The CSISAC is the voice of civil society at the OECD Committee on the Digital Economy Policy. We facilitate the exchange of information between the OECD and civil society participants, leading to better-informed and more widely accepted policy frameworks. The formal recognition of this Advisory Committee by the OECD was the result of an effort initiated in the 1990s decade to promote participation parity in the global policy-making. Today, the CSISAC is the main venue to channel the participation of civil society in the OECD work on the digital economy.

The structure of the CSISAC is defined in the CSISAC Charter. To join the CSISAC, individuals or organizations should endorse the Civil Society Seoul Declaration, demonstrate a commitment to the public interest, and do not represent any business, technical organization, government entity, or other institution that sets public policy.

The following sections provide detailed information about the CSISAC and the OECD. If you any question, you can directly contact the CSISAC Liaison writing a mail to <liaison@csisac.org>

About the OECD

The Organisation for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an international organization focused on setting standards to manage the most relevant economic, environmental and social issues worldwide on the basis of a shared commitment to market economies backed by democratic institutions and focused on the wellbeing of all citizens.

Agriculture and fisheries, chemical and bio safety, finance, corruption, trade, taxation, social wellfare, health, education or innovation exemplify the wide range of covered topics. All the major economic and political players can be found involved in the OECD process as members, observers or partners. The capacity proved by this organization to implement those standards worldwide identifies the OECD as one of the most influential bodies in global governance.

The OECD Process

The OECD recommendations are not legally binding. To increase the likelihood of those standards to be adopted, the OECD conducts a policy-making process which is driven by consensus. By achieving a consensual agreement of the Member countries and the involved stakeholders, the OECD minimizes the challenges of omitting some relevant aspect that could prevent a meaningful implementation of the recommendations, turning them into de facto standards.

In order to enable this approach, the OECD deploys a research process where OECD analysts, country officials and stakeholder representatives gather to discuss the contents of the policy proposals.

OECD Committee Meetings

The research at the OECD is developed by Committees in charge of the different policy topics. The Committees are formed by the delegates designated by the Member countries and the Stakeholders, with the eventual participation of observers and partners. The Committee is organised by a Bureau which is designated in a yearly basis among the Committee delegates.

The Committees defines the program of work and budget through biannual plans, receives updates on the ongoing projects, retrieves advice from its members and decides on the adoption of the working papers. In order to facilitate the work, the Committees can be divided in specialized Working Parties, and also ad hoc bodies for specific projects, like Advisory Boards or Expert Groups. This scheme is made of 250 committees, working parties and ad hoc groups organized into 18 departments and specialized bodies, involving about 40,000 senior officials meeting each year.

OECD Ministerials Meetings

An OECD Ministerial is a meeting that gathers the Ministers of the OECD Member countries to discuss a topic considered of high relevance by the OECD Council. While these meetings can be organized by the Council, the most part of them are organized by the OECD Committee involved in the selected topic. From 1962 to 2008, the OECD has organized 58 Ministerials covering topics like Agriculture, Environment, Manpower and Social Affairs, Education or Health.

The process leading to a Ministerial starts with the agreement of the Council on the proposal made by the corresponding Committee, following the initiative of one of the Member countries or the OECD Secretary-General. The Council sets the location, date and broad topic, and appoints the Ministerial Chair so to start a consultation process conducted by the organizing Committee with the Member countries, observers and stakeholders to define the agenda and ellaborate the documentation of the meeting.

The documentation can be classified in two broad areas: background documents, prepared by the Committee during the consultation process, to be sent to the Ministers in order to support the discussions at the meeting; and decision documents like statements, draft acts or decisions, declarations or communiqu├ęs, to be endorsed by the Ministers during the meeting and submitted to the Council for adoption. From a policy-making perspective, the later can be seen as the most important ones because adoption by the Council binds the entire organization and the Member countries to implement the expressed agreements.

The Ministerial process do not finish the last day of the meeting. Once the decission documents have been issued, the adopted agreements come into force for the OECD itself and its Member countries. The decisions of the OECD are very influent because the consensus driven decission-making approach turns them into de facto standards capable to shape regulations and policies at the global level. Ministerial outcomes have also practical effects for agenda setting, regulatory development and institutional change, because they become the main reference to define the programs of work and budget of the affected Committees. The formal recognition of the CSISAC after the 2008 Seoul Ministerial, and the broad toolkit of standards defined by the OECD and implemented worldwide for the deployment of the ICT exemplify the importance of the Ministerial outcomes.

The OECD and the Internet

The field of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) captured the attention of the OECD from its very inception, having held 13 Ministerials in connected issues from 1963 to the latest one in 2008. Initially covered by the Science Committee, the OECD has held 13 Ministerials organised by the Science, Technology, and Information, Computers and Communications Committees. A detailed report about the history of OECD Ministerials is included in the homonimous Council Report.

Important milestones have been the first Ministerial organized by the Information, Computer and Communications Committee in 1987; the Ottawa Conference in 1998, where Ministers met for the first time to develop plans for global electronic commerce; and the Seoul Ministerial Meeting in 2008 about the future of the Internet, where the OECD countries recognised the essential nature and function of the Internet as a platform for growth and the need for governments to work with all stakeholders to guide its development economy.

As the result of this engagement with the ICT, the OECD became the source of many referential policy-making tools and research resources in the field. For example, the OECD is the source of the influential standards on Cryptography, the Digital Risk Management Recommendation, or the Privacy Guidelines, the main references in the respective fields since the 1980s decade. The OECD Recommendation on Internet Policy Making Principles have set a standard which is increasingly recognized. Together with the ITU, the OECD is the main source of statistics about the Internet, including indicators about broadband penetration and about the use of digital services at the individual, household and enterprise surveys. The OECD maintains the Digital Economy Outlook, and makes public working papers and reports about more technical issues.

The OECD work on the digital economy is coordinated by the Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), and developed by the Committee for the Digital Economy (CDEP).

Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)

This Directorate develops evidence-based policy advice on the contribution of science, technology and industry to societal well-being and economic growth. The STI work is based in the development of statistical methodologies, standards, and internationally comparable databases to inform research, debate and policy making in public and private sectors.

The STI is divided in five units: the Economic Analysis and Statistics Division, the Structural Policy Division, the Science and Technology Policy Division, and the Digital Economy Division. Each division deploys its activity through a Committee which supports the policy-making process in consultation with the experts nominated by the member states and stakeholders.

The Committee for the Digital Economy (CDEP)

The CDEP covers policies on economic, social and cultural activities supported by the Internet and related ICTs, like access to the internet, video streaming, ICT sector production and employment, ICT-enabled innovation, security and privacy. The work of the CDEP is coordinated through the following working parties:

  • Security and Privacy in the Digital Economy (SPDE). The SPDE is the working party which develops the policy developments connected with the issues on trust and confidence in the digital communications. Topics like cryptography, health data, security of critical infrastructures or identity theft focuses the most part of its work. This is one of the most sensitive areas for Civil Society, provided the deep impact that the policies on privacy and security have on individuals and societies worldwide.
  • Communication Infrastructures and Services (CISP). This working party is the main source of OECD policies regarding the technical infrastructures supporting the operation of the Information and Communication Technologies. This includes the Internet, the telephone network, the global back-haul cables or mobile communications among the most relevant ones. The impact of this working party can be seen in the effects that the price and the access to telecommunications have on the society and the economy.
  • Measurement and Analysis for the Digital Economy (MADE). This working party focuses on the methodological developing the statistical framework, estimates and datasets. While mostly technical and of statistical nature, the importance of this Working Party relies in the fact that it establishes the epistemic assumptions for the empirical evidence which then supports the policy decisions for the subsequent work.

The Committee is composed by the member states and the stakeholders, with representation as well from other bodies like the European Union, the ITU or the Council of Europe. The CDEP and its working parties meet twice a year to deliberate about the ongoing projects. In addition to the regular meetings, the process involves participation in external events, and also in ad hoc workshops, advisory boards and expert groups launched to deal with more technical issues. The CDEP organises thematic workshops, the biannual Foresight Forum and monographic Ministerial meetings.

Civil Society at the OECD

The consensus driven policy-making process involves the participation of the so called stakeholders through stablished Advisory Committees who take part in the deliberation of the Committees together with the country delegates. The Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) together with the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) are the stablished bodies represent the respective stakeholders at the OECD.

In the case of the CDEP, the OECD has formally recognised two additional bodies: Internet Technical Advisory Committee (ITAC) and the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Committee (CSISAC). The recognition of the CSISAC was the result of an effort initiated in the 1990s decade to promote participation parity in global policy-making, and achieved by the Public Voice coalition at the OECD 2008 Seoul Ministerial. Since its formal recognition the CSISAC has been successful in enlarging the number of experts and non-governmental organizations involved in the OECD process and persuading the OECD to improve its outcomes by fostering a civil society perspective.

Today, the CSISAC is the main venue to channel the participation of civil society in the OECD work on the Digital Economy: the CSISAC provides the OECD with the essential perspectives of experts and leaders of Non-Governmental Organizations; through the CSISAC, civil society participants are empowered with substantial empirical analysis that enable informed policy assessments. This way, the CSISAC strengthens the relationship between civil society and the OECD, leading to better-informed and more widely accepted digital policies.

The structure of the CSISAC is defined in the CSISAC Charter. To join the CSISAC, individuals or organizations should endorse the Civil Society Seoul Declaration, demonstrate a commitment to the public interest, and do not represent any business, technical organization, government entity, or other institution that sets public policy. Support for the CSISAC has been received from the Open Society Institute, the Markle Foundation, the EPIC Public Voice Project, the Ford Foundation and other donors.