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Hello, I'm Michael Kende from the Graduate Institute in Geneva and today we're covering Geneva's growing role as a hub for internet governance. As the internet has continued to grow and permeate our lives, so have concerns surrounding issues such as cybersecurity and online rights. Good governance requires cooperation between a variety of stakeholders, and below I explain why this is well suited to the strengths of International Geneva.

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Michael Kende,


We need strong governance to make sure the internet is available, secure, and safe for all

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Racks in a data center in Zurich (KEYSTONE/Christian Beutler)

International Geneva has long been a hub for internet governance. Back in 2003, Geneva hosted the first international conference that addressed the topic, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Since then, the internet has grown exponentially in size and importance, as has been shown vividly during the Covid-19 crisis. Internet governance is increasingly important, to bridge the digital divide, address cybersecurity, and establish online rights. It requires cooperation and coordination between a variety of stakeholders and thus is well suited to the strengths of International Geneva.

The Fondation pour Genève is releasing a report this week that I authored as part of a new series focusing on centers of expertise in International Geneva. Recent events have proved the series to be somewhat prophetic. The first report, released right before the Covid-19 pandemic, covered the role of Geneva as a center for global health. This second report focuses on the role of Geneva as a center for governance of the internet and is being released as the internet has proven central to societies’ responses to the crisis.

International Geneva is built around the three founding pillars of the United Nations: Development, Peace and Security, and Human Rights. These pillars now all include important online issues, and correspond well with many of the key internet governance questions. As a result, there are three corresponding clusters of internet governance in Geneva:

Digital for Development. The digital divide drove the emergence of internet governance in Geneva, beginning with the WSIS. While it is important to bring people online, it is also important to recognize that internet access is a means to achieving broader development goals. Geneva has been at the forefront of these efforts, including developing e-commerce, the rules for the resulting digital trade, and planning the future of work in a global digital world.

Digital Trust. The vulnerability of online activities is increasingly apparent. Enhancing cybersecurity and promoting cyberpeace is a vital issue being addressed by a number of organisations across the Lake Geneva region. These initiatives are not just trying to prevent harms, but have begun to promote digital trust, to develop confidence in sensitive online services.

Digital Rights. Human rights issues are firmly centred in Geneva, encompassing humanitarian issues as well. A significant amount of work has focused on how to apply human rights in the online sphere, including privacy and freedom of expression. In addition, work has been undertaken on how to leverage technology to deliver humanitarian aid, while also mitigating the downsides of technology. Geneva is the natural home for this work to take place.

These clusters are driven by internet policy expertise within the UN agencies, Permanent Missions, and non-governmental organisations. The clusters are strengthened by academic and research institutions and venues for capacity building, all in turn supported by active Swiss policy. The report covers the range of activities in Geneva, including how the internet governance clusters have helped address online issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis.

International Geneva continues to grow its role as a center for internet governance, with new initiatives arriving that bolster the existing clusters, such as the Swiss Digital Initiative and the CyberPeace Institute. Geneva also plays host to a number of conferences and events – large and small – focused on a wide variety of digital issues.

While International Geneva is a natural home for internet governance, it is not the designated home. The digital landscape is changing quickly – new technologies are raising new questions; governments are beginning to take a more pro-active role; and there is a risk that the internet is fragmenting across countries. International Geneva is an ideal location to address these issues. It is a neutral space for different blocs of countries to discuss issues of common concern, and for discussion of government approaches. Indeed, policy questions surrounding artificial intelligence are emerging and being addressed in a transversal way in Geneva.

The pandemic has provided an important – if unwanted – reminder how central the internet has become to economies, societies, and our personal lives where it is available, secure, and safe. All stakeholders should build on the current clusters to ensure that the future of internet governance in Geneva is realized, to progress an inclusive digital for development, promote digital trust, and ensure digital rights for everyone, everywhere.

Michael Kende is a senior fellow and visiting lecturer at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, a digital development expert at the World Bank Group, and senior adviser to Analysys Mason. He is the former chief economist at the Internet Society.

Anticipatory reads by GESDA

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A 'Third AI' robot is seen on display during the Artifical Intelligence Exhibition and Conference (AI Expo) in Tokyo, Japan, 28 June 2017.

Culture, in all its forms, but perhaps even more so through literature, is one of the things that defines us as humans. Many of you might have bumped into this Guardian article, showing how GPT-3, a new language generator created by AI firm OpenAI, wrote an entire opinion article (see below). It even starts with this sentence: “I am not a human. I am a robot.”

Fewer might have encountered this other text – this time written by a human – published in the MIT Technology Review, which describes how another virtual AI robot, called Diffbot, learns by reading the entire web, nonstop!

Some might jokingly say that letting Diffbot continuously scan the hundreds of articles GPT-3 would write might be a funny way to observe AIs in (inter)action. More than this, however, the question is: will these new AI literature create a "digital culture" just as Proust, Shakespear or Goethe have shared their part in crafting human culture?

- Olivier Dessibourg, GESDA


A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human? The Guardian asked GPT-3, OpenAI’s powerful new language generator, to write an essay for them from scratch. The assignment? To convince us robots come in peace.

The Guardian (EN)

Why there is no such thing as a healthy diet that works for everyone. Our response to food is highly individualised. That is why nutrition science has consistently failed to produce a straight answer to its most pressing question: what constitutes a healthy diet. But now comes “precision nutrition”, tailored to each individual with the latest tools, including genetics and microbiome composition.

New Scientist (EN)

Ingredients for a quantum future. Always wanted to know how this technology will transform our society? In a series of essays, three quantum-technology leaders in the US spell out the requirements for a strong quantum future.

Physics (EN)

Welcoming new guidelines for AI clinical research. According to famous American cardiologist Eric Topol, better protocol design, along with consistent and complete data presentation, will greatly facilitate interpretation and validation of clinical trials using artificial intelligence and will help the field to move forward.

Nature Medicine (EN)

The great carbon vault. Industrial waste can combat climate change by turning carbon dioxide into stone: is this the clever way to address two environmental problems at once?

Science (EN)

A revolutionary way to cool electronic chips. Miniaturized electronic devices generate a lot of heat, which must be dissipated to maintain performance. A microfluidic system, developed at EPFL, designed to be an integral part of a microchip demonstrates exceptional cooling performance.

Nature (EN)

Brain stimulation reduces dyslexia deficits. Using a non-invasive electrical stimulation technique capable of synchronizing neural activity at the stimulation frequency, University of Geneva scientists showed that phonological deficits and reading accuracy could be improved in adults with dyslexia.

Eurekalert (EN)

Children with asthma could benefit from prescribing according to genetic differences. Research suggests that a genetic factor might explain why some people do better on certain treatments than others.

New Scientist (EN)

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This selection is proposed by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator GESDA, working on anticipating cutting-edge science and technological advances to develop innovative and inclusive solutions for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants.

GESDA, and the reason for anticipation

Humanity, now more than ever, is facing global challenges (especially with regards to the Covid-19 crisis), putting people and the planet under stress and in great uncertainty. Simultaneously, the world is experiencing breakthroughs in science and technology at an unprecedented pace, which are sometimes hard to grasp. Anticipation, therefore, is key to build the future with the aim of fully exploiting this scientific potential for the well-being and inclusive development of all. The Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator was founded in Geneva in 2019 to tackle this issue.

GESDA's ambition is to first anticipate and identify these cutting-edge advances in science and technology throughout various domains (Quantum revolution & advanced AI, Human augmentation, Ecoregeneration and Geoengineering, Science and Diplomacy). Based on this panoramic scientific outlook, it will translate potential leaps in science and tech into tools that can bring effective and socially-inclusive solutions to emerging challenges. Most importantly, this process will be achieved not only by scientists or technologists, but will include actors of various professional origins and mindsets (from diplomacy, philanthropy, industry, citizens to youth).

GS news is a new media project covering the world of international cooperation and development. Don’t hesitate to forward our newsletter!

Have a good day!

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