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Kleinwaechters Treasure Map

Wolfgang Kleinwaechters Internet Governance Outlook on CircleID each year sums up the drama of internet governance as it is played out on the global stage. We assume that all players on the internet governance stage work under the premise that despite all our differences, ultimately, we are united in our quest for “freedom from fear and want” based on the quality and dignity of all human beings, as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). If we look behind the make-believe of the play in front of us, we have to conclude that there is little or no incentive for the parties involved in internet governance to extend human rights into Cyberspace!

Digital engineering created the opportunity for big tech corporations to gain an advantage over the rest of the world. The moment we gain an advantage of any kind over others, we try everything to retain and somehow justify it.

Big tech justifies its behavior with the benefits “unregulated innovation” has brought to humanity while doing everything to gloss over the unspeakable harm misguided digital technologies do to that excluded part of humanity at the bottom of the digital food chain.

As long as the digital dividend in all its different expressions is paid out to only a few and not to the many, the deeper the crisis caused by the suppression of human rights gets, and the stronger the counterreaction by those suppressed will be. There is no question that developments will follow the cycles of history. The real question now is how we can manifest our fundamental human rights without being, in the words of the UDHR Preamble, “compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression.”

The above might sound like the plot of The Matrix. Far from it. Unlike “The Matrix” films, it is not a simple choice between the blue pill of compliance and ignorance and the red pill of knowledge and awareness. Digital dignity is not about right or wrong, masters and servants, perpetrators and victims. We must ask ourselves and the governance structures in place where we fall short in acknowledging and acting on our own humanity. Questioning existing governance structures is not destructive or disruptive but constructive when it is done in the spirit of our joint humanity. The challenge is to wake up to the fact that we are all united through our humanity on this fragile earth, and if we want to succeed, we must respect the inherent dignity of others.

Digital dignity is good business. We see a clear demand for digital integrity at work in the digital marketplaces. Private sector companies that offer products that demonstrably do not violate their customers’ digital integrity can charge a price and make a profit without resorting to practices that are harmful to their customers. Each new “digital integrity business contributes to the reform of the digital marketplace.

Allowing the few to accrue the digital dividend for themselves is unsustainable and a colossal waste of opportunities and innovation. Paying out the digital dividend to all is a real step forward in our quest for “freedom from fear and want.” It’s the simple choice between using digital innovation to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or not. I think even a cash-strapped UN, forever on the search for corporate funding, will understand that the road to the SDGs does not lead through the tax-deductible charitable donations of billionaires, even if the UN’s working groups and committees are full of them.

Wolfgang Kleinwaechter honors us every year with his description of the internet governance landscape. His job is done, but our task is still ahead of us. The question is what we do with his map. We should use it to chart a route out of the crisis. Our fundamental human rights need to be the foundation, starting point and guiding light on the way. Our approach to human rights should be comprehensive and not favor rights amicable to our political background over others.

Human rights will only be adopted when we are able to communicate them as instruments that offer tangible benefits for all. Internet governance needs to write a new play based on a plot that contains digital campaigns, education, products and services that combine the need for digital integrity with the human desire to gain an advantage. May I suggest the title: “The adventures of brave digital citizens in their quest to extend their human rights into Cyberspace!” or: “The hunt for the micro soft pelt of the google-eyed Amazonian meta muskrat.”

By Klaus Stoll, Digital Citizen

Klaus has over 30 years’ practical experience in Internet governance and implementing ICTs for development and capacity building globally. He is a regular organizer and speaker at events, advisor to private, governmental and civil society organizations, lecturer, blogger and author of publications centering empowered digital citizenship, digital dignity and integrity.

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Comments

Preserving Human Rights Across the Digital Domain Richard Taylor  –  Jan 24, 2023 12:07 PM

With respect to the topic addressed in your post, above, I welcome you to take a look at my 2022 TPRC paper, “Preserving Human Rights Across the Digital Domain”, accessible at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4178327  Regards,

Richard

Klaus Stoll  –  Jan 25, 2023 12:13 AM

Dear Richard

Thank you for pointing out your article which I enjoyed reading. It’s a good primer for the diverse UN IG activities and their context. We have to live in hope that these initiatives will be effective and nimble enough to keep up with the rapid developments and will be able to overcome specific stakeholder interests to enable digital citizenship based on the dignity of our joint humanity. I know the last part sentence sounds simplistic, but in the end that’s what it’s all about.

Thanks again

Klaus

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