What will a digitally enabled global governance look like?

Barbara Ubaldi @barbaraubaldi

The role of the G20 in the global governance scene has been progressively strengthened since the 2008 crisis, with the Heads of State of the G20 meeting regularly since then. The G20 provides global leaders with a relatively inclusive (G20 economies represent 85% of the world’s GDP and 80% of its population) and flexible forum to discuss and create the necessary consensus and coordination around the world’s most pressing challenges, unencumbered by institutional constraints.

Digital technologies offer global leaders the opportunity to collect, use and share data to better understand global problems and challenges such as global warming, clandestine financial flows, tax base erosion, migration, international value-chains, income distribution across countries, armed conflicts, transnational crime, among others. The use of ICTs is also helping global leaders collaborate in a more agile and cost-effective matter.

The G20 can capture the exponential progress in digital technologies and the data revolution to deliver equitable benefits to all segments of the society, by using open data as a cross cutting resource to achieve the priorities of the current Turkish Presidency which include: promoting inclusion, supporting implementation, and triggering investments for growth.

An increasingly networked society provides governments with tools to better understand new patterns of human behaviour and their perception of global challenges, which can inform their strategies to frame issues and use persuasion to achieve their foreign policy goals, potentially leveraging their soft power. In this sense, there is a significant impact digital technologies and open data can have with respect to global governance in relation to the next development agenda, as it can: more effectively target aid and improve development programmes; track development progress and prevent corruption, and contribute to innovation, job creation and economic growth.

Finally, a more connected world may also provide individuals with a stronger voice in the international arena. The times when international affairs uniquely concerned government interests are long gone. International law increasingly has an impact on individuals’ rights and obligations and vice versa, citizens, CSOs and the private sector are much more aware of how international decisions impact them and want to have a say. By facilitating access to data, information and communication, new technologies also support emerging trends of transnational activism (e.g. human rights, sustainable development) and private sector coordination. More informed and coordinated constituencies become a real source of political pressure to achieve policy objectives. As the demand of non-institutional actors for their views to be taken into account in global decision-making fora, global leaders may need to think of new ways of giving them a voice on issues that directly affect their lives, otherwise risking losing trust and legitimacy, thus weakening these institutions and fora. To achieve broader, more agile, efficient and inclusive governance at a world scale, digital technologies may well be the most powerful enabler.