IGF 2023 Open Forum #45 The Virtual Worlds we want: Governance of the future web

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (06:15 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (07:45 UTC)
WS 9 – Room C-2

Blockchain, Digital Assets & Web 3-based Ecosystems
Virtual/Augmented Reality

Panel - 90 Min


Title: The Virtual Worlds we want: Discussion on how to design the Governance of the future web Description: Virtual Worlds (also referred to as “metaverses”) are set to change the way we interact with the Internet and with each other and are expected to enable more immersive and customised experiences in the digital space. Virtual Worlds form an important part of the forthcoming generation of the Internet and may enable a wealth of new social and business opportunities. The concept of Virtual Worlds has been around for a long time but thanks to technological developments it is now a true possibility. Applications in healthcare, education, design, logistics, engineering, and manufacturing can drive development in those industries . For example, Digital Twins, the virtual representation of physical products, systems, processes, or even people can be used for research and development and bring about dramatic productivity increases. Creative Industries have embraced Virtual Worlds and provide more widely known use-cases of Virtual Worlds such as immersive games and virtual cultural experiences. Virtual Worlds blend the digital and physical world but may also blur deeply the boundaries between the two worlds. Moreover, Virtual Worlds impact how citizens interact with the digital environment. Therefore, it is of essence that an appropriate design and governance model is put in place. The European Union aims for an open, stable, free, inclusive, global, interoperable, reliable, secure, and sustainable Internet and this applies to Virtual Worlds as well. The multistakeholder internet governance model has proven to be key to safeguard The Internet We Want and provides direct opportunities for Empowering All People to take part in the conversation. This open forum will discuss the key drivers of this new wave of the web and explore the critical elements of the design and governance of the virtual worlds, in order to ensure their openness, interoperability, and inclusiveness. The discussion will ultimately attempt to outline possible multistakeholder governance models of Virtual Worlds, explore the role of standards, and reflect on the key citizen-engagement factors. The session will be organised in the form of a Panel and will allow for interactive participation. The panel members are first given the floor and will provide their perspective on the design and governance model befitting the Virtual Worlds. Thereafter, both online and on-site participants will have the chance to intervene and ask relevant questions to the panel. The session will be moderated on-site, supported by an online moderator from the European Commission. A background paper will be made available early July [An EU initiative on virtual worlds: a head start in the next technological transition | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)].

Additional resources: - Virtual Worlds fit for people: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/virtual-worlds - Metaverse People, technologies & infrastructure – Europe's plan to thrive in the metaverse I Blog of Commissioner Thierry Breton: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_22_5525 - Extended reality – opportunities, success stories and challenges in health and education: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/extended-reality-oppor… - Virtual worlds panel: https://citizens.ec.europa.eu/virtual-worlds-panel_en

We expect some speakers to be present on-site, while others will engage online. Thus, the session will take place in a hybrid format, with full participation for both online and on-site participants. The European Commission has ample experience hosting hybrid sessions, and this session is designed for hybrid participation. The online and on-site moderator will collaborate closely, to facilitate valuable interaction between the online and on-site speakers and participants. Online participants will be able to raise questions and concerns through the chat, which will be monitored by the online moderator. During the open floor part of the session, online and on-site questions and interventions will be addressed with equal importance. All questions will be addressed in chronological order, and the online moderator will inform the on-site moderator of questions in the chat.


European Commission
Esteve Sanz: European Commission (DG CNECT, Unit E3), Intergovernmental Organisation, WEOG Hubert Romaniec: European Commission (DG CNECT, Unit E3), Intergovernmental Organisation, EEG [online moderator and rapporteur]


The list of speakers is as follows:

1. Pearse O'Donohue - European Commission, Director for the Future Networks Directorate od DG CNNECT  - [opening keynote].

2. Miapetra Kumpula-Natri -  Member of the European Parliament; European Parliament [on-site moderator].

3. Cathy Li - Head, AI, Data and Metaverse; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva [on-line].

4. Bitange Ndemo - professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi’s Business School, former permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communication, Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium.

5. Dr. Masahisa Kawashima - IOWN Technology Director, Research and Development Market Strategy Division, NTT Corporation

6. Tatsuya Yanagibashi, Chief Technology Officer for Japan Nokia Solutions and Networks G.K.

7. Paul Fehlinger - Director of Policy, Governance Innovation & Impact of Project Liberty's Institute for responsible innovation and ethical governance of emerging and disruptive technologies.

8. Elena Plexida - Vice President for Government and IGO Engagement at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

9. Aleksandra Kozik Public Policy Director Meta (Brussels) [on-line]


Onsite Moderator

On-site Moderator is identified in the list of speakers (#1)

Online Moderator

Hubert Romaniec


Josephine Njambi (Kenya)



Targets: 8.2: Virtual Worlds have the potential to drive economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading, and innovation. 9.5: Virtual Worlds have the potential to upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors. 10.3: A goal of this session is to promote appropriate policies for Virtual Worlds. 10.6: The multistakeholder governance model plays a large part in ensuring enhanced representation and voice for all players, in particular developing countries and underrepresented groups. 16.7: The goal of the session is to encourage an open conversation on the governance of Virtual Worlds and how to include the multistakeholder community and thereby ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making. 17.6: The IGF is the forum for knowledge sharing in the multistakeholder community of the Internet. With this session, we intend to mobilise the knowledge and expertise held in this community and explore how the multistakeholder internet governance model may be applied to Virtual Worlds.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

There is need to set guardrails and framework Virtual Worlds as it is in early stages of development

International collaboration is crucial for the effective global governance in a borderless Virtual Worlds. A multi-stakeholder model in the governing of in governing Virtual Worlds is needed.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Multistake-holder community should work on ethical principles in engineering and commercialization of virtual worlds’ innovations.

There is need for a wholistic approach that embeds user data control, interoperability and economic value participation to foster responsible innovation in the virtual world

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


The panel at IGF 2023, "The Virtual Worlds We Want," delved into the evolving realm of virtual worlds and metaverse, addressing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Led by Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, the session brought together a diverse group of experts, each contributing unique perspectives and insights. The discussions focused around three pivotal themes: interoperability, standardization, regulation & governance, and accessibility & inclusivity, laying down a comprehensive roadmap for the future.

Interoperability emerged as a crucial theme, highlighting the need for open and accessible virtual worlds. The panel emphasized preventing market dominance by a few big players and fostering an environment where users have control over their data and identities. The discussion underscored the importance of developing common technical standards for the metaverse, addressing the potential issues of marginalization and fragmentation. The panel also discussed the need for a clear data policy and AI governance frameworks to navigate the complexities of a decentralized identity framework.

Openness and User Empowerment: Panellists expressed a unanimous vision for virtual worlds that are not only open and interoperable but also empower users. They stressed the importance of future iterations of the web, such as Web 4.0, being accessible to all, ensuring a democratic and user-centric virtual space.

Technical Standards for the Metaverse: The development of common technical standards was identified as a critical step towards achieving interoperability. This would create a standardized baseline, ensuring that the virtual world is not fragmented and is inclusive of all demographics.

Decentralized Identity and Governance: The conversation delved into the need for a decentralized identity framework, highlighting the challenges posed by technical and jurisdictional complexities. This called for robust data policy and AI governance frameworks to ensure clarity and security.

Holistic Approach for Responsible Innovation: A holistic approach was deemed necessary to embed user data control, interoperability, and economic value participation within the virtual worlds. Special attention was urged towards considering new types of data and their implications on innovation and user rights.

The panellists agreed on the imperative need for standardization within the metaverse to drive innovation and interoperability. They stressed setting clear guardrails and frameworks to guide the early stages of development in this space. The significance of international collaboration for effective global governance was underscored, with a call for governments to actively participate and support discussions on virtual world governance.

Driving Innovation through Standardization: A strong case was made for the establishment of a single standard organization, dedicated to fostering innovation and ensuring interoperability across the metaverse.


Setting Development Guardrails: Given the nascent nature of virtual worlds, there was a consensus on the need to set clear guardrails and frameworks to guide their development, ensuring a balanced and sustainable growth.

Global Governance through Collaboration: The borderless nature of the metaverse calls for international collaboration. Drawing parallels from the governance of the internet by ICANN, a multi-stakeholder model was recommended.

Government Support and Engagement: The crucial role of government support in discussions around virtual world governance was highlighted. There was a call for governments to actively engage with and support the IGF as a central platform for these critical discussions.

Accessibility and inclusivity were identified as key pillars for the development of virtual worlds. The panel stressed the importance of ensuring these principles right from the infrastructure level, highlighting the need for high-capacity, low-latency networks, especially for AR and VR applications. A human-centric approach, ethical principles in innovation, and significant investments in virtual public services were emphasized as vital components of an inclusive virtual world.

Infrastructure Accessibility: Ensuring accessibility at the very foundation of the metaverse’s infrastructure is vital. The panel highlighted technical challenges, such as the need for stable radio links, and emphasized the importance of overcoming these to ensure a seamless experience for all.

Human-Centric Virtual Worlds: The panel advocated for a human-centric approach in developing virtual worlds, emphasizing the need to uphold individual rights and safety, while also fostering innovation and growth.

Ethical Innovation and User Empowerment: Ethical principles should guide the engineering and commercialization of innovations in virtual worlds. The empowerment of users, treating them as more than just consumers, was highlighted as a critical aspect of responsible development.

Investing in Virtual Public Services: The need for substantial investments in virtual public services, such as smart cities, healthcare, and other areas impacting quality of life, was underscored. The panel emphasized the importance of establishing strong connections between academia, augmented reality, and the metaverse, ensuring inclusivity in development.

The panel called for a broadened understanding of virtual worlds and the metaverse, urging stakeholders to view it as the next iteration of the internet, going beyond just AR, VR, and XR environments.

The importance of preserving the technical underpinnings of the internet for future integration with virtual worlds was highlighted, ensuring a seamless transition and integration between the two realms.

"The Virtual Worlds We Want" session at IGF 2023 fostered an enriching dialogue, shaping a comprehensive and visionary discourse on the future of virtual worlds and the metaverse. The panellists, through their diverse expertise, provided valuable insights and recommendations, emphasizing interoperability, governance, and inclusivity as fundamental pillars for responsible and innovative development.