IGF 2021 WS #252 Imagining the Future of International Internet Governance

Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (15:50 UTC) - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (17:20 UTC)
Conference Room 6

Organizer 1: Paula Martins, Association for Progressive Communications - APC
Organizer 2: ali Gharavi, Sida
Organizer 3: Valeria Betancourt, Association for Progressive Communications
Organizer 4: Veronica Ferrari, Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

Speaker 1: Anriette Esterhuysen, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Anna Karefelt, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Raúl Echeberría , Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Additional Speakers




Jamila Venturini, Derechos Digitales

Barrack Otieno, Kictanet

Gilbert Beyamba, Pollicy

Jennifer Chung, Dot.Asia

Pablo Hinojosa, APNIC

Fredrik Westerholm, Sida

Roxana Bassi, APC


Valeria Betancourt, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Paula Martins, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization


Veronica Ferrari, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Other - 90 Min
Format description: We foresee the organization of break-out group discussions, but in an online-only format.

Policy Question(s)

Governance and cooperation for an evolving Internet: How does Internet governance need to change in order to meet the changing nature and role of the Internet? What tools, mechanisms, and capacity building instruments are needed for stakeholders to effectively cooperate, and engage in Internet governance?
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?

Additional Policy Questions Information: - How will internet governance look like in the future in order to meet the changing nature and role of the Internet? What principles, tools, mechanisms, and capacity building instruments are needed for stakeholders to effectively cooperate, and engage in Internet governance? - What opportunities are provided by the current focus on digital cooperation resulting from the UN Secretary-General's Roadmap for digital cooperation and the upcoming WSIS+20 review? What role should the IGF play (and how) in advancing global digital cooperation?


Through the use of a technique for thinking future scenarios, the session will be structured to allow a moment of taking stock of the WSIS process so far, but then moving on to looking at alternative principles / modalities / structures / dynamics for the future, for a people-centered, bottom-up and impactful internet governance, truly meaningful multistakeholderism, and better coordination of internet-related international policy processes.


5. Gender Equality
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
12. Responsible Production and Consumption
13. Climate Action
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: The workshop will be organized according to 3 main fronts relating to gender equality, environmental sustainability and human rights. The organizers’ goal is to provide a space for discussing the future of internet governance as a key development agenda. An internet governance for the future has to be one that promotes access and inclusion and many of the targets detailed by the SDGs. Above we highlight some of those.


How should international internet governance look like in 2025? This session is an imaginative exercise. It is an invitation to think outside the box and beyond recurrent debates to respond to that question.

The framework for this workshop are the preparations for the WSIS+20 and the need to rethink, adapt and/or reconfirm commitments made in 2003 in Geneva and 2005 in Tunis. We will take stock of the many lessons learned and progress achieved. But will also open our minds and microphones to new ideas and voices.

This session will build on a series or multi-stakeholder regional dialogues carried out in the framework, or in opportunity of or in parallel to, the regional IGFs throughout 2021, hosted in collaboration with regional stakeholders in LAC, Asia and Africa. Insights collected from different regions will be shared in the form of an analysis paper before the global IGF and will be followed by a hands-on activity during the IGF 2021 where participants will build on regional outputs to identify possible common grounds for work in the run-up to WSIS+20. Both preparatory regional workshops and the global workshop will allow participants to contribute with ideas under three fronts: (i) an internet governance that promotes environmental justice; (ii) an internet governance that promotes human rights; (iii) an internet governance that promotes feminist futures.

In order to achieve its objectives, the session will use a methodology for thinking future scenarios. This methodology will be used to reflect on the evolution of technologies into neutral, nice and not-so-nice potential futures, and discover the differences among them, based on a solid logical framework of potential indicators on how things can evolve, which can then be turned into human stories for reflection.

Expected Outcomes


The objective of this session is to collect very concrete inputs that would allow participants and organizers to start to strategize and build the run-up to WSIS+20. It will tentatively allow for the identification of common grounds around which collaborative work could be organized between 2022 - 2025. This session will be the culmination of a series of conversations during regional IGFs and will seek to identify specific follow up actions.


The session will be opened with quick 5min framing remarks by Fredrik Westerholm and an inspirational talk by Anriette Esterhuysen, taking stock of developments in internet governance this far. Then, brief presentations of regional results will take place - each region’s results will be presented in 5min by a regional representative. After that, participants will be invited to take part in a hands on exercise. A scenario / story will be presented, building on the key trends identified regionally, and participants will suggest concrete actions to approach this scenario to one where internet governance promotes: (i) social and environmental justice; (ii) human rights; (iii) feminist futures. The methodology to be used, as mentioned above, is that of thinking future scenarios - see reference material in the section ‘documentation’ below. A final plenary will allow reporting back of proposals from different stakeholder groups and organizers will suggest next steps and follow-up activities.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Collaborative boards (such as Miro) and instant survey tools (such as Mentimeter). The speakers / moderators may also share screens to present slides.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

We still do not have inclusive internet governance. What we need now is to unpack that and be very specific in identifying who is excluded, when and why. We need to understand the power dynamics that lead to this in order to propose more inclusive models of internet governance for the future.

Our exercise built on inputs from different stakeholders about the future of internet governance and the key takeaway from the exercise is how complementary the inputs were. Having all stakeholders represented meant a richer, more diverse and more challenging set of perspectives.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

We need concrete proposals to build structured models of multistakeholder governance that are bottom-up, but also effective in negotiating the interest of states (often related to cybersecurity space, driven by lack of trust, lack of solid cooperation frameworks) and dealing with the unbalanced power of tech corporations.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


Reasoning behind the session

The internet is run by a myriad of bodies, institutions and entities located across the globe. Its decentralization has for long been praised as the reason behind the innovation, creativity and openness that characterized its early expansion. 

Today, however, we are living in a new time where the internet has become a much more controlled, privatized and weaponized space. 

In this current context, the manner in which the internet is governed has become an even more relevant and urgent question. The answers, however, are still few and lacking in their commitment to a people’s centered model that could ensure rights and freedoms, innovation and openness. 

The global governance of the internet is pulverized; many bodies and institutions have claimed a role and there is a lack of coordination that increases as digitalization expands to new realms. This lack of coordination at the same time generates gaps and overlaps. Even where clarity in relation to roles is greater - as in the case of engineering technical bodies responsible for internet infrastructure - the loose systems and processes put in place to generate implementation and enforcement of agreed standards may contribute to both lack of accountability by large private actors in the field and the growing trend of regulatory impetus and anxiety at the national level. Users are the ones losing - not only their bytes, but their rights.  

This session, and the regional dialogue that preceded it, sought to create a space for a deep dive into some of these discussions. Our goal was not only to collect inputs marked by plurality, with an emphasis on views from the Global South, but also to start to build a movement that possibly could lead to increased agreement, synergy and coordination in the work of civil society organizations in the area of internet governance and digital cooperation. 

An important reference for this work will be the run-up to the WSIS+20 celebrations, when new negotiations will take place in relation to global digital governance, including new definitions in relation to the renovation or reform of the Internet Governance Forum. 

For 2022, APC will continue to build on the results of this session through a series  of consultations and research pieces which will tentatively be presented in a follow up session in the 17th edition of the IGF. 

The broader process in which this session is inserted has been called by the organizers ‘Imagining the Futures of Internet Governance initiative’.


Overview of participation 

The session counted with 61 participants online and 20 in person in Katowice. Two speakers were physically present in Poland, the others, including the facilitators, engaged virtually. 

In addition to using the chat, participatory engagement was secured through the use of Miro - participants were presented an exercise (described below) and provided their inputs through sticky notes / contribution boards. 


Overview of the session

The overall objective of the session was to imagine the future of internet global governance 10 years from now. The session results will feed into a broader process that will seek to put together a strategic framework for advocacy and movement building, as explained above. 

The session followed a planned flow, which started with looking at the past and taking stock of developments in internet governance this far. Then the ‘Imagining the Futures of Internet Governance initiative’ was presented to participants in a summarised way as well as the results of preparatory regional workshops. In such workshops, observable trends of what internet governance  will be in 10 years were identified.Such trends allowed the organizers to build a scenario for our digital world in 2031. This scenario was shared with participants through a video.  The ´future scenarios/prospective futures’ methodology was briefly presented as an introduction to the collective exercise. Participants were then invited to contribute with concrete suggestions of action points that they or their organizations could move forward in order to change the scenario presented and bring it as close as possible to an internet governance that promotes human rights, social and environmental justice and feminist futures. Contributions were collected per stakeholder groups (each stakeholder group had a dedicated board for contributions) and then systematized back to all participants. A final discussion took place about commonalities and also contrasting these views of the future with the initial intervention at the beginning of the session that looked at the past. Finally, the session was wrapped up with the sharing of information about the next steps in the broader process of the Imagining the Futures of Internet Governance initiative.  


Summary of main discussions and contributions

Opening remarks by Fredrik Westerholm, Sida

  • Sida focuses on technology as enabling the exercise of rights, including freedom of expression, privacy, economic, social, cultural rights, particularly of those communities  most impacted by inequality and discrimination. 
  • Sida and Sweden believe in, and promote, a free, open and secure internet. 
  • As for the role of IGF - it is a place for inclusiveness, a platform that provides equal space in discussion of digital issues. 
  • However, more can be done to strengthen it. How does IG need to change? What tools, mechanisms, capacity-building instruments for various stakeholders? This is part of what the session will discuss. 


Acknowledging the past - Anriette Esterhuysen (MAG chair)

  • IGF origins: early collection of individuals, social movements, activists, academics who were part of the communication rights movement in the 90s. They started thinking about internet governance at a time of debate around how much global governance (for example, World Bank, IMF) was disconnected from the real needs of people on the ground. They imagined internet governance as an opportunity in a broader effort to reshape global governance in ways that are more bottom-up. 
  • IGF today represents that spirit of bottom-up governance. However, times changes and today, there are new challenges to internet governance, such as how to negotiate the interests of States (often related to the cybersecurity space, driven by concerns over lack of trust, lack of solid cooperation frameworks, fear of manipulation of the internet infrastructure), and the power of the corporate sector (which has used the platform to build unprecedented power, and power that we depend on). 
  • The key question is how to govern the internet and promote its operation as a ‘commons’ in the public sphere, when so much is done to facilitate its ownership and control by corporations, at great cost to rights and sovereignty. 
  • States are not doing enough to protect the internet as a ‘commons’. States need to regulate corporations in a manner that addresses such concerns, while harnessing creativity and innovation. 
  • We need to democratize internet governance. It is not yet inclusive. But we need to upack what we mean by inclusive internet governance. We need to be more specific - who is excluded, when, why, about what? 


Key trends identified during regional workshops - highlights presented by partners: 

          LAC workshop - Jamila Venturini, Derechos Digitales

  • Increasing divide in access
  • Increasing surveillance by governments and internet shutdowns 
  • Unlikely that disconnecting from the internet and migrating to other networks could happen
  • Growing central role of global tech corporations in global economy
  • Call for more plural and diverse internet governance, given that some voices are missing 


Africa workshop - Barrack Otieno, Kictanet

  • Access continues to be a challenge and in the context of the pandemic it became even more a major area of concern
  • Need for improved digital literacy to ensure optimal access 
  • Governments are becoming more and more interested in governing digital issues, there is a regulatory impetus at the national level and a need to consider its impacts
  • Gender-based discrimination and violence online continue to be a serious challenge

Asia-Pacific regional workshop - Jennifer Chung, Dot.Asia 

  • Last of 3 regional workshops, reflected on trends from Africa and LAC
  • Also highlighted the issue of access, including cost of access and the impact of the pandemic
  • Internet governance through national regulation is becoming a trend in countries that are less democratic. There is a concern that governments and corporations will adopt non democratic approaches to internet governance
  • Growing trend of internet shutdowns, 
  • Adoption of regulations that are transborder in their impact, affecting different jurisdictions in Asia Pacific
  • Environmental sustainability is also a concern and internet governance should give further attention to it. 


Exercise - Description: 

Given the scenario presented, think of the political and institutional dimensions of global internet governance (policies, regulations, accountability schemes, collaboration, transparency) and share suggestions of concrete actions that could be taken or promoted by you / your organization in order to bring the projected future described in the video more in line with the following goals:

(i) an internet governance that promotes human rights; 

(ii) an internet governance that promotes social and environmental justice; 

(iii) an internet governance that promotes feminist futures. 


Exercise - key feedback - Anriette Esterhuysen:

  • We observe different proposals from different stakeholder groups - the collective and multistakeholder discussion provided a richer, more diverse, more challenging set of perspectives 
  • From governments - emphasis on standards, norms
  • From the tech community - solution-oriented proposals, harness tech for problem-solving
  • From civil society - a bit of everything, but clearly an emphasis on the need for increased capacity, with a recognition of gaps
  • From the private sector - need for frameworks stand out; there is clearly a need for predictability. In some ways the results coming from the private sector are the ones more ‘regulation-friendly’; a sense that cross-border regulation is important for business. 
  • In all stakeholders boards, however, we observed a lack of consideration of the offline work. This seems to indicate we are so immersed in the world of the internet that we pay little attention to the continuum between the online and offline, the digital and the physical world.
  • We need to create bridges and start to seek areas of consensus about how we understand the internet, what global norms we want, etc. We need to look at evidence, and build spaces for regulation that doesn't undermine the interoperability of the internet and the exercise of rights. A lot of work to be done. 


Next steps

  • A report highlighting the main outcomes of the session will be circulated
  • Additional global and regional conversations will take place in 2022 and different research pieces will be launched

The facilitation team was composed of APC’s staff Paula Martins, Roxana Bassi and Valeria Betancourt.