Global Internet Governance Academic Network Annual Symposium | Part 3 | IGF 2023 Day 0 Event #112

8 Oct 2023 06:45h - 08:45h UTC

Speakers and Moderators

Table of contents

Disclaimer: This is not an official record of the IGF session. The DiploAI system automatically generates these resources from the audiovisual recording. Resources are presented in their original format, as provided by the AI (e.g. including any spelling mistakes). The accuracy of these resources cannot be guaranteed. The official record of the session can be found on the IGF's official website.

Knowledge Graph of Debate

Session report

Dennis Riedeker

Adio De Nica, an authority on African digital infrastructure, and Dennis Riedeker, prominent for his work on human rights online, presented a concerted paper on regional Internet governance and post-colonial consciousness. Their concentration was particularly drawn towards the African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms. Their goal was not limited to highlighting the significance of digital rights, but extended to examining these rights through an exclusively African lens.

A defining element of their study involved dissecting the origins and unique attributes of the African Declaration, as well as observing its advocacy implementation and overall reception. This study, although autonomous, received partial funding from the EU's Remit Project, denoting international interest and collaboration in understanding and bolstering Internet governance in Africa.

The pair conducted their research under the guide of digital constitutionalism. This innovative ideology seeks to adapt fundamental rights and principles to our escalating digital realm, giving thought to multinational corporations as well as nation-states. The views of pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah, who advocates for unification and decolonisation of Africa, were also utilised. This distinctive combination of notions fundamentally drives their research.

De Nica and Riedeker underscored the pivotal role of the African Declaration of Human Rights and Principles in crafting Internet legislation across Africa, by offering a framework that respects Africa's unique perspectives on human rights in the digital world. They also acknowledged its sway on the 2019 revision of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access of Information in Africa, and its citation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. Their paper underlined the powerful influence of strong advocacy strategies in achieving such accomplishments.

Moreover, the researchers emphasised the utility of national legislation as viable solutions to tackling Africa's challenges. Specifically, they referenced Nigeria's digital rights and freedom bill, which, regrettably, failed to procure presidential support, as an example of their innovation. However, they remained hopeful for Pan-African initiatives such as the African Declaration.

Nevertheless, the efficiency and implementation of the African Declaration sparked critical discussions among those who saw it more as an objective than an enacted law or treaty. Regardless of critique, De Nica and Riedeker stood firm in their endorsement of the strategy of undertaking multiple levels to gauge the efficacy of varied plans. This methodology personifies their pragmatic approach to research and policy enforcement, whilst simultaneously championing the cause of African digital sovereignty.

Stephanie Arnold

The examination pinpointed the broad-ranging influence of the European Union (EU) on digital policymaking globally. This influence is particularly conspicuous in Africa, primarily due to the EU's Digital for Development Policy (D4D). This policy is designed to further digital infrastructural development, enhance digital literacy and skills, foster digital entrepreneurship, and exploit digital technologies for sustainable development - all of which significantly benefit African countries.

However, throughout the discussion, an urgent call for a precise definition and categorisation system for digital policies became apparent. A discrepancy emerged on what constitutes a digital policy, ranging from an ICT regulatory tracker score to freedom of expression. This highlighted the necessity for future research to evaluate not just the quantity, but also the quality of these policies.

Contemplating digital policies at the national level, particularly in African nations, was put forward as a method of protection against digital colonialism. It is a term defined here as the susceptibility African nations face due to their dependence on foreign technology and finance for digital advancement. Notably, digital policies at a national level are believed to strengthen African states' resilience to such potential exploitation.

The part played by China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was another focal point of the analysis. The BRI stands as a substantial influence on the adoption of ICT policies, especially in regions across Africa. Factually, regions outside of Africa that are BRI members reportedly outperform African nations in terms of ICT policy adoption. These regions have less interaction with the EU, demonstrating the BRI's potential either to enhance or mitigate the EU's effects on ICT policy application.

Both the D4D policy's geographical focus and the Belt and Road Initiative contribute positively to digitalisation—in need of further regulation—and policy adoption. The unique perspective of the D4D policy is argued to produce positive outcomes, while being a BRI member evidently correlates with boosted ICT policy uptake.

Another remarkable perception from the discussion was Africa's apparent resistance to digital influence owing to a multitude of alternative options and foreign influences. This contradicts the earlier mentioned susceptibility, thereby hinting at an intricate and fluctuating digital landscape in Africa. Lastly, the dialogue underscored the need for broadened research into digital policies in developing countries, notably within the Global South. Current research is limited in scope, unable to consider all digital policies in these areas, hence suggesting significant potential for future examinations.

The mixture of viewpoints provided a balanced appraisal of the roles played by the EU and China, reflecting the complexity of the relationships between these significant drivers and developing regions worldwide. Both the EU and China are portrayed in neutral lighーas neither solely beneficial nor detrimentalーsignifying an equilibrated comprehension of their influential capacities in shaping global digital policies.

Adio Adet Dinika

Kwame Nkrumah, a prominent figure in Africa's liberation movement, provides indispensable insights into African independence and sovereignty. His ideology, notably articulated in his book "Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism," advocates for African self-determination and independence. Nkrumah's significance stems from his role as the first Prime Minister and President of an independent Ghana, marking him as a key actor in Africa's historic struggle for autonomy. He firmly believed in digital sovereignty, outlining a framework for African states to control their key digital systems, an argument of increasing relevance in today's digital era.

However, this optimistic view of Africa's potential is shrouded by the menace of digital colonialism. This notion exposes the encroachment of conventional imperialism into the digital domain, where foreign entities wield control over Africa's technology regulations and digital rights. Colonialism is metamorphosing from being physical to digital, raising grave concerns about Africa's digital rights.

Despite these impediments, Nkrumah's belief that foreign aid can be beneficial if the conditions align favourably with Africa's interests is still pertinent. External support could conceivably aid in the execution of benchmarks like the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (AfDec). The AfDec represents an African-initiated policy aimed at bolstering understanding of internet rights and freedoms within African states.

Nonetheless, the core issue lies with Africa's digital independence. The term 'Digital Colonialism' is instrumental in sparking debate about power dynamics, particularly in the context of foreign-owned platforms dictating policies in Africa. This manifestation of a power imbalance stems from market forces and illustrates that 'Digital Colonialism' is not merely an analogy; it inherently outlines power dynamics.

Furthermore, disconcerting phenomena, such as data extraction undertaken by tech giants like Facebook and TikTok, which exploit and utilise African data beyond the continent's borders, underlines the urgent need for Africa to concentrate on its digital sovereignty. Africans should not be constrained to use tools within a particular linguistic, cultural, or economic context, thus stripping them of their digital rights and independence.

In conclusion, the complexities of digital sovereignty in Africa, spanning from self-determination to the influence of foreign entities and power dynamics, unveil a significant need for Africa to assert control over its own digital landscape. This includes databases, technology, and policy to enhance equality, justice, and robust establishments, thereby aligning with several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These factors combined signal an urgent call for action for Africa to fortify its digital sovereignty, ensuring it is not just a site for data extraction, but a significant player safeguarded by a set of respected and upheld digital rights.

Nicola Palladino

Digital sovereignty, which refers to the control and regulation of digital technologies, is a pivotal concept in the current era where digitalisation increasingly permeates our societies. Sovereignty in the digital realm allows states to control internet traffic, nationalise internet operators, enforce data localisation practices, and implement mandatory risk and safety assessments.

Nonetheless, the transition of state sovereignty into the digital domain is fraught with challenges. Whilst control of the digital infrastructure can protect fundamental rights, it can equally lead to policies of mass surveillance and censorship, thereby setting a precarious balance between digital constitutionalism and potential digital authoritarianism.

Moreover, states often project extraterritorial sovereignty beyond their borders, potentially exerting their influence through legal principles, tech regulation, and use of national tech companies as agents of their digital policies. This showcasing of extraterritorial power reveals how digitalisation can both boost and problematise traditional concepts of sovereignty.

Regrettably, the realisation of digital sovereignty is accompanied by geopolitical conflicts and tensions, resulting in escalating legal uncertainty. This hampers global cooperation and poses a threat to efforts to secure fundamental rights within the increasingly vital digital environment.

In light of these obstacles, states are encouraged to responsibly utilise their digital sovereignty, fostering international cooperation to regulate digital technologies and establish consistent rules for engagement. A cooperative stance can prevent escalating geopolitical tensions and present a unified response to uphold international human rights law.

The lack of wide-ranging international laws has catalysed demand for constitutionalising the international law order. This aims to preemptively avert state-led digital violations and interferences. In acknowledgment of these tensions and conflicts, Nicola champions the need for inclusive policy-making in the digital world, advocating for the broad participation of diverse societal actors, encompassing civil society, the private sector, and the technical community.

However, the inherent power inequalities within the digital landscape raise considerable concerns. Digital initiatives are often seen to favour a select group, primarily big tech companies and the US government. This fuels mistrust at an international level, constituting a significant hurdle to accomplishing comprehensive international digital agreements. Addressing such inequalities should thus be a focal point in any efforts to promote a digital sovereignty that is mutually beneficial and universally accepted.

Moderator

The GIGANET Symposium panel centres its discussion mainly on topics of digital sovereignty, digital colonialism, and regional internet governance mechanisms, specifically as they apply to the Global South - regions that encompass Latin America, Africa, and the Asian Pacific. This comprehensive analysis lauds Jamal for his industrious leadership in guiding the programme committee's activities.

The panel's moderator, despite being hindered by jetlag, conveys appreciation for the research carried out by academics Dennis and Adeo. Their work scrutinises the pan-Africanism movement driven by Kwame Nkrumah and its implications for human rights within the framework of Africa's digital territory.

The panel highlights Stephanie Arnold's impressive presentation on the impacts of the European Union's Digital for Development (D4D) policy on the Global South, particularly Africa. Arnold, a PhD candidate at the University of Bologna, investigates the global impact of the EU's digital policymaking and how it may have formed digital spaces, chiefly in Africa.

The EU's digital policies, as examined by the panel, have a profound influence achieved through strategic tools which are integrated into their policy framework like the D4D policy. This has had significant effects in Africa which are largely dependent on foreign technology for digital development.

A refined aspect of the policy adoption narrative, however, considers the role of other initiatives, such as China's Belt and Road Initiative. The panel suggests that these initiatives might have also influenced the adoption of ICT policies in countries not significantly focussed on by the EU.

The geographical emphasis of the EU'S D4D policy encourages discussions on bespoke policy implementation strategies, inclusive policy follow-ups, and robust impact assessments. The panel identifies a clear difference in the handling of IPv4 and IPv6 policies — with a comparison drawn between North-based Internet Routing Registries (IRR) and the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN).

Going against a technical mandate, the panel iterates potential political implications of the grey area within the remit of the technical community's role in internet governance. This extends beyond simply fulfilling a practical mandate.

The panel further probes the depth and breadth of the issue of digital colonialism and geographical power dynamics, with states playing a critical role in exerting digital sovereignty and freedoms. Reflections on the African declaration on internet rights within this context emphasise a fragile equilibrium between necessity and intention in shaping digital policies.

Additional critical discussion revolves around the quality of digital policies and their processes, the complexity of IPv6 adoption, and the discrepancy in the volume of governance literature available. These concerns are raised amidst calls for more rigorously evidence-based findings, and address fears that quantity does not necessarily equate to quality.

Importantly, the panel underscores the crucial importance of incorporating perspectives from the youth and other marginalised groups in internet governance. Various avenues for enhancing youth engagement such as the implementation of voicing mechanisms, are seen as crucial in shaping future governance decisions.

The panel concludes with thoughtful reflections on the legal aspects of internet governance. This includes acknowledgment of the influence of specific educational practices, such as U.S. legal education, on legal writing styles and the use of footnotes. Concerns are expressed about the undeveloped nature of research on 'jawboning', a form of informal rule-making, outside of the US. Legal complexities arising around regulatory threats and their consequences on transparency and accountability, as evidenced in cases such as the Missouri dividing case, are scrutinised. Finally, the need to formalise state and company interactions as shown in the Digital Services Act concludes the discussion, suggesting further research is necessary in this domain.

Nadia Tjahja

Nadia Tjahja conducted a detailed study, tracing the journey of youth participation in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) ecosystem with a concentrated focus on platforms like YouthDIG, EuroDIG, and URIDIC. Analysing a selection of 40 participants, her study encompassed different stages of involvement within the IGF ecosystem – ranging from new entrants to those in leadership positions. Her research was orchestrated around the 'Pyramid of Participation' framework, treating the IGF as a consistently evolving, rotating ecosystem.

Tjahja's findings illustrated that youths' initial education regarding content, processes, structure, and community-building principles came from URIDIC, an essential facilitator in promoting youth participation. Subsequently, they were urged to delve deeper into the IGF ecosystem, often via regional events, backed by networks or mentors.

However, the research uncovered persistent challenges. Despite the mentoring and opportunities for engagement, many young individuals faced shortcomings in establishing meaningful connections within the community and battled the spectre of tokenism. Identified and involved due to their unique characteristics – like gender or other minority traits, rather than the value of their skills and contributions, they often felt pigeonholed. Such issues could potentially discourage future youth participation and therefore demand sincere recognition and remedies.

Tjahja's study advocates that meaningful participation within policy-making needs redefining. She employed Malcolm's definition as a core reference, emphasising the necessity for a truly democratic legitimacy of multi-stakeholder processes to ensure authentic youth participation, given their crucial role in the development of policies.

Furthermore, she urged for a concentrated focus on engaging other minority groups and the elder demographics. The research denotes ample opportunities for growth within these areas, recognising the need to establish a connection between internet governance and cultural diversity to help reduce inequalities.

Tjahja's study was crucial in highlighting the necessity of understanding cultural nuances and adopting a regional approach in policy-making for facilitating momentous engagement. The use of the European framework in her methodology stood as a testament to her regional approach.

In conclusion, Tjahja's analysis accentuates the need for the IGF to enhance their efforts in guaranteeing inclusive, legitimate youth participation, while circumventing tokenism to fortify institutions and contribute to promoting peace and justice.

Audience

In the recent conference, a multitude of pivotal themes was brought forth, including the paucity of IP addresses, Africa's transition to IPv6, digital colonialism, and the notion of digital sovereignty.

When discussing IP address shortages, the audience fundamentally challenged Jan's suppositions regarding Africa's endeavour to transition to IPv6. Jan's affirmations were disputed, taking into consideration the considerable financial resources required for such a network upgrade. A transition from IPv4 to IPv6 necessitates a significant overhaul of the existing tech infrastructure, an endeavour which might not be financially feasible for numerous African countries. Several participants referenced an existing body of literature on IP address shortages and markets to support this critique.

A key discourse arose around 'digital colonialism', a term that elicited various responses. Audience members sought clarification on this concept, particularly in the context of Africa's tech development and global inequalities. Certain participants questioned whether there were differing conceptions of digital colonialism, and if potential biases might be shaping these perceptions. Digital colonialism was broadly defined as a situation where regulations are set by a dominating entity with insufficient capacity for the rest of the world to engage in negotiation. This encompassed themes of power and market relations, which notably affects the global south's ability to participate in crucial international discussions, such as cyber security and diplomacy.

The concept of digital sovereignty also sparked interest, with Nicola championing two distinct interpretations in his paper. The traditional perspective underscores the right of the state to control digital infrastructures and data flow. In contrast, a more rights-based perspective links to the capability of citizens to influence the digital processes in which they are involved. This juxtaposition raised concerns about the credibility of states and their role in debating digital sovereignty, particularly their capacity to represent a global public interest. This in turn prompted questions about whether states' authority over the digital landscape renders them lesser transparent and accountable.

Alongside these themes, Nadia’s groundbreaking work on developing a participatory research framework for youth participation in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was positively received. The framework aims to ensure inclusivity of underrepresented voices in policy decisions affecting future generations.

Towards the conclusion of the conference, a participant from Queen Mary University of London posed an intriguing question relating to the role of multi-stakeholder platforms. The enquiry sought to comprehend the potential of these platforms to solidify the concept of digital sovereignty, without escalating geopolitical tensions. This reflects the persistent balance between advancing digital inclusivity and avoiding exacerbation of global inequalities.

Jan Aart Scholte

South-based regional internet registries (RIRs), including AFRINIC launched in 2005 with 2,240 members, APNIC introduced in 1993 boasting 7,800 members across 56 territories, and LACNIC established in 2002 with a network of over 12,000 operators across 33 countries, play critical roles in internet governance. Crucially, these RIRs are responsible for tasks such as allocating IP addresses and autonomous systems numbers, offering training initiatives for internet engineers, providing grants for digital innovation, measuring internet usage trends, and implementing cybersecurity measures, all imperative to sustaining the functionality of the internet.

The operation and impact of these RIRs depend significantly on their legitimacy, believed to be extremely important by 84% of respondents. In the absence of legitimacy, resources, public participation, decision-making efficacy, and adherence to rules are typically hindered. Conversely, the presence of legitimacy strengthens mandates, enhances resources, and increases participation, enabling these bodies to function proficiently.

In the global governance arena, it's evident that multi-stakeholder governance structures have expanded considerably, now significantly outnumbering the traditional intergovernmental organisations, whose resources and capacity have remained stagnant or declined in past decades.

One RIR, LACNIC, demonstrated satisfactory leadership in adopting IPv6, ceasing the allocations for IPv4. This strategic move has conferred remarkable advantages in the realm of internet governance. The implementation of IPv6 policies could potentially benefit other RIRs such as AFRINIC, albeit amidst potential obstacles due to technical complications related to internet governance.

However, the interplay of RIRs isn't limited to the mechanics; it is deeply woven with wider social-political and fiscal matters. The knowledge produced by RIRs and their intended audience often bring to the forefront geopolitical and cultural issues, emphasising the expansion of internet governance into wider societal aspects. This is also conspicuous in the context of the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities, subjects of significant economic importance and intrinsically linked with IPv6 deployment.

Nevertheless, inequalities and power imbalances prevail within the digital landscape. The prevalence of digital colonisation presents issues, typified by practices such as ICANN's expensive GTLD application and insurance policies, which seem to favour territories outside Africa and North America. Similar instances can be identified within the cable-laying industry, reflecting contemporary forms of colonialism.

In conclusion, it is essential to recognise and address the inherent inequality and power disparities within internet governance. Understanding these imbalances and striving towards a more equitable digital world is an indispensable task for the future of internet governance, one that spans the spectrum from the technical to the deeply political.

Ramiro Ugarte

The provided analysis offers a comprehensive examination of the myriad perspectives surrounding regulatory threats, focusing essentially on patterns of governance and their relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Of particular emphasis is 'SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions', thereby anchoring the discussion within a global sustainability framework.

Regulatory threats, within the sphere of governance, are perceived as a standard norm. They are generally wielded as a mechanism by public authorities exercising regulatory control over others, striving to guide behaviours and ensure compliance. The exploration surrounding these threats has remained a core area of research since the 1970s, most notably among economists engaged in regulated industries.

Nevertheless, a central paradox embedded within these regulatory threats tends to challenge fundamental rule of law principles, including transparency, accountability, participation, and stakeholder engagement. A central argument posits that, if excessively employed, these threats could potentially undermine such cornerstone principles. They may conversely encroach on individual or corporate rights, verging on illegality or unconstitutionality at times, thus laying the foundation for potential abuse, ultimately fuelling a prevailing power symbiosis between public officials and the entities they regulate.

The discourse also proposed the necessity for empirical research to determine the correlation between regulatory threats and corporate responses. It is suggested that documenting cases of these threats, combined with an analysis of corporate response strategies, could produce invaluable insights. Specifically, comprehending the global context of these threats, extending beyond the ambit of the United States, could equip us with a wider range of perspectives.

The analysis momentarily diverts to examine tendencies within US legal training. It was highlighted that US lawyers frequently lean towards the extensive utilisation of footnotes, a tendency that may be attributable to techniques used within their legal educational framework.

Veering onto the topic of internet governance, it was revealed that discussions and discourses on this subject are relatively scant outside the United States. Despite internet governance possessing universal relevance in our progressively digitised age, it was noted that only a limited volume of research (such as the works of Michael Karanikolas in the contexts of India and Canada) have broached it from non-American perspectives.

In a more granular context, Latin American electoral authorities' successful utilisation of the 'Mexico model' to govern internet companies attracted attention. Reportedly adopted in countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, the effective application of this model may lead the way towards a more proficient governance mechanism for internet firms.

Lastly, the analysis communicated a positive sentiment towards the formalisation of interactions between states and private companies, witnessed in the Digital Services Act (DSA). This formalisation appears as an opportunity for augmenting transparency and documentation, potentially easing the often complex dynamics between states and corporations and perhaps decreasing some regulatory uncertainties.

Speakers

AA

Adio Adet Dinika

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Audience

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Dennis Riedeker

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JA

Jan Aart Scholte

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Moderator

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Nadia Tjahja

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Nicola Palladino

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Ramiro Ugarte

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Stephanie Arnold

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