IGF 2023 WS #234 Overcoming the Global Digital Divide? The South-Based RIRs

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (23:45 UTC) - Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (01:15 UTC)
WS 3 – Annex Hall 2

Organizer 1: Gloria Nzeka, University of Maryland
Organizer 2: Jongen Hortense, VU Amsterdam / University of Gothenburg
Organizer 3: Jan Aart Scholte, 🔒
Organizer 4: Nahema Nascimento Falleiros Barra de Oliveira, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Speaker 1: Carolina Aguerre, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Nii Narku Quaynor, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 3: Anriette Esterhuysen, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Akinori MAEMURA, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Debora Christine, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Jan Aart Scholte, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Gloria Nzeka, Civil Society, African Group


Jongen Hortense, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. What role do South-based regional multistakeholder Internet governance bodies play in narrowing the global digital divide? B. In what ways can South-based regional multistakeholder bodies empower low-income countries and other marginalized groups in global Internet governance? C. How can South-based regional multistakeholder Internet governance bodies promote inclusive participation from a variety of stakeholders in its governance processes? D. What are lessons learnt from the South-based RIRs’ approach to Internet governance that can be used in other development areas? How can potential challenges to the RIR system be overcome?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Three benefits in particular stand out. First, the session will raise awareness, as very little research and no previous IGF session (to our knowledge) have examined the South-based RIRs. Second, the session will generate new conversations, in the form of South-South multistakeholder exchanges about redressing digital divides with inclusion through AFRINIC, APNIC and LACNIC. Third, this unprecedented dialogue will generate novel evidence, insights, and lessons about combatting the digital divide in global Internet governance. Participants will become aware of the opportunities as well as the challenges facing South-based RIRs as channels for closing divides and fostering inclusion in global Internet governance.


The North-South digital divide constitutes one of the greatest challenges to the legitimacy of global Internet governance. What can regional multistakeholder initiatives in the Global South contribute to overcoming this divide and enhancing inclusion? The regional internet registries (RIRs) constitute a vital part of global Internet governance. By taking a multistakeholder approach, they oversee the distribution of Internet numbers (IP addresses) and handle associated questions about internet access, content control, data protection, and cybersecurity in their respective regions. As such, the RIRs are uniquely placed to address the digital divide and inclusion in Internet governance. This is particularly the case for the three RIRs that are located in the global south: AFRINIC (for the Africa region), APNIC (for the Asia-Pacific region), and LACNIC (for the Latin America-Caribbean region). Yet, despite their innovative approach to Internet governance (in the sense of being regional, South-based, and multistakeholder), little is known about how far these bodies promote a more inclusive and sustainable digital development and what lessons they might hold in this regard for wider Internet governance. This workshop brings together a diverse group of experts and participants in the South-based RIRs to discuss these matters. The session will open with a 15-minute presentation of a recent project, carried out by a global research team across four continents, on regional multistakeholderism in the South-based RIRs as a way to achieve greater inclusion in global Internet governance. Thereafter a group of expert commentators respond to these findings (20 minutes); the audience raises further questions and comments (20 minutes); the panelists respond to each other and the audience contributions (15 minutes); the audience shares their experiences with the South-based RIRs as channels of inclusion in Internet governance (15 minutes).

Expected Outcomes

The outcome of the workshop will be a report that summarizes the various perspectives expressed during the roundtable discussion. It will also present an overview of lessons learnt and concrete suggestions on how the RIR system can contribute to narrowing the global digital divide. The report will not only summarize the views of the invited speakers but also reflect upon questions, comments, and suggestions from the audience. We will share the report with the leadership, staff, and respective communities of the RIRs for their consideration, and make the document publicly available e.g., via social media.

Hybrid Format: The roundtable will ensure an engaging hybrid strategy in various ways. Three out of four organizers of this workshop will be attending the session online. One of them will act as online moderator and ensure that questions and comments from online participants can be shared and will be given careful attention during the session. Members of the organizing team are fluent in four of the most widely spoken languages in the RIRs (English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish) and participants are welcome to share their views or ask questions in languages other than English. If the online platform allows for this, we might use polls or other interactive tools to ensure that both on-site and online audiences are actively engaged in the discussions.