SEEDIG annual report

2020 cycle

SEEDIG 6 annual meeting (21–25 September 2020, online) &
Intersessional work (October 2019 – December 2020)

About SEEDIG

Dedicated to SEE+

Launched in 2015 as a regional Internet Governance Forum (IGF) initiative, SEEDIG has evolved into a one-of-a-kind initiative in South Eastern Europe and the neighouring area (SEE+), through sustained community work and valuable support from regional and international partners.

Vision and mission

At SEEDIG, we believe that digital technologies have an important role to play in the sustainable economic and social development of South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area (SEE+). In line with this belief, our vision is that of a healthy, sustainable and inclusive digital advancement of the SEE+ region.

Our mission is to support such a digital advancement through facilitating multistakeholder dialogue and cooperation on addressing issues related to the use, evolution and governance of the Internet and other digital technologies across the region.

What we do

To fulfill our mission, we undertake several activities, from our flagship annual meeting to capacity development initiatives and intersessional projects.

Fostering dialogue and cooperation between SEE+ stakeholders in addressing relevant digital policy issues

Empowering the SEE+ community through digital-policy-focused programmes such as the Youth School and SEEDIG Fellowship

Shedding light on regional practices and tendencies regarding Internet/digital policy

Other projects carried out between two annual meetings and dedicated to achieving our goals

Who does what

SEEDIG is a community-driven initiative.

Community
Contributes to planning and running SEEDIG activities
Executive Committee
Coordinates SEEDIG activities
Support teams
Assist the Executive Committee
Partners
Support SEEDIG activities in various ways

SEEDIG 6 annual meeting

Planning process

SEEDIG 6 was originally planned to be held in Moldova, and the community was looking forward to visiting the famous Moldovan wineries after day-long debates on the region’s digital policy realities and challenges. But it wasn’t meant to be; like most meetings planned for 2020, SEEDIG 6 was eventually moved online.

When we started planning SEEDIG 6 as an online event, we knew one thing: as many of us were already tired of online meetings, we needed to bring something new. What followed were several months of planning work which culminated in an innovative and interactive meeting.

Call for issues
‘What topics should we talk about at SEEDIG 6? Which Internet governance and digital policy issues are of high interest for stakeholders in SEE+? ‘ We invited the community to help us find answers to these questions by responding to our call for issues. In response to this call, we received 83 suggestions for topics to be discussed in Moldova in May 2020. Read more about the proposals.
Overview of proposals
Proposals submitted in response to the call for issues were compiled and made publicly available.
Forming a Programme Committee
A Programme Committee (PC) was formed (following a call for volunteers) to shape the programme for SEEDIG 6. See the composition.
Online planning meetings I & II
Two online public planning meetings were held as part of the planning process for SEEDIG 6. Read the summary report reflecting the discussions.
Draft programme published
The Programme Committee built a draft programme outline for SEEDIG 6, based on the submitted proposals and the discussions held at the online planning meeting(s).
Public comment on draft programme
The community was invited to review the draft programme and submit comments and suggestions for improvement.
Final programme outline
The final programme outline was built based on the draft programme and the comments received during the public comment period.
Public consultations
A new round of public consultations was held inviting the SEEDIG community and SEEDIG partners to submit suggestions for key participants and session formats.
Online planning meeting III
The SEEDIG 6 Programme Committee and the SEEDIG Executive Committee hosted an online public meeting to discuss the next steps in the ​SEEDIG 6 planning process​. Read the summary report.
SEEDIG 6 to be held online
The Executive Committee and the Programme Committee announced that SEEDIG 6 was to be held as an online meeting.
Public consultations
When a decision was made to move SEEDIG 6 to an online format, the SEEDIG community and SEEDIG partners were again invited to contribute ideas and suggestions on the meeting structure and format.
Building the programme in detail
The Programme Committee and the Executive Committee, with the support of DiploFoundation's ConfTech Lab, finalised details regarding the SEEDIG 6 programme (duration, format and content of sessions, introduction of creative elements, tech and comms preparations, etc.)
SEEDIG 6
The annual meeting was held online, throughout the entire week.
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Contributed proposals via the call for issues and other public consultations

Built the meeting programme, with community input

Ensured technical and visual support for the meeting

Coordinated the overall meeting planning process

SEEDIG 6 as an online meeting

Creativity, innovation and interactivity were the key words for SEEDIG 6, which spanned a week (21–25 September 2020). Each day included several hours of main sessions and creative tracks, scheduled in such a way that participants were not expected to follow a usual 8-hour long  programme. Networking and fun were also part of the event. 

Main sessions & Messages

SEEDIG 6 featured nine main sessions grouped in four tracks: Internet infrastructure, digitalisation, trust and security, and advanced technologies. The discussions in these sessions were reflected in key messages, outlining main takeaways, possible goals, and proposals for future actions. The messages represent the main output of the meeting. Through wide distribution, at regional, European and international level, they are meant to help inform and influence decision-making processes within governmental entities, national parliaments, companies, and regional organisations.

Open and decentralised Internet: governance
challenges
Previously perceived as purely a technical issue, the Internet is acquiring more political dimensions and becoming increasingly regulated.
The pandemic brought new challenges to all aspects of life, including the Internet governance system, that need to be addressed. As this system changes, the community has to adapt while preserving respect for human rights and facilitating the realisation of the human potential.
We should change the Internet governance rhetoric from mainly focusing on threats to strategising on innovation and opportunities.
Civil society can and should put pressure on governments and big tech to stick to the principles on which the Internet was built (e.g. open, decentralised, borderless).
By addressing political and economic issues, we can find solutions to the challenges posed to the open and decentralised nature of the Internet.
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The interplay between digitalisation and depopulation
Depopulation is a reality for SEE+. To address it, we should invest in human capital both within and among our countries. We should use the potential of technology to reconnect with the diaspora.
We should devise governance systems capable of adapting to the new demographic realities and utilise these systems as incentive for the diaspora to come back.
Tech and digitalisation could improve trust between citizens and governments, and reverse the trend of depopulation by giving digital nomads and diaspora motives to move or come back to a certain country.
They could also facilitate better collaboration between all urban actors (citizens, local administration, civil society and private sector) and help develop cities fit for humans.
Investments in digitalisation, connectivity and infrastructure should go hand in hand with investments in education – from cities to villages, from young to elderly people.
Youth has a huge role to play, as they will be the ones to shape future evidence-based policies.
Women’s empowerment should be another policy focus. Women in rural areas could benefit tremendously from education in tech, entrepreneurship, and skills training needed to merge tech and agriculture.
Digitalisation is crucial to reach people who were left behind tech progress, such as disabled people. It is an opportunity to allow everyone to make an impact and contribute to the technological development of their countries.
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Technological
developments
in SEE+
Enhanced cooperation among diverse stakeholders is necessary for developing and strengthening the Internet infrastructure throughout SEE+.
Successful IXPs in the region list best practices as: cooperation and support from national and international partners; diversification of services; and vibrant Network Operator Groups (NOGs) in their countries.
Regulators should invest more effort in creating better and more just policies that consider the needs of all affected parties.
Information security in the SEE+ region should be improved by strengthening cooperation at the national and regional level, and by enhancing the technical education of law enforcement and the general public.
More policy discussions in technology and more technology discussions in policy is needed. Bridging the divide between policy and technology is important.
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Digital economy: the path towards innovation and sustainable development
In order to create an enabling environment for the digital economy, we need to start by improving Internet infrastructure and connectivity, and bridging the digital divide in terms of access to infrastructure and digital skills for the entire society.
We then need to ensure dialogue with all actors in the digital economy ecosystem and develop high quality regulatory framework with builtin flexibility.
One of the most important aspects in building a strong digital economy is the legislative framework.
Countries should have the same or similar regulations in order to allow cross-border cooperation. It is important to set regulations which foresee the possible evolution of digitalisation.
Public policies need to encourage innovation, as a key driving force to increase the competitiveness of individual businesses and national economies.
Cooperation between various stakeholders and across borders – including in the form of public-private partnerships – could help digital economies thrive.
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Privacy and data protection in SEE+ during the COVID-19 pandemic
Policymakers and developers should incorporate human rights by design when devising policies and digital solutions (in particular in tracking apps) to address COVID-19 challenges.
Trust is essential for the efficient use of tracking apps, where their necessity and proportionality have been established.
Governments should provide adequate protection of personal data, consult individuals about digital solutions that interfere with their privacy, evaluate the efficiency of applied solutions, and report back to the individuals.
Governments and developers should conduct data protection and human rights impact assessments before launching tracking apps, and adhere to the highest possible privacy and data protection standards and best practices even if they are not part of the national legal system.
Building trustworthy communication between governments, developers, individuals and other stakeholders during the design stage and throughout the whole implementation cycle would eventually help to increase the level of adoption of tracking apps.
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Environmental sustainability through the lenses of digital development
Community support, private sector engagement, good regulations, and implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are vital to environmental sustainability.
Digital development has both positive and negative impacts on the environment. Given this, we need to explore how digitalisation can contribute to making economies greener and more sustainable.
Connecting green economy policies with smart economy policies is the new ‘must’. It is important to strive for development based on green technologies and new business models compliant with environmental criteria.
Changing consumption habits, business models, and people’s mindset is as vital as adopting green policies.
All aspects of sustainability need to be measured and analysed, while proper measurements in real time are needed to promptly assess and correct the impact of digitalisation on the environment.
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5G: hype soon to become reality?
Countries should, where possible, work collectively to accelerate the deployment of 5G infrastructure if they want to fully embrace digital transformation.
We should, in conjunction with the development of 5G networks, develop new approaches to cybersecurity, given the growing number of engaged actors with high interconnectedness but decentralised responsibility in the 5G ecosystem.
There is a corresponding need for universal standards on the security of digital products and services, and more investments in the digital skills of citizens.
To develop smart communities and regions, we need to establish interoperability standards for both urban and rural areas.
We need to see network operators working with authorities and other stakeholders in demonstrating the value of 5G.
We have to better communicate the benefits of 5G networks, providing evidence-based explanations to change the perception from ‘5G being just another technology’ to ‘5G as an enabler of enhanced connectivity and rapid innovation’.
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Cybercrime and the security of critical infrastructures
Attacks on critical infrastructures are difficult to mitigate, making prevention measures extremely important. Embedding security measures and controls, along with best practices, into the development of critical infrastructures becomes crucial.
There is a need to rethink the notion of critical infrastructure in the digital age and introduce proper protection mechanisms and cooperation models, including through public-private partnerships.
States should simplify and facilitate cross-border cooperation mechanisms between law enforcement agencies and the technical community (including CERTs) to access e-evidence as part of cybercrime investigations.
Incorporating threat intelligence (threat feeds) and continuous training on cybercrime investigations is key. Cybercrime investigative capacities in SEE+ countries need strengthening.
Cultivating a culture of compliance, encouraging all sectors to report cases of cybercrime and cyber-attacks, and raising more awareness on cybercrimes and cybersecurity are vital.
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SEE+’s readiness for artificial intelligence
The private sector, regulatory bodies, national governments, and international organisations all agree on the need to develop a regulatory framework on artificial intelligence (AI). We should not lose this momentum.
Innovation and regulation are complementary in achieving public trust in digital technologies.
A balance needs to be achieved between innovation that is a prerequisite for economic growth and regulation that would protect rights and freedoms.
Education and digital literacy need to be at the centre of AI policy-making. There is a consensus on the need to support digital citizenship as a critical dimension that fosters both AI deployment and respect of AI regulations.
Agreeing on a set of AI principles is necessary for all stakeholders – from training the tech developers that could develop and deploy AI applications in line with ethical principles, to decision makers that could use them in setting regional or national strategies.
While new technologies can bring important social benefits, it is important to understand that not every problem can be solved with technology, including AI.
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Under the bonnet: Tech, visuals & engagement

Dedicated meeting website

For the first time, we built a dedicated meeting website – 2020.seedig.net – which included information on everything there was to know about SEEDIG 6. After the meeting, the website was updated with follow-up info (messages, recordings, etc.).

Interactive programme tool

To make it easier for participants to navigate the meeting programme, we used an interactive tool which offered multiple features: filtering of sessions and tracks, setting reminders, adding programme elements to participants’ calendars, etc.

Engaging visual materials

With the support of Diplo’s Creative Lab, we built engaging visual materials for before and during the meeting: web banners, GIFs and videos showcasing the programme; infographics to support the debates; virtual backgrounds; branding of virtual rooms.

Online participation platform

We chose Zoom as the platform to host the meeting. There we set up distinct halls for the main sessions, creative tracks, and social events. Access to the halls was enabled via passwords communicated to registered participants right before the start of the meeting and in daily programme overview emails.

Live streaming

While Zoom was the first choice for those who wanted to actively participate in the debates, the programme was also livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. The only exceptions were the social events – we wanted those to be held in a more relaxed atmosphere, without the ‘pressure’ of being live.

Social media moderators

With interactivity being one of the key words for SEEDIG 6, we wanted to enable as much engagement into the debates as possible. Our social media moderators made sure that comments and questions shared by participants via YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter were fed into the discussions held in Zoom halls.

Guidelines for participants and contributors

In preparation for the meeting, we developed three sets of guidelines meant to (a) set expectations for contributors and moderators on how the sessions and creative tracks were going to be run (with focus on interactivity and dialogue); (b) guide participants through the technical arrangements for the meeting; and (c) set a code of conduct for the meeting.

Statistics

0
Days
0
Sessions & tracks
0 h
Live streaming
0
Contributors
0
Rapporteurs
0
SM moderators
0
Unique Zoom participants
0
Unique YouTube viewers
0
Facebook page views

Feedback from participants

Below is a summary of feedback received through our public evaluation survey:

  • Many respondents praised SEEDIG 6 for being an innovative event. It was also noted that SEEDIG 6 proved that an online event can be more productive than an onsite one.
     
  • Appreciation was expressed for the use of different formats and the fact that the meeting was spread throughout the week, giving participants a chance to tune in when possible.
     
  • Positive comments were received with regard to the design, visuals, setting, moderation, line-up of speakers, discussions with the audience, and transition between sessions. The social events were also welcomed by participants as informal spaces to interact and have some fun.

Lessons learnt

  • Organising SEEDIG 6 online showed us that there is space to innovate at SEEDIG and that we should be more open to bringing new elements into the programme of an annual meeting. We will certainly continue to innovate for the next SEEDIG meeting, be it online, onsite, or hybrid. And the creative tracks implemented at SEEDIG 6 are here to stay.

  • It seems it was a wise decision to spread the meeting across a week, and not have sessions all day long. There is room for improvement when it comes to addressing topics from a more regional perspective. Some sessions could have benefited from more time and a little more engagement among all participants. Having professional tech support made the meeting run very smoothly (the only tech difficulties we had were caused by bad Internet connection for a few speakers); and the professional visual support took SEEDIG 6 to a new level.

  • SEEDIG 6 brought the engagement of new actors, like UNDP offices from the region, UNFPA, the Regional Cooperation Council, etc. Follow-up discussions with these entities have created a framework for future SEEDIG intersessional work on various topics relevant for the region. SEEDIG should focus more on using annual meetings as the place to forge new partnerships and initiate new activities that could help the region advance on its path to sustainable digital development.

Capacity development programmes

SEEDIG Youth School

The SEEDIG Youth School is a capacity development initiative targeted at students originally from, or residing in a SEE+ country. The purpose of the programme is to offer regional youth a space to learn, network, exchange ideas, and prepare to actively participate in SEEDIG and other Internet governance and digital policy processes at national, regional and international level. 

In 2020, the fourth edition of the Youth School was supported by the Internet Society and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which offered students access to some of their online courses.

81
Applicants
35
Students in Phase 1
17
Students in Phase 2
2
Partners
8
Org team members

Phase 1 | June–July 2020

► E-learning courses (provided by Internet Society and ICANN)
► Online meetings
► Assignments

Phase 2 | August–September 2020

► Additional e-learning courses
► Online meetings and assignments
► Debate on facial recognition technology
► Participation in SEEDIG 6

Debate outcome

One of the final elements of the Youth School programme was a debate on facial recognition technologies (FRT).

Students were divided into three teams – civil society, governments, and private sector – and were asked to debate on whether tech companies should be allowed to sell FRT to law enforcement agencies (LEAs).

At the end of the debate, they agreed on a Memorandum of understanding between governments of SEE+ countries, civil society organisations, and private sector representatives on the application of FRT by LEAs.

Blogposts by our students

School on Internet Governance, Digital Policies and Innovation (SIDI)

SEEDIG was part of the organising team that planned and run the first edition of SIDI, which took place in Bucharest, Romania, in December 2019. The school was hosted by the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration and co-organised together with the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and SEEDIG, with the support of several local, regional and international partners

SIDI is a capacity development initiative designed for graduate and post-graduate students and professionals keen to learn more about digital innovation, the impact of the Internet and other digital technologies on our society and economy, as well as the multiple dimensions of digital policy and Internet governance. The School is focused on (but not limited to) South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area (SEE+).

0
Applications
0
Participants from 16 countries
0
Thematic sessions
0
Lecturers
Programme highlights

Intersessional activities

SEEsummary

SEEDIG has been running the SEEsummary initiative since September 2016. The summary, published on a monthly basis, provides an overview of key Internet governance and digital policy developments and activities across the SEE+ region. Updates covered in the summary are structured around thematic blocks such as infrastructure, cybersecurity, human rights online, access, digital divide, and capacity development.

43
SEEsummaries published
11
Editorial team members from 8 countries
40+
Digital policy issues
20
Economies covered
New elements added in the SEEDIG 2020 cycle

Intersessional project on COVID-19 tracking apps

As the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, governments worldwide, including in SEE+, have been rushing to build apps, services, and systems for contact tracing and monitoring the self-isolation regime’s observance. Such new tools raised many concerns regarding privacy and data protection. Still, at the onset of the world health crisis, SEEDIG decided to bring together the community’s expertise and experience, covering over 20 countries, to assess the level and state of deployment of tracking apps in SEE+ region and their human rights implications. 

The intersessional project on COVID-19 tracking apps –which run between June and September 2020 – pursued two main goals:

  • Sensitise stakeholders about the deployment of tracking apps in the SEE+ region and their human rights implications;
  • Create a brainstorming space for the development of recommendations for the region.

Working methods

► Introductory online discussion with the community
► Creation of a dedicated working group
► Drafting and presentation of recommendations

Outcome

After two months of research and deliberations, the working group has compiled a set of Recommendations addressed to governments/public health authorities and developers for careful consideration when developing policies and/or deploying COVID-19 mobile tracking apps. The Recommendations are aimed at mitigating negative human rights implications of the tracking apps. The final document contains an overview of country-specific practices of using COVID-19 tracking apps in SEE+, related challenges and concerns (as the working group identified them), and the recommendations. It has been shared with the SEE+ national authorities, media outlets, and IGF initiatives for further scrutiny and application.

Contribution to other IGF initiatives

SEEDIG has been inspired by the global IGF and EuroDIG and actively contributes to these two processes. Within the SEE+ region, SEEDIG is seeking to support national and youth IGF initiatives, to the extent possible.

Strengthening SEEDIG

Several activities were undertaken throughout the 2020 cycle that contributed to strengthening SEEDIG, from revising our partnerships approach to launching a new website.

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Budget & expenses

Sponsors

SEEDIG is financed solely through voluntary contributions (both monetary and in-kind) from the technical community, international organisations, private companies and public entities. In 2020, the following entities supported SEEDIG. 

Sponsor Contribution
(EUR)
Internet Society & Internet Society Foundation
6680.88
RIPE NCC
5000
ICANN
3358.12
IGFSA
2918.37
TOTAL
17957.37

Overview of expenses

Most SEEDIG activities were conducted on a voluntary basis, by the SEEDIG Executive Committee, interns, editors, webadmins and other community members. The financial contributions from our sponsors and donors were used to cover the costs below.

Budget item Costs
(EUR)
SEEDIG 6 costs (tech, visuals, etc.)
8576.21
Online services (Canva, Mentimeter, Typeform, Flickr, etc)
682.38
Comms materials (design and print)
300
Website tools (used for creation of 2020.seedig.net and re-design of seedig.net)
170.9
TOTAL
9729.49

Notes

► In addition to funds raised in 2020, the budget for the 2020 cycle also included available leftovers from the 2019 cycle (EUR3225).

► As SEEDIG did not have its own bank account, funds were collected and managed through the EuroDIG Support Association. Decisions related to expenditures were made by the SEEDIG Executive Committee and executed by this entity.

► Any surplus at the end of the 2020 cycle is to be used to cover SEEDIG-related costs such as communication and outreach (web presence, printing SEEDIG materials etc.), intersessional activities, and/or the planning of SEEDIG 7.

Sponsors and partners

Sponsors

Strategic partners

SEEDIG annual report | 2020

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

Published by the SEEDIG Executive Committee, February 2021