UN Global Digital Compact – Evidence – Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy


April 2023

Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

The Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy is an independent team of academic researchers at the University of Cambridge, who are radically rethinking the power relationships between digital technologies, society and our planet.



About our evidence

We see enormous strength in providing an interdisciplinary response to the call for evidence to the UN Global Digital Compact.

This call comes at a critical time, as governments around the world bring forward fragmented legislative agendas toward digital policy.

The evidence covers the digital issues mentioned in the United
Common Agenda identifying issues that should be addressed in the Global Digital Compact.

The digital issues covered are:

1.Connect all people to the internet, including all schools

2.Avoid internet fragmentation

3.Protect data

4.Apply human rights online

5.Introduce accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content

6.Promote regulation of artificial intelligence

7.Digital commons as a global public good


We opened dialogue on this topic through group and individual consultations with colleagues across the University of Cambridge, exploring the seven issues by development ‘core principles’ and ‘key commitments’ to address each, for example:

1) Core principles that all governments, companies, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders should adhere to;

2) Key commitments to bring about these specific principles. These can take the form of what you think “should” be done

Our dialogues identified an eighth digital issue: Environmental Consequences, that needed addressing through the Global Digital Compact.

For reference, the full guidance note to submitting evidence for the Global Digital Compact is available here.

For this consultation, we held dialogue and interview sessions with researchers working across the University of Cambridge, bringing together diverse perspectives for an interdisciplinary submission, including:


Gina Neff, Executive Director, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Jess Gardener, Director of Library Services

Ella McPherson, Co-Director, Centre for Governance and Human Rights

May Hen Smith, Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow, Jesus College

David Erdos, Co-Director, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law

Sebastian Kurten, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

Tugba Basaran, Director, Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement

Genevieve Macfarlane-Smith, Affiliate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Corinne Cath, Affiliate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Mallika Balakrishnan, Affiliate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Margie Cheesman, Affiliate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Alexa Hagerty, Affiliate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Ann Kristin Glenster, Senior Advisory Law and Policy, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Jeremy Hughes, External Affairs Manager, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Hunter Vaughan, Senior Research Associate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy

Sebastian Lehuede, Centre for Governance and Human Rights, University of Cambridge

Hugo Leal, Research Associate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy


Number of entities: 1


Number of people engaged: 17


Geographic scope: Global



Core principles


Core principles that all governments, companies, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders should adhere to



Commitments, pledges and actions


Key commitments to bring about these specific principles. These can take the form of what you think “should” be done, and/or based on what you/your organisation has already committed to do.

UN Digital Issue 1. Connect all people to the Internet


Our input:


All people should be able to connect to the Internet as a global social right

Our input:


Governments should ensure that all people have access to the Internet by being able to choose between multiple Internet Service Providers by adopting a governance framework of Internet-as-a-Public Service (‘from ISP to IPS’)


Access to the Internet should not depend on having to consent to providing personal data or consenting to commercial surveillance


Access should be inclusive and accessible regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or physicality, and provided in safe spaces


All stakeholders should make a commitment ensuring all marginalised populations are able to connect digitally and are protected from abuse, harm, and violence on the Internet


All governments should ensure that all communities are given critical digital skills, especially older populations


Access to the Internet should only be taken away by governments in accordance with law necessary for democratic society

Our input:


No one should suffer detriment from not connecting to the Internet

Our input:


Governments should ensure that being able to access public benefits should not depend on Internet access and connectivity


Governments should ensure that adequate protection is adopted and enforced to ensure individuals and protected groups, such as indigenous communities, are not unduly pressured to connect to the Internet


Local communities should have a voice in the terms and conditions of Internet access and connectivity

Our input:


Collection of personal data on children in education for commercial purposes should be prohibited

Our input:


Pupils and students should not be asked to provide personal data to technology providers beyond what is strictly necessary for educational attainment


Educational providers and stakeholders should only be compelled to surrender children’s personal data to governments in accordance with law that respects human rights


Education should not be dependent on one service, product, or platform. Government shall ensure that educational providers have affordable, robust, and dependable technology alternatives to companies conducting commercial surveillance

UN Digital Issue 2. Avoid Internet fragmentation


Our input:


There should be global standards ensuring openness, transparency, net neutrality, and cooperative interoperability (‘Open Internet’)

Our input:


Internet infrastructure and technical architecture should be governed by international public bodies


All stakeholders should foster cooperative interoperability that assures integrity of global reach of Internet infrastructure, communication protocols and web services, including in the Global South


All stakeholders should ensure that access to the Internet is guaranteed by the ISP infrastructure.


All stakeholders should commit to ensuring the availability of repairable, free-and-open-software (FOSS) and sustainable devices.


Our input:


Internet governance should be democratised and inclusive, respecting the sovereignty of countries and communities to decide the terms and conditions for their Internet connectivity

Our input:


All stakeholders should strive to make Internet governance open and participatory, especially including the Global South


All stakeholders should respect and adhere to national laws and democratic institutions


All stakeholders should be held accountable for their Internet practices to democratic institutions, citizens, and civil society


All stakeholders should commit to ensuring that their practices respect democracy and human rights in all countries


All stakeholders should strive to close the digital equality gap by ensuring that the social, cultural, and economic benefits from the Internet are equitably distributed globally


Multilateral Internet Governance Systems should be adopted to govern the global Internet infrastructure

UN Digital Issue 3. Protect Data


Our input:


The governance framework for the protection of data should promote human rights, especially dignity, integrity and autonomy, and the digital public good

Our input:


All data processing systems should be designed according to privacy-by-design standards


Individuals should have the right to data protection, and especially to know how their personal data is being collected, processed, and used


Personal data should only be processed in accordance with the data processing principles of data minimisation, purpose limitation, and storage limitation


Commercial profiling and micro-targeted advertising should only be allowed with explicit informed consent of the person concerned


Data scraping and data extraction shall only be permitted in accordance with law


International norms on encryption standards and regulation should be adopted


Governments should put mechanisms in place which would secure the public takeover and protection of data from companies that fail or dissolve

Our input:


Data protection should apply to all communities, and offer extra protection to individuals and communities according to need

Our input:


Additional measures should be adopted to ensure that data protection is contextually appropriate


Safeguards should be put in place to ensure governments are not able to extract personal data on immigrants, refugee, asylum-seekers, and stateless persons without explicit authorisation in law


There should be additional safeguards to ensure the anonymity of children and young people on the Internet


Data should be made retained and made available for research, archival, and other purposes in the pursuit of the public good


Digital devices provided by schools should not be encrypted

UN Digital Issue 4. Applying Human Rights Online


Our input:


All digital technology should respect and protect all human rights

Our input:


Governments should commit to educate all, and especially children and young people, about their digital human rights

Our input:


All digital technology should enable the freedom of expression, including the right to participation

Our input:


All stakeholders should commit to ensuring the protection and facilitation for free online spaces for peaceful assembly, including the right not to be subjected to digital surveillance


All stakeholders should promote communications equality in front and behind screen


All stakeholders should advocate for the betterment of working conditions for people in digital work

UN Digital Issue 5. Accountability Criteria for Discrimination and Misleading Content


Our input:


All data-processing systems should be transparent

Our input:


All private technology providers should commit to the principles of transparency and accountability for all their products, services, practices, and technology


All data-processing entities should be obliged to disclose how their systems work and how they use data


Governments should be precluded in law from demanding data from civil society organisation without legal safeguards, including procedural protection of justice


All technology providers should be required to provide researchers’ access to data and to partake in international initiatives for the development and promotion of contextual responsibility governance standards (‘Platform Observability’)


All technology providers should allow external auditing of their platforms, systems, algorithms, and data as part of their transparency and accountability obligations

Our input:


Freedom of expression and freedom of participation should be protected online

Our input:


All private technology providers should pledge to promote individuals’ agency regarding their preferences, behaviour, and data on the Internet


All state actors should pledge to give all people digital skills to navigate misinformation and disinformation


Our input:


All Internet technology should be developed according to the principles of safety-by-design

Our input:


The use of deceptive design and manipulative design (‘dark patterns’) should be prohibited.


Online platforms should make a proactive commitment of contextual responsibility for ensuring harmful false narrative and conspiracy theories are not spread on the Internet

UN Digital Issue 6. Promote the regulation of AI


Our input:


No AI systems shall be deployed unless it meets national and international legal standards

Our input:


Governments should adopt a binding statutory framework for the governance of AI based on the precautionary principle


AI governance standards and frameworks should promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, especially in promoting the safe and effective adoption and promotion of AI, based in ethical principles, the empowerment of citizens and communities, and human-centric design focusing on the need to redress social inequalities and protect society and individuals from bias and discrimination in AI systems


A global compact should be instituted to oversee the risks and exceptional threats of AI technologies, with the authority to ban technologies that are deemed too great a risk to the public interest, public good, human rights, civil and democratic values, and the environment


Intellectual property rights should not be used to block the auditing and oversight of algorithms and their use of data


All AI systems should feature a ‘human in the loop’ oversight, especially in cases of automated decisions

Our input:


The development of AI and AI systems should favour the development and use of different forms of ‘intelligence’, and be adapted to needs and features of different populations and communities

Our input:


The use of AI in education should be transparent, neutral, and free of bias and support the aims and goals of access to education


All stakeholders should foster the participation of indigenous communities in the design and development of AI systems


AI systems should be developed with the principals of ‘human-centric design’ and support human flourishing

UN Digital Issue 7. The Digital Commons as a Public Good


Our input:


The importance of the digital commons should be recognised as a public good, and therefore should be guaranteed

Our input:


The right to assembly online free from interference, surveillance, and monitoring as a public good should be recognised and protected in international and national law


All communities should have right to access and to transparency of how Internet Service Providers, private companies, State actors, and civil society use their data


The right to freedom of speech on the Internet should be recognised as foundational to the digital commons and therefore be protected as a public good


Governments should provide adequate funding to ensure an equitable infrastructure, guaranteeing access to the Internet to all communities


Frameworks for share governance of the digital commons should be adopted

8. Other Points


Our input:


Digital technologies that harm the environment should not be permitted

Our input:


All digital technologies should be sustainable, and governments should ensure that the distribution of environmental harms from the entire lifecycle of digital harms are distributed equitably around the globe


All stakeholders should promote a sustainable digital economy


An international framework should be adopted that addresses material and environmental justice connected to digital growth, access, and use


The use of minerals and other extracted resources should be reduced, and in some cases banned, when their use and extraction damage the environment or involves human rights violations.


The international community should take into consideration the voices of communities affected by the environmental harms of technology when developing and adopting Internet governance and regulation


Next steps

The UN accepts evidence for this submission throughout April 2023.

You can consult with others and share the collective views, or you can submit your individual views on the Global Digital Compact website.

The Global Digital Compact is expected to “outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all”. It is expected to be agreed at the Summit of the Future in 2024.

At the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, we will endeavour to put into practice the principles discussed here, as we develop evidenced-based research on the relationship between digital technology, society and the planet.