PCI launches new Digital Cooperation and Diplomacy Initiative

PCI Initiative
May 31, 2020 · 4 min read

Program sets sights on achieving UNHLPDC goals collectively

By Kristin Little

As PCI’s leaders remind us every day, the Internet was created by people, to connect people. This people-centered, cooperative essence permeates its history and at PCI, we want it to guide its future. Today, with the launch of our new Digital Cooperation and Diplomacy Initiative, PCI is committing to continuing on that path. By creating worldwide connections, facilitating critical conversations to solve today’s problems, and designing and imagining a people-centered future of the Internet, PCI’s new DCD Initiative seeks to follow in the footsteps of the originators of the Internet and harness their spirit of cooperation for a new age of connectedness.

Just like universities were the first to connect and collaborate digitally, the DCD Initiative’s goal is to encourage constructive relationships and information-sharing among governments, individuals, and civil society organizations. Our ultimate aim through the DCD initiative is to support the successful implementation of the recommendations of the UN High Level Panel for Digital Cooperation. Like those academics who first led the Internet’s spread, prioritizing openness, collaboration, and the power of ideas, we believe that when information is shared, entire communities can achieve more. That’s why we also hope to highlight best practices in the DCD space and share what we’re learning with our PCI community and the Internet community as a whole.

We’re inspired by innovators like Steve Huter, an Internet Hall of Fame inductee, who has been instrumental in the spread of the Internet to over 120 countries through his work with the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC). Huter sees the Internet in a very human light:

“Every new node on the net has the potential to be a peer. And I mean that in the physical sense of peering and exchanging data and content, but more importantly in the human sense of being your peer, your collaborator, your friend, and it’s important that we respect all nodes and all people who are part of the internet community system.”

This is the spirit in which the Internet was created and which PCI, through the DCD initiative, embodies. Peer-to-peer respect and collaboration is a priority and a mindset every person in the PCI community shares.

On our monthly calls, PCI will begin featuring speakers who seek to further global digital cooperation. On our blog, we will be sharing DCD-related content on topics such as access and connectivity problems and their equitable, ethical, and transparent solutions. To help create space for cooperation, we are convening meetings with a variety of actors in the international community. These meetings identify areas for collaboration, facilitate information-sharing, and spark movement on the UNHLP recommendations — because we know from our predecessors, who first understood the power and utility of the Internet, that experimentation, when done collaboratively and shared widely, works. We will also monitor and amplify ongoing efforts emerging from the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation.

The first stages of this initiative are already in motion. After being named PCI’s DCD Fellow, I have begun working with the Hasso Plattner Institute’s School of Design Thinking on a Digital Cooperation and Diplomacy design project. The project, in its fifth week of formation, is focused on the question of how to strengthen cooperation in an era of digital interdependence among governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, academia, the technical community, local communities, and other relevant stakeholders. Just last week, the team outlined five approaches to the challenge and chose to focus on exploring the digital sphere as a new space for cooperation and innovation.

A Zoom meeting participant presents a concept map of Digital Cooperation and Diplomacy
A Zoom meeting participant presents a concept map of Digital Cooperation and Diplomacy
PCI’s Mei Lin Fung and Kristin Little help lead a Hasso Plattner Institute’s School of Design Thinking Challenge as they tackle key questions around digital diplomacy.
Initial Fields of Opportunity sketched out by the team.

As we go along, the DCD initiative will evolve and expand. We will identify opportunities for research, training and convenings on digital policy topics, leveraging PCI’s network and resources to benefit the international community. Those opportunities will be focused on mission-aligned projects that:

  • Address one or more of the recommendations of the report from the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation

The Internet is a vast frontier that we are just beginning to explore, and the People-Centered Internet Community is here to serve as a network of trading posts and trail guides so more people benefit from it. We look forward to collaborating with each and every one of you on this effort.

Kristin Little is PCI’s Digital Cooperation and Diplomacy Fellow.

People-Centered Internet

Working for an Internet that works for People

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