IGF 2020 WS #220 Going CooP: Alternative Models in the Digital Economy


Organizer 1: Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 1: Deepti Bharthur, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Sofia Scasserra, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Simel Esim, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Birds of a Feather - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

The proposed workshop session will focus on the IGF’s sub-theme of ‘5. Sustainable business models in the Digital Age’ and in particular, examine the policy questions: 1. What kind of global internet governance regime can shape and foster sustainable and alternative business models and ensure diversity and inclusion in the digital economy? 2. What role can public digital infrastructure including connectivity, banking and credit, logistics, and fair access to data marketplaces play in allowing alternative models to enjoy and complete in a level playing field?

While alternative platform models in the global North find it easier to reclaim the potential of the internet, going against the grain is not easy for actors in the global South. This panel will specifically delve into the challenges and constraints faced by global South actors in the space of alternative digital innovation – from navigating infrastructural and policy deficits to finding suitable options for mainstream platform tools. This geographically diverse and global panel, which brings together actors in the policy space, labor organizing, research and business will share insights on the challenges of getting locally situated innovation off the ground and answer to the question – what it takes to build truly viable and resilient models that can maximize social and collective interest? How can we balance innovation and growth with comprehensive and equitable gains for all actors in the value chain?


GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities


In a world of increased data and value concentration, where the labor force is engaged in a struggle for better terms of inclusion and the continued preservation of hard won labor rights, alternatives not only further the possibilities for fair and decentralized value distribution but also promote greater worker/producer autonomy, and long term livelihood and local sustainability. Whether they be crypto-currency communities in Argentina, traditional weavers’ cooperatives in India foraying into e-commerce, or young entrepreneurs in Africa hacking the development challenges of the continent, world over, collectives and individuals are constantly innovating to renew the original promise and potential of the platform economy – economic and social cooperativism, equity and solidarity. Lessons from these initiatives prove invaluable, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has thrown light on the issue of immense worker precarity in the gig-economy and highlighted the need for more equitable value distribution among actors in the digital economy. In the inevitable global economic downturn right on the heels of the pandemic, there will be an urgent need to look towards creating viable paths to recovery in the digital economy outside of mainstream capitalism. Against this context, this session will delve into the potential and challenges for social enterprises and worker/producer led platform models. The choice of a ‘Birds of a Feather’ format for the proposed workshop allows for a highly interactive and issue-centred participation. In this proposed session, we will bring together experts from research, government, civil society and private sector. Speakers will draw from their backgrounds in on-ground collective organisation efforts, entrepreneurship and cooperativism to ideate and discuss how the original promise of the digital can be harnessed for developing viable and sustainable models of social and economic solidarity. A tentative methodology for the workshop is provided below with details of how discussions will be facilitated; • Introductory remarks by moderator (5 mins) introducing the topic and the speakers • Lightning talks by speakers using one illustrative story (10 min x 3) ▪ Sofia Scassera, World Labor Institute will shed light on the lessons from the new forms of labor and producer collectivization ▪ Fabien Anthony, AfricaGen will elaborate on alternative digital enterprise models being developed across the African continent and the challenges faced by independent entrepreneurs ▪ Simel Esim, International Labor Organisation will speak on the role for policy support for cooperativism • Follow up Q & A session by moderator using prompts and questions collected from social media channels (30 mins) • Open floor discussion with audience inputs (20 mins) • Concluding remarks from speakers (5 mins)

Expected Outcomes

The session will be geared towards furthering current conversations around alternative labor and business models in the digital economy to include and reflect the voices, perspectives and concerns of actors in developing countries. IGF audiences interested in exploring and learning about alternatives in the data economy will have the opportunity to interact and learn first-hand from those actively operating in this space. This is a critical knowledge gap in current discourses that will be well-served through the proposed workshop session. Through the session, we also aim to connect with other networks, individuals and organisations engaging with these ideas and think through collaborations for advocacy, outreach and cross-learning.

The session will be structured to facilitate high levels of audience participation both on site as well as remotely. Ahead of the IGF, organizers will work on reaching out to interested IGF communities on social media and via e-lists to solicit input and questions that can feed into the session. We will also live tweet the event.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The regulation of the digital economy is a key concern for the Internet Governance agenda of the coming decade. The structures of the internet need to urgently respond and adapt to tackle the issue of increased economic concentration and also be reclaimed towards the original promise of shared global knowledge, value and community. The topic of the proposed session is therefore of great relevance to Internet Governance.

Relevance to Theme: The proposed workshop directly engages with the key mandates of the ‘Inclusion’ theme at this year’s IGF and promotes a conversation around encouraging digital innovation that is sustainable, accrues gains in an equitable manner and is both grounded in and suited to the local development context.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.