Helani Galpaya, LIRNEasia’s CEO was a panellists on the opening panel at the 2021 Stockholm Internet Forum. Helani’s co-panellists included Per Olsson Fridh (Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation), Irene Khan (United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression) and Joan Carling (Global Director, Indigenous Peoples Rights International) and session was moderated by Jac sm Kee (feminist tech activist and co-founder of the Numun Fund).
The theme of this year’s SIF was “Mobilising for Digital Resilience – a free, open, and secure internet in the shifting landscapes of the pandemic”. The opening panel set the stage for discussing issues that fit under this topic, and will be followed by 2 days of further panels that explore each issue further.
Helani’s input in the panel revolved around questions posed on education during the pandemic and financing of technology in order to mitigate harms.
On the topic of education and ICT’s, she drew from the AfterAccess surveys which were funded by IDRC Canada and the Swedish International Development Agency, among others. The data showed the low percentage of households that had a working internet connection and large screen devices (smart phones, tablets, computers) that could have facilitated online learning. The lack of radio’s and TV’s in poorer households exacerbated the situation. Unaffordable data connectivity and poor quality have been highlighted through LIRNEasia’s other research as well. The recent e-Diary research, conducted over 14 days during the second wave of lockdowns in Sri Lanka also highlighted the issue of how much access is needed – the one smart phone in the house had to be shared between many for education and work.
On the topic of taxation, she discussed the need for technology governance regimes including privacy and data protection policies, data governance modes, algorithmic accountability practices that ensure tech providers are working in an environment that is rights protecting AND innovation enabling. She also mentioned the economic response to mitigating negative externalities of firms and industries – taxation. Tech firms are accused of not paying their ‘fair share’ of taxes, so it’s going to be even more difficult to tax them further to mitigate harms. In the absence, many countries have started imposing country-specific taxes on e-commerce. The OECD/G20 are working on a global digital taxation regime. She pointed out that even if something is worked out, in the absence of good governance and a clear societal contract, there is no guarantee that his new revenue will be used to improve tech, improve the environment or improve anything for the people.
The recording of the panel is avaiable at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAK5DyQiyHk