Approaches to National Digital Governance
With its mandate to improve the state of the world, the World Economic Forum is embracing this challenge through its new Digital Protocol Network on National Digital Policy. Through this work, the Forum intends to catalyse the prototyping of agile digital governance solutions (i.e. digital protocols) so that the trustworthiness, accountability, fairness and inclusion of all stakeholders can be more fully addressed.
The Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution will host and enable the formation and functioning of the Digital Protocol Networks. At its onset, there will be three initial classes of solutions (i.e. protocols) a network can choose from. One class will focus on tools and approaches for government policies, a second class on institutional agreements and codes of conduct, and a third on technical standards. By establishing informal, multistakeholder expert networks, such as the one responsible for creating this White Paper, the Forum will decouple the process of designing contextually relevant solutions from their subsequent implementation, maintenance, enforcement and adjudication.
This inclusive approach will enable a more holistic understanding of dynamic issues as well as rapid prototyping at “internet speed”. The Digital Protocol Network on National Digital Policy – the community of experts who created this White Paper – was coalesced with two primary objectives: first, to expose national leaders from the public, private and civic sectors to innovative and practical mechanisms of national digital cooperation and governance; and second, to advance approaches that embrace the local context where adoption and impact can be most effectively realized – but without harm to the transnational nature of the digital space. The Network has addressed these objectives by delivering a series of case studies exploring how a select number of national communities have addressed key digital challenges in a real-world context. The cases demonstrate different approaches to governance and offer insights on successes, failures and lessons learned in the process. The outcomes of the National Digital Policy Network will be incorporated into the Forum’s Digital Economy and Society System Initiative. This will impact digital cooperation and governance in a variety of ways: – Provide a set of common principles applicable to core challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Recognize and prioritize the importance of policy design and implementation, and the need for governments, businesses and civic groups to actively collaborate – Discourage governments from implementing overreactionary policies and regulations because of frustration over the inability to control transnational platforms – Reduce the risk of digital policy fragmentation around the world – Help companies understand that they have important global responsibilities, particularly in digital security – they may be transnational businesses, but they have obligations to the countries where they operate Leadership from the highest levels of public, private and civic institutions will be vital for these new approaches to take root and have a positive impact. Clarity on how to balance complex and competing interests with transparency, trust and accountability will be essential for sustainable approaches to digital governance. Along with the support and active engagement of global leaders, access to capital will also be required. Funding is needed to engage government officials, business leaders and civil society members to establish real-world pilots, and to enable continuous and active local engagement with impacted user communities. The cost of underinvesting in these key factors will be too great down the road. Not only should innovative policies be financially resourced at the appropriate level, but recognizing the differences between urban and rural policies also needs to be addressed. As with so many issues, one-size-fits-all approaches are seldom effective, and the differences between rural and urban areas cannot be overlooked. Alignment on the key performance indicators related to the transformative impact of digitalization is also vitally important. National digital strategies, particularly those focused on digital literacy and gender parity, need to be more than a declaration of good intentions. A list of defined, measurable and implementable indicators is central for sustained progress and investment.