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Global Digital Compact (GDC) presents critical opportunity for NZ

Discussions at the United Nations this week on the Global Digital Compact (GDC) present a critical opportunity for New Zealand to play a key role internationally in shaping digital governance.

The Global Digital Compact is incredibly important to both Aotearoa and the future of the internet as a whole. New Zealand is working toward growing its technology sector, and our geographic isolation means the Internet is vital. Digital technologies also dominate national discussions, and we think more New Zealanders should be empowered to participate in those discussions.

We know that New Zealand can also play an important role in the international community. We’re experienced at navigating difficult geopolitical landscapes, and have direct experience of both the immense benefits and terrible costs of the Internet and digital technologies.

At present, the GDC will have two long-lasting impacts

The GDC will have far-reaching implications for the unified global Internet, with substantial economic, political, and social repercussions for New Zealand and New Zealanders.

First, it will send a strong signal to national governments about what kinds of actions are legitimate to respond to digital technologies and their impacts. Key topics include things like child safety, disinformation, and artificial intelligence. This will have significant implications for issues like freedom of expression, privacy, and encryption globally. 

Second, it will shape how governance of the Internet, AI and digital technologies evolves in the coming decades, which is currently governed collaboratively by states, companies, non-government entities (civil society), international organisations, and the technical community.

A good start, but needs work

While the current draft is heading in the right direction, there is more work to be done. Crucially, text on topics like Artificial Intelligence, multistakeholder governance, and nebulous concepts like “disinformation” and “safety” all need greater clarification and refinement.

Artificial Intelligence

The GDC treats AI like a special category, rather than like any other digital technology. While the impacts and capabilities of AI may be daunting, the GDC shouldn’t treat it like science fiction.

Multistakeholder Governance

While expressing support for the existing Internet Governance model, the GDC must resolve some lingering ambiguities that point in the opposite direction. In addition, meaningful participation by civil society in governance processes is unrealistic without adequate access to resourcing.

“Disinformation”, “safety”, etc 

Substantial limitations on human rights can be imposed in the name of safety, and talk of “eliminating” disinformation risks profound limitations on freedom of expression. There needs to be some way of narrowing down these concepts and limiting what can be done in response. 

For more information

For more detail, you can access our position statement below.

Interactive digital tool

We've also incorporated our comments into an interactive digital version of the GDC using software from Syncopate Lab.

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