IGF 2023 WS #496 Scramble for Internet: you snooze, you lose

Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (23:30 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (00:30 UTC)
WS 3 – Annex Hall 2

Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
Digital Sovereignty

Organizer 1: Roman Chukov, Center for Global IT Cooperation
Organizer 2: Milos Jovanovic, 🔒
Organizer 3: David Otujor Okpatuma, 🔒

Speaker 1: Yik Chan Chin, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Olga Makarova, Private Sector, Eastern European Group
Speaker 3: Roberto Zambrana, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Yudina Alena, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Otieno Barrack, Technical Community, African Group


Milos Jovanovic, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

David Otujor Okpatuma, Intergovernmental Organization, African Group


Roman Chukov, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

- What are the driving forces behind the Internet fragmentation, and what are the critical issues that need to be addressed in order to overcome the possible consequences of Splinternet? - How to raise the awareness that technical, legal and regulatory measures could pose a risk to the open and interoperable Internet? - How to strike a balance between an open and interconnected Internet and the duty of a national government to protect the digital sovereignty of a country and rights of its citizens? - Can we start shaping the concept of Internet Sovereignty?

What will participants gain from attending this session? A discussion on the matter of the Internet fragmentation would be an opportunity to hear different opinions from different stakeholder groups, to elaborate on the question of how to ensure the evolution of the Internet, while keeping it open and free. As fragmentation is stepping up it is vital to take into consideration worries and concerns of various stakeholders, therefore this session will aim to bring stakeholder and regional diversity to the discussion through the speaker panel. We will encourage online and onsite participants, interventions and an inclusive multistakeholder dialogue.


Preservation of a united and open Internet is a critical aspect of the Global Digital Compact, underscoring its significance in the context of the growing pace of global digitalization that makes the functioning of industries infrastructures, communication, and daily work activities largely dependent on the Internet. Ensuring the security and openness of the Internet is paramount, as it acts as the main driving force that develops the global digital information environment and grants access to services around the world. Seeking to keep cash flows from digital platforms within the sovereign borders has led to efforts on national levels to ‘split’ the Internet into regional and country zones with special regulatory regimes and rules for the circulation of content and services. Large tech corporations also contribute to fragmentation trying to monopolize content or services, against civil, technical, and academic communities. The issue of Internet fragmentation has gained traction in international discourse, but a comprehensive understanding of its nature yet remains elusive. Technological experts warn that while the Internet continues to function on unified hardware and software solutions, the problem of fragmentation exists only on the ‘content’ level. However, with the hypothetical development of national intranets based on a separated unique infrastructure, the problem of fragmentation of the Internet due to different hardware and data exchange protocols may indeed be on the agenda. The United Nations remains committed to promoting a unified and accessible Internet for all. And combat of fragmentation is one of crucial points in the context of the Global Digital Compact. To react properly to the threat of fragmentation the multistakeholder community has to address major questions such as: Where is the boundary between a fragmented and non-fragmented Internet? What are the consequences of fragmentation for representatives of various industries? How to measure fragmentation?

Expected Outcomes

One of the expected outcomes of the workshop is further research dedicated to the issue. Possibly as a result of the session speakers and organizers will be able to come up with a descriptive model of fragmentation, often referred to as a virtual version of Miles' law of bureaucratic policy-making as well as with the propositions on epistemological arguments in support of the thesis about growing fragmentation of the web. But above all the session will aim to raise the awareness of the community concerning the risks of the growing Internet fragmentation.

Hybrid Format: During the roundtable format all speakers will be able to express their views for approximately 5-7 min before going for a discussion among the attendees. The moderator will also closely follow the discussion in order to give floor to all the speakers and any participants wishing to speak. The onsite moderator will have a computer, allowing him to be continuously connected with the Zoom room assigned to the session, working together with the online moderator, to assure smooth and effective exchange between participants, following instant messaging system and sharing relevant ideas from the audience. Mentimeter (https://www.menti.com). Session will involve instant feedback collection from the audience as a main feature. All participants, including those online, would be asked to access Mentimeter via the link and QR-code that would help to interact and allow for a quick reaction of the audience to certain aspects of discussion.