A Look Back at Jef Malta’s Internet Governance Roundtable

, by Julianne Vella

A Look Back at Jef Malta's Internet Governance Roundtable
Credits: netzpolitik.org, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/license...> , via Wikimedia Commons

A report from the Internet Governance National Roundtable, organised by JEF Malta in collaboration with JEF Europe.

On the 27th of November, expert speakers and young people gathered at the Internet Governance National Roundtable, organised by JEF Malta in collaboration with JEF Europe, as part of the ‘WP 2021 - Let’s discuss the “governance” in Internet Governance!’

After participating in the International Seminar on ‘Internet Governance and young people’ held in Helsinki last September, the Maltese participants, namely myself and Tristan Camilleri, gained the tools and insights necessary to be able to bring together youth and national experts.

The structure of the event followed a fishbowl-style discussion, where participants were encouraged to discuss and debate with the expert speakers present, Mr. Joseph Seychell and Dr. Alex Sciberras Trigona, who both boast valuable expertise in both local and international internet governance spheres.

Mr. Joseph Seychell represented the Maltese Government in a number of international fora, including the Forum of European Supervisory Authorities (FESA) and the High Level Group on Internet Governance (HLIG). Dr. Alex Sciberras Trigona, currently Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Malta, is a former Foreign Minister and stalwart of Maltese diplomacy. He has worked extensively in the sphere of digital diplomacy. On multiple occasions, Dr. Trigona launched an international appeal to protect the critical infrastructure of the Internet as part of the Common Heritage of Mankind.

Including all voices in discussions

From a local perspective, internet governance was found to be often taken for granted. So, it was agreed upon that involving members of the public in discussing the topic is vital to guaranteeing a participation-based approach. Moreover, it was recommended that policy must not only be based on criminal law cooperation, but also on civil and commercial law due to the existence of a micro internet governance sphere. The idea of a multilateral UN system tackling the infosystem was discussed.

During the discussion, the importance of bringing Internet Governance into the diplomatic world was emphasized. It is noteworthy that Swiss-Maltese NGO DiploFoundation specialises on capacity development in the field of Internet Governance and digital policy. Over the years, Diplo has successfully trained over 6,600 alumni, in an effort to improve the role of small and developing states in global diplomacy. This has been achieved by developing capacity on Internet Governance, cybersecurity, data, artificial intelligence, and other emerging tech issues; while also promoting and developing digital tools for inclusive and impactful governance and policy-making [1].

With regards to the role of young people in Internet Governance, both speakers agreed upon the importance of insight from this group on the development and discussions of internet governance through the years. In addition, it was acknowledged that cyberspace is as real as all other mechanical infrastructures and emphasized that young people should be aware of this.

Moreover, the disproportional control that big tech giants have over the market, where sellers have little independence and no knowledge of the algorithm, was also debated upon. Once again, a multilateral agency for world internet under the UN was discussed to avoid the Balkanisation of the Internet between the Global North and the Global South. The importance of keeping the internet global was once again reiterated.

Different approaches to internet governance

With regards to Internet Governance models, the multistakeholder and national government models were compared. After this comparison, it was noted that each model has its weaknesses. In order to limit weaknesses and promote the strengths of each model, it was suggested that the governance model should take a hybrid approach to the ever-changing digital sphere of tomorrow, as today’s models are not as future-proof as desired.

The digital divide was also discussed. In particular, the challenges of mobilizing citizens with the ability to use digital tools were raised. The solutions proposed were to bring more discussions on a European level, dedicating more funding to the field and bolstering the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe with the aim of having a European ‘Silicon Valley’.

Human rights and hacking

On the topic of human rights and Internet Governance, it was brought to the participants’ attention that it is not just the European Parliament and Council that are legislating but also the CJEU, emphasizing the fact that there must be a stronger relationship between law and technology.

Towards the end of the discussion, the possibility of digital elections was debated upon. In particular, the dangers of hacking and the challenges in building trust in a digital online voting platform were brought up. Blockchain and extending legislation such as the EDAS Regulation to develop such a digital voting platform were proposed to solve the trust issue due to its decentralized nature as a technology.

Nevertheless, without proper public awareness raising and outreach campaigns, instilling public trust and confidence in such technologies will still prove to be challenging.

In conclusion, a healthy debate took place on the local situation and the real challenges related to Internet Governance. Participants were empowered to understand the full view of the field, not only from the national level, but an international level as well.


[1More information can be found on www.diplomacy.edu

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