Over the past 20 years, the many structural issues in the world’s communication and information ecosystem tackled by the 2003 and 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) have become more complex, entrenched, and detrimental to democracy and communication rights.

Primarily this is a result of the emergence of digital actors driven by a profit motive rather than public interest. These actors have concentrated communication power in ways unimaginable just 20 years ago, contributing to the demise of public interest media and journalism. They have enabled mass disinformation and the erosion of social trust to the point of placing in question the viability of democratic institutions around the world.

Worse, these digital structures have failed to advance democracy, social progress and inclusion – as was expected 20 years ago – and have instead reinforced inequalities, exclusion, and individualism.

So far, the response by the world’s governments has been insufficient to address these mounting challenges. They have failed to put forth a democratic and transformative vision of life in the digital era. Instead, they have handed digital power to a handful of private actors that today have a near monopoly over not just our communication, but over almost all aspects of our lives.

Some sectors of civil society have attempted to provide alternative visions, though other sectors have been co-opted by powerful private interests.

The years 2024 and 2025 are years where a small window of opportunity for a new vision of the digital is opening up. In 2024, the United Nations is promoting a Global Digital Compact to promote a digital future rooted in human rights and sustainable development, offering unique opportunities for advocacy. Next year, 2025, is also important because it will mark 20 years since the World Summit on the Information Society and there are multiple plans for an in-depth review of achievements and shortcomings so far.

In this context, the Global Digital Justice Forum is inviting all sectors of civil society, government, the technical community, and private sector actors to consider a progressive and decolonial agenda to transform digital structures in ways that will uphold communication rights, promote social trust and belonging, and advance the public interest.

We are asked to imagine a future:

  • Where women and girls are safe from gender-based violence in online spaces
  • Where people have control over their communication rather than simply being fed content by an algorithm developed by a company in another country that does not understand their local context
  • Where digital communication fosters inclusion, social belonging, and trust, and deepens democracy
  • Where there are publicly or civil-society owned platforms that interoperate with each other and are driven by a public interest motive
  • Where labor rights are respected by the platforms we use everyday

A failure of imagination will lead to greater government and corporate control, social exclusion and marginalization. We need action now!

Image: Shutterstock AI