IGF 2022 WS #405 Splintering from the core up? Fragmentation and Standards

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (08:00 UTC)

Organizer 1: Carolina Caeiro, Oxford Information Labs
Organizer 2: Emily Taylor, Oxford Information Labs Limited
Organizer 3: Georgia Osborn, Senior Research Analyst

Speaker 1: PABLO HINOJOSA, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Mehwish Ansari, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Carolina Caeiro, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Additional Speakers

Stacie Hoffmann, Digital Standards Strategy Lead, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), UK (Government, WEOG)

Carl Gahnberg, Director, Policy Development & Research, Internet Society (Technical Community, WEOG).

Tommy Jensen, Senior Technical Manager, Microsoft (Private Sector, WEOG).



Emily Taylor, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Georgia Osborn, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Georgia Osborn, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

How does Internet Fragmentation manifest at the level of standards and protocol development? As the Internet is constantly evolving and future technologies are bound to place increasing demands on networks, what guidelines can be used to assess whether standards proposals may lead to new forms of fragmentation? What strategies can be adopted to uphold interoperability and openness in standards setting processes? What new forms of international, multi-stakeholder cooperation may be required to monitor potential drivers for fragmentation at the level of digital standards and protocol development? What role is there for stakeholders from the Global South to actively engage in these efforts and contribute to upholding the continuity of an open, free and Interoperable Internet?

Connection with previous Messages:



Targets: The proposal links to SDG 9.1 in that it seeks to foster a conversation around the development of a resilient Internet infrastructure that avoids fragmentation and remains transborder in nature The roundtable’s objectives also link to SDG 17.6 in that the activity seeks to explore avenues for international cooperation around digital technical standards that uphold the values of one global, interoperable, free and open Internet.


Proposed full title: Splintering from the core up? How internet fragmentation manifests at the level of technical standards Much of the conversation around threats to the maintenance of an open, free and interoperable Internet has concentrated around questions of centralization and Internet regulation. Internet fragmentation, however, is also manifesting at the level of technical standards and protocol development, which have great potential to transform the Internet’s infrastructure and way of networking from the ground up. This roundtable discussion will focus on mapping out how standards-setting may contribute to new forms of fragmentation and what strategies the multistakeholder, Internet community can adopt to address this phenomenon. As the Internet evolves, such effort requires revisiting the question of what is the Internet (and what it is not), what are the design principles and values that have generated value over time and that Internet community wants to uphold, and how to address needs of future networks. Cooperation to avoid new sources of fragmentation at the level of standards development is also essential. As such, the roundtable discussion will touch upon how interested stakeholders may collaborate to uphold standards development processes that protect interoperability and openness, and what opportunities exist for Internet champions from across the Global South to become active agents in leading and expanding these coalitions.

Expected Outcomes

The roundtable discussion will build into multiple, existing processes. Regional Internet Registries, APNIC and LACNIC have produced a study on the Internet's technical success factors which highlight design principles and values that have enabled the Internet to develop and consolidate over time. This study provides guidelines through which to evaluate alternative networking models and proposals that depart or bend the Internet’s design principles. The Internet society has launched the “Internet Way of Networking,” a campaign against Internet fragmentation that provides valuable guidelines and tools to spot trends that could harm the Internet’s foundations. Academia and think-thanks, such as Chatham House are contributing to the thinking about challenges on Internet fragmentation and ways to promote cooperation, such as the paper on Translatlantic Cooperation on Digital Technical Standards. Civil society, including organizations such as Article 19 and Derechos Digitales, is also actively engaging in standards development organizations and developing thinking on Internet fragmentation. The roundtable seeks to bring this conversation to the IGF to tease out concrete pointers as to what could constitute shared guidelines to monitor standards development and identify actionable strategies and potential avenues for increased, multistakeholder collaboration to avoid fragmentation at the level of standards development. The roundtable is expected to advance thinking on the subject and further facilitate cooperation on the issue. Specific outputs will include the draft of a session report and an expert comment based on roundtable conclusions to be published on blogs of relevant partners and stakeholders.

Hybrid Format: To embrace the hybrid nature of the event, the roundtable discussion will begin with a series of fire-starter remarks by both in-person and online speakers. This is expected to generate a dynamic of open interaction between those present in Addis Ababa and online participants. The session will be advertised among relevant audiences participating in IGF to ensure the involvement of a diverse group of participants representing all stakeholder groups and regions. The moderator will be provided with a list of confirmed participants –online and in-person– to invite individual contributions from those who are not on the speaker roaster. The session will be organized in two segments: the first will be oriented towards teasing out potential guidelines to monitor standards proposals with the potential to lead to internet fragmentation, and the second will be centred around potential avenues for multistakeholder collaboration in monitoring proposals. Interventions by speakers will be distributed between these two segments, to ensure the swift transition to a roundtable discussion and avoiding long expository segments. The moderation may resort to the use of audience interaction tools to engage participants – particularly those online– such as opinion polls to spark both reflections and comments from the audience.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.