IGF 2021 WS #206
Moving towards, not away from, an open Internet

Organizer 1: Sheetal Kumar, Global Partners Digital
Organizer 2: Ben Wallis, Microsoft
Organizer 3: Alves Facebook, Facebook
Organizer 4: Barbara Wanner, U.S. Council for International Business

Speaker 1: Alves Facebook, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Vint Cerf, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Basu Arindrajit , Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Yu Ping Chan, Intergovernmental Organization, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Nnenna Nwakanma, Civil Society, African Group


Ben Wallis, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Sheetal Kumar, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Barbara Wanner, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Digital sovereignty: What is meant by digital sovereignty? What implications does it have for the global nature of the Internet, for Internet governance itself, and the effectiveness of the multistakeholder approach? From an opposite angle, what are the implications of the Internet and digitalisation for national sovereignty?
Advancing global digital cooperation: What opportunities are provided by the current focus on digital cooperation resulting from the UN Secretary-General's Roadmap for digital cooperation? What role should the IGF play (and how) in advancing global digital cooperation?

The recent establishment of a UN Office of a Tech Envoy aims to promote digital cooperation at a time when the free, open and interconnected internet is increasingly under threat. It is therefore imperative that there are open discussions of those threats, so that they can be adequately and inclusively tackled. These threats include technical, legislative and policy developments have furthered the risk that the Internet fragments into siloed intranets. More specifically, developments include bans or restrictions on international data flows; techno-protectionist initiatives, repressive laws that threaten free expression, privacy, and/or encryption; and Internet shutdowns - among other risks. These developments may pose a threat to the free, open and interconnected Internet, along with its associated benefits to social and economic development, while also harming human rights.



Targets: 9.c: Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020
16.7: Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
17.6: Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge-sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level

As the world becomes more and more dependent on digital technologies, a free, open and secure internet is arguably integral to the achievement to the SDG framework overall. In particular, target 9.c which aimed to provide universal and affordable access to the internet has become ever more urgent – but it is important, as has been consistently noted in IGF discussions in the last few years, that it is not just access to the internet which is increased but meaningful access – that is access to an open, free and secure internet. As noted in the session description, this is under threat

In addition, targets 16.7 and 17.6 which aim to ensure fairer, more equitable access to decision making will rely on an open and not a restricted internet. Target 17.6 pertains to international cooperation and access to science and technology. The successful implementation of the UNSG’s digital cooperation roadmap, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms will play an essential role in realizing this target – yet, without awareness of the challenges of an increasingly fragmented internet and attempts to address it, the achievement of this target will be compromised.


This interactive panel discussion will critically examine the risks posed by the threat of further fragmentation of the Internet. It will also explore opportunities for engagement by the global community at the international level to promote the benefits of a free, open, and interconnected Internet. In particular, the session will look at developments and opportunities within the UN, including the UN Tech Envoy, to shape the responses by key International bodies that create norms or rules which shape the nature of the Internet. The session will include high-level participation from all key stakeholder groups who seek to work together in harmony.

We will integrate audience perspectives through Q&A during at least two dedicated parts of the discussion. As such, we will have short intro remarks from speakers, we will then turn to the audience for their reactions, and then back to the speakers for the second part. We will turn again to the audience after speakers have responded, and finally end with speakers remarks.

Expected Outcomes

We intend for the discussion to identify concrete recommendations for addressing the challenges and threats faced, including actions/measures that the Office of the Tech Envoy could take.

We expect participants to gain
• A deep understanding of current developments that risk further fragmentation of the Internet, and what risks these pose to the socio-economic and human rights benefits of the Internet
• An opportunity to learn about and shape current discussions within the UN that could have a direct impact on the future of the Internet.

We expect the session to directly feed into the efforts of the UN Tech Envoy’s Office to promote digital cooperation, including the implementation of the UNSG’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. A member of the Office will participate in the discussion and key discussion points and recommendations will be shared with the Office and the Tech Envoy following the session.

We hope to identify either specific proposals or ideas for specific proposals for how to stop further fragmentation and further erosion of the universal and interoperable nature of the Internet.

We will use a variety of methods, including ample time for Q&A as well as polling, to ensure audience discussion and interaction. We will set out the guiding questions at the beginning of the discussion and encourage participants to offer their views on them through the chat, and by taking the floor.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Twitter, Menti/another polling platform.