IGF 2020 WS #330 The Future of Work from Home: Internet Governance Post Covid

Time
Monday, 16th November, 2020 (14:00 UTC) - Monday, 16th November, 2020 (15:30 UTC)
Room
Room 1
About this Session
This panel will discuss the evolution of the concept of work in the digital economy, how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends towards teleworking arrangements, and the discrete ways in which internet governance will need to evolve to keep pace with new workplace norms. The panel will also assess potential solutions to the equity, privacy, and security concerns that these developments entail.
Thematic Track

Organizer 1: Matthew Schwartz, Innovators Network Foundation
Organizer 2: Brian Scarpelli, ACT | The App Association

Speaker 1: Ben Wallis, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Helani Galpaya, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Becca Williams, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Carmel Somers, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Additional Speakers

Ben Wallis is allowing a colleague with greater subject matter expertise, Kocher Karen, substitute for his speaking slot. 

Moderator

Brian Scarpelli, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Matthew Schwartz, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Rapporteur

Matthew Schwartz, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Format

Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

i. How can policymakers ensure that any broad movement toward telework incoporate serious considerations and mitigation efforts relative to the inequalities that this development will likely exacerbate? ii. What are the discrete ways in which internet governance will need to evolve to keep pace with, push back on, or shape evolving norms in digital workspaces? iii. What types of technical solutions will need to be adopted in order to facilitate a safe and secure virtual workforce? For example, what role should encryption play as more sensitive materials traverse networks?

i. The equity challenges that will likely be exacerbated as more work is conducted from home in the name of public health in the short term, and then in the long-term as employers become increasingly comfortable with these arrangements. ii. Legislative and regulatory considerations when incentivizing or disincentivizing work from home policies across sectors. iii. The privacy and security threats that multiply when more sensitive information and conversations that normally occur in an in-person setting now flow over networks, mindful of the fact these threats can flow from employers themselves, as well as third-party actors.

SDGs

GOAL 1: No Poverty
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-Being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Description:

It’s already clear that the concept of “work” is among the many things that will never return to normal even after the COVID-19 pandemic fully subsides. While many employers within the information economy scrambled to formalize their work from home policies in order to adhere to social distancing measures at the outset, sectors even less familiar with remote work, such as retail, are also increasingly experimenting with online-only operations. As more organizations become accustomed to these arrangements and seek to reduce costs over the long-term, telework is likely to enjoy increased adoption across the economy. As with all large-scale societal shifts, this new arrangement will generate new classes of winners and losers. While white-collar workers will enjoy greater flexibility and freedom with their work arrangements, others may suffer. The migration of retail and other service sector operations online could hurt workers already vulnerable to economic hardship, including those with less digital skills or educational attainment. Work from home arrangements also raise questions about how employers will measure employee productivity and whether those efforts may entail harmful extensions of workplace surveillance. More work conducted over the internet also enhances the opportunity for cyberattacks and can create new privacy risks. This panel will discuss the evolution of work in the digital economy, how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated some of these trends, and the discrete ways in which internet governance will need to evolve to keep pace with these new norms. The panel will also assess potential solutions to the equity, privacy, and security concerns raised above.

Expected Outcomes

1. Understand the spectrum of advantages and disadvantages that a movement toward telework will bring to bear on communities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and how those advantages and disadvantages may be mediated by socio-economic factors. 2. Learn about what the IGF community can do to further action and cross-sector collaboration to realize the potential and work through challenges surfaced in the conversation. 3. Share diverse perspectives and spur action regarding the discrete priorities and/or changes needed from the IGF community to combat these challenges and harness opportunities.

For each of the areas of interest introductory short presentations/remarks by experts will provide basic knowledge and discuss important trade-offs from their perspective. The moderator will ensure the active participation of the audience, who will be able to intervene and ask questions to the experts. Sufficient time will be given to online participants to ask questions, by the online moderator. Following these initial interventions, the roundtable will get to the heart of the debate, guided by the moderator who will begin by giving an opportunity to online and in-person participants to pose questions and discuss views on the perspectives presented. The moderator will guide the debate with the goal of finding common ground between views brought forward. In addition to the background documents and papers that will be prepared ahead of the IGF, additional articles of interest, reference materials and social media conversations will be published and distributed ahead of the workshop. The moderator and organizing team will work with speakers in advance as to ensure the quality and content of the discussion.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Addressing challenges wrought by a move to telework will require a broad and deep coalition of stakeholders within the Internet governance community. It will require a wholesale reckoning of laws, norms and standards that will include tech companies, academia, government and a diverse range of economic stakeholders.

Relevance to Theme: One of the central challenges in the “data revolution” will be managing the move to a more decentralized economy, telework constituting a key portion of that. This revolution will create new winners and losers across economic sectors and across global regions. Addressing these developments is key to a positive and inclusive data-driven economy.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: The online moderator will encourage remote participation through various social networking platforms in addition to the platform provided by the IGF Secretariat. After the first round of interventions, the discussion section of the roundtable will open up an invitation to online participants to weigh in on strategies discussed and pose questions to the speakers. The organizing team will work to promote the activity on social media, and will specially invite relevant stakeholders to join the session and share questions ahead of the debate. Online participants will be given priority to speak, and their participation will be encouraged by the online and in-person moderators.

 

1. Key Policy Questions and related issues
How can policymakers ensure that any broad movement toward telework incorporate serious considerations and mitigation efforts relative to the inequalities that this development will likely exacerbate?
What are the discrete ways in which internet governance will need to evolve to keep pace with, push back on, or shape evolving norms in digital workspaces?
What types of technical solutions will need to be adopted in order to facilitate a safe and secure virtual workforce? For example, what role should encryption play as more sensitive materials traverse networks?
2. Summary of Issues Discussed
  • During teleworking, the boundary between the personal and professional is increasingly blurred. Panelists agreed that employers ought to be resonsible for setting new norms at the "virtual" workplace to decrease instances of burnout. Gender norms are also an important part of the discussion as work enters the home -- if women, especially in the global south, are expected to retain traditional roles in the home, employers should take note of this.
  • Panelists agreed that internet connectivity remains a major challenge, especially in the global south, but certainly not limited to the global south. Lack of internet connectivity can prevent some workers from gaining flexible work arrangements that can take them out of harm's way in a pandemic setting.
  • The benefits of a shift to telework are not going to be shared equally. Teleworking arrangements are far more available for knowledge, creative, and otherwise digital workers compared to service sector or manual workers. While there is an element of "digital upskilling" that employers and governments ought to be responsible for in order to bring more workers into the digital economy, it is not realistic to expect this to apply broadly. Governments need to ensure that service sector employees are protected during the pandemic, even if they cannot work from home.
3. Key Takeaways

The panel identified a host of opportunities and challenges that the move to telework brings to society, some of which apply broadly and some of which are regionally specific.

For example, while internet connectivity is an issue that can hinder teleworking across regions, the need for broadband is much more accute in the global south, where internet connectivity rates can lag well under 50 percent.

The benefits of a shift to telework are not going to be shared equally. Teleworking arrangements are far more available for knowledge, creative, and otherwise digital workers compared to service sector or manual workers. While there is an element of "digital upskilling" that employers and governments ought to be responsible for in order to bring more workers into the digital economy, it is not realistic to expect this to apply broadly. Governments need to ensure that service sector employees are protected during the pandemic, even if they cannot work from home.

For those who are eligible and do utilize teleworking agreements, the boundary between the personal and professional is increasingly blurred and the need for auxillary forms of social cohesion are neccessary. Panelists agreed that employers ought to be resonsible for setting new norms at the "virtual" workplace to decrease instances of burnout and to replicate the social aspect of work. Gender norms are also an important part of the discussion as work enters the home -- if women, especially in the global south, are expected to retain traditional roles in the home, employers should take note of this.

6. Final Speakers

Moderator: Brian Scarpelli, ACT | The App Association

Speaker 1:  Karen Kocher, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Helani Galpaya, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Becca Williams, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Carmel Somers, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

7. Reflection to Gender Issues

The panel discussed how gender norms intersect with the blurring boundary between the personal and professional as work shifts to the home environment. Helani raised that women, especially in the global south, are expected to retain traditional roles in the home, while still being expected to produce at the same levels as their male counterparts.  This is a phenomenon that cuts across class and sectors of employment. The productivity expectations of employers must change if the entire workforce (male and female) is home if female workers are saddled with the same traditional responsibilities.

9. Group Photo
IGF 2020 WS #330 The Future of Work from Home: Internet Governance Post Covid