IGF 2023 High-Level Sessions

The IGF High-Level Track gathers high-level speakers across the stakeholder spectrum: from Governments, the private sector, civil society and the technical and academic communities. 

As with the rest of the programme, the track reflects the IGF’s commitment to multistakeholder discourse and knowledge exchange, as well as belief that this type of exchange among decisionmakers can broaden understanding, strengthen partnerships and lead to optimal policy outcomes.  

At IGF 2023, the track will focus on specific questions of strong public interest relating to a selection of the IGF 2023 subthemes: AI & Emerging Technologies; Avoiding Internet Fragmentation; Cybersecurity, Cybercrime & Online Safety; Data Governance & Trust; Digital Divides & Inclusion; Global Digital Governance & Cooperation; Human Rights & Freedoms; and Sustainability & Environment.

High Level Panel I - Understanding ‘Data Free Flow with Trust’ (DFFT) (8 October | 09:30 - 11:00 JST)  

The concept of "Data Free Flow with Trust" (DFFT) intersects technology, commerce, and governance. At its core, DFFT proposes facilitating the unimpeded movement of data across geographical boundaries, while simultaneously upholding trust and security. It looks to strike the balance between the vast potential of global data mobility and the safeguarding of user rights and privacy. DFFT can boost research and innovation, especially in areas like climate risk mitigation and global public health, and can help accelerate progress on fulfilling other key sustainable development objectives.  

This session will seek to give a better general understanding of DFFT, examine its implications, and identify potential areas of agreement for its application.  Focus issues will include data localization, data sharing in sectors of strategic importance, and regulatory cooperation for seamless cross-border data transfers.

Main and Cross-cutting IGF 2023 Subthemes: Data Governance & Trust | Global Digital Governance & Cooperation | AI & Emerging Technologies 

High Level Panel II - Evolving Trends in Mis- & Dis-Information (8 October | 11:15 - 12:45 JST) 

Mis and dis-information respectively refer to the spread of inaccurate or deliberately falsified content, often facilitated by digital platforms and social media. Misinformation is the unintentional spread of inaccurate information shared by those unaware that they are passing on falsehoods; disinformation is information that is not only inaccurate, but is also intended to deceive and is spread in order to inflict harm. Understanding the evolving trends in both is crucial to navigating the complex web of online information and averting potential security implications.

Social media platforms and messaging apps enable the swift sharing of content, making it possible for misinformation to reach a global audience within moments. Advancements in content creation tools, such as the highly publicised DALL-E, and a suite of apps like FaceSwap and DeepFaceLab, can produce deepfakes, and are further complicating the distinction between truth and fabrication. AI-generated media content convincingly manipulates audio and video, raising concerns about AI’s potential misuse in spreading false narratives. 

Information consumption, meanwhile, continues to be highly polarised. Online algorithms often feed users content that aligns with their preexisting beliefs, reinforcing echo chambers, inhibiting exposure to diverse perspectives and hindering critical thinking. The echo chamber effect not only amplifies the spread of misinformation within specific groups but also makes it difficult to engage in constructive conversations based on accurate information. 

Addressing mis- and disinformation requires a multi-pronged approach. This includes a combination of technological interventions, encryption mechanisms, regulatory measures, media literacy programs, and collective political commitment to upholding the integrity of information sharing. The IGF is one of the few venues that can facilitate the global cooperation necessary for confronting this global challenge.  

Main and Cross-cutting IGF 2023 Subthemes: Cybersecurity, Cybercrime & Online Safety | AI & Emerging Technologies | Human Rights & Freedoms | Avoiding Internet Fragmentation 

High Level Panel III - Looking ahead to WSIS+20: Accelerating the Multistakeholder Process (8 October | 13:45 - 15:15 JST) 


The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has served as a pivotal platform for fostering cooperation among governments, civil society, private sector, and technical communities to collectively address the opportunities and challenges brought about by the digital age. 

As the WSIS+20 milestone approaches, WSIS action line facilitators and all digital governance stakeholders should reflect on the advancements of the last two decades while placing a strong emphasis on inclusivity. The multistakeholder model, which recognizes the intricate interplay of various sectors and actors to shape digital policy, is fundamental in ensuring WSIS remains a dynamic process.

By building on their strong commitment to multistakeholderism, fostering cooperation – including, critically, with experts from the technical community – and discussing the potential challenges, evolving technologies and trends within the digital landscape, WSIS communities can prepare for and look beyond the 20-year milestone. 

Main and Cross-cutting Subthemes: Global Digital Governance & Cooperation | Digital Divides & Inclusion 

High Level Panel IV - Access & Innovation for Revitalising the SDGs (8 October | 15:30 - 17:00 JST) 


Unequal access to opportunities and basic services, such as education and healthcare, obstruct the path to sustainable development. Leveraging digital solutions can bridge historically persistent gaps. Especially in remote and rural areas, digital education and telemedicine have been transformative.  

Climate change also requires innovative technologies to curtail and prevent environmental degradation. Data-driven innovations enable effective disaster response, while secure data-sharing can empower communities to take informed decisions about their environment and resources. Other technologies such as blockchain, can play a pivotal role in enhancing economies by increasing the transparency and streamlining of global supply chains. 

Applying digital technologies to secure their maximal benefit entails a specific commitment to integrating rights at every milestone of the SDGs. Equality and non-discrimination are central to the Goals; sustainable development relies on a strong rights regime that ‘promotes peaceful and inclusive societies’ (Goal 16) and ensures public access to information and freedom of expression (Target 16.10).

The synergy between Access and Innovation is not merely aspirational; it is a pragmatic strategy for revitalising the SDGs. Digital technologies supported by effective policy can address multiple challenges.

Main and Cross-cutting Subthemes: Digital Divides & Inclusion | Human Rights & Freedoms | Sustainability & Environment 

High Level Panel V - Artificial Intelligence (9 October | 11:00 - 13:00 JST) 

Can you tell that the sentences or the website you are looking at right now are not made up of text or images generated by AI?

Our society experienced profound impacts brought by the rapid and full-scale rise of generative AI technology.

Apparently, generative AI brings a lot of potentials for great social revolutions that stand comparison with industrial and information revolutions, but in order to harness the opportunity to the maximum extent it is necessary for all stakeholders to understand the risks and challenges as well as to take appropriate measures and actions under our own responsibilities.

What should be necessary to maximize the benefits to human well-being while mitigating the risks and challenges posed by generative AI to the society?

Generative AI has been taking off in deployment in various fields such as drug discovery and product design. How those advanced AI systems should be governed without losing the power to accelerate innovation?

How should we address the risks and challenges such as dis-/mis-information and lack of transparency etc.?

How should we guide development of generative AI in an inclusive way where the benefits of this technology is broadly shared without increasing digital divides around language or gender gaps?

These complexities will be addressed in the discussion in this session in Kyoto. The beautiful landscape of Kyoto is a rich fruit of diversity and complexity in its long history of various actors such as court nobles, temples and shrines, samurais, and townspeople. Similarly, generative AI is a product of organic interdependence in which a diversity of actors have been involved from the stage of designing, development and data production and collection. This probably supports the argument that the international governance on generative AI should be discussed and guided by the multi-stakeholder approach, which UN IGF ideally embodies.

This session plans to introduce discussions in the Hiroshima AI process led by G7 with Japanese Presidency and exchange views on the future direction of AI governance.

Main and Cross-cutting Subthemes: AI & Emerging Technologies | Global Digital Governance & Cooperation | Data Governance & Trust | Human Rights & Freedoms