IGF 2023 WS #549 Building Technical Standards from the Margins

Subtheme

Global Digital Governance & Cooperation
Harmonising Global Digital Infrastructure

Organizer 1: Jessica Fjeld, 🔒Berkman Klein Center
Organizer 2: Afsaneh Rigot, ARTICLE 19 and De|Center
Organizer 3: Mehwish Ansari, 🔒ARTICLE 19

Speaker 1: Jessica Fjeld, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Afsaneh Rigot, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Mehwish Ansari, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Owono Julie, Civil Society, African Group

Moderator

Afsaneh Rigot, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Mehwish Ansari, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Rapporteur

Mehwish Ansari, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Format

Birds of a Feather - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. What have been the gaps in civil society efforts towards normalizing the inclusion of human rights considerations as part of the technical standards development process?
B. How can technical standardization be built out and standardized with the rights of highly impacted global communities by design as a core element of technology governance?
C. Can "designing from the margins" be a meaningful method to process the translation and implementation of human rights considerations from the onset of development of standards?

What will participants gain from attending this session? To move away from abstraction, in the workshop, we will also provide case studies of the implementation of DFM to existing technologies and show how this method is very important for the future imagined/needed in the standard-setting bodies. We will discuss with our participants about methods to apply this at standards bodies, with activities that include formulating some standard building language with this methodology, as well as simulations about impacted communities whose experiences are vital for these standards building. Then, there will be Q&A to give people a chance to ask questions and test out the DFM framework for themselves.

Description:

We will lay out technical standard setting as a core part of technology governance and why ensuring the meaningful translation and implementation of human rights considerations from the onset of development of standards is vital. Technical standards affect technologies that impact our everyday lives, from connecting with loved ones to secure mobile access to money. In a crucial time with the vast expansion of emerging technologies we must ensure these standards can provide for meaningful human rights considerations in global contexts.

Technical standardization is a critical aspect of technology governance. Standards signal that a technology is legitimate and worthy of adoption, give standards authors a competitive edge when rolling out their products and services to the market, and facilitate interoperability between heterogeneous technologies and systems. These technical standards have a fundamental impact on the way that the technologies are designed, developed, and deployed. Civil society advocates have called for normalizing the inclusion of human rights considerations as part of the technical standards development process. While achievements here represent significant progress, there remains a need to develop guidelines that are applicable to different standards bodies and processes, and for the technical communities. Methods in translating human rights considerations into technical aspects of a technology need to provide for meaningful protections for those impacted by these human rights considerations.

We will explore how to translate human rights considerations into technical aspects of a technology, for the purposes of developing impact assessment frameworks that cover those most impacted by them, which can be used by technical communities in standardization, as well as other stages of the technology life cycle. To do so, we will use the “Design From the Margins” (DFM) framework as a tool for identifying the human rights impacts of a particular technology and translating these considerations into technical values.

Expected Outcomes

We will make this session into a publication and also build into a guide on the topic. Our publications will show there is a need to have methods in translating human rights considerations into technical aspects of a technology without abstraction to provide for meaningful protections for those impacted by these human rights considerations. Often, in efforts of standard setting, protocol building, and even human rights impact assessments, many gaping holes can remain if the most “extreme” scenarios are not taken into consideration (here referring to the high-risk situations in, for example: internet access blocks, privacy intrusion or human rights abuses through tech). Systems and structures designed for the most high-risk and marginalized highlight the largest risk gaps and areas of improvement needed, and in turn can become standards that are more generalizable and provide a clear guideline of how the development processes can be better.

Hybrid Format: We will use our extensive collective experience in running online and offline workshops to engage our participants. For a very engaging workshop we will ensure that it is interactive, maximizing attendee participation and “listening” time. This means we will be posing questions to our online and in-person participants. We will use Zoom as the optimal meeting space as we will be able to insert polls, monitor comments and questions for online participants who do not wish to speak, and have presentations that are both in the room and for the online participants. If possible, we hope to use extra screens, high-quality speakers and microphones. We will also have physical board for notes in the conversations and Jam Boards for the online added notes.