IGF 2023 WS #109 The Internet in 20 Years Time: Avoiding Fragmentation

Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (02:30 UTC) - Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (04:00 UTC)
WS 5 – Room B-2

Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
Digital Sovereignty
Technical challenges of Internet fragmentation

Organizer 1: Carolina Caeiro, 🔒
Organizer 2: Emily Taylor, 🔒
Organizer 3: Georgia Osborn, 🔒

Speaker 1: Olaf Kolkman, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Robert Pepper, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Izumi Aizu, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Lorrayne Porciuncula, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 5: Sheetal Kumar, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


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

Online Moderator

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


Carolina Caeiro, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Risks of Internet Fragmentation. What are concrete risks associated with the splintering of the Internet if existing fragmentation trends do not ease or course-correct? What specific trends do we see at the level of network development, government regulation and digital divides, and how do these contribute to fragmentation? Vision and required action for a non-fragmented Internet. Ahead of the WSIS+20 review, what is the vision of the IGF community for the Internet of tomorrow and its continued role as a global network? What can the multiple stakeholders that participate in this space contribute to avert fragmentation trends? 

What will participants gain from attending this session? As part of this roundtable discussion, participants will have an opportunity to join a lively conversation about how the IGF community expects the Internet to evolve over the next 20 years, and what concrete opportunities exist for realising that vision. The session is also expected to provide an overview of potential risks associated with the splintering of the Internet, and contribute to raising awareness about the perils of fragmentation and the need for collective action. Outputs of the workshop are expected to influence parallel and ongoing discussions throughout the week on the various facets of Internet fragmentation, and what the IGF community is able to contribute in the shaping of the Internet of tomorrow.



Ahead of the WSIS+20 review, this workshop will consist of a forward looking exercise to discuss with the IGF community what we hope the Internet will look like in 20 years and actions needed today to avoid the fragmentation of the Internet of tomorrow. The organisers will circulate a two-pager describing three potential scenarios: (i) a fragmented Internet, (ii) the continuation of the current status quo, and (iii) a strengthened global Internet. The scenarios put forth in the document will serve as the basis to kickstart the conversation among speakers and participants. The session will open with an exchange about why it matters to prevent fragmentation, and consider what a “worst case scenario” might look like should existing fragmentation trends not ease or course-correct. The session will then consider desired scenarios for the Internet of tomorrow against the current status quo, and invite speakers and participants to reflect on concrete actions the multistakeholder, Internet governance community should take to avoid internet fragmentation and its potential negative impacts. The session will consider three dimensions: (a) technical evolution of the internet architecture and needs of emerging technologies, (b) government regulation, particularly around data governance, and (c) digital divides emanating from varying experiences both around connectivity and exercise of rights online.

Expected Outcomes

The session is intended to serve as an innovative space for collective thinking and conversation on how the Internet should evolve over the next two decades, and strategies for avoiding fragmentation. The discussion is expected to hone in on the identification of fragmentation trends related to the evolving nature of the Internet’s architectural core, government regulation and the persistence of digital divides. This analysis will draw from and feed into the existing existing work of the Policy Network on Internet Fragmentation, and organisations such as the Internet Society that work on preventing fragmentation. The session is also expected to contribute to the identification of concrete actions that the multiple stakeholders of the IGF community can put forth to evolve the Internet in ways that best serve humanity ahead of the WSIS+20 review. Co-organizers will work with speakers and interested session participants in authoring a piece on main takeaways from thediscussion. 

Hybrid Format: 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 onsite and online participants.  The session will be advertised among relevant audiences participating in IGF to ensure the involvement of a diverse 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 first segment of the discussion will hash out potential risks of a fragmented Internet, and desired scenarios for the future of the Internet. The roundtable will then open up to all participants for additional views on desired scenarios for the Internet of tomorrow and a conversation about concrete actions to realise that vision. The moderator may use of interactive tools to engage participants such as opinion polls.