Governing cyberspace during a pandemic: Digital policy, human rights and politics in the Global South
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are using new technologies and monitoring systems to contain the spread of the disease, mitigate risks, and improve public policies. However, these measures raise important concerns about privacy and personal data protection. Thus far the measures have seen limited dissent from citizens, but what happens when the epidemic is over? While information, communication, and networking tools and their monitoring mechanisms may be effective in fighting the virus, many experts warn that a new social pact may be needed once the pandemic is contained. To prevent an upsurge in state and private sector surveillance, these technologies and monitoring systems must be used transparently, and they should be mindful of privacy and data protection.
These times of upheaval also throw light onto unsolved digital policy issues that are critical in mitigating traditional social, economic, and gender inequalities. Unequal access to broadband introduces questions of how and who can continue to interact with the world in the context of the crisis. COVID-19 brings critical digital infrastructure deficits to the surface and it compels research on connectivity gaps, the robustness and security of networks, traffic management, censorship, and disinformation, as well as the availability and quality of data for making evidence-based policy decisions.
It is also critical to reflect upon the post-pandemic transition and to promote future digital policies that mitigate the harmful effects of the pandemic while protecting digital rights, access to connectivity, and new technologies on which societies will be increasingly dependent going forward.
In this context, the Centro de Política Digital para América Latina, Asociación Civil, a regionally focused non-governmental organization based in Mexico, will focus its efforts on analyzing and influencing the digital policy decisions that surface from this global emergency in Latin America. As a result, governments in Latin America will be better informed about how these measures affect privacy and data protection, as well as how the digital divide aggravates the effects of the pandemic for vulnerable populations.