Published on 15 September 2020
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Digital Minilateralism: How governments cooperate on digital governance

New research identifies effective international cooperation strategies for digital governance.

New research from the Digital State Project argues for the critical function of small, agile, digitally enabled and focused networks of leaders to foster strong international cooperation on digital governance issues.

This type of cooperative working, described as ‘digital minilateralism’, has a role to play in shaping how individual governments learn, adopt and govern the use of new and emerging technologies, and how they create common or aligned policies. It is also important as cross-border digital infrastructure and services become increasingly common.

The policy paper, co-authored by Dr. Tanya Filer, who leads the Digital State project, and Dr. Antonio Weiss, affiliated researcher, draws on the example of the Digital Nations, a network of 10 ‘leading digital’ countries, to advance understanding of how digital leaders and policymakers can best develop and use minilateral networks, and of the particular affordances that this approach offers.

Key findings: 

  • Already beginning to prove effective, digital minilateralism has a role to play in shaping how individual governments learn, adopt and govern the use of new and emerging technologies, and how they create common or aligned policy.
  • National governments should recognise and reinforce the strategic value of digital minilaterals without stamping out, through over-bureaucratisation, the qualities of trust, open conversation, and ad-hocness in which their value lies.
  • As digital minilateral networks grow and mature, they will need to find mechanisms through which to retain (or adapt) their core principles while scaling across more boundaries.
  • To demonstrate their value to the global community, digital multilaterals must feed into formal multilateral conversations and arrangements. 

Related resources

Authors

Tanya Filer

Dr Tanya Filer

Affiliated Researcher

Dr Tanya Filer leads the Digital State Project at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. Her work focuses on GovTech (government technology) innovation ecosystems, and on digital government more broadly....

Antonio Weiss

Dr Antonio Weiss

Affiliated Researcher

Antonio Weiss is a Senior Partner at The PSC, a public services consultancy, advising senior clients on user-centred design, innovation thinking, and utilising technology to redesign public services to meet...

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