IGF 2023 WS #337 Approaches to digital sovereignty and their impact on intern


Organizer 1: Ennatu Domingo Soler , ECDPM
Organizer 2: Melody Musoni, ECDPM

Speaker 1: Verengai Mabika, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Sizwe Snail, Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 3: Buntu Majaja, Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 4: Larissa Magalhaes, Intergovernmental Organization, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Melody Musoni, Civil Society, Eastern European Group

Online Moderator

Ennatu Domingo Soler , Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Ennatu Domingo Soler , Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

How do different international actors define digital sovereignty and in what way have the multilateral forum helped bring these approaches together?
Do differences in how countries approach digital sovereignty destroy a global and interconnected internet? If so, in which ways?
In a world with diverging approaches to digital sovereignty, what should be done to avoid internet fragmentation?
Which policies should be introduced to prevent the fragmentation of the global internet?

What will participants gain from attending this session? The participants will have an opportunity to hear experts from different regions in the world discuss the most pressing issues of digital sovereignty on the one hand and internet fragmentation on the other. The'll get a holistic picture of the global approaches to digital sovereignty and the underlying motivations for such approaches. In a growingly competitive international order, the key policy concerns and rationale behind policy decisions of blocs and different governments will be valuable for participants. Most importantly, the will see how digital sovereignty approaches directly or inadvertently lead to the splinternet. The discussants will share policy recommendations on how best to address the issue of digital sovereignty while avoiding the fragmentation of the internet.
The will also gain understanding of the digital governance models and policies that support the visions of digital sovereignty.


Digital sovereignty is the need for control over the physical layer (infrastructure and technology), the code layer (standards, rules, and design), and the data layer (ownership, flows and use). Digital sovereignty is increasingly being used by policymakers and it is strongly being embedded in data, cybersecurity and industrial policies. The different approaches to digital sovereignty may result in the fragmentation of the global internet. The competition over digital sovereignty and digital technologies is playing out at multiple levels with major powers actively promoting competing visions. China, with its state led approach to digital sovereignty, has introduced the Great Firewall and concept of cyber sovereignty which delineates its national boundaries in cyberspace, ensures that online processes affecting important Chinese interests take place within those boundaries and certain content is automatically barred. The EU, as a norms and standards setter, has introduced certain policies like the Digital Markets Act which can result in users having significantly different online experiences due to constraints imposed by their app stores and operating systems. On the other hand, developing countries in Africa and Latin America favour digital governance models based on strict data localisation requirements. Holistically, these differences in digital sovereignty are contributing to a fragmented digital economy with different states and businesses controlling parts of the internet, hindering the flow of data and restricting the global nature of the internet.
ECDPM will facilitate a discussion among experts from government, civil society and the private sector. The experts will also share experiences from different geographical locations of Japan, Europe, India, Africa, and Latin America. The workshop will explore how different approaches to digital sovereignty can lead to internet fragmentation. The discussion will address the tensions between data localisation and data-flow as well as identify some of the key debates on global digital governance.

Expected Outcomes

The session will feed into a short publication on the policy outcomes and implications of digital sovereignty approaches on the open internet. The insights from the discussions will also contribute to an upcoming report on Digital ID in Africa. In particular, we will draw from the discussions on internet fragmentation and how it may affect the interoperability of digital public infrastructure, which is essential for Digital IDs to function. ECDPM will build on this discussion for future policy engagements as it is committed to support an internet that is secure, open and global through policy research.

Hybrid Format: To organise a successful hybrid discussion, ECDPM will have two Policy Officers moderating the discussion. Melody Musoni will be moderating the onsite panel discussion, while Ennatu Domingo will moderate the online discussion and give the floor to a potential online panellist or participants that might want to raise their questions on camera.
To facilitate the hybrid session, we will require a screen showing the online participants. There will be two cameras one pointing to the onsite panellists and the other camera to the rest of participants. Ennatu will connect with her own laptop to the online discussion at a good distance from the other moderator Melody so she can raise questions on behalf of the online participants during the Q&A.
We will record the session for people who might have missed it and upload it on Youtube.