In the third episode of The Davos Diaries, our guests train a closer eye on Big Tech’s expansion during the pandemic, and how the digitalization of multiple sectors is allowing for companies like Amazon and philanthrocapitalists like the Gates Foundation to build policy around food systems, climate change, sustainable development and more, with a focus on profit and not people. Issues of internet governance have never really moved out of private hands or American influence, and the pandemic has been marked by a focus on tech solutionism, further entrenching the power of Big Tech. How has this moment left global governance systems open for exploit? How can civil society challenge this?

Featuring Barbara Adams, Chee Yoke Ling, Harris Gleckman, Jim Thomas, Renata Avila and Roberto Bissio.

Hosted by: Tanvi Kanchan
Research team: Deepti Bharthur, Amay Korjan & Tanvi Kanchan
Post-production: Tanvi Kanchan, Amay Korjan & Sneha Bhagwat

Episode Navigation
00:12: Introduction
01:00: Renata Avila on the pandemic’s influence over global governance and the digital landscape
05:10: Harris Gleckman on how the WEF is pushing Big Tech’s role in building global digital infrastructure
07:48: Roberto Bissio on the USA’s disproportionate control over the internet
11:10: Barbara Adams on how the pandemic has revealed the extent of Big Tech’s hold over our lives
14:34: Renata Avila on the ‘Make Amazon Pay’ campaign
17:42: Chee Yoke Ling on Big Tech’s grip on global policy making
19:02: Jim Thomas on the digitalization of food systems at the expense of farmers and fisherfolk
23:12: Jim Thomas on the Earth Bank of Codes
25:49: Closing remarks

Barbara Adams is President of Global Policy Forum and part-time professor at the New School University. Trained as an economist, Barbara Adams’ experience and expertise have many facets – as a researcher and teacher, as a CSO policy advocate, and with a long tenure working for the United Nations. A consistent theme has been rights and justice in multilateralism, governance and sustainability. She has authored and co-authored many articles, reports, commissioned studies and books, and is a regular contributor in the Global Policy Watch briefings series and the annual Spotlight Report on Sustainable Development. Publications include: Accounting for Africa at the United Nations: A Guide for Non-Governmental Organizations; Putting Gender on the Agenda; Climate Justice in a Changing World, co-authored with Gretchen Luchsinger; Reclaiming Multilateralism for People, Rights and Sustainable Development; Whose Development, Whose UN?; and Fit for Whose Purpose?, co-authored with Jens Martens.

CHEE Yoke Ling is a lawyer with degrees from the University of Malaya and the University of Cambridge. She is Executive Director of Third World Network, an international non-profit policy research and advocacy organization with its secretariat in Malaysia. She was formerly a law lecturer at the University of Malaya and the executive secretary of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth, Malaysia). She works on sustainable development issues, with a focus on social justice and equity issues and the effects of globalization on developing countries. Among her current research and advocacy work is intellectual property implications for public health, especially on access to affordable medicines, as well as the impact of trade and investment agreements for national policy space.

Harris Gleckman is currently Director, Benchmark Environmental Consulting; Senior Fellow, Center for Governance and Sustainability, UMass Boston; Advisor, Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability, Brussels; Associate, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam. He has previously worked for more than 20 years at the United Nations, as the head of the Environmental Unit at the UN Centre on the Transnational Corporations; as a member of the Secretary General’s Office and head of the New York Office at UNCTAD; and as senior staff for the Financing for Development Conference at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He is author of Multistakeholder Governance and Democracy: A Global Challenge, Routledge (2018); Multistakeholder Governance, Wikipedia, in five language (2019); Readers’ Guide: Global Redesign Initiative of the World Economic Forum, UMass Boston, online publication (2012).

Jim Thomas is Research Director with the ETC Group, a small international collective of activists and researchers. ETC Group tracks the impacts of emerging technologies, monitors corporate concentration and works to help social movements and civil society defend and protect biodiversity and the rights of marginalized communities from emerging threats. ETC undertakes research, advocacy and communications at the international and regional level and also engages on matters of international governance – particularly food, biodiversity and technology governance. ETC Group has a more than four decades track record working to defend farmers rights and promote agroecological food systems. Jim, originally from the UK, is currently based in Canada and has worked with ETC for almost two decades. He was formerly a campaigner on genetic engineering issues for Greenpeace International. He has written extensively about the implications of new technologies – particularly synthetic biology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and geoengineering.

Renata Avila, (Guatemalan, 1981), International Human Rights Lawyer and author. With more than fifteen years of experience working in cutting edge issues related to technology and society. She presides the Polylateral Association in Geneva. She co-founded the <A+> Alliance for Inclusive Algorithms. Expert in digital rights, she studies the politics of data, the evolution of transparency, and their implications on trade, democracy and society, alerting about a phenomenon she describes as digital colonialism. She is an Advisory Board member for Creative Commons. She also serves as a Global Trustee of the Think Tank Digital Future Society, an advisor for Cities for Digital Rights and a co-founder and Council Member of the Progressive International, among other roles.

Roberto Bissio, from Uruguay, coordinates the secretariat of Social Watch, an international network of citizen organizations that reports regularly on how governments and international organizations implement their commitments. He is co-editor of Global Policy Watch and a member of the Civil society Reflection Group on Sustainable Development. Mr. Bissio is a member of the international committee of Third World Network and was a member of the advisory group to the CCWG Accountability Group of ICANN during the “transition”. He has been a member of the civil society advisory group to the UNDP administrator. Bissio regularly writes on development issues as a columnist.