Kyoto, 12 October 2023 –  The International Observatory on Information and Democracy officially launched its first working cycle at the Internet Governance Forum 2023 in Kyoto, Japan. An interactive panel discussion featuring members of the Steering Committee unveiled the priority themes for the Observatory’s inaugural work: AI, media in the digital age, and data governance. Expected in late 2024, this first report will provide a comprehensive synthesis of international academic research addressing critical questions at the nexus of information and democracy. This much anticipated work fills a critical gap in the global policy architecture by providing a common understanding of the state-of-art research and evidence that exists around the impact of technology on our democracies and information ecosystem.

As we launch the Observatory’s work here in Kyoto, we also advance our vision of better evidence for better policymaking. We are grateful to the leadership of Shoshana Zuboff and Angel Gurria who helped us design this approach to address critical gaps in our policy toolbox,” noted Michael Bak, the Executive Director of the Forum on Information and Democracy. “We also thank the members of the Steering Committee whose work is essential to establishing our common understanding of the facts needed to drive policymaking at the international and national levels. As we work together in achieving our goal of the Observatory serving as the IPCC of the information space, we work to strengthen our ability to ensure technology serves our democracies and bolsters information integrity.”

In Kyoto, four members of the Steering Committee explained the priority themes and highlighted the relevance of the Observatory’s work in their region and exchanged views on the priority themes: Jhalak Kakkar (India) Executive Director, Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University Delhi, Courtney Radsch (USA) Director of the Center for Journalism and Liberty at the Open Markets Institute, Ansgar Koene (Belgium) Global AI Ethics and Regulatory Leader at EY, and Nnenna Nwakanma (Côte d’Ivoire) Digital Policy, Advocacy and Cooperation Strategist.

If you are interested in listening to the whole discussion, you can watch our session registered on this link.

Last month, on the occasion of International Day for Democracy, the Observatory announced the Steering Committee members. These 19 renowned research and policy experts from across continents and disciplines will oversee the production of the first biennial report of the Observatory. 

Convening for the first time in late September, the Steering Committee confirmed the roadmap and meta-analysis priority themes around which three Research Assessment Panels which will include an even wider network of researchers and academics. Led by a Scientific Director, expert rapporteurs and the Observatory’s permanent staff, these Research Assessment Panels will formulate more specific research questions in each thematic area, serving as the basis for the Observatory’s inaugural report. 

The Observatory’s agenda-setting is further informed by multi stakeholder engagement drawing on expertise and experience from around the world. The priority themes – AI, media in the digital age, and data governance – were informed by earlier discussions of the Stakeholder Advisory Group which gathered representatives of NGOs, academia, officials from state signatories to the International Partnership on Information and Democracy, and tech companies. These consultations further identified mis- and disinformation as a critical cross-cutting theme. 

Addressed to governments, policymakers, regulatory bodies and civil society organizations, this work aims to establish a common and shared understanding of the structure of the information and communication space and its impact on democracy to better inform decisions and policy-making. Further meta-analysis cycles will build upon these findings to expand even further our common understanding of this space that is critical for democracy to thrive. 

Call for academics & researchers 

The Observatory is looking for researchers with an academic or civil society background having produced relevant research on these topics (AI, data governance, media in the digital age). 

If you are interested in applying as a contributor to one or more Research Assessment Panel to collaborate with experts from around the world and highlight your research; we invite you to register through this link to take part in the first working cycle of the Observatory. 

The Research Assessment Panels are expected to start their work mid-November with the launch of a global call for contribution. The first Observatory report will be published in late 2024. 

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