the chat.

In the meantime, there was one question in the Q&A regarding fake news and social media.  It seems to me one difficulty is the following, it is not always easy to draw the lines between expressing an opinion counter intuitive or as weird as it may seem and convey news, be it real or fake, for example vaccines against this is it fake news or opinion.  A very good question.

Much of the content, it is really about semantics as well, about the interpretation and I would defer, of course, if anyone from our speakers would like to respond to this one to do so.  I think it relates a lot to the standards that many of us were mentioning.

Anyone that would like to speak, you can come in.

>> GBENGA SESAN: I would like to speak to this.  It is an ongoing conversation in Nigeria. 

Like I mentioned earlier, you know, there was a protest led by young people and immediately ‑‑ it was coordinated on social media and immediately after government started to say that Nigeria needs a social media policy, the Minister said when in China, he was not able to do this and that and Nigeria needs to be able to switch off social media at will.  That's a terribly delivered speech, but we have now instead of having this conversation around a question, what is the speech, what is fake new, does fake news, is it opinion expressed but not appreciated by government?  Does it mean if I question something that's within my right to even express an opinion that could shock people, does that mean that it could be a claim of national security or national morality?  I think that we need to be careful with allowing governments to get away with getting behind security and public morals to use social media laws and codes to clamp down.  I say this because my organization initiative works across Africa and what you have seen, it is that many legislation, many laws that I have introduced in many countries, they're not primarily for the purposes mentioned, for example, Tanzania, Uganda introduced social media taxes in a bid to raise money for the economy, but the reality is, they didn't raise money for the economy, what they did was cutoff Uganda 3 to 5 million users over a short period of time.  It definitely defeats the economic argument that you're making.  I think it is important of an opportunity to educate users to ‑‑ so that people know not to share what it can't confirm.  You know, the idea that legislation is the answer to disinformation ordaining resilience speech, it is in itself a dangerous concept, especially vs where people cannot address, what I think we have to do a lot more, it is a multistakeholder opportunity like the IGF, where we can have conversations around the community norms such that the community itself begins to reject what is untrue, what is false, what is dangerous instead of, you know, clamping down, when we clamp down, what we do, we create a black market of information dissemination and it would be worse than some of the dangers we see now.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.  Thank you.  I think you centralized an important point which is digital literacy and education, development of critical thinking and not everything is on the side of those that are making final decisions, and a lot is on the side of us that are using primarily the internet and the digital technologies.  I see others are also quite grateful.  Thank you for that perspective from Uganda, Tanzania, this is actually excellent to hear.  I'm sorry we don't have colleagues sitting with us.  It is definitely something to reach out to them and maybe next year to prepare a session on it..

I don't see raised hands, or typed in the chat.  I have seen some excellent comments on the existing practices in some countries.

With that, if you then agree, I would like to us go to the concluding part of what's been a very interesting conversation and of course on a very broad topic but I think we did come down to three, four important points that I'll bring up later.  Now I would like to ask our speakers to speak about the ways to advance the concept of our digital rights with some concluding commitments or action‑oriented pledges or plans for the next queer or next year, how to advance practices that will serve all of us in ways suitable to look at our rights and freedom.

Let's start with Nigeria, if you don't mind.

>> GBENGA SESAN: Very, very one key point, I think that Nigeria, other countries are going to have an opportunity of taking advantage of the moment that we're in with event, including local events in the U.S., elections, elections in African countries, Tanzania, Guinea, all of that, there is so much ‑‑ there is a lot of debate around what's happening on social media and all of that, reality is that much more people will get connected in many of our countries and I think as we get connected these issues we're talking will amplify.

Number one, in places where organizations, you have people starting to work on safe examples of digitalized and freedom law process, I think this is an opportunity for us to rally around that and ask the question what kind of impact.  Do we want to provide?  Is it a climate of fair or of innovation?  I would vote for the latter, I think this is an opportunity that we have.  Of course, the second opportunity is for us to realize that this is the moment of inclusion, the young men and women that we do not include right now will not like the choices we will make in the next few years.  It is in our interest to make sure that we get everyone connected and everyone on the path of opportunities so that we don't regret, you know, actions they may take out of ignorance or deliberate attempts to question us for not getting them connected.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

From French IGF, are there any commitments or visions that you have for the coming time on this particular matter?

>> JENNYFER CHRETIEN: Thank you.  We have to make the framework protecting fundamental rights and freedoms more efficient in Europe but also in other regions, justice lacks resources.  For example, this weakens the regulators capacity to control the application of the general protection and we have to reinforce this which is largely insufficient and the second complimentary way, it will consist in using the capacity of the funds of regulation which has standardization to protect fundamental rights and freedoms.  In general, standards refer exclusively to technical material, for example, in the evolution of the evolution of technologies, but we could take into account legal dimensions in the definition.  When it comes for technologies, the ability for a system cannot be determined simply by its technical performance and we could regulate some system of practices.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.

Mr. Mahendranath Busgopaul.

>> MAHENDRANATH BUSGOPAUL: I would agree with my colleague from France.  There is a fine balance and we need to upload the right as described in the GDPR.  This is perhaps a first priority here.  We have to learn from Europe and other nations as well.

I would insist on saying that we should stop the flow of data by using tools without our knowledge.  People need to be educated and have the ability to block tracker, block beneficial cookies and allow individuals to decide what is actually done with our data.  We must have personal choice.  Education, I believe it is a starting point.    we can do it now.  Pulling citizens altogether with educational tools regarding the new polarizing technology is a public action‑oriented pledge from our IGF.  We need to have regulations as there are plenty of misuses of information.

By the way, it is true that we quickly go to regulation, so that we have the right to free speech, we protect it, in the same way our other rights should also be protected.

The right to access is fundamental, connectivity is very important for enhancing the uptake of online service, mobile and fiber coverage are key enablers to extend online services through the internet to a wider range of users.  It should be everyone's right to be connected.

I think that's all from me.

Thank you.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.  That's powerful message.  Thank you.

  Finally, I'm going to ask Andrea Beccalli for the Italian IGF to provide concluding remarks on the same question before we close the session.

>> ANDREA BECCALLI: For the commitment, I think what would be a viable commitment, and I'm going to back to the Italian IGF, we already discussed, it is to take this charter of internet rights back to the policy attention, we have already done that, and making sure that it actually goes into the legislative process and it is not only a recommendation, but it becomes a law.

What I would suggest, probably an idea, it could be that the network, it could be a way to further expand and update this document.  It would be great as I said, the document goes back to 2015, I think reading today, it still makes much sense, but we now learn many more things about the internet and the impacts on our rights and there are new issues coming up, artificial intelligence is one that is still revealing its powerful impact.  This would be a good exercise for the network.  In a moment as we see it, the attention of the issues, it is way more widespread on a warning we have seen in Europe and I think it is interesting for the IGF to also look, it is in Europe there is this price of the concept of digital sovereignty, something that just a few years ago, a couple of years ago would have been seen with a very negative element and it is a good approach now.

Many of the reasons behind this push for digital sovereignty, they're problems that we don't have time to discuss here, but problems with the internet and it is important on our societies that are known, but it can be a warning trend if everyone thinks about their own digital sovereignty, we then end up having no more one single internet but again, now all of a sudden, there is moves from the IGF fora to the highest levels and we have to make sure that we are not left out of the picture and it is often ‑‑ the economy, it is pushing a lot of policies and awareness on this and the digital sovereignty in my view, it is the case, while all sectors of the economy in Europe turned in an awful, classic auto manufacturing, oil, it is still big in Europe, everyone with money invested in the stock market, they saw everything just went below to the most awful ratings but not in the digital sector.

I think this is something that made a lot of people in the policymaking sphere open their eyes and suddenly you see this push for nurturing alternatives and the cloud service, an alternative to Amazon and Google, it is already moving forward in Europe and alternatives that are on the app, for instance, just recently, I think in Paris, the society that manages the Paris railway, they bought the third largest map providers in France and they want to be the alternative.  You know, there is as always some good side effects to that.

You know, you cannot lose sight of the risk, and in this case, the digital sovereignty one, it is the most worrisome one and this is another area where the IGF and the NRI have a lot of experience to share and a lot of things to say.

My other pledge would be to get the NRIs more involved in the national policymaking and we're very good in discussing, we're really good in the forecasted view and oftentimes we're left out when the legislation is discussed, when the decisions are taken and that's something that it is a real challenge and now that we have the attention on us, I think we're able to see some of that.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much for the commitments and I think you gave an excellent conclusion on this session in the concept that you just shared.  I think ‑‑ we're over time.  I would like to thank all participating NRIs.  You spent a long period of time collaborating and working together.

 

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