5G and the Future Internet: Implications for Developing Democracies and Human Rights

Link https://www.ndi.org/publications/5g-and-future-internet-implications-developing-democracies-and-human-rights

5G adoption is happening around the world, even in places with low internet penetration. As of February 2021, 131 countries had announced plans to invest in 5G and more than 60 of the 98 countries NDI works in were engaging corporations that have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in their 5G plans. Existing research on 5G has focused almost exclusively on its impacts for international security and economic growth. Little is understood in the democracy donor community about the paths to 5G for developing democracies, how players in the 5G rollout process interact with democratic actors in a given country, or where there are strategic points of intervention to defend democracies from illiberal influences and technology standards. NDI set out to address this gap of comprehensive research into the impacts, positive or negative, of 5G on human rights and democracy through NDI’s new white paper, 5G and the Future Internet: Implications for Developing Democracies and Human Rights. https://www.ndi.org/sites/default/files/5GWhitePaper_CorrectedVersion.pdf

Excerpt:

A central question for democracies is whether, and if so how, successful democracies can be maintained and strengthened in an ever-changing Internet-of-Everything era. More research is also needed into the digital strategic approach and partnerships, domestically and abroad, that will enable civil society, government, and stakeholders to effectively exercise oversight, and influence governance policies and decision-making forums.

The implementation of humane, secure and customized technology standards and approaches is a priority. Big tech and local companies are playing a key role in complying with illiberal abuses of technology. Strategies are needed to effectively engage companies to be accountable and to understand that they too have an economic and social stake in secure networks.

The direct risks of 5G to democracy and human rights, and how best to frame technology policies, regulations, federal laws, and global standards to protect these rights must be more deeply understood in order to empower policymakers to understand the impact of their decisions. For instance, the risk of cybersecurity attacks on 5G-backed critical infrastructures like water utilities and power could potentially have significant repercussions for certain communities but are not often well understood or explained.

Parliaments in particular don’t have strong mechanisms for understanding the tradeoffs between digital convenience and democracy and individual rights.

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