IGF 2023 WS #232 Small is Beautiful: A Digital Economy for People and Planet


Sustainability & Environment
Digital Technologies to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
Existing and New Technologies as Climate Risks
Existing and New Technologies as Climate Solutions

Organizer 1: Dorothea Kleine, ๐Ÿ”’
Organizer 2: Henrik Cox, Conservation Labs
Organizer 3: Nandini Chami, ๐Ÿ”’IT for Change
Organizer 4: Korjan Amay, IT for Change
Organizer 5: Deepti Bharthur, ๐Ÿ”’
Organizer 6: David Jensen, ๐Ÿ”’

Speaker 1: Dorothea Kleine, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Henrik Cox, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Nandini Chami, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Sorina Teleanu, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


David Jensen, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Online Moderator

Deepti Bharthur, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Korjan Amay, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Break-out Group Discussions - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

How can we rethink AI models to move from universalist frames of big data-based digital intelligence to contextualized intelligence based on small data ? How does this affect the future of data governance and ideas of collective data sovereignty?

How do we ensure that the materiality of data and AI infrastructures donโ€™t stress planetary boundaries? Can we redesign the Internet for a just and climate-sensitive digital transition?

How do we move from bottomless consumerism to ethical consumption and regenerative appropriation in the digitally-mediated marketplace? What would it mean to encode 'small is beautiful' ethics into e-commerce business models?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants will gain exposure to critical perspectives highlighting the climate risks latent within the current organization and logic of the digital economy, in particular one that is attuned to the larger structural inequities and extractivist dynamics that the status quo also perpetuates. Moreover, participants will also hear significant proposals around policy ideas and guiding principles to orient a transition towards sustainable and just alternatives. They will have the opportunity to fruitfully contribute to the discussion on working towards a transformed digital future, and we hope the event will serve as a site for the catalysation of new partnerships, alliances and strategic initiatives that move in this direction.


The digital economy is currently driven by the logic of data extractivism for intensified exploitation of labour and the natural resource commons. Sustainable development seems an unattainable dream in this context. This session will examine what it will mean to change the foundational logic of the digital mode of production -- its network-data apparatus that drives the engine of intelligence capital - that is rooted in a 'small is beautiful' economics that centres people and planet.

Organized as a panel discussion with key experts from different stakeholder groups, the session will explore what major climate risks the current paradigms of digital technology continue to pose, and and what interventions, new models and alternative policy trajectories will be needed in order to harness these powerful digital tools to substantially contribute towards achieving sustainable development goals.

Expected Outcomes

The key takeaways of the sessionโ€™s discussion will be synthesized as report by IT for Change, and participants will be given the opportunity to come together as a network for future outputs around the themes discussed, including taking up relevant research studies, co-ordinating advocacy efforts as well as pooling knowledge and resources for novel experiments and pilot projects.

Hybrid Format: The organizing team will ensure smooth coordination between online and on-site members through adequate pre-event technical checks and schedule mapping, as well as ensuring there are team members present for troubleshooting both at the venue as well as online. Moreover, the break-out group structure will ensure that inclusive, smooth, small-group discussions can take places both online and at the venue, with organizing team members documenting the key points that emerge.