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Tracking the pulse of digital governance and diplomacy in 2023: A quarterly progress report

Published on 06 January 2023
Updated on 16 June 2023

In the first three months of 2023, ChatGPT accelerated history beyond our expectations. Whenever we write prompts and wait for ChatGPT’s (or similar software) remarkable answers, we are able to witness first-hand the major paradigm shift we are facing. As humanity steps away from its comfort zone into the unknowns of the AI era, certainty ends, opportunity begins, and risk increases.

Our first quarterly progress report (January–March 2023) identifies five major trends:

Fast AI and ChatGPT developments
Impact of US-China decoupling on global geopolitics
Content governance around the Twitter and TikTok controversies
Heightened risks for internet submarine cables
The crisis of the digital economy

For each of the 12 predictions we identified in January 2023, you can now read:

  • what has happened in the first quarter (and what we got right and wrong in January’s predictions!)
  • what to expect ahead of us.

Fasten your seatbelts, and let us know your comments, suggestions, and predictions.

Jovan and DiploTeam

Before we start: What are the 2023 annual predictions about?

Introducing our 2023 predictions and the 12 digital governance and diplomacy trends

You can read the French translation here.

We’ve started off 2023 with some positive news. In spite of all the geopolitical tensions, the internet infrastructure has remained intact, with the main internet protocol (the TCP/IP) carrying emails, web pages, video and podcasts across the globe. 

We are cautiously optimistic that the internet will survive geopolitics and tensions in 2023. Any other option that affects the oneness of the technical infrastructure can be risky, costly, and sub-optimal. Will wisdom prevail in preserving the internet?

Yet, more and more digital borders will continue impacting the global nature of international digital communication through filtering of traffic, banning the use of competing services, censorship, etc. How do we deal with the legal, economic, and security fragmentation of the internet?

In 2023, we will mark the 25th anniversary of a handful of frameworks which laid the foundation for today’s internet and overall digital governance. So far, the ‘1998 deals’ have stood the test of time. Will they be sufficient for future digital growth?

In these predictions for 2023, we address these and other questions. You can also find our analysis on future trends in digital geopolitics, the vulnerability of submarine cables, the next steps in digital cooperation, challenges for data governance and cybersecurity, and much more.

Our 2023 predictions as a web story
The recording of our 2023 predictions webinar
YouTube player
The 1998 deals: Past successes, current relevance, and future upgrades 

The year 2023 is an important year for internet/digital governance as we start revisiting some of the ‘1998 deals’, which laid the foundation for today’s internet/digital governance landscape. After 25 years, we see which arrangements have stood the test of time and which need to be altered to reflect the internet’s growth from 3.6% of the world’s population in 1998 (147 million internet users) to 69% of the world’s population (5.4 billion internet users) in July 2022.

The year 2023 marks a quarter of a century since much of today’s digital governance structure was set. In 1998, the internet governance architecture was developed only in a few months.  

In September 1998:

Google and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) were established.

Discussions were initiated under the UN’s ‘information security’ track that led to the creation of the UN GGE and OEWG

The World Trade Organization (WTO) placed itself as a player in the digital economy negotiation table, notably with the adoption of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions.

In November 1998,

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary conference in Minneapolis, USA decided to host the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), initiating a process of digital policy discussions which is active today with the work of the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the WSIS Forum.  

Dive deeper into the history of internet/digital governance with our Digital cooperation timeline.

Now, there is growing pressure to reform this architecture by: (a) creating mechanisms to make decisions and recommendations on digital policy issues (potentially through a strengthened IGF), (b) creating holistic mechanisms of global data governance, (c)  preserving and advancing the shift towards more inclusive cybersecurity discussions, and (d) avoiding fragmentation trends in the digital economy, currently being brewed by disparate national laws or

How difficult is it to predict digital governance? The answer by ChatGPT is….

Predicting digital governance can be a difficult task, as it involves understanding and predicting the behaviour of a large number of stakeholders across a variety of contexts. Digital governance involves managing digital assets, technologies, policies, processes, and systems in a way that aligns with organizational goals and objectives. As such, it requires a complex understanding of the needs of stakeholders, the strategic objectives of the organization, and the ever-evolving digital landscape. Additionally, digital governance involves the implementation of appropriate measures to ensure the security, compliance, and efficiency of digital assets, technologies, processes, and systems, which further adds to the complexity of the task.

How difficult is it to predict digital governance?

Our previous 12 annual predictions show that changes in digital governance are much slower than in digital technology. With the exception of a few major policy earthquakes, such as the Snowden revelations and the Ukraine war, most other changes in digital governance were gradual and predictable.

Have a look at our past predictions and see how accurate they were: 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 |2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022

After 10 years of making digital governance predictions, we see that digital governance has been changing much slower than digital technology. Thus, it was rather easy to predict future developments. On the one hand, tech companies have been effectively lobbying for the status quo and as little regulation as possible. On the other hand, for a long time, governments were very reluctant to regulate the tech sector even when it was needed. 

These two dynamics are likely to change. For tech companies, regulation now can mean a more predictable business environment, especially on the global level, where fragmented regulations increase compliance complexity. Parallel to this, especially after the pandemic, governments have become less ‘shy’ in digital governance.

As digital permeated every segment of the real world and stakes became higher, governments started doing what they should: protecting the public interest and the citizens of the digital realm. This is now happening intensively in Brussels, Beijing, Washington, and many other capitals worldwide. Thus, for the first time in decades, we can expect an acceleration of digital governance in 2023 and the following years!

How can you get the most out of these predictions?

The 2023 predictions are based on analysis, resources, and reports from the Digital Watch observatory. For each prediction, you can dive deeper into the layers of knowledge and information about digital governance and diplomacy.

three layers reporting

1. Digital geopolitics: AI, data, chips, cables, and satellites

Two microprocessors with USA and China Flags.

The US-China chip war has entered a new, debilitating phase. Image: Screengrab / News Video

Our first quarterly report for January–March

Tensions in digital geopolitics show no signs of abating in 2023, particularly between the USA and China. As The Economist argues, ‘The tech war between America and China is just getting started’. Digital geopolitics has come to the centre of global politics. In January, 92% of CEOs in Davos listed geopolitics as their main business concern. It will remain so, especially in the digital realm. The main risk to the integrity of global digital networks is a digital decoupling between China and the USA. 

So far, the decoupling is most intense in semiconductors, where China and the USA are developing their separate supply chains. China and the USA are trying to transform their domain into a complete vertical chip supply chain, from design to production.

Submarine cables also increased in relevance, especially after the Nord Stream blast. Data is becoming centered around the TikTok controversy in the USA as the US authorities are concerned about TikTok sending the data of US citizens to China. The next major test in digital relations between the two countries will be the resolution of TikTok’s USA status.

Technology is gaining ground in China’s strategic and geopolitical priorities. In his closing address at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that technology is a ‘strategic foundation for national development’, emphasising the need for the tech industry to become self-reliant. 

What’s ahead of us?

The digital decoupling will accelerate between China and the USA around chips, cables, data, AI, and satellites. On chips, the two sides will slide further apart in the whole cycle of the semiconductor supply chain, from design and machines to production. A similar trend will happen in the production and use of submarine cables. Since calls for data sovereignty will increase, countries and companies must: (a) distinguish between personal, business, and other types of data and, (b) make informed trade-offs between the gains and losses of restricting data flows. On AI, we will see if the UN can start a debate on a possible ‘AI pause’.

What did we predict on digital geopolitics in January 2023?

Digital geopolitical tensions are showing no signs of easing in 2023, especially between the USA and China. Worse, global conflicts and tensions could trigger the fragmentation of the internet. Digital geopolitics will be centred around the protection of submarine cables and satellites, the production of semiconductors, and the free flow of data.

How will digital geopolitics develop in 2023? The answer by ChatGPT is….

Digital geopolitics will continue to evolve in 2023 as technology advances and the world becomes increasingly interconnected. We can expect to see more countries using digital tools to influence global politics, such as through cyber warfare, digital surveillance, and the use of artificial intelligence. We may also see the emergence of new digital powers, such as tech giants and other non-state actors, that will have an increasing influence on global politics. Additionally, digital geopolitics will likely become more complex as countries grapple with issues such as data privacy, cyber security, and the regulation of digital technologies.

1.1. Chips and geopolitics

Chips are the main geopolitical battlefield between China and the USA, involving two parallel activities. First is trade and restricting the export of chips and manufacturing equipment, especially from the USA and their allies to China. Second, is the acceleration of developing national capacities for the design and manufacturing of semiconductors.

In this contest, the Netherlands will restrict the export of the most advanced semiconductors technology, including deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography systems. China initiated a trade dispute procedure at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against US chip export control measures, arguing that these measures ‘threatened the stability of the global industry supply chains’.

Many countries are developing their national semiconductor capacities. Japan aims to treble sales of domestically made microchips by 2030. The EU Chips Act is likely to be introduced on 18 April. 

The USA and Canada have pledged more money for domestic semiconductor companies: The USA pledged US$50 million for the Defense Production Act that will fund advancing packaging for semiconductors and printed circuit boards, while Canada pledged up to CA$250 million for semiconductor projects from the Strategic Innovation Fund. 

As North American countries make another move to lessen their reliance on Asian chipmakers, two other countries took steps in the opposite direction. A delegation of Czech politicians and company representatives hopes for Taiwanese investments in Czech chip technologies. Brazil will reportedly seek mainland Chinese technology and investment in developing its semiconductor industry. 

What did we predict on semiconductors and digital geopolitics in January 2023?

Semiconductors are at the centre of the geopolitical battle between the USA and China. The US approach of limiting China’s access to cutting-edge microchips and technology production started with President Trump and continued with the Biden administration. China will need years to put together the technology for the production of the next generation of more sophisticated semiconductors.  

These geopolitical tensions are having a rippling effect: 

  1. Taiwan, with its Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC) as the main manufacturer of microchips, is now at the centre of the China-US tension.
  2. The USA, Europe, and India have started building their own semiconductors industry to avoid future vulnerabilities, especially in case of a Taiwan war or an economic blockade. 
  3. The USA will invest US$280 billion in domestic research and production, aiming, among others, to boost Intel’s manufacturing capabilities and to set up TSMC factories in the USA.
  4. The EU’s Chips Act looks at mobilising almost 50 billion euro in public and private investments in the research and production of semiconductors. 
  5. Chinese government and companies are investing in the semiconductors field to reduce their reliance on western technologies; Chinese big tech companies – the likes of Alibaba, Huawei, Tencent, and ZTE – are joining RISC-V International, a group focusing on open-source processor architectures. 

1.2. Geopolitics of submarine cables


reengrab / News Video

Our first quarterly report for January–March

Submarine cables became the focus of global interest following the Nord Stream blast. Cutting major submarine cables could create havoc in our digitally interdependent civilisation. 

In the same context, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs sent a warning message at the UN Security Council hearing on the risks for digital cables. And NATO has set up a Critical Undersea Infrastructure Protection Cell with one of the main aims to protect internet submarine cables.

What’s ahead of us?

The deployment of submarine cables will intensify. We can expect more ‘friendly’ cables accompanying geopolitical divisions. Countries will start developing alternative digital routes. They will also work more on preserving content locally via internet exchange points (IXPs). Hopefully, governments will turn their shared concern over the disruption of submarine cables into stronger international rules in the context of the law of the sea or cybersecurity. 

1.3. Geopolitics of outer space

reengrab / News Video

Our first quarterly report for January–March

In January, we said that outer space activities would likely get more attention in governance and diplomacy talks. And, indeed, quite a lot has been going on over the past few months. At the UN level, the Open-ended Working Group on reducing space threats (OEWG-Space) through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour held its third session and saw member states discuss a wide range of issues, from preventing harmful interferences in space, to addressing threats against space objects (in particular satellites), and preventing an arms race in outer space.

At the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, two new working groups were created to explore: (a) the status and application of the five UN treaties on outer space, and (b) the legal aspects of space resource activities. Meanwhile, space agencies and private actors are coming up with new initiatives and plans. Just a few examples: Competition is picking up in low-earth orbit communication networks, as China’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and Amazon’s project Kuiper are preparing to launch satellite constellations to compete with the services provided by the likes of Starlink and OneWeb. With the moon back in the focus of space exploration activities, plans are unfolding – within the European Space Agency (ESA) and US company Lockheed Martin, for instance – to deploy new communication networks around our earth’s natural satellite.

What’s ahead of us?

Outer space activities will surely remain dynamic, within space agencies, international policy spaces, and private companies. At the international level, it will be interesting to see to what extent the OEWG-Space manages to deliver recommendations to the UNGA on potential norms, rules, and principles of responsible behaviour related to threats by states to space systems; its fourth and final meeting in late August will give us an answer. In the build-up for the 2024 Summit of the Future, we will likely see discussions picking up on advancing the peaceful and sustainable use of outer space – one of the areas proposed to be tackled during the summit. 

Elsewhere, the satellite internet services field is likely to become more competitive, and the same will happen in the space-as-a-service field, as space agencies are increasingly relying on services provided by private actors. 

What did we predict on space geopolitics in January 2023?

Satellites may offer some alternatives, but they can’t replace fibre as a global backbone. They have also been shown to be susceptible to geopolitics, such as the hacking of ViaSat or Musk’s pondering whether to continue the provision of Starlink services to Ukraine. Beyond the role that satellites play in giving people access to the internet or letting them talk to each other in an emergency, outer space activities are likely to get more and more attention in governance and diplomacy talks in the coming years. Issues related to frequency interferences, satellite collisions, the cyber-resilience and security of space services, space debris, the exploration of space resources, and the growing competition between nations as well as between private actors will continue to grow in relevance, building on recent developments. 

An astronaut and a satellite in outer space observe and manipulate internet connections as these communicate with each other.
Interplanetary networks

In 2022 we saw, for instance, a new ITU resolution calling for strengthened public-private cooperation in ensuring that ‘the benefits of space will be brought to everyone, everywhere’; the launch of a UN Open-ended working on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours; and a growing number of countries joining the Artemis Accords (spearheaded by the USA, the Accords outline principles to enhance the governance of civil exploration and use of outer space). It is also telling that the 2024 Summit of the Future, called for by the UN Secretary-General, is expected to include a track on outer space, with the goal to ‘seek agreement on the sustainable and peaceful use of outer space’.

Dive deeper: Space diplomacy  

1.4. Data flows in emerging geopolitics

A general trend has been for countries to store more data on their territory, especially critical data such as health records and digital identities of citizens. 

Many countries will have to balance data sovereignty and integration in the global economy. The more data they keep within national borders, the less they can benefit from the international digital economy and growth. Free flow of data will be essential for small and export-oriented economies.

Data sharing will be critical for dealing with global issues such as climate change. At the same time, data that is collected and processed locally can lead to new AI and open data services on a national or regional scale, which could support the growth of local economies and cut into the profits of some big tech companies. 

The interplay between digital interdependence and sovereignty

Sovereignty, whether it’s digital, data, AI or cyber sovereignty, will remain high on the agenda in 2023. Governments will want to extend their legal jurisdiction over digital activities on their territory and reduce the risks of negative security and economic spillovers from integrated digital networks.

a wall with many different signs on it, cartoon, Cybercrime

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Full sovereignty will be much harder to achieve in the digital world, though, because of how the internet works and how powerful tech companies are.

Approaches to digital sovereignty will vary, depending on a country’s political and legal systems. Legal approaches include national regulation and court judgments; technical ones vary between data filtering and frowned-upon internet shutdowns. 

The term sovereignty will also be used more often in the context of the digital self-determination of citizens and communities, mainly related to control over data and future AI developments. 

Digital interdependence will provide a reality check for initiatives for more digital sovereignty. It is supported by a strong drive of citizens, companies, and countries to be connected across national borders. It can even survive wars. During the Ukraine war, many interdependencies between the two countries have been cut, but it is still possible to exchange messages between citizens in Russia and Ukraine via the internet.

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Dive deeper: Data governance

2. ChatGPT: Will we have a quiet AI summer after an exciting spring and before a cloudy fall?

This title is inspired by the weather metaphor used in An Open Letter: Pause Giant AI Experiments

Having succeeded in creating powerful AI systems, we can now enjoy an ‘AI summer’ in which we reap the rewards, engineer these systems for the clear benefit of all, and give society a chance to adapt. Society has hit pause on other technologies with potentially catastrophic effects on society. We should do the same again. Let’s enjoy a long AI summer, not rushing unprepared into fall.

Logos of ChatGPT and OpenAI

OpenAI and ChatGPT logos are seen in this illustration taken, February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration(Reuters Photos)

reengrab / News Video

Our first quarterly report for January–March

ChatGPT has taken the world by storm in the last few months.  It has been covered extensively in the media, became a topic for family dinner discussions, and sparked new debates on the good and bad of AI. Questions that have been asked before now seem more pervasive. 

Will AI replace us? Are our societies ready to embrace the good that AI – ChatGPT included – has to offer while minimising the bad? Shall we pause AI developments – as Elon Musk, Yuval Harari, and others have called for in Open Letter? Whom do we have to answer governance and policy calls on AI? Should it be the UN, the US Congress, or the European Parliament or…? 

Concrete bans on AI are coming as we search for long-term AI governance solutions. Italy’s data protection regulator (temporarily) banned access to ChatGPT. In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was asked to stop ChatGPT from being used for business. Universities and schools are banning ChatGPT and other generative AI applications. The reasons behind such reactions range from privacy and data protection concerns to fairness, bias, and deception. But are these approaches offering real, long-term solutions? If not, what would such solutions look like? It’s time for serious and critical discussions. And it has to happen fast as we have ‘to fix the plan as we are flying.’

AI challenges are not new. We have to undust Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and similar writings, and discuss – through new lenses – how to approach the endless tension between our drive to create and explore, and the risks that this very creativity brings to our human nature, and ultimately, our very survival.

What’s ahead of us?

Developments in generative AI have made it clear that we need well-thought-out governance solutions to ensure that AI is more of a force for good and less of a threatening tool. On a cautionary note, as we discuss AI regulation/governance, we should be mindful of the impact of our fears. Too much focus on the negative might blindside us.

Some AI governance approaches are currently being developed at the Council of Europe, with the convention on AI and human rights, and within the EU, with the AI Act. But the UN should also step in, as it is – still – the most legitimate global policy space. What if the UN Secretary-General endorses the call to pause AI developments? What if an extraordinary meeting of the UN General Assembly is convened on this issue? At a minimum, such actions could raise awareness about the urgency of AI governance and could help ensure that AI is a central issue in the negotiations that UN member states are about to start on the Global Digital Compact.

On the calls for an ‘AI pause’ the main question is what could be done even if there were a global consensus. Some problems can be addressed, such as the protection of personal data and intellectual property of materials used to develop AI. But many AI problems are ‘wicked’ problems which do not have simple solutions. They may involve difficult trade-offs, including the possibility that society may forcefully stop some scientific developments. It would be a major departure from the logic of scientific and societal developments over the last few centuries. 

Diplo is working on AI problems on different levels to show that AI can be built from the bottom up by organisations and people with limited hardware, people, and money. On awareness building, we run a series of webinars:  Will AI take over diplomatic reporting and What is the (potential) role of AI in diplomatic negotiations. In our teaching activities, we discuss how ChatGPT can help us rethink education.  We also run a series of courses and training programmes on AI. Diplo’s AI team is experimenting with platforms for AI reporting and using smaller AI models such as LLaMA, which can be affordable for small organisations. If you want to learn more about the results of Diplo’s experience with the LLaMA model, please email us at

What did we predict on AI governance in January 2023?

AI governance: From debates on ethics to practical governance solutions

AI has entered daily life and continues to challenge existing systems in new and more visible ways. Take OpenAI’s recently launched ChatGPT model: it may be fun to play with, and it surely is impressive, but it is also challenging for educational systems (with professors now trying to detect AI-written texts instead of plagiarised ones), and raising new questions about the protection of intellectual property rights. How prepared are we to deal with these and similar issues? How can existing AI governance address new AI challenges? 

AI planet

As AI becomes more prevalent in everyday life, questions about how to govern it will become more important. The growing practical relevance of AI will also shift focus from general discussions on ethics (i.e. how to ensure that AI solutions are developed and used in line with ethical principles) to more hands-on issues such as, for example, adjusting pedagogy and educational policies to a possibility that AI can draft students’ assignments and thesis. Similar examples of AI-driven policy changes could be identified across economic, cultural, legal, and other fields. 

The good news is that we will not need to start from scratch. There are numerous ongoing national, regional, and global policy and regulatory processes.

In 2023, Europe will keep its tradition of being a trendsetter in digital governance (think of data, cybersecurity, and anti-monopoly) by advancing the work on the EU’s draft AI Act and the Council of Europe’s Committee on AI’s work on a draft convention on AI and human rights.

Within the EU, there’s a good chance that the  AI Act may be adopted in early 2024. It will all depend on how fast the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission can come to an agreement on contentious points. As the negotiations move forward, many digital actors will step up their lobbying in Brussels because the EU regulation could have effects outside of the EU, like the GDPR. The AI Act could also create tensions with the USA, a strong proponent of self-regulation. 

At the Council of Europe, the Committee on AI (CAI)  has started discussing a Zero Draft [Framework] Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law. The draft presented during the Committee’s latest meeting in September 2022 is not yet public, but the European Commission – party to the discussions – has revealed that it covers provisions related to

  • ‘purpose and scope of the (framework) convention;
  • definitions for an AI system, lifecycle, provider, user and ‘AI subject’;
  • certain fundamental principles, including procedural safeguards and rights for AI subjects that would apply to all AI systems, irrespective of their level of risk;
  • additional measures for the public sector as well as AI systems posing ‘unacceptable’ and ‘significant’ levels of risk identified on the basis of a risk and impact assessment methodology (to be set out later in an annex to the convention);
  • follow-up and cooperation mechanism between the parties;
  • final provisions, including a possibility for EU Member States to apply EU law in their mutual relations for matters covered by the convention and a possibility for the Union to accede to the convention.’

The drafting and negotiation process will advance in 2023 with two CAI meetings: 11–13 January and 1–3 February

There’s a potential overlap between the two processes, as a recent decision of the Council of the EU indicated: ‘ The convention overlaps to a large extent with [the AI] legislative proposal in its scope since both instruments aim to lay down rules applicable to the design, development, and application of AI systems, provided and used by either public or private entities.’ To resolve this, the Commission has been mandated by the Council to represent the EU in CAI negotiations on ‘matters falling within the exclusive competence of the Union, in order to protect the integrity of Union law and to ensure that the rules of international law and Union law remain consistent’. It remains to be seen how the two parallel processes will evolve and how potential overlaps will be tackled. 

How will AI governance develop in 2023? The answer by ChatGPT is….

It is difficult to predict exactly what AI governance will look like in 2023, as it will depend on a variety of factors such as technological developments, economic conditions, and political and social changes,’ ChatGPT responded. 

However, it is likely that AI governance will continue to be a topic of discussion and debate among governments, businesses, academics, and other stakeholders. There may be efforts to establish global or regional standards for the development and use of AI, as well as efforts to address concerns about the impact of AI on employment, privacy, security, and other issues.

It is also possible that AI governance frameworks will emerge at the national or local level, tailored to the specific needs and context of different countries or communities.

Dive deeper: AI and its policy implications

3. Technologies: Less hype, more impact

reengrab / News Video

Our first quarterly report for January–March

Apart from AI, the start of the year was technologically quiet. Unlike previous years, Davos did not announce any new cutting-edge technology. Metaverse technologies have lost momentum as a part of the overall tech sector crisis. Tencent Holdings abandoned its plans to enter the virtual reality hardware market, while Microsoft announced that it is closing its enterprise metaverse division. In a letter to his staff, Mark Zuckerberg signalled reduced support to Metaverse as their ‘single largest investment is in advancing AI and building it into every one of our products’. Some analysts interpreted this as the start of Meta’s back-paddling from the metaverse project. 

We might expect the downward trend to continue, however, Apple’s announcement of releasing VR or AR goggles (rumour has it – June 2023) could give another push to the concept/technology. The trend of exploring the metaverse’s potential beyond gaming could be a ‘life saver’ for the metaverse. For instance, as an increasing number of universities are delving into the possibilities of immersive learning and Amazon bringing metaverse to e-sports and education sectors and the Indian University launching an MBA programme in the metaverse and web 3.0.

It is noteworthy that the development of the metaverse has garnered greater attention from Asian governments in comparison to the rest of the world, particularly in China and South Korea. These countries are exploring the potential of metaverse technology beyond gaming, with applications in industries and public administration. South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has a Metaverse Fund to drive metaverse initiatives in the country and Seoul officially launched its metaverse platform. While in China, Shanghai, and Zhejiang have implemented metaverse development strategies in 2022.

Meanwhile, quantum computing is getting ‘regular’ visibility from time to time. 

What’s ahead of us?

AI will continue to dominate tech developments. We can expect more competition to ChatGPT from the main competitor Google with its large language model (LLM) and Meta’s open-source LLaMa. For example, LLaMA has the advantage of being 10 times smaller than other comparable models. If LLaMA can achieve similar results to GPT-4, it can democratise AI research, making it affordable for organisations and individuals with much fewer resources. And there are other open-source models, such as BLOOM and OPT.

What did we predict on technological developments in January 2023?

Last year started with a few big promises. Web 3.0, the metaverse, and AI in decentralised blockchain networks promised us astonishing feats. Enthusiasm dwindled towards the end of the year (with the exception of AI’s steady momentum). 

This year started without any announcements about the next big thing in technology. This will create the space to take a step back and see how we would like to shape our digital future.

Gartner hype curve shows dynamcis of new technologies.
A Diplo-adapted Gartner-styled Hype Cycle predicting the maturity and potential of digital technologies in 2023

The metaverse tops the list of the buzzwords in 2022, courtesy of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision announced at the end of 2021. Fast forward to January 2023: The metaverse is not taking off the way it was envisaged by Meta, formerly Facebook, which centred its future business model around the metaverse. The initial monthly target of 500,000 active users on Horizon Worlds – Meta’s metaverse platform – was reduced to 280,000 users. Currently, there are fewer than 200,000 active users per month. Some of Horizon’s virtual spaces have never been visited. 

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The number of searches for the term ‘metaverse’ declined sharply in the span of 6 months in 2022 (Source on Google Trends)

Yet, we feel this slow down is temporary. Heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google are also heavily investing in metaverse applications and tools. A new generation of users with gaming experience will dominate the internet population in the coming years. In the long-term, the metaverse or virtual/extended/augmented realities are here to stay, and 2023 will be the year for background developments and regrouping, ahead of future growth in the metaverse, VR, and AR in the medium- and long-term

Blockchain suffered a negative spillover from the recent troubles on the cryptocurrency market. The demise of the FTX showed how the technical architecture of blockchain can be abused to achieve the exact opposite of the proclaimed benefits.   

Blockchain technology’s potential for decentralisation can be easily transformed into centralised control by those who control access to blockchain-driven platforms and services.  This is what happened with the tech platforms, which ended up dominating the internet market despite the decentralised technical design of the internet as a network of networks. Whether the same will happen with blockchain remains to be seen in the coming years. 

Last but not least, AI is gaining maturity both in the realisation of AI potential and governance. At the end of 2022, Lensa and ChatGPT created new possibilities for generating texts and images. In 2023, AI will have to move towards productive use, requiring less technology and more organisational and management changes for optimal interaction between humans and machines.

How will digital technology develop in 2023? The answer by ChatGPT is….

Digital technology is expected to continue to evolve rapidly over the next few years. In 2023, we can expect to see further advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. We may also see the emergence of new technologies such as quantum computing, blockchain, and 5G networks. Additionally, digital technology will continue to be used to improve healthcare, education, and other areas of society. Finally, digital technology will continue to be used to create new products and services that make our lives easier and more efficient.

Dive deeper: Metaverse | Blockchain | AI

4. The IBSA digital moment(um): Linking development, democracy, and diplomacy


IBSA, which stands for India, Brazil, and South Africa, is a group of countries and developing economies with vibrant digital scenes. They are strong supporters of multilateral and multistakeholder approaches, with many examples of inclusion of the tech community, academia, the private sector, civil society, local communities, and other actors in digital governance. 

Can these three countries, which all care about development, democracy, and diplomacy, bring new energy to digital governance?

Update from April 2023: G20 digital health agenda can be India’s gift to the Global South.

India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA)  – which collaborate together through the IBSA Forum – are likely to play a prominent role in the process of reforming digital governance. 

There’s momentum around the three D’s: The trio are developing economies, functional democracies, and supporters of multilateral diplomacy. 

The first tangible results from IBSA’s digital momentum could be expected during India’s G20 presidency, which, among others, will promote ‘a new gold standard for data’. 

IBSA and development 

Digitalisation is the engine of growth in IBSA economies. Among the three countries, India is the leader, with a vibrant digital economy. In all three, future digital growth will happen due to their large and young populations and economic dynamics.

But digitalisation also tends to exacerbate major societal tensions that these countries face, including the digital divide, and the need to have digital governance that will reflect local cultural, political, and economic specificities. 

The three countries have spearheaded digital inclusion by prioritising affordable access to citizens, by supporting training for digital skills, and by a legal framework for the growth of small digital enterprises. For example, India’s Aadhaar biometric ID system is seen by many as a leading digital identity initiative, inspiring similar systems in other countries. South Africa has been a leader in the inclusion of women and youth. Brazil works hard with other marginalised groups, from people with disabilities to indigenous people. 

On data and sustainable development, India’s G20 presidency  aims for strategic leadership with the following practical initiatives: (a) self-evaluation of the national data governance architecture, (b) the modernisation of national data systems to incorporate citizen preferences regularly, (c) transparency principles for governing data. With a big population, IBSA countries also see data as a national resource. The Indian G20 presidency’s calls for ‘a new gold standard for data’ can help reconcile the competing issues around the free flow of data and data sovereignty. 

IBSA and democracy

India, Brazil, and South Africa are all working democracies with regular elections and strong civil society scenes. In India, it was a civil society initiative of over 1 million signatures that blocked Facebook’s Free Basics project and helped preserve net neutrality. Brazil has pioneered a unique national multistakeholder model around the Internet Governance Steering Committee ( South Africa has had major successes in youth and female inclusion in digital processes on a national level. 

Like other countries, the IBSA trio also have to deal with the digital aspects of their societal and political problems. India has had the highest number of internet shutdowns in the past few years. Brazil has witnessed major misuse of social media platforms during elections. South African women experienced high levels of online violence.

Digital problems are addressed and discussed in media, civil society spaces, and parliaments in India, Brazil, and South Africa. 

IBSA and diplomacy

India, Brazil, and South Africa are supporters of multilateral diplomacy. As members of various international coalitions, processes, and organisations, they have a strong convening capacity. They can also bring about larger regional and global partnerships by engaging countries with similar digital strengths and problems. 

India and Brazil have both hosted meetings of the UN’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and both support policy inclusion of academia, civil society, business, and other significant actors. Brazil hosted the 2014 NetMundial meeting, a unique experiment in multistakeholder decision shaping. 

South Africa has been a relatively active actor in global internet governance, from a very prominent role in WSIS negotiations, to engagement in several digital-related processes and discussions such as the OEWG, the Ad-hoc Committee on Cybercrime, UNESCO’s work on the recommendation on ethics and AI, and UN Human Rights Council debates on digital rights.

Many countries, such as Indonesia and Singapore in Asia, Mexico and Argentina in Latin America, and Nigeria, Kenya, and Rwanda in Africa, share IBSA concerns and approaches to digital governance. 

What will be the IBSA’s role in digital governance? The answer by ChatGPT is….

IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) is a trilateral partnership between the three countries that was established in 2003. The partnership has been working to promote cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, and technology. In terms of digital governance, IBSA has been actively involved in initiatives such as the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE), which is a platform for international cooperation on cyber security and digital governance. IBSA has also been involved in the development of the Global Digital Governance Agenda, which is a framework for international cooperation on digital governance issues. Additionally, IBSA has been working to promote the adoption of digital technologies in the three countries, such as through the establishment of the IBSA Digital Innovation Hubs.

5. Digital cooperation: Build-up for the Global Digital Compact and ‘Digital 2025’

United Nations World Flags
United Nations flags puzzle

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Our first quarterly report for January–March

The Global Digital Compact (GDC) process has started picking momentum, with a rather packed schedule of consultations and thematic deep-dives in New York and several other related discussions worldwide. The topics selected for the deep dives offer a glimpse into what the GDC is expected to cover (from connectivity and digital inclusion, to sustainable development and AI). At the same time, countries’ positions are shaping up: G77 and China, for example, want the GDC to ‘focus on the pressing need to address the major structural impediments that developing countries face in engaging with and accessing new and emerging technologies’, while ‘avoiding duplication across various entities and processes related to global digital cooperation’. The EU expects the GDC to ‘serve as a roadmap for a human-centric, global digital transformation’.

What’s ahead of us?

On the GDC front, thematic deep-dives continue until June, but probably the most expected immediate milestones are the publication of the Secretary-General’s policy brief, to be issued sometime in April, and the release of the Issues Paper, during the September ministerial meeting. These two documents will offer more insights into the substantive issues that the GDC is likely to cover, and the potential areas of controversy; the Issues Paper itself will serve as the first basis for the negotiations that are likely to start towards the end of the year. Meanwhile, questions remain on both the content of the GDC and the modalities for its development. 

It also remains to be seen whether and to what extent the GDC process will be linked with other processes and fora dealing in one way or another with digital cooperation, including the WSIS+20 review process and the IGF. 

Meanwhile, GIP’s Digital Watch observatory is trying to help put things in context: The GDC does not exist in a vacuum, so we look at how the topics it is expected to cover have been tackled in various key international policy documents, from the WSIS outcomes in 2003–2005 to the most recent UNGA resolution in ICT and sustainable development. 

What did we predict on digital cooperation in January 2023?

In 2023, digital cooperation processes will accelerate the build-up for 2025 when the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) implementation will be revisited, including the future of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). In 2025, UN cybersecurity discussions will evolve from the OEWG towards the UN Programme of Action (PoA). 

The next few years will also bring digital cooperation around the Agenda 2030 closer as digitalisation will become critical for the realisation of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). An important stop on the way to 2025 will be the adoption of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) during the UN Summit of the Future in 2024.

The year 2025 will be significant for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process. As the WSIS outcomes implementation is revisited, so will the future of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

At the start of 2023, the IGF will provide input into the Global Digital Compact (GDC) process, building on the messages from IGF 2022. Japan, as the host of the next IGF (Kyoto, October 2023), is likely to give new life to the Osaka Track on Data Governance, initiated during Japan’s G20 presidency in 2019

Also worth keeping an eye on in 2023 will be the work of the IGF Leadership Panel. Appointed in 2022, the panel is expected to help raise the visibility of the IGF and ‘provide strategic input and advice’ on the forum.

With the IGF’s current 10-year mandate coming to an end in 2025, we will most likely see discussions about the future of the forum accelerating, including its interplay with the work of the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.  

As for the Global Digital Compact process, facilitated by Rwanda and Sweden together with the UN Secretary-General’s Tech Envoy, the multistakeholder consultations will be followed by discussions at a ministerial meeting in September 2023 (dedicated to preparing the 2024 Summit of the Future). 

Throughout 2022, many questions were raised about the GDC process and the compact itself: 

  • How exactly will multistakeholder input feed into the development of the compact, given that it will ultimately be a document that UN member states will negotiate and agree upon? 
  • How detailed will the compact be in outlining principles for the digital future? And how realistic is it to expect member states to agree on something that has not yet been said before? 

At least some questions should begin to be answered in 2023.

Two challenges for international organisations and digital transformation

International organisations enter the phase of profound changes in their respective policy fields. One of the UN Tech Envoy’s tasks is to help the digital transition of the UN system. Two main challenges will top the agenda: mainstreaming of digital transformation and holistic digital policy making. 

At a time when everything is becoming digital, mainstreaming of digital transformation comes high on priorities of international organisations. E-trade is becoming just trade. Digital health is just health. Cybersecurity is core security. Digital mainstreaming will impact the modus operandi of international organisations.  

Holistic digital policy making will reflect the multifaceted nature of digital issues. For example, should data be addressed as a technical, legal, economic, security, or sociocultural issue? AI is an even more multifaceted issue with blurred lines between different policy angles. Currently, more and more international organisations are covering such issues, trying to position themselves as strong actors in what could be seen as a ‘competence competition’. AI, for example, is covered by ITU, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Human Rights Council, the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (UN GGE on LAWS), etc. While there is justification for specific policy angles covering AI and data, the main challenge will be to at least avoid governance confusion and at best trigger policy cross-fertilisation.

How will digital cooperation develop in 2023? The answer by ChatGPT is….

Digital cooperation is expected to continue to grow and evolve in 2023. We can expect to see more collaboration between businesses, governments, and individuals, as well as increased use of digital tools and platforms to facilitate communication and collaboration. We can also expect to see more use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate processes and improve efficiency. Additionally, the development of blockchain technology is likely to have a major impact on digital cooperation, allowing for secure and transparent transactions between parties. Finally, the development of 5G networks will enable faster data transfer speeds, allowing for more efficient digital cooperation.

Dive deeper: IGF 2022 Summary Report | GDC process

6. Human rights online: Protecting what makes us human

Challenge of AI for humans.

Our first quarterly report for January–March

During the first quarter of the year, the protection of privacy and personal data in the digital space was at the centre of multiple digital policy developments around the world. We have already mentioned above the (relatively) new concerns about the implications of generative AI for privacy and data protection – something that more and more privacy watchdogs are looking into. Besides this, there have been several regulatory, enforcement, and self-regulatory developments worldwide, from India’s and Saudi Arabia’s initiatives to strengthen the legal protections for personal data, through Ireland fining Meta €5.5 million for data breaches, and to Google banning personal loan apps from accessing sensitive data. On other fronts, the EU and Japan have concluded the first review of their Mutual Adequacy Arrangement on personal data protection, and the UN Special Rapporteur on privacy has called on governments to delete personal data collected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Women’s Day in early March brought a well-deserved attention to gender rights. Some of the highlights included debates on the (potential) role of AI in achieving gender equality, the launch of UNESCO’s Women 4 Ethical AI platform, calls to accelerate progress towards bridging gender digital gaps and to meaningfully consider gender issues in the development of the Global Digital Compact, and the release of a new report on the digital targeting of LGBT people

Privacy and inclusion – the two issues we have explored above – were also highlighted in the Ibero-American Charter of Principles and Rights in Digital Environments, adopted by the Organization of Ibero-American States. The charter outlines ten principles to guide meaningful digital inclusion, from privacy and security, to fairness and inclusiveness. Another multilateral initiative that saw the light of day recently is the Guiding Principles on Government Use of Surveillance Technologies, a non-binding instrument developed by the 36 member states of the Freedom Online Coalition.

What’s ahead of us

At the core of our predictions in January was the idea that, as digital technologies evolve and become more and more intertwined with our very existence, protecting what makes us human becomes more urgent than ever. This goes beyond issues or privacy, freedom of expression, and the like, to tackle matters such as human dignity, autonomy, and even a right to be humanly imperfect. We expect discussions on such matters to pick up pace in various settings, including in the framework of the Human Rights Council’s discussions on technology and human rights, the Council of Europe’s work on a convention on AI and human rights, and the development of the Global Digital Compact. 

Meanwhile, there is one thing we are quite certain about: legislators, regulators, and courts worldwide will tighten their grip over the private sector and try to strengthen the enforcement of various legal frameworks related to digital rights. What remains to be seen is whether there will be more focus on how to keep governments themselves accountable for their own practices when it comes to protecting human rights. 

What did we predict on human rights online in January 2023?

Human rights are both enabled and endangered online. These two extremes will shape online human rights in 2023 with the following specific developments:

  • Deeper implementation of the first generation of human rights online, such as freedom of expression, and privacy protection
  • Wider protection for the second generation (economic, social, and cultural rights) galvanised around digital inclusion and third generation (environmental, intergenerational, cultural rights) of human rights online
  • The emergence of a fourth generation: Protection of human integrity and free will as they will be affected by AI and neuroscience developments  

The main challenge will be strengthening the application of existing human rights rules online while charting well-balanced regulations for new areas (e.g. regulations that encourage ethical neuroscience developments while protecting human dignity and integrity).

In 2023, we can expect the USA and countries parties to the Declaration for the Future of the Internet to focus on the implementation of freedom of expression, privacy protection, and other first generation human rights. The EU will continue putting emphasis on the protection of data and privacy. In addition, the EU will work more on linking human rights issues to standardisation and to other ways in which technology is developed. 

A holistic approach to digitalisation and human rights will put the question of second generation (economic, social and cultural rights) and third generation (environmental and intergenerational) of human rights in the spotlight. 

The fourth generation of human rights will also become more relevant, triggered by risks as a result of the developments in AI, bio and nanotechnologies. In September 2022, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution asking for a study ‘on the impact, opportunities and challenges of neurotechnology with regard to the promotion and protection of all human rights, including recommendations on how human rights opportunities, challenges and gaps arising from neurotechnology could be addressed by the Human Rights Council’. The Council of Europe also initiated a policy debate on neurotechnologies.

More new angles and aspects will be introduced into the work of the UN human rights bodies. For example, digital inclusion and internet access will gain additional prominence in the context of promoting and protecting the rights of marginalised groups, youth, women, and people with disabilities. 

As human rights issues are increasingly brought up in standardisation discussions, there will be a push for human-rights-by-design approaches to be embedded into technical standards that form part of the design and development process of new hardware and software.

How will human rights online develop in 2023? The answer by ChatGPT is….

It is difficult to predict how human rights online will develop in 2023, as the internet and technology are constantly evolving. However, it is likely that there will be an increased focus on protecting human rights online, with governments and organizations around the world taking steps to ensure that individuals have access to a safe and secure online environment. This could include initiatives such as increased regulation of online content, improved data protection laws, and greater enforcement of existing laws. Additionally, there may be an increased focus on educating individuals about their rights online and providing resources to help them protect themselves from cyber threats.

Dive deeper: Human rights principles

7. Content governance: Between Twitter experiments and TikTok geopolitics

Image with logo of Twitter and TikTok

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Our first quarterly report for January–March

Unlike a few years ago, there is a global consensus that something has to be done with content policy. Apart from this shared concern, most other questions are open: who, how, and where should regulate content? 

Content policy debates are galvanised around two social media platforms: TikTok and Twitter. Twitter dominated debates after Elon Musk’s takeover on 27 October 2022 but gradually faded away in January 2023 as the TikTok controversy started taking off (again). The Twitter controversy is mainly related to the implications of social media platforms governing content. TikTok has triggered additional geopolitical dynamics between China and the United States. 

The underlying question for both Twitter and TikTok is whether social media companies can develop satisfactory self-regulation policies in-house or if they will need to be forced to regulate content, as is happening in Europe with the Digital Service Act. The US Congress supports amending Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act (1996), which is the founding document of the social media industry and shields it from responsibility for hosted content.

In an interesting development in global digital policy, UNESCO’s has been working on a set of Guidelines for regulating digital platforms – an international and soft law approach to content policy.

Digital decoupling will accelerate between China and the USA around chips, cables, data, AI, and satellites. On chips, the two sides will slide further apart in the whole cycle of the semiconductor supply chain from design and machines, to production. On cables, the current shared infrastructure will be increasingly divided. As calls for data sovereignty will increase, countries and companies must first distinguish between personal, business, and other types of data and, secondly, make informed trade-offs between the gains and risks of restricting data flows. On AI, we will see if an ‘AI pause’ consensus could be reached at the UN.

What’s ahead of us?

On TikTok dynamics, it remains to be seen if geopolitical or societal rationality will prevail. Following the geopolitical logic only will lead to further decoupling between China and the United States. On a societal level, we can expect a deeper discussion on the impact of social media on children and youth.  

How well Musk’s experiment with Twitter works will influence how content governance changes in the future. His failure or success will bring more clarity in the United States on who, how, and where can govern content. Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act will most likely be changed. The level of regulation will depend on the success of Twitter and other social media platforms in content self-governance. 

What did we predict on content governance in January 2023?

In 2023, countries and companies will intensify their search for better ways to govern content. This will impact the economy, human rights, and the social fabric of societies worldwide. 

On the multilateral level, UNESCO will focus on content as a public good, while the UN Human Rights Council will address content through freedom of access to information. 

In the corporate sector, the success or failure of Elon Musk’s Twitter experiment will have far-reaching implications for the future of content governance. 

Most initiatives on content governance will try to find a balance between the legal status of social media platforms and their social roles. Legally speaking, these are private companies with very little legal responsibility for the content they publish. Societally speaking, these companies are public information utilities that impact people’s perception of society and politics. Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey described Twitter as ‘the public conversation layer of the internet’.

Currently in the USA, tech platforms are not responsible for the content they host (as per Section 230 of the US Communication Decency Act). Although there are calls from both parties in the US Congress to revisit this arrangement, content governance in the USA is still in the hands of tech companies. The most important thing to happen in the coming year will be how Musk’s policy experiment with Twitter turns out. If he is successful, he may show that a self-regulation model for content governance is possible. If he fails, it will be a sign that the US Congress has to step in with public regulation, most likely by revising Section 230.

In the EU, content governance has shifted towards public regulation. The Digital Service Act (DSA) introduced new, stricter rules that social media companies will have to follow. Their implementation will start in 2023.

Similar to GDPR and data regulation, many countries are likely to take inspiration from the EU’s DSA approach to content governance.

On a multilateral level, UNESCO will host the conference Internet for Trust: Regulating Digital Platforms for Information as a Public Good in February 2023 as the next step in developing content governance around its Guidance for regulating digital platforms: A multistakeholder approach.

Will Elon Musk develop successful content governance at Twitter? The answer by ChatGPT is….

It is difficult to predict whether Elon Musk will be successful in developing content governance at Twitter. However, given his track record of success in other areas, it is likely that he will bring a fresh perspective and innovative ideas to the table. Ultimately, the success of any content governance system will depend on the implementation and enforcement of the policies.

Dive deeper: Content policy

8. Cybersecurity: Preserving the internet in difficult times

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Our first quarterly report for January–March

In February, it was one year since Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The world has changed profoundly. One year later, the cybersecurity aspects of Ukraine war do not make global media headlines. A full-blown cyberwar hasn’t occurred, and this is, of course, good news. Cyberoperations became part of a hybrid war. One year later, governments, the military, and companies are analysing the lessons learned and converting them into strategies to deal with cybersecurity in the new geopolitical and strategic landscape. Cybersecurity has to be addressed holistically, covering a wide range of aspects, from geopolitical risks to the responsibility of companies for the security of their products.

The United States realised that its new National Cybersecurity Strategy foreshadowed more regulation of US tech companies. President Biden boldly said that ‘technology companies have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe before their release’. Like 2022 the EU’s Cyber Resilience Act (CRA), regulators are ending ‘regulatory exceptionalism’ for the digital industry. Like car producers or any other industry, software developers must be responsible for their products.

In March, the UK published the 2023 Cybersecurity Review, which brings more transparency in an otherwise secretive cybersecurity space. UK Review speaks with clarity about cyber power. It’s a change from cyber being used to help with physical attacks to focusing on the mental parts of the war. Offensive cyberweapons are viewed as weapons of information warfare and psychological disruption. Given this significant repurposing of cyber-powers, the UK strategy introduces a set of safeguards, including the selection of targets, observation of legal constraints, and accountability. 

On an international level, despite a snail’s pace, it is good news that the UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) continues discussing cybersecurity issues among all countries, including those involved in global conflicts.

Cybersecurity warfare: showing a person using computers for attacks.

What’s ahead of us?

Even though the Russian-Ukrainian war will continue to be a lot of uncertainties, cybersecurity will follow certain trends. Namely, cyber power will be used as a part of hybrid warfare.

On an international level, the UN OEWG may make progress towards developing the Global Directory of Points of Contacts covering diplomatic and technical aspects of cybersecurity. It would be an important confidence-building measure. One can also expect a push for state accountability for cyber-attacks and actions against ransomware, as outlined in the joint statement of like-minded countries.

What did we predict on cybersecurity in January 2023?

Inasmuch as we’d like the internet to be a more secure space, there are at least two reasons hindering everyone’s efforts: 

  • New vulnerabilities – as a result of our dependency on complex technologies
  • The deteriorating global geopolitics with negative spillovers onto digital space 

The good news is that countries worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia, are increasing their cybersecurity protection. It’s also promising to see UN negotiations on cybersecurity continue. The risks are major, but solutions are emerging.

The Ukraine war, which dominated much of 2022, escalated beyond its borders. The war has been fought both on the ground and online, mostly through cyberattacks. The cyber risks we warned about in the early days of the conflict – from misattribution of cyberattacks to cyber-offences against third countries’ critical infrastructure or companies – remain a viable threat. 

Against this geopolitical backdrop, there are two main reasons why it’s an uphill struggle to make the internet a more secure space.

The first is that we are increasing our dependence on technology more rapidly than ever. For example, we’ve moved everything and anything to the cloud, which once looked safe, but now is becoming less so (as the attacks against and breaches into the cloud services of Twitter, Uber, Revolut, and LastPass confirm). Attackers have become more resourceful and determined to breach anything. 

The second is that technology is getting even more complex: 

  • Sensors and the internet of things (IoT) are integrated with industrial systems and their operational technology. 
  • Smart code and AI are embedded into everything from health applications to lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) like military drones. 
  • Systems get connected through emerging communication technologies like Li-Fi (stands for light fidelity), 5G, and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. 

In our rush to innovate, many of these emerging technologies still lack security standards and good practices, and are easy targets.

There is room for optimism, however. Many governments and institutions have strengthened their cyber-resilience in response to the threat of more severe and impactful attacks, such as those seen during the Ukraine war. Developing countries are becoming more interested in the cybersecurity agenda, and their increased participation in global processes could put pressure on the leading cyber powers to act more responsibly. 

In the UN Ad Hoc Committee on Cybercrime, whose main goal is to make the first draft of an international convention on cybercrime, countries have made some progress on provisions related to the definitions of cybercrime, procedural measures, law enforcement, and the applicability of international human rights provisions. And while there are many divergent positions, the overall momentum seems promising, and we may hear more good news from Vienna and New York in 2023.

So far, there have been three sessions, and a consolidated negotiating document has been prepared by the committee Chair with the support of the Secretariat. The document is a compilation of states’ proposals regarding the general provisions, criminalisation, procedural measures, and law enforcement of the draft convention.

A second consolidated negotiating document will be prepared in 2023, based on the outcomes of the committee’s third session regarding international cooperation, technical assistance, preventive measures, mechanism of implementation, and final provisions of the convention. Basically, these combined documents could be used as a starting point for member states to write the convention, which is expected to be presented to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) at its 78th session in September 2023.

One of the main debates that is expected to take place before the finalisation of the draft convention is the criminalisation of offences. In brief, one group of states is proposing that the convention is limited to criminalising cyber-enabled and cyber-dependent crimes, while a second group wants to expand the convention’s competence to other offences, including cyberterrorism. If this debate turns into an impasse, states could either agree to go with a limited scope and leave room for further negotiation down the line, or to extend its scope through an optional protocol.  

Another issue is the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, raised concerns over the protection of human rights when countering cybercrime, and are calling for more efforts to ensure their effective protection.

The UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on cybersecurity is a horse of a different colour, which has also made good progress on its mandate. The OEWG, which is half-way through its five-year mandate, has a busy calendar in 2023, with two substantive sessions, more informal consultations on a Points of Contact (PoC) directory, and another annual progress report. 

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Another process in the spotlight will be the Programme of Action (PoA), a UN-driven action-oriented mechanism envisioned to provide concrete support for the implementation of agreed cyber norms. The UN General Assembly First Committee declaration of 5 November 2022 on PoA on cybersecurity made the establishment of the PoA a reality. However, its scope, structure, and content are all up for discussion which will intensify in 2023 ahead of 2025 when PoA is supposed to start following conclusion fo the work of the OEWG (2021-2025). 

What will be cybersecurity developments in 2023? The answer by ChatGPT is….

In 2023, we can expect to see a continued focus on the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to help detect and prevent cyberattacks. We can also expect to see an increased emphasis on cloud security, as more organizations move their data and applications to the cloud. Additionally, we can expect to see an increased focus on user authentication and identity management, as well as the development of more secure authentication protocols. Finally, we can expect to see an increased emphasis on data privacy and encryption, as well as the development of new technologies to help protect sensitive data from unauthorized access.

Dive deeper: Find out about the latest of the current situation in the UN cybersecurity negotiations (OEWG and PoA)

The Geneva Dialogue on Responsible Behaviour (Phase III), a project of the Swiss authorities run by Diplo, will leverage the unique setting of international Geneva to continue the global conversation on roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in cyberspace. The project deep-dives into implementing various existing international norms, confidence-building measures, and principles to ensure cyber-stability – such as reducing vulnerabilities in the digital environment and the supply chain. You can read more here.

9. Digital economy: Is the bubble about to burst?

Stressed businessman feeling desperate on crisis stock market, investment concept.

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Our first quarterly report for January–March

The digital bubble started bursting with the bankruptcy of the Silicon Valley Bank, job cuts across a myriad of tech companies, and less investment in tech sectors. There are more and more clouds in the digital blue sky of often naive tech developments. Unfortunately, business problems are not just matters of marketing that need fixing. Similar to banks, many tech companies are too big to fail. Critical economic issues are multiplying to be dealt with by regulators and international organisations in multistakeholder and multilateral ways. One positive economic development is the stabilisation of the cryptocurrency market. Bitcoin gained in value from USD 15.342 on 1 January to USD 26.052 on 31 January.  In China, the public reappearance of Jack Ma symbolised the end of intensive policy pressure from Chinese regulators on the digital sector.

What’s ahead of us?

The current trend of job losses and less investment will continue. More cloudy and stormy weather is ahead, creating high uncertainty for businesses. A few trends will particularly impact business. Firstly, it is the uncertainty surrounding the China-USA digital decoupling of two main digital powers, and, even more importantly, its implications in other countries and regions. Secondly, what was a  promising signal at the beginning of the year for investments in AI will change as the AI industry will be under increasing regulatory pressure, heralded by Italy’s ban on ChatGPT. Cybersecurity, data, and content compliance will put a lot of pressure on companies, especially small companies and start-ups. Governments and parliaments will start dealing with the risk of big tech companies being ‘too big to fail’.

A crisis in the digital economy marked the start of the year. Investments were reduced. Jobs in the tech industry were lost. However, the cryptocurrency market has stabilised. Bitcoin even gains some value over the last three months.

What did we predict on the digital economy in January 2023?

The digital economy will face the full brunt of the economic crisis, with a possible recession in 2023. There will be less money for the next big thing – whatever it may be. As investors opt for safe economic options, digital investments are unlikely to be their table of choice.

Bitcoin, often labelled as the new gold, has lost its allure due to the recent failures of cryptocurrencies. The Web 3.0 dynamism has slowed down. Quantum computing is too far on the horizon to make a major economic impact. 

In digital economy governance, the main focus will be on digital trade, data flows, the implementation of the new global tax deal, and the regulation of cryptocurrencies.

2021 DW Website illustration banner cryptocurency 72dpi

As the economic crisis unfolds worldwide, the digital economy will face the full brunt. Things aren’t looking up for the ‘next big thing’ – there’s not much money around.

With so many daunting prospects for the economy, the governance of the digital economy will focus on three main areas: free trade, data flows, and the implementation of the new global tax deal.

ecommerce ecosystem


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The beginning of 2023 brought some of the hardest challenges for the cryptocurrency industry. After the December arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried, we predicted a harder regulatory push toward the crypto industry. In February, the US cryptocurrency company Paxos was ordered by the New York Department of financial services (NYDFS) to stop the issuance of the BUSD stablecoin. The BUSD stablecoin was a significant money line for online exchanges as it served as a bridge from the crypto industry to the traditional banking and investment arena. This stablecoin was closely connected to the world’s biggest crypto exchange Binance, which was in the focus of the US regulators again in April when the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a suit against them. The Binance exchange and the company CEO Changpeng Zhao are accused of trading violations. Stablecoin regulation was on the agenda of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting on February 24-25 in India.

They also discussed what we thought would be the focus for 2023, the design and issuing of the Central Bank Digital Currency [CBDC]. The EU is finalising its plans, while the BIS is working with other central banks for the final push. 

After the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, which was a bank of choice for a large part of the US crypto industry, the colder climate was also announced by the Biden administration. The new 2024 Revenue Proposal in the US will consider the progressive tax on electricity that is used for cryptocurrency mining. We also predict a sharper focus on the requirements and measures for an environmentally responsible industry.  

It is worth noting that in the first three months of 2023, the price of Bitcoin (which is the biggest cryptocurrency) soared by 50%, from $16.000 to $25.000. 

What did we predict on cryptocurrencies in January 2023?

A time of reckoning for cryptocurrency

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The year 2022 delivered two opposite sides of the cryptocurrency hype cycle. After the all-time high values in late 2021, the year 2022 started with a declining trend which proved to be constant throughout the year. 

Currently, bitcoin sits at US$ 16,500, which is an issue for bitcoin miners, as this price is on the edge of the costs of mining. This led one of the largest publicly traded cryptocurrency firms Core Scientific (USA) to file for bankruptcy in December 2022


Bitcoin price fluctuations over the span of a year.

The year 2022 will be remembered as a year of major breakdowns for the industry’s big players. It started with the collapse of ‘algorithmic stablecoins’ like Luna, extended to the cryptocurrency landing platforms like Celsius, and finished with a bang: the fall of the third largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, the FTX.

The FTX exchange, headquartered in the Bahamas, misused more than US$2.5 billion of their customers’ funds, syphoning it to a sister company Almeda Research. This high-profile case raised the concern of regulators worldwide. In 2023, states will continue to adopt digital asset regulations, in particular, related to consumer protection, and the clear involvement of the financial institutions in control of the industry. 

It will certainly be a year of reckoning. The key question will be the one which The Economist posed: Can crypto survive its latest winter?

Digital trade 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) will double down on e-commerce negotiations this year. Here’s why.

In 2019, a subset of WTO members came together to form the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on e-commerce. The group of 87 member states are working towards a binding agreement, covering both classical trade topics, such as market access and trade facilitation, as well as digital policy issues, such as data flows and localisation, online privacy, cybersecurity, and spam. Many developing countries, including India and South Africa, are critical of this process. But since the parties negotiating to make up 90% of global trade, any deal made within this framework will have big effects on how e-commerce is regulated around the world.  

During the past few years, JSI negotiators have managed to agree on some topics that could be considered ‘low hanging fruit’, including spam, electronic signatures and authentication, open government data, consumer protection, and transparency.

During the second half of 2022, the JSI co-convenors – Australia, Japan, and Singapore – launched a stocktaking effort to identify proposals that did not attract enough support, encouraging proponents to withdraw them. A new consolidated version of the negotiating text shows that progress still needs to be made in bridging positions on the most controversial issues, such as data flows, data localisation and privacy. This new version is the basis for 2023 negotiations. 

JSI members have a difficult task ahead if they want to produce a new agreement by the end of the year. An alternative option would be to aim for a ‘tiered outcome’, securing a more modest agreement on issues that promote more convergence among participants while continuing negotiations on other issues in 2024 – a solution that will upset those countries that have placed emphasis on the most digital topics in the negotiating agenda, and which perceive these issues as the key to a truly meaningful outcome.

The importance of mainstreaming development aspects of e-commerce is also clear. However, development aspects could remain insufficiently tackled if they are only covered by horizontal and general provisions. Deeper vertical commitments made under specific topics could be a viable option.

While negotiations are still on hold at the WTO, digital trade continues to be regulated by free trade agreements and digital economy agreements, which are mushrooming across the world. The JSI has been seen not only as a breath of fresh air at the WTO, potentially bringing new dynamism to negotiations, but also as a way to counter a growing fragmentation on the digital trade norm landscape.

Implementing the new global tax deal

Celebrated as one of the major deals brokered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global tax deal faces a tough test: how to implement it. 

The tax deal, also known as the two-pillar solution (with Pillar I focusing on the reallocation of profits to those countries where there is actual activity, and Pillar II setting a global minimum tax of 15%), has been backed by over 130 countries. 

The negotiations on Pillar II are the most advanced. Countries around the world have been publishing draft proposals and launching national public consultations. In December 2022, the EU finally agreed on a draft directive to implement Pillar II in the EU bloc. This came after almost a year of negotiations, first blocked by Poland, and then blocked by Hungary for six months. The USA has also passed a 15% minimum tax (the Inflation Reduction Act), however it still needs to be refined (or reconciled) with the OECD’s global minimum tax to be fully compliant with Pillar II. So what to expect in 2023? 

These negotiations will continue. The USA has work to do. So does the EU, albeit the major impasse seems to be over now. The ultimate aim is that all countries who agreed to the OECD global tax deal in 2021 will eventually have their legislation in order. With the exception of the handful of countries in the no-camp, corporations will not be able to seek refuge in any tax havens, as most countries will have a minimum of 15% tax rate.

However, since the pillars are tied together, we can also expect that some countries will not want to go all the way on Pillar II before there is enough groundwork on how to implement Pillar I.

The negotiations on Pillar I are also moving forward. One of the main challenges is that the technical discussions are complex  – and lengthy. Pillar I will also require countries to drop their unilateral taxes. But if the process takes too long, especially on the USA side (USA companies will be hit the most by the new global tax rule), countries such as Canada will continue threatening to impose new unilateral taxes, or keep existing ones in place. So what can we expect here?

In 2023, complex negotiations will continue designing Pillar I’s ‘Amount A’ (the new taxing right for jurisdictions over parts of the profits made by multinational companies) and ‘Amount B’ (how to price a company’s baseline marketing and distribution activities). The multilateral convention originally planned to be finalised by mid-2022, is now expected by mid-2023. When it comes to the more advanced Pillar II, the multilateral instrument that will implement parts of the new rules is now also expected to be finalised by mid-2023. 

Meanwhile, the biggest risk is stalled negotiations related to Pillar I, which could jeopardise the implementation of Pillar II. Countries could also continue to propose new unilateral tax rules in the hope that this will speed up Pillar I negotiations. Whatever unilateral rules are proposed, these will have to be temporary until the global OECD rules are implemented.  

There is also an ongoing debate on the impact on developing countries: All of these rules, developing countries say, will favour mostly developed countries, so, there needs to be more incentive for developing countries to implement them. In addition, the rules are too complex. What can we expect here? Major players in the global tax deal debate are the USA and the EU. Developing countries may continue to raise concerns, but they do not have enough leverage to change the rules. Regarding complexity, we can also expect the OECD to try to simplify the implementation of the rules, as it started doing in 2022. It’s a tall order, however – tax rules are inherently complex.  

Dive deeper: E-commerce and trade | Taxation in the digital era | Cryptocurrencies |

10. Digital standardisation: Governance through technical means 

Our first quarterly report for January–March

In January, we said that the relevance of digital standards as a ‘soft governance’ approach would increase (in 2023 and beyond). Less than four months later, we’re surely seeing this. As AI has gotten significant attention within policy and regulatory spaces recently, the role of standards in the development of safe AI has also come up in discussions.

Responding to the call for a pause in ‘giant AI experiments’ and for the ‘development of robust AI governance systems’, three major international standard-setting organisations – the IEC, ISO and ITU – stressed that standards can ‘underpin regulatory frameworks and […] provide appropriate guardrails for responsible, safe and trustworthy AI development’. At the EU level, negotiations are advancing on finalising the AI Act, where standards are highlighted as a modality to demonstrate conformity with the act’s legal provisions. CEN, CENELEC and ETSI are already working on such standards. In the UK, the new  white paper on AI regulation notes that ‘ technical standards can provide useful guidance on good practices for AI governance’.

On the relationship between standards and human rights, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights ran a public consultation event and issued a call for contributions to inform the upcoming report that the High Commissioner will present to the Human Rights Council at its 53rd session. And when the World Standards Cooperation leadership (i.e. heads of IEC, ISO and ITU) met in February, the importance of integrating human rights into international standards was one of the key messages.

At the same time, SDOs – nationally and internationally – have continued working on standards for advanced technology, from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) having adopted an AI Risk Management Framework to the ITU’s Focus group on the Metaverse having held its first meeting.

Ahead of us

For the rest of the year, we will likely see these dynamics continue. As the debates on the governance of AI and other digital technologies advance, there will be more focus on the contributions of standards as either soft(er) governance tools – in the absence of specific regulations – or as mechanisms to prove compliance with regulations. At the EU level, the probable approval of the AI Act will also mean that the European SDOs will intensify their work on developing relevant standards.

The UN Human Rights Council will discuss interplays between human rights and standardisation processes during its upcoming session, once the High Commissioner presents his report. Building on a trend from previous years, fora and initiatives such as the G7, G20 and the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) will take more concrete steps to advance cooperation on standards for digital technologies (in the TTC, for instance, this already happens within a dedicated working group on technical standards). And, of course, SDOs and private consortia will keep doing what they know best – developing new standards or updating existing ones. 

What did we predict on digital standardisation in January 2023?

In 2023, the relevance of digital standards as a ‘soft governance’ approach will increase. Standards provide alternatives to the lack of multilateral policy agreements. 

Standards are also practical, useful, and directly relevant for citizens. For example, in 2023, new iPhone users will be able to use standard USB-C for charging iPhones after Apple had to give up its proprietary plug following pressure from the EU. In 2023, the first home devices built around Matter standards will come to the market. Lightbulbs, thermostats, and other internet of things (IoTs) will become interoperable and simpler to use.

The lull in fast tech developments will provide an opportunity to set standards for the future tech growth of AI, the metaverse, and quantum computing, among others. And, continuing trends from previous years, we will most likely see intensified cooperation on digital standardisation issues between certain countries, as well as a stronger interplay between standard-setting and human rights processes.

Cartoon on standardisation.

Although largely invisible, technical standards are all around us, from the protocols that make the internet work, to the dozens of specifications embedded into our mobile phones. At their core, standards describe how technologies, products, and services are made and how they work. This lets them work together and makes services safer and better.

For instance, one major breakthrough in 2022 was the Connectivity Standards Alliance adoption of Matter, a standard for interoperability between smart home devices. Supported by tech giants Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung, the new Matter standard is expected to increase the security of home devices. In the words of president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance Tobin Richards: ‘Matter also raises the bar for security, using blockchain to validate and store credentials on the home network, encrypting messages (commands) between devices, enabling local control (no cloud), and including a pathway to easy security updates’. 

Beyond their technical nature, standards also have economic, social, and (geo)political dimensions. This multifaceted nature of standards has become increasingly visible in recent years. For instance, standards made it on the agenda of bilateral and multilateral intergovernmental frameworks such as the G7, G20, the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, the USA), and the EU-US Trade and Technology Council. They have also been discussed in unusual settings, such as the UN Human Rights Council. 

What can we expect to see in 2023?

Relevance of standards: From strength to strength

We can expect standards and standardisation processes to continue to increase in relevance in 2023 and beyond, in particular against the backdrop of intensifying technological competition between nations. Like-minded countries will likely work to strengthen cooperation and coordination on standards-related matters, in particular when it comes to the development of standards for emerging and advanced technologies. The EU-US Trade and Technology Council is just one example: building on agreements reached in 2022, the EU and the USA will work to increase standards cooperation and advance the development of international standards in areas such as quantum information science and technology, additive manufacturing, post-quantum encryption, and IoTs. 

A growing relationship with human rights

Another trend picking up in 2023 will be the nexus between human rights and digital standards. To start with, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights will deliver its report to the UN Human Rights Council on ‘the relationship between human rights and technical standard-setting processes for new and emerging digital technologies’, as requested by the council in a June 2021 resolution. The report is likely to include recommendations on fostering more convergences between human rights and standardisation processes, as well as on strengthening the participation of civil society groups in standard-setting work. Then, within standards developing organisations (SDOs) themselves, there will likely be more and more discussions on the human rights implications of the standards under development, for instance, when it comes to AI, IoT, digital identities, and more. 

Standards as de facto governance tools

Standards are, in general, voluntary, and their success depends to the extent they are taken up by the industry. But sometimes, there are also clear links between standards and regulations: Standards can serve as the basis for regulation or can be used as regulatory tools themselves when they are made compulsory by law. The nexus between standards, regulations, and overall digital transformation is illustrated, for instance, by the upcoming 7th Cybersecurity Standardisation Conference in Brussels on 7 February, which will discuss standardisation as a way of supporting the EU’s cybersecurity-related laws such as the Cyber Resilience Act. 

As regulation tends to lag behind technological progress, standards have an important role to play in ensuring the quality, safety, and security for technologies that are not yet covered by regulations. Moreover, as current geopolitical tensions are poised to reduce the chances for multilateral digital governance solutions, internationally-agreed digital standards could fill in this void by becoming de facto governance tools

New standards in the making 

While we expect some of the hype around advanced/emerging technologies (quantum computing, the metaverse, etc.) to tone down, standardisation processes will accelerate. For example, work on various standards for quantum computing and quantum communication will advance within bodies such as ITU, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). When it comes to standardisation activities for quantum-safe cryptography, such work is also being carried out by national and regional SDOs such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the USA and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in the EU. 

A few standardisation initiatives are emerging in order to ensure the future interoperability of metaverse platforms. The most prominent is the Metaverse Standards Forum supported by major tech companies. Also noteworthy is the pre-standardisation work on metaverse initiated at the ITU in December 2022. Similar pre-standardisation work, this time in relation to mobile networks, is gaining momentum at ETSI, where an industry specification group has started exploring use cases and frequency band requirements for terahertz (THz) communications, which is a candidate technology for 6G networks.

How will digital standardisation develop in 2023? The answer by ChatGPT is….

How will digital standardisation develop in 2023? Digital standardisation is expected to continue to evolve in 2023, as more organizations adopt digital technologies and processes. This will likely include the development of new standards for data exchange, security, and interoperability. Additionally, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will become more commonplace, allowing for more efficient and accurate data processing. Finally, the use of blockchain technology is expected to become more widespread, allowing for secure and transparent data sharing between organizations.

Dive deeper: Digital standards

11. Data governance: Moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach

Here are predictions on data governance from January 2023.

As discussions on data governance mature, 2023 will see a departure from the one-size-fits-all approach towards conversations on how to regulate the different types of data, such as personal, corporate, public, health, etc. In parallel, this will require a holistic approach that takes into account the standardisation, security, human rights, and legal perspectives.  

For governments worldwide, 2023 could be a landmark year in their search on how to reconcile two aspects: 

  • The need to ascertain sovereignty over critical and sensitive data that needs to be stored physically on national territories (registries, health data, etc.)
  • The fact that free flow of data across national and corporate borders facilitates economic development and contributes to the public good (e.g. environmental data)

Win-win solutions are of course ideal, but realistically, governments will have to make optimal trade-offs between the two.

Data governance butterfly.

In 2023, data will be prominent on the development and trade agenda. India has put data and development high on the Agenda of India’s G20 presidency this year. Data will also be a central theme in e-commerce plurilateral negotiations at the WTO. Most likely, Japan – as a promoter of the free flow of data – will also try to put data high on the agenda of the IGF, which will be hosted in Kyoto, Japan in October 2023. 

So what can we expect these discussions to focus on? There are at least four main policy questions that these forums, as well as other national and regional spaces, are expected to tackle.

How to develop and apply adequate and appropriate regulation to specific types of data

We tend to group all kinds of data into one basket, but in reality, there are different kinds of data – from personal data to sector-specific and open data – all of which need a dedicated data governance approach. 

In 2023, data governance will mature with the realisation that we need as many governance approaches as there are types of data. Thus, the way we govern personal data needs to be different from the way we tackle scientific, business, or communal data. 

This realisation will be gradual and will be initiated in organisations and systems that manage specific data (e.g. World Health Organization for health data, World Meteorological Organization for weather and climate data, etc.). 

How to address data governance issues in multidisciplinary ways

In 2023, countries, companies, and international organisations will have to address the multidisciplinary nature of data governance in holistic ways. It will require organisational, procedural, and practical changes in order to address the following levels of data governance:

  • At the technical level, data needs standards in order to be interoperable. Here, the work of standardisation and technical bodies becomes essential. 
  • At the security level, data is subject to many breaches. Data security is at the centre of activities of the tech industry and governments worldwide. 
  • At the economic level, the internet business model is based on data. The role of tech companies which process user data, and the role of authorities to ensure users and their data are protected, come into play.
  • At the legal and human rights level, the main issue pertains to the protection of users’ rights, including the right to privacy and data protection as well as protection from mass surveillance. Since rules are anchored in geographical spaces, jurisdiction is often the main issue that arises in disputes. Courts have increasingly become de facto rule-makers. Civil society plays an important role in advocating for users’ rights.

How to incorporate data governance into traditional policy fields and practices

As data becomes critical for all fields of global cooperation, international organisations will need to intensify the use of data in their activities in 2023, be it health, migration, or trade. Increasing their reliance on data will contribute to more evidence-based policymaking. 

At the same time, the growing relevance of data will also make data governance more political. As has already been happening in the health sector, countries will need to negotiate what type of data they are willing to share with international organisations and how this data will be used. 

How data regulation will likely affect the use and development of AI

AI is built on data, which means that data governance and AI governance go hand in hand. Emerging AI applications such as ChatGPT will trigger more discussions on the deeply-rooted relationship between the two. 

Dive deeper: Data governance

12. The future of work: Hybrid is the new normal

The year 2022 brought us a revanche of meetings as people reconnected in physical spaces and meetings worldwide. In 2023, work and negotiations will ‘settle’ to a hybrid format, combining online and in situ interaction elements. In addition to Zoom and online meetings, new virtual reality tools will be developed to facilitate seamless online interaction. The focus will be on new routines, procedures, and regulations for hybrid interaction, from regular work to diplomatic negotiations.

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The shift to an online way of doing things had long been coming. Companies had already begun slowly experimenting with new work-from-home practices, perhaps once a month, maybe once a week. Employees rejoiced, but managers treaded carefully.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything. Workplaces were encouraged to shift to online work almost overnight. Employees set up shop in their living rooms. Zoom’s profits skyrocketed. 

As the pandemic began to release the world from its grip, the hybrid way of working and meeting (a mix of working face-to-face from the office, and online from home) emerged as the new norm. With it came a new set of policy considerations:

  • How are online meeting tools handling the personal data of users, especially children, who have had to start making use of virtual classrooms?
  • What are the risks and negative effects of surveilling performance (if companies really need to)?
  • How should governments tackle the status of gig workers, a sector which exploded during the pandemic due to the high demand for the service, and the flexibility it offers? 
Hybrid diplomacy will be concentrated around traditional face-to-face meetings, organised online participation, and ad-hoc online meetings.

Hybrid has also become the new normal in diplomacy. Hybrid meetings let people join both in person and online, giving everyone a fair chance to talk and take part in the meetings’ discussions. This extends to diplomatic negotiations.

To safeguard the notion of equal participation, which is a key characteristic of multilateral diplomacy, the hybrid way of doing things will have to deal with a new set of issues and questions in 2023: 

  • Technological: How can we ensure a smooth interplay between in situ and online dynamics of diplomatic meetings?
  • Security: How can we protect data and confidentiality, especially in the context of delicate negotiations?
  • Protocol and procedures: Is there a need to adjust existing procedures and introduce new ones to regulate hybrid meetings, especially when it comes to decision-making? 

What is the future of work? The answer by ChatGPT is….

The future of work is likely to be increasingly digital, automated, and global. Companies will need to adapt to the changing landscape by investing in technology, training their employees, and creating flexible work arrangements. Remote work will become more common, and the gig economy will continue to grow. Companies will also need to focus on creating a culture of collaboration and innovation to stay competitive.

Make use of our language observatory: Here’s how

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The language of digital governance has been developed over several decades of research, negotiations, and discussions.

This process has generated thousands of papers, speeches, and reports that can be used to identify dominant language patterns in digital governance.

Diplo’s multidisciplinary team has been monitoring the evolution of digital languages from linguistical, AI and policy perspectives. You can consult some of these resources and applications.

Speech generator

a close up of a sign on a building, graphic design, Graphic design

The Speech Generator is an educational tool that combines several AI algorithms with human intelligence in order to help understand, from a practical standpoint, the functionality of AI, and from a theoretical perspective, the knowledge obtained through in-depth studies of digital policy.

The pilot version of the generator focuses on cybersecurity speeches built on Diplo’s extensive expertise on cybersecurity including analysis of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) and Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and our research of AI within the humAInism project.

Prefix analysis

An analysis of discussions held at the IGF 2022 meeting shows that digital remained the most used term with a total of 5,346 references, which is nearly a 77 percent increase in frequency compared to 2021 and over a hundred percent increase compared to 2020. The use of other prefixes followed a similar pattern in comparison to the previous two years.

Online and cyber took second and third place respectively, with 3,010 and 1,789 mentions. The word tech came in fourth place, which is a significant decrease in comparison to 2021, when it held the second spot. Finally, virtual remained in fifth place, accounting for slightly more than 2 percent of the total number of analysed prefixes.

Frequent words and concepts

Digital Compact was another prominent phrase or word chunk at IGF 2022. It was mentioned 308 times. Other prominent word chunks include fragmentation and AI governance, ITU, and metaverse, to name a few. A comprehensive list of popular word chunks is available below.

UzlFn 8zY5P1CKFunFfQbX U1PHz75EtQGWzBbs0n15w1UVQBItJ6t1toq JKq26osYWImG1kP82ujq4dxe6JvDKXpQoTwICb va9


The 2023 predictions are prepared by Jovan Kurbalija with contributions from Sorina Teleanu, Stephanie Borg Psaila, Andrijana Gavrilovic, Vladimir Radunovic, Marilia Maciel, Su Sonia Herring, Katarina Bojovic, and Arvin Kamberi.

2 replies
  1. Edward M Roche
    Edward M Roche says:

    The international community has failed to take any action on control of the arms race in cyber weapons.

  2. Toni
    Toni says:

    yes in upcoming year, digital money,currency and online transaction(is normal activity now) will more and more growing, we must keep with the technology


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