Room for Debate – Is ‘GLOCAL’ the best approach for global consensus?

BY TIA TUIBURELEVU, THE NEW YORK TIMES

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In ‘Room for Debate,’ The New York Times explores the happenings in a committee session and provides a critical assessment of the topic.

BOSTON – In the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, the delegate from Pakistan released an innovative working paper titled ‘GLOCAL.’ A fusion of the words ‘global’ and ‘local,’ the model aims to apply global experiences in local and regional contexts. Regarding technology and development, the committee is currently focusing on the topic of creating a digital democracy, with a particular focus on Internet voting. The delegate of Pakistan (pictured above) has suggested what he believes to be a groundbreaking ‘pyramid model’ demonstrating the ‘GLOCAL’ approach. This is broadly supported by Oman, Angola, and, interestingly, the United Kingdom.

To summarize the situation, Pakistan and other developing countries experience a scarcity of technology, Internet, and online education. By comparison, Scandinavian countries such as Norway are easily able to implement an online voting format in general elections, as the Internet accessibility is abundant.

To combat this problem, the ‘GLOCAL’ model is split in a tripartite pyramid structure. The top section is ‘E-democracy,’ the middle tier is the ‘E- decision making,’ and the foundational layer is ‘Access to Trust and Security.’ Working from the bottom up, the model allows developed nations to share technological advances and tailor-made digital solutions (access) with developing nations. This, the delegate of Pakistan envisions, will create a “global access network” furthering digital equality. Pakistan argues the role of the United Nations will be mainly educational. The UN can provide funding and resources to developing states, giving information on technology to the people. Pakistan hopes that through the sharing of global experiences, there will be greater digital development worldwide.

As ideal as this model sounds, one has to question its pragmatism. How do Pakistan and other supporting nations envision states to ‘share’ their technological developments? Surely, this requires greater consideration of copyright laws and intellectual property rights. It is unlikely that a country like the United States will hand over digital information without concrete security measures. Issues such as privacy and corporate protection need to be addressed. Secondly, has there been any thought as to how the actual ‘sharing’ will take place? Will this go through the UN, or will developing nations need to ‘purchase’ their access? Again, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and any model requiring countries to rely on one another is likely to fuel inequity. Finally, how will the ‘GLOCAL’ approach deal with issues of cultural relativism to ensure that one country’s method is not imposed on another? How exactly can a state go global and look local?

While aiming for digital liberation is highly commendable, greater attention to the finer details may be required. GLOCAL is certainly aspirational, and we will have to wait over the coming days to see how the committee receives it.

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