Task One Details and Instructions


For all participants in the Challenge, the policy memorandum is your first task.

Your task is to write a policy memorandum of 800-1,200 words which addresses a hypothetical scenario on the topic “Digital Freedom and Its Limits.” This stage of the Challenge requires you to think about the policies that governments or other groups should adopt to enhance the potential of digital technology to benefit individuals and societies, domestically or internationally, and whether limits on Internet freedom are legitimate or desirable.

Please follow the guidelines listed below to complete this round. The deadline for submission is 30 November 2012. Results from the first round will be sent out by 31 January 2013.


What is a Policy Memorandum?

A policy memorandum provides policymakers with the essential information they need to do their jobs. It should break complex issues down into core facts; evaluate alternative possible solutions and recommend a particular course of action. An effective policy memorandum will convince the target audience that the issues outlined require urgent action and that the policies proposed are the best way of responding to them. Your memo should also look at the ways that civil society groups and other important stakeholders will interact with governments as the policy is planned and implemented.

Please note that we do not expect you to exhibit in-depth technical knowledge of the Internet or security software referenced in the scenarios.

Before you prepare your policy memo, please refer to the 2012-2013 Theme Page, Background Paper and Reading Materials. We also recommend that you use the Worksheet to guide you through the process of preparing your policy memorandum.


Steps To Complete Task One

  1. Choose a scenario below
  2. Choose a country (real or hypothetical) to address
  3. Write your policy memo
  4. Make sure that your policy memo is consistent with the submission guidelines below
  5. Submit your memo on or before 30 November 2012


Step 1: Choose a Scenario

Participants should write the memo on one of scenarios below: either A, B, C or D.


SCENARIO A: Six countries have proposed creating a brand new global intergovernmental body within the United Nations system to "develop and establish international public policies" and "integrate and oversee the bodies responsible for technical and operational functioning of the internet, including global standard setting". Your government is eager to demonstrate global leadership and shape the future of the web.

Please elaborate on the role your country should play in this new international body and specify which topics of global internet governance your government should give the highest priority in the first year. Please explain your choice of topics including what the government stance or approach should be on those topics.


SCENARIO B: Your country has suffered low-level civil disturbance and the government is worried about the power of social media to organise and increase violence and disorder. In an interview with the press, your Prime Minister (or President) has called for a new national policy to enable internet communications to be disrupted during times of unrest to protect the national security, although this has the potential to lead to internal strife.

You are an advisor to the Prime Minister (or President). Please advise your government on what position it should take, considering the short- and long-term benefits and shortcomings of implementing these regulations in your country – including what impact adopting such a policy nationally could have on your governments standing and influence internationally.


SCENARIO C: Your country is a signatory of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The thriving domestic film, music and pharmaceutical industries - all big export-revenue generators and job creators for your economy -- are pressuring your government to take the next step and ratify the treaty to make it legally binding. Civil society groups are campaigning against the ratification of ACTA. They claim that ACTA will result in privacy violations with internet intermediaries obliged to design procedures to identify copyright infringers; and would introduce disproportionate and unaccountable penalties for copyright violations which could enable violations of the right to freedom of expression.

As an advisor to the government, please provide a balanced account of the benefits and dangers of ratifying the treaty. Include the position the government should finally take on ACTA and provide a clear argument for this. Advise the government on the position that it should take on the use of PanoptiConnect. Consider how this web censorship mechanism compares to other methods of regulating obscene and dangerous content in offline and online media. (Please note that PanoptiConnect is a hypothetical web censorship mechanism, not a real one.)


SCENARIO D: Your government has received reliable intelligence that Saur-N, a technology firm based in your state, has entered into a contract to provide communications technology to a well-known authoritarian regime. This regime has a largely neutral relationship with your state; neither your state nor the regime’s share any history of conflict of competition. (Please note that Saur-N is a hypothetical company, not a real one.)

Your government has been made aware that this technology can easily be used to track mobile telephone signals, break into e-mail and social network accounts, censor web searches and block internet access and mobile phone signals without affecting police or military communications equipment.

Saur-N’s equipment is technologically superior to many other manufacturers and would drastically improve the efficiency of the state’s private sector business. However, it would also give the state further abilities to exercise control over private citizens. Additionally, the state has a long history of detaining and intimidating people who protest against its policies or campaign for greater accountability of public officials.

Advise the government on the position it should take on the sale of monitoring equipment to the regime by Saur-N. Please advise your government on whether or not the sale by Saur-N should be blocked, or whether the company should be discouraged from completing the sale through other means. Consider your government's international human rights responsibilities, including relevant international treaties and agreements that your government may be party to, when writing your response.


Step 2: Choose a Country to Address

The scenarios above represent hypothetical situations that might arise in the Internet governance environment. Your policy memorandum should be addressed to a government -- referred to as ‘your government’ or ‘your country’.

You have two options regarding the country you choose to address in your memo: it can be a real country or a hypothetical country. For example, the country you choose to address can be the country you personally live in, OR another real-world country of your choice. We encourage you to discuss specific features of the country you are writing about where relevant. However, the main focus of your memorandum should be on the policy you have been tasked with informing rather than on pre-existing policies.

Alternatively, you may decide that 'your government' or 'your country' refers to a hypothetical country. This country will have the broad characteristics described in the relevant question. You can introduce additional characteristics if you wish to add specificity, but remember that you will need to clarify any important details of your hypothetical country's existing laws and policies in your memo, if necessary. Ensure that your hypothetical country has sensible characteristics that broadly represent a contemporary state.


Step 3: Write your Policy Memo

In your memo, you will address one of the four scenarios and try to convince your target audience that the problem you outline is urgent and the action you propose to solve it should be adopted.

In your memo, you will develop advocacy messages which:

  • Outline the nature of the problem;
  • Argue for the adoption of your chosen approach to solving the problem; and finally,
  • Propose a set of practical recommendations for action by policymakers/target audience.

The arguments you put forward should be supported by a range of sources and are the result of a process of weighing the pros and cons of the main approaches to solving the problem. You will also work on the design and layout of your brief so that it looks professional and encourages readers to take your ideas seriously.

Prior to writing your policy memo, please familiarise yourself with the topic by reading the theme and background paper. You can also check out these related links and additional resources.


These further resources are available to guide you through the policy memorandum task:


Step 4: Make sure that your policy memo is consistent with the submission guidelines below

Please carefully adhere to the following requirements when submitting your policy brief:

  • Length: Between 800 and 1,200 words, not including the list of sources consulted or bibliography.
  • Format: Upload your Policy Brief in Word or PDF format in a font not smaller than 11 point.
  • Citation style: Use APA embedded citation. This is a citation style where a short form of the source is given in brackets in the main text after the statement that requires a source. The long form of the source is stated in the bibliography at the end of the text.
  • Paginate: Include a page number on each page.
  • Reference code: Put your code number (NOT your name) on each page. This is the code that you received when you registered for the Challenge.
  • Spell and grammar check: Ensure you complete both before sending your paper.


STEP 5: Submit Your Memo:

Submit your policy memo through this link on the website by 30 November 2012. Submissions submitted with your name on them or via e-mail will not be accepted. Results from the first round will be sent out by 31 January 2013.

This task constitutes the first round of this year’s Challenge. For more information, please see the Description of Tasks page.

If you have questions about the task and don’t find your answer on the website, please contact Catherine Janson via e-mail: cjanson@idebate.be.

For more details about the scholarship and stipend award levels for the Challenge, please visit the Prizes page.

Good luck and thank you for participating!