TECH & DEMOCRACY: Related Written Commitments from S4D 2021
Over 100 Technology Related Commitments from Summit for Democracy in Searchable Table
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March 4, 2022
The 2021 Summit for Democracy convened leaders from 100 governments to discuss and address a wide range of commitments and pledges in support of democratic renewal centered on the Summit’s three themes of: (1) strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism; (2) fighting corruption; and (3) promoting respect for human rights.
Technology and innovation touches on all three, simultaneously, as both a tool for advancement and possibly a hindering force.
Discussions throughout the Summit sounded alarms that our digital systems are faltering and may be exacerbating growing social and economic inequality. This reality has been compounded in recent days as the world contends with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (note, these commitments were written before the crisis in Ukraine).
On February 14, 2022 the Department of State posted the voluntary written announcements, verbal pledges, and/or commitments provided by 56 participating governments. It is anticipated additional commitments will be added; 14 of the 56 statements are still undergoing a mandatory accessibility compliance review.
Only time will tell whether the high-level rhetoric spotlighting the challenges to democracy will translate into concrete results, but the written commitments are an important part of that pursuit.
To that end, the Digital Impact and Governance Initiative (DIGI) compiled a list of the over 100 commitments related specifically to technology and democracy in the table below, searchable by country, broad theme, and 40 different specific content areas. While the commitments vary in how specifically they address international or domestic objectives, DIGI identified the following six broad themes as key areas of focus at the intersection of tech and democracy, listed below by frequency of appearance:
- Institutional Readiness: Institutional readiness was frequently referenced throughout national commitments, with countries focusing on transparency and anti-corruption measures through legal developments like regulation, legislation, and safeguards. Countries also prioritized multi-stakeholder governance and coalition building, such as the Freedom Online Coalition, and dedicating resources to promote digital inclusion.
- Digital Transformation: Digital transformation commitments focused on digitizing government services, investing in digital public infrastructure and open data portals, and improving government procurement practices as a means of furthering transparency, anti-corruption, and better benefits and service delivery.
- Information Integrity: Commitments to strengthening information integrity included improving access to public information, countering mis-/dis- information and online hate, censorship, and furthering digital literacy efforts.
- Free, Open, and Interoperable Internet: There was a significant push for a positive vision of the Internet going forward, one that remains free, open, and interoperable. Commitments under this theme focused on halting internet shutdowns, improving privacy and encryption online, and supporting internet freedom and fundamental human rights online.
- Critical and Emerging Technologies: Harnessing critical and emerging technologies as democracy affirming tools – commitments included privacy enhancing technologies, AI, machine-learning, blockchain, and 5G/6G broadband.
- Cybersecurity and Countering Authoritarianism: Cybersecurity and countering authoritarianism was also a recurring theme throughout these commitments, signaling a greater call for a unified democratic front.
Better global outcomes rooted in a commitment to democratic values and advancing human rights requires a multistakeholder effort to better harness technology as an essential tool. In this spirit, DIGI is sharing and will maintain this database as a preliminary tool to provide greater insight into national priorities/activities and to help track progress on commitments and facilitate action around each theme. We plan to update this database to reflect official mechanisms to organize and advance Summit commitments and priorities.
Please email DIGI@newamerica.org with questions, concerns, or ideas on how we can improve this resource.