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Geneva Internet Platform: 10 focus areas for 2021

Published on 07 January 2021
Updated on 05 April 2024

The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) aims to provide simple and evidence-based access to and analysis of the complex fields of Internet governance and digital policy. The GIP’s particular focus is on building the capacity of diplomatic missions, international organisations, companies, and civil society to follow digital developments in Geneva, serving as a digital hub.

Digital Watch is the GIP’s flagship project and the most comprehensive observatory of Internet and digital governance. At Digital Watch you can follow a wide range of issues, actors, key digital governance processes, and the latest policy trends. The GIP receives core support from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), and the Republic and Canton of Geneva. The GIP is operated by DiploFoundation (Diplo), which provides expert, technical, organisational, and administrative support.

Note: Many of Diplo’s activities are intertwined with the GIP’s work. You can take a look at Diplo’s 10 Focus Areas here


1. Digital governance: Nexus between policy processes and research 

2020: The GIP contributed to the search for inclusive, informed, and impactful digital governance. GIP and Diplo researchers participated in the IGF, UN, GFCE, WSIS, and other international policy processes. The GIP hosted numerous briefings and awareness-building sessions with diplomats, journalists, academics, and other actors. In particular, GIP events addressed cross-cutting digital governance involving technical, business, economic, human rights, and other aspects of digital policy.

2021: Most of the GIP’s activities will be centered around the implementation of the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. In addition, the GIP will focus on governance challenges in the fields of AI, cybersecurity, digital health, e-commerce, etc. 


2. Geneva Digital Atlas: Navigating digital governance 

2020: The Geneva Digital Atlas is a comprehensive mapping of the digital policy and Internet governance scene in International Geneva. The Atlas provides in-depth coverage of the activities of more than 40 actors, including analysis of a wide range of policy processes and a catalogue of more than 10 000 core instruments and featured events. In addition to providing easy access to digital activities in Geneva, the Atlas is also a converging point for exchanges on digital co-operation in Geneva. 

2021: The Geneva Digital Atlas will be extended to new actors. It will be also supplemented by the Geneva Digital Tours, which will cover one digital field every month. In January, we will start with a historical/philosophical tour by having ‘conversation across time’ with prominent thinkers and scientists who lived in Geneva and whose work can help us in finding solutions for digital governance. February will be dedicated to digital standardisation, and so on. Join us for both virtual and if weather permits, in-person tours discovering Digital Geneva. 

3. Cybersecurity: Geneva dialogue on responsible behaviour in cyberspace

2020: The Geneva Dialogue on Responsible Behaviour in Cyberspace gathered some of the world’s leading businesses to discuss good practices about securing their digital products and services. The Geneva Dialogue also facilitated their greater understanding, following, and contribution to international policy and diplomatic processes. After 15 online meetings and 4 online events, the Geneva Dialogue presented an output document titled ‘Security of digital products and services: Reducing vulnerabilities and secure design: Good practices’, which sets out agreed-upon definitions related to security by design, highlights some best practices, emphasises organisational and planning resources and processes needed to implement best practices, and lists some key resources recommended by partners.

2021: The Geneva Dialogue will continue with a focus on developing common baseline security requirements for the industry, taking into consideration best practices as well as national regulations and cybersecurity policies, international standards, and international principles.


4. Data Co-operation: Road to Bern via Geneva

2020: In preparation for the 2020 virtual UN World Data Forum (UNWDF), which took place in October 2020, the GIP, together with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland, organised four Road to Bern via Geneva dialogues. The dialogues covered key aspects of the data cycle: (a) the collection of data, (b) the sharing of data, (c) the use of data, and (d) the protection and privacy of data. Each dialogue was co-hosted by two Geneva-based international organisations (WMO, WHO, ICRC, WIPO, ITC, CERN, WEF, and ITU) and brought into the discussion the different stakeholders of the Geneva ecosystem. The outcomes of the process were presented at a virtual UNWDF session. 

2021: A continuation of these dialogues is expected to take place in the new year, ahead of the in situ UNWDF, to be held in Bern in October 2021. Practically speaking, many in Geneva will benefit from the Data Sandbox and other tools developed by Diplo that will foster continued data co-operation. 


5. Human rights online: The RightOn initiative

2020: In April 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in order to maintain discussions on human rights, the GIP, together with a number of partners including the Universal Rights Group (URG), the Geneva Academy, and the Human Rights Center (University of Essex), launched a series of online discussions ‘RightOn‘. 

This series of events focused on issues such as contact tracing, access to information and the safety of journalists, gender rights, online hate speech, and fake news. Featuring prominent human rights experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, special rapporteurs, ambassadors, and university professors, the weekly discussions gathered over 1000 participants from 130 countries and extended to audiences beyond the Geneva-based human rights community. 

The initiative has been expanded to a wider range of human rights issues and extended discussions to include elections, children’s rights, and the right to a safe environment, as well as sustainable development.

2021: The main focus in 2021 will be on current happenings and how they interplay with human rights issues. In this context, the talks will be practice-oriented and as such will look at, for instance, how deepfakes can blur the line between fake and real, and ultimately, render the work of human rights defenders, policymakers, and others more challenging.


6. Tech attaché circle: Support for missions and diplomats in Geneva in following digital issues

2020:  The Tech Attaché Circle was formed as an informal and bottom-up initiative of Geneva-based diplomats who cover the digital agenda of international organisations. The Circle has widened as the digital agenda has expanded from traditional tech issues towards interlocked issues, such as digital health, e-commerce, and human rights online, among others. The GIP facilitated this network by organising briefings, training, discussions, and networking opportunities. Towards the end of the year, we started a new series of sessions explaining the functionality of AI.

2021: The GIP will continue its work in providing a trusted space for tech attachés to meet, exchange, and learn. New tools will be developed to help diplomats follow policy and negotiation processes. The GIP will introduce a text and data analysis app that should assist diplomats in their work. The main focus will be on assisting small and developing countries that are often missing from negotiations on emerging digital policy issues. 

7. ConfTech Lab: Place for innovation and advancement of hybrid meetings

2020:  In March, as the pandemic shifted diplomatic work online, the GIP’s focus was on helping missions and organisations ensure ‘business continuity’. They were assisted in choosing platforms for their work and gathering new skills. The GIP implemented – together with the International Geneva Welcome Centre (CAGI) – capacity-building training for NGOs in Geneva.

As diplomats and organisations acquired basic online functionality, the GIP’s focus evolved from providing basic assistance for the use of online platforms in effective and innovative ways to preparing for and conducting online and ‘hybrid’ meetings. 

2021: The main focus for the ConfTech Lab will be on intensifying practical exercises on the functional, protocol, and emotional aspects of ‘hybrid’ meetings. Another focus area will be the use of virtual and augmented reality platforms. The ConfTech lab will conduct practical exercises, experiments with new tools, and awareness-building sessions.

8. Digital Watch Observatory: One-stop resource for data and info on digital governance

2020: The GIP Digital Watch Observatory gained new relevance as a comprehensive and neutral digital policy one-stop shop for updates, overviews, explanatory texts, events, resources, instruments, and other developments related to almost 50 digital policy issues and processes. 

Ongoing updates on digital policy are supported by weekly digests and monthly   newsletters, which provide a summary of the main policy trends, a round-up of developments by thematic area, analysis of topical issues, a rundown of the main discussions in Geneva, and a lighter section for announcements and crosswords. 

Monthly GIP briefings provide a ‘zoomed-out’ update of major global digital policies and Internet governance developments. In addition to the briefings, the GIP maintains a monthly IG Barometer of Trends, which tracks specific issues in the Internet governance policy debate, and reveals trends by comparing issues every month.

2021: Digital policy issues and trends will be addressed through the use of augmented intelligence, combining traditional human expertise and the use of AI tools. The Observatory will develop special coverage on the implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. It will focus on emerging policy issues such as online gaming and quantum computing, as well as coverage of regional and national digital developments.

9. Digital Watch Reporting: In-depth coverage of digital policy events and processes

2020: With less need for travelling and more events available online, Digital Watch reporting extended the coverage of just-in-time reporting beyond the IGF and WSIS Forum. Our reporting was enriched through the use of new AI and text analysis tools.

2021: A set of new AI and data applications will be deployed to assist experts in spotting convergences among different policy discussions and processes. The GIP will advance the use of mobile apps for easier access to reports for communities worldwide. 


10. Capacity development: Building skills for managing the interplay between tech and diplomacy

2020: The GIP’s traditional Internet governance and digital diplomacy training was enriched by providing technical briefings on AI where diplomats could learn about the practical functionality of algorithms. By looking ‘under the bonnet’ of AI, diplomats and other actors could get better insights into the policies that they discuss and negotiate.

2021: A new type of ‘under the bonnet’ courses will be developed with the aim to understand the nexus of tech policies by addressing issues such as AI, big data, and cybersecurity. Awareness building will be improved through initiatives such as the Geneva Digital Tours, which will cover a different digital issue every month.

If pandemic health requirements allow for it, the GIP will organise more in situ training and awareness building events at its premises in Geneva. 


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