The United Nations is calling for inputs to its Global Digital Compact, a major new initiative which will shape its work on internet governance in the years to come. In order to prepare a response from the global library field, IFLA today launches a survey in order to bring together the insights, ideas and priorities. Deadline: 31 August.

The way in which the internet is run is increasingly a determining factor in the way we live our lives. As more and more of our lives – economic, social, political and cultural – either take place online or rely on digital technologies, the enjoyment of rights and the achievement of development goals depend on the rules and processes in place.

A laissez-faire approach, which simply leaves decision-making about the internet to private companies or national or regional authorities alone, brings with it significant (potential) costs. These include the under-protection of fundamental rights, the fragmentation of the internet, the spread of mis- and disinformation, and the risk that digital technologies become a factor of division rather than empowerment.

To address and manage this risk, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, has made digital and internet governance a priority. Having already initiated the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation in 2018, he subsequently called, in the context of Our Common Agenda, for a Global Digital Compact.

This document will ‘outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all’, setting the agenda for work around digital issues at the United Nations and across its agencies and offices around the world. As such, it is likely to have a significant impact on policy making in this space. In particular, it looks at the following topics:

  • Digital connectivity
  • Avoiding Internet fragmentation
  • Providing people with options as to how their data is used
  • Application of human rights online
  • Promoting a trustworthy Internet by introducing accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content
  • Promote regulation of artificial intelligence
  • Digital commons as a global public good

The UN has now opened a consultation on the Compact, asking stakeholders around the world to identify key principles that should be followed in each of these areas, and concrete actions that could be taken. Further details the process followed are available on the UN website.

In order to prepare a response on behalf of the library field, IFLA is now asking for your views. You can identify which of the seven themes cited are particularly important for you, and submit responses where you have ideas to contribute.

Building on this, IFLA will prepare a draft response, and hold town hall meetings ahead of the deadline in September in order to finalise our submission. Please provide your responses by 31 August.

Respond here.

Anyone interested in making submissions at the national or regional level is of course also encouraged to do so. Libraries – through their experience, their practice and their values – have a huge contribution to make on these questions!