Digital Policy: An Introduction

All over the world, decision-makers are faced with the task of shaping the digital transformation and assessing its effects. Many countries are struggling with fundamental problems when it comes to inclusive and sustainable digital development: In addition to providing the corresponding infrastructure and building up methodological and technical skills, framework conditions must be defined for different areas such as cross-border (data) markets, the handling of data or digital technologies or measures against cyber threats.

Decision-makers from governments, the private sector and civil society in partner countries should develop digital strategies and policies to tackle these digital policy tasks in order to ensure a sustainable and human-centred digital transformation.


Digital policy

Although today almost all political topics have a digital dimension, digital policy has established itself as an independent policy field over the last few years. The term digital policy is increasingly gaining ground for the interaction between digitalization and politics. A special feature of the field of digital policy is that digital policy decisions influence each other at national, regional and global level due to international networking. As a result, the negotiation and coordination process in global digital policy is structured differently than in other policy areas as other actors are involved. These range from national, regional and international standardization bodies to global internet companies and international organizations such as ICANN who manages the domain names of the internet, up to local non-governmental organizations, states and individual activists. These actors, in turn, negotiate digital policy issues in different forums than they used to, e.g. in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the Freedom Online Coalition or Conferences of the Internet Society.


Digital Strategies and Policies

Political strategies formulate fields of action that aim at a long-term goal. They support the formulation and implementation of concrete political initiatives (policies). For example, countries around the world have introduced new data protection laws along the lines of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), many of them in countries of the global South.


Thematic focus

In the current digital policy debate, various topics are being brought into focus, but data security, digital sovereignty and digital participation emerge as key topics. In particular, many countries are addressing the following digital policy issues: 

  1. Ensuring a comprehensive and accessible internet for all 
  1. The creation of framework conditions for a data-driven economy – also against the background of international data flows and globally active dominant companies 
  1. To protect the rights of citizens (e.g. through data protection, digital privacy or even when using newer technology such as AI) 


Since corresponding data, capacities or reference cases are often missing, transnational digital strategies can support the consulting and implementation process of regulations and digital policy framework conditions.

In summary, it can be said that digital policy issues are of great relevance in order to achieve value-based and human-oriented digital development. Dealing with new technologies and actors as well as one’s own political positioning provide the basis for this.