IGF 2023 WS #56 Data Flows Regulations and Surging Internet Fragmentation

Organizer 1: Nikita Volkov, 🔒Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation
Organizer 2: Alexander Malkevich, 🔒
Organizer 3: Lydia Mikheeva, 🔒

Speaker 1: Aminé Mounir Alaoui, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Nayla Abi Karam, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Chahrazed Saadi, Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 4: Kirill Ignatov, Government, Eastern European Group
Speaker 5: Alexey Maltsev, Private Sector, Eastern European Group


Alexander Malkevich, Civil Society, Eastern European Group

Online Moderator

Lydia Mikheeva, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Nikita Volkov, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. What are the reasons and pursuits of government requirements for transnational IT companies towards data localization and the creation of data centers?
2. How can transparency issues with methods and purposes of personal data collection, storage, and processing carried out by transnational IT companies, be solved?
3. What could realistic and feasible mechanisms of mitigating the negative impact of the national regulations on Internet fragmentation look like?

What will participants gain from attending this session? The workshop participants representing various stakeholder groups (i.e., government, business, civil society, and internet users) will get to know each other's perspective and rationale on the issue of data flows' regulation, expectations, prospects, and preferable stance on the issue resolution, thus enabling the policymakers to come up with a more balanced solution and devise regulations far more corresponding to major stakeholders' expectations.


The digital economy is a dynamically growing global industry. As per various estimates, the digital economy as a constellation of online platforms and services currently accounts for 4.5-15.5% of global GDP.
Data is the lifeblood of the modern global digital economy, and cross-border data sharing has long been essential for developing internet-based services and e-commerce, as cutting-edge technologies, e.g., artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain, etc., are exceptionally reliant on accessing high-quality data that usually resides in more than one state.
Yet despite the economic benefits of flexible regimes for cross-border data flows, data localization requirements that often act as barriers to international data sharing are on the rise globally, slowing technological innovation dissemination and limiting positive societal impact.
Cutting off data flows or making such flows harder or more expensive, i.e., “data protectionism,” puts both data-reliant foreign firms and local SMEs at a disadvantage. It becomes difficult to access high-quality data at scale and forces multinational companies to create and maintain multiple data centers at high costs in both monetary and environmental terms. Most importantly, excessive national data flow regulations lead to increasing Internet fragmentation, as the erected barriers discourage international business reliance on complex digital services production chains.
Even though some regulatory differences across countries cannot be eradicated per se since sovereign nations have distinct values and strategic priorities, there is a clear need for global policy frameworks to streamline requirements across borders and reduce regulatory overload, thus enabling companies to participate fully in the international data economy.
The workshop aims to address the problem of data flow regulations imposed by governments across the world via a discussion on what a potentially balanced global policy framework could look like and how to mitigate the effects of the unavoidable national digital regulations on surging Internet fragmentation.

Expected Outcomes

As a tangible outcome of the workshop, the organizers expect to tailor a set of policy recommendations on the issue of national digital regulations and digital protectionism causing the gradual Internet fragmentation while also raising the awareness of the society and expert community towards the issues discussed at the workshop.

Hybrid Format: The onsite moderator will steer the discussion by delegating the speaking slots of approximately 8-10 minutes to the onsite speakers and then turning to the online speakers overseen by the online moderator via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other platforms.
During free discussion, the same rotation scheme will be implemented, yet time slots will be shorter.
To ensure the discussion flow and preserve the workshop’s internal logic and coherence, both onsite and online speaker reports and topics will be collected prior to the event, and the speakers’ sequence will be arranged according to the discussion plan.
The online moderator will rely on the IGF, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and VK online translation chats and WhatsApp and Telegram chats to collect the questions and relevant feedback to be covered by the speakers during free discussion.
The onsite moderator will ask for attendees’ questions and comments and then forward them to the speakers.