C20 Digitalisation Workshop: Chair Summary

June 21, 2017

About 25 civil society participants attended a workshop on "The Digitalisation Agenda of the G20: Why Civil Society Should Care, Towards Argentina" organised by the CSISAC G7/ G20 Digitalisation Task Force at the C20 Summit, held in Hamburg June 18-19, 2017. The workshop was proposed by the CSISAC to the C20 with the purpose of improving the mutual understanding of the CSISAC and the C20 communities about the relevance of digitalisation for global policy-making, to evaluate the progress of the Civil Society Principles during the G20 German Presidency, and to set the way forward towards ensuring that digitalisation is properly covered in the Argentina G20 Presidency.

The workshop was structured as a conversation between civil society organisations active in the field of digital policy, and C20 participants working in other areas with an interest on the topic. During the first part of the workshop, the participants exchanged views about the nature of the digitalisation phenomenon and its political, economical and social relevance. The conversation focused around cases exemplifying the relevance of digitalisation and the need for civil society to engage in global policy-making, including mass surveillance, privacy violations, cyber-attacks exemplified by the recent 'WannaCry' ransomware, abuses to digital consumers including kids, wars in areas mining the rare materials needed for electronic components, infra-human labour condition of electronics manufacturing, the danger of failures in digital systems driving public infrastructures such as water or transport, the mass unemployment caused by automation and robots, the risks of big data and the issues of data ownership, the capacity of governments to shut-down or prevent the provision of telecommunications infrastructures in cases of political unrest, the exclusion of the most vulnerable to access governmental services, the problems of biometric identification, or the cases of algorithmic bias and digital discrimination. While the benefits of digitalisation have been addressed as well, exemplified by the utility of the digital tools for the C20 to organise the Summit, the risks of digitalisation for human rights, democracy, the environment, safety and the economy helped to clarify the relevance of digitalisation and the need for civil society to engage in the regulatory and standard-setting work on this area, currently dominated by the industry. As a result, the workshop registered consensus on the need for the C20 to include digitalisation among its priorities in the future.

The second part of the workshop focused on how to foster that work in the future work of the G20. With this regard, the workshop engaged in an evaluation of the current outcomes at the German Presidency, and a discussion on how to empower the civil society voice on digitalisation at the G20, focusing on how to integrate the work of the CSISAC G7/G20 Digitalisation Task Force in the C20 towards the Argentina Presidency. Where it regards the German Presidency, the CSISAC provided an overview of the initiatives developed following up on the invitation of the OECD to engage in the OECD-G20 common work on digitalisation, and on the C20 call to engage in a consultation about the priorities for the German G20. CSISAC activities included:

  1. engagement in the OECD-G20 work, including assessment of the papers, and participation in the OECD-G20 joint conference on17 January, 2017 in Berlin.
  2. facilitation of the participation of civil society to demand the inclusion of digitalisation during the C20 Consultation;
  3. constituted a G7/ G20 Civil Society Digitalisation Task Force as the result of exchange between the CSISAC and the G20 Secretariats on possible ways to include digitalisation, after the topic was neglected in the consultation,
  4. facilitated the elaboration of a G7/ G20 Civil Society Statement on Digitalisation: No Trust, No Trade that was disseminated in the CSISAC web site, forwarded to the C20 to support their participation in the Sherpas meeting, and to be added to the C20 policy briefings,
  5. engaged in three out of the six C20 working groups contributing with views on the digital aspects of finance, inequality and investments,
  6. achieved civil society speakers at the preparatory meeting of the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Digitalisation held on 6 Apri 2017 at Düsseldorf, and fostered the CSISAC position at the meeting itself;
  7. facilitated the participation of civil society participants working on digitalisation from both Germany and Argentina in the G20, including the C20 activity;
  8. organised a meeting to raise awareness about the G20 process and to facilitate participation of global civil society at the RightsCon in Brussels;
  9. reminded the C20 about the lack of a position on digitalisation in the final communiqué, and in the C20 policy briefings, and offered the CSISAC position as the reference to elaborate a position on the topic.
  10. organised a workshop at the C20 Summit to report about the request made frustration of global civil society participants in the interaction with the C20, and provided a Chair Summary (this document).

The workshop reflected on the results of that activity. The main outcome of the civil society engagement on digitalisation during the G20 German Presidency has been the improvement of the G20 language on the topic at the G20 Ministerial Meeting, compared to the less useful references of the previous Baden-Baden Ministerial. This improvement can be seen in two elements. First, the G20 adopted the approach fostered by the CSISAC at the OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy such as the need to foster a digitalisation process based on human rights and the rule of law, privacy and data protection, or freedom of expression; and recognised the explicit reference to affordability towards ensuring universal access to the Internet, as proposed in the G20 Civil Society Statement fostered by the CSISAC.

At the workshop, CSISAC repeated that they welcomed the G20 Statement on Digitalisation where it proposes a continuation of the work on digitalisation at the Argentina Ministerial; and acknowledged the already described improvements in the final text. In the note published on the topic, the CSISAC remarked the need to continue working in several aspects such as the explicit recognition of privacy as a human right, algorithmic transparency and encryption by default, specific plans on affordability and universality, initiatives on skills and digital literacy, and the recognition of risks connected to digitalisation including cyber-attacks, compensation structures for digital disruptions such as Internet shutdowns or labor displacement, or a proper multi-stakeholder implementation.It was recognised that the Civil Society Seoul Principles continue to provide a useful framework for civil society participants to engage also in the G20 work on digitalisation.

The discussion at the C20 Summit workshop was useful to recognise the disconnection of the C20 in the interactions between civil society and G20 on the topic. While the engagement of civil society on digitalisation proved to be useful, it was entirely developed through the CSISAC Digitalisation Task Force, in a context where digitalisation was a topic excluded from the C20 priorities and also from the policy briefs, even when a substantiated Civil Society Statement on digitalisation was available. On possible explanations about why digitalisation was a neglected topic in the C20, the workshop served to identify two main ones: 1) the need of the C20 to focus on an increasingly smaller number of priorities; 2) the novelty of the digitalisation phenomenon in the agendas of the organisations involved in the German C20.

Despite the limitations derived from the exclusion of digitalisation from the C20, the workshop served as well to recognise the progress made by the C20, as exemplified by the inclusion in some policy briefs and the draft communiqué of CSISAC language, and also proposals put forward by the Labour Unions Advisory Committee at the OECD (TUAC) supported by the CSISAC; the inclusion of this workshop in the C20 Summit; the financial support for three representatives from CSISAC to attend the C20 Summit, including the Liaison and two representatives from CSISAC member Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, and the active participation and engagement of the C20 Steering Committee members from both Germany and Argentina.

The workshop was useful as well to identify the way forward towards improving the capacity of civil society to constructively engage in the future work of the G20 on digitalisation. With this regard, the preparatory work towards the Argentina Presidency has been identified as the natural way to continue getting progress on the integration of digitalisation in the C20 work. Following up on an exchange on possible approaches towards the Argentinian C20, two proposals were put forward:

  1. to enable the C20 with a capacity to address the cyber and digitalisation issues (CDI) i) structured as a C20 transversal task force; ii) implemented towards linking the already existing civil society groups working in the relevant settings, such as the OECD, ICANN or the UN/ IGF; iii) deployed on an infrastructure capable to ensure persistence over the subsequent G20 iterations,
  2. to prepare a Chair Summary of the Workshop report on the referred proposal, to feed the discussion of the C20 on structure and priorities for Argentina.

After putting forward this proposals asking the participants for objections, without any being raised, the Chair referred to the current infrastructure of the G7/ G20 Civil Society Digitalisation Task Force as an useful platform to facilitate the deployment of such a C20 CDI Task Force, and thanked the participants, with a special mention to the German and Argentinian members of both the C20 Steering Committee and the CSISAC taking part in the meeting.

Note: In addition to the German and Argentinian representatives of the C20 Steering Committee and the CSISAC G7/ G20 Digitalisation Task Force, a more detailed acknowledgements list would include:

  • CSISAC Steering Committee Michael Gurstein for taking the lead in the proposal of this workshop, and his input in the C20 Inequality Working Group;
  • CSISAC Steering Committee member Claire Milne, for her input in the C20 Investment Working Group and her proposal on affordability, finally reflected in the G20 Statement on Digitalisation;
  • German CSISAC member Wolfgang Kleinwächter for his continued monitoring and participation of the German G20;
  • CSISAC member Pam Dixon, for taking the role of civil society speaker in the preparatory meeting of the G20 Digitalisation Ministerial,
  • Argentinian CSISAC member Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, specially to Valeria Milanes and Alejandro Segarra for their engagement during the German Presidency, and their work taking the lead towards the Argentina Presidency;
  • CSISAC member Access Now, specially Amie Stepanovich, for their support to the CSISAC organised event at the 2017 RightsCon in Brussels to report about the G20,
  • Global Partners Digital, specially Sheetal Kumar and Richard Wingfield, for having prepared supporting materials, including a useful policy brief on "Navigating Human Rights in Digital Environment - the G20", and a blog post on the digital agenda, and for supporting the travel expenses of CSISAC members Kimberly Anastácio from Coding Rights (Brazil) and Grace Mutung'u from KICTANet (Kenya). All the members of the CSISAC organised G7/ G20 Civil Society Digitalisation Task Force
  • The participants of the C20 Working Groups for their interest in the digital aspects of their topics.