IGF 2019 Pre-Event #19
Equity and Social Justice in a Digital World

Just Net Coalition


The central digital questions – those of inclusion, governance and safety – can no longer be restricted to a narrow online domain, as social justice concerns become decisively entangled with Internet, data, algorithms and AI. Digital intelligence, based on socially and economically valuable data, continues to restructure key sectors such as health, trade, commerce, agriculture, financial services, retail, hospitality, tourism and more. For social movements engaged in long standing struggles for equity and justice, the faultlines of contestation are being redefined. However, the vocabulary and strategies to pin down the manner in which neo-liberal globalization and dominant digital frameworks come together remain largely out of grasp of most social activists in tradtional sectors. Similarly for digital rights activists, a nuanced understanding the meaning of inclusion, governance and safety as it relates to different sectors of the economy and society, is now an imperative.

Just Net Coalition (JNC) was born through a recognition of this urgent imperative to build bridges between the older, “traditional” social movements and the digital rights community. We believe that IGF, which brings together a vibrant patchwork of digital rights activists, civil society organisations, businesses big and small, journalists, coders, policy makers, lawyers etc. will be the ideal space to rethink and restrategize an agenda for social movements at the cutting edge of radical change.

In March 2019, we organised a workshop in Bangkok titled Equity and Social Justice in a Digital World. The workshop brought together 60 activists from all over the world, from backgrounds in digital activism and of activism in other more tradtional sectors. The event aimed at brokering a dialogue between actors from social movements and members of the digital rights community and explore the possibility of creating common pathways for data and digital justice. Speaking from their particular background in digital rights work and social movements, participants weighed in on the digital moment and its possibilities and challenges for social movements. While discussing the challenges and opportunities participants also spoke about how digital rights movements could find points of convergence with these struggles. In addition, the workshop included voices from the digital rights space speaking to critical issues of data protection, cross-border flows of data versus data localization, access and so on who debated in what ways digital paradigms bring up/ reinforce the older questions pertaining to social justice. All participants worked towards articulating a common digital justice agenda and a manifesto.

At IGF, we would like to present this digital justice manifesto developed from an equity and social justice perspective, and further develop perspectives and strategies around it for effective social action.

We have continued our efforts to open up spaces of conversation and dialogue between digital rights communities and social and economic rights movements at different venues and platforms including till date, the Global IP Congress, the WTO public forum, UNCTAD, as well as the IGF itself. We are working to develop a ‘Digital Justice Manifesto’ which can create a reframed mandate for social movements and digital rights activism together.

We propose a full- day session of activities and discussions that are tentatively structured as follows:

1. Opening debrief on the ‘Digital Justice Manifesto’: To kick-start the event, members of the Just Net Coalition will present the draft version of the Digital Justice Manifesto to the participants and go over the key themes and mandates.

2. Sectoral/thematic panel: A panel will present and discuss how such an equity and social justice agenda specifically relates to important digital themes of the Internet, data, algorithms, digital platforms and AI. This will be followed by a plenary discussion.

3. Breakout sessions to brainstorm the manifesto: The idea of having breakout sessions is for regional or sectoral caucuses to branch off into more focussed conversations. Groups will work on specific aspects of the manifesto by offering their perspectives and critiques through guided questions and prompts.

3. Concluding plenary: Groups will come back with their ideas and inputs to an open plenary session where the inputs will be discussed and integrated into the manifesto.