IGF 2022 Town Hall #100 Who is being left behind by Internet governance?

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (09:00 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (10:00 UTC)
Caucus Room 11

Round Table - Circle - 60 Min


This session aims to provide a constructive approach to Internet Governance - especially in the Global South - considering how its policies affect organizations and members of social movements. This is because those groups are deeply impacted by this governance but do not always engage - or even understand yet - their construction. In that sense, we would like to discuss paths and methodologies that different stakeholders should develop and take into consideration when supporting and encouraging the engagement of Human Rights organizations and social movements in Internet governance. The relevance of this debate is motivated by the necessity of including voices and viewpoints of agents that do not necessarily work directly in the digital rights' sphere in the building of Internet policies and evolution - which encompasses, for instance, feminist groups as well as human rights and environmental organizations. The session intends to gather qualified and diverse ideas to stimulate the building of an Internet governance that takes into consideration the input of groups that, although affected by Internet policies, are not necessarily engaged in shaping the latter, because they have different duties, mandates and/or face obstacles to do so. In this sense, participants will help to provide input to the challenges faced by non-tech stakeholders, besides cooperating to register cases and examples of difficulties experienced by agents with no Internet and/or tech expertise. The panel will have guiding questions (e.g. Which experiences that encourage and inform the participation of such agents may be taken as a best practice? Is the structure of Internet governance bodies already inclusive for such groups and movements? Which are the main challenges faced by them in those contexts?). The purpose of this activity is, therefore, to think of joint efforts to strengthen this engagement, and increase digital inclusion, especially for minorities and marginalized groups. To this end, specific vulnerabilities in the Global South region will be considered, which encompass digital literacy, connectivity, access, in addition to gender inequity and lack of transparency. In this context, the session also aims to dialogue about how participation may be fostered, in order to build a more democratic Internet governance.

On-site and remote audience will be highly encouraged to participate in the debate, contributing with comments and/or suggestions. The moderator will organize two or more rounds of comments / questions, alternating on-site and online participation and taking into account the sectoral, regional, race and gender balance. Guiding questions will be asked in order to foster audience’s participation, since collective contribution will be the main point of the session. Besides that, it is relevant to mention that this topic interests in a special manner people from the Global South, who will not necessarily be able to attend the event onsite due to the sanitary scenario. Therefore, we intend to publicize the event comprehensively, in order to also gather a significant online audience to the session.


Marilia Gagliardi, Paulo José Lara, and Rafaela de Alcantara - ARTICLE 19 Brazil and South America.


Catalina Moreno, Karisma Foundation, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC);
Vladimir Cortes, Article 19 Mexico and Central America, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC);
Nandini Chami, IT for Change, Civil Society, Asia Pacific Regional Group.

Onsite Moderator

Rafaela de Alcantara, ARTICLE 19 Brazil and South America, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC).

Online Moderator

Paulo José Lara, ARTICLE 19 Brazil and South America, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC).


Marilia Gagliardi, ARTICLE 19 Brazil and South America, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC).



Targets: The proposal is linked to the selected SDGs insofar as it dialogues with the improvement of participation of different stakeholders, from public and private sectors, civil society and social movements in the building of digital policies. With a special focus on the experience of the Global South, the session aims to identify ways to consider demands of marginalized communities in different spheres of Internet governance, since the latter affects them under economic, political and social perspectives.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The multistakeholder model shaped for Internet governance shows itself as probably not sufficient to guarantee that different realities are taken into account. Power asymmetries and gaps between the Global South and North are some of the characteristics that show the limits of the agenda currently developed by the current hegemonic Internet governance stakeholders.

It is necessary to think about technology from the territories and different realities. Additionally, legal frameworks developed within the Global North should not be replied uncritically in other regions. The risk of replicating colonial relations should be taken into consideration. Providing connectivity to the Internet is not sufficient nor mandatory to guarantee digital rights, for instance.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

States and companies should take into consideration meaningful connectivity, in addition to respecting autonomous decisions on how to exercise digital rights, in order to not summarize digital rights in a relationship between companies and consumers. Groups that do not use technology and the Internet traditionally (or at all) should be allowed to participate in this debate as well.

The current Internet governance stakeholders - academia, private sector, government, and companies - should foster the participation in the corresponding debates of social movements and human rights organizations that are underrepresented at that sphere.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The panel took place on December 2nd, from 09:00 to 10:00 (UTC). Its main objective was to provide a constructive approach to Internet Governance. In this context, the session focused on how digital policies affect organizations and members of social movements that deal with vulnerable populations, although those groups do not necessarily participate nor have their voices and demands heard during their formulation.  

The first panelist, Vladimir Cortés, Digital Rights Program Officer at Article 19 Mexico and Central America, pointed out that there is a complexity when it comes to Internet Governance. There are different elements to be considered, namely (i) the multistakeholder nature of Internet Governance, such as the private sector, academia, and technical community; (ii) the decentralized way in which Internet Governance is organized and how it reaches different entities, considering not only the different official forums; (iii) the fluidity of this theme, which constantly changes. Furthermore, there is the issue of overlapping mandates on regulation and governance in this area, which also presents an ambiguity and a lack of a definition in terms of hierarchy. With all this in mind, he pointed out the urge to involve not only the governments in the Internet Governance debate, or stakeholders that represent privileged groups, but the need to also bring the historically marginalized groups and other stakeholders, such as non-professionals, ethnic minorities, women, youth, non-English speakers, people with disabilities, among others. He concluded that there must be an effort to take this debate to a different sphere, through an effectively democratic and inclusive process. 

The second panelist, Nandini Chami (IT for Change Senior Research Associate), spoke about the difficulty in defining the concept of governance, once there are new challenges with the increased use of the Internet that go beyond technical cooperation. In that sense, there is an increase in the use of data and resources, which changes the structures of the economy and society. In this sense, she pointed out that the UN Secretary General has already pointed out the need to deal not only with connectivity and technology, but also with the promotion of human rights, AI regulation and data commons in this new scenario. The issue to be addressed is that this new economy and society agenda ends up being formed by corporations and their interests, which are aggravated by the absence of binding rules, especially for cross border data flows. This can enhance data colonialism and data extractivism, aggravating human rights violations. Although there are forums that seek a multiplicity of points of view, there is a problem related to the fact that large corporations “capture” multistakeholderism, stratifying participation and making their agenda prevail, without considering a truly democratic process. There are ways, however, to change this scenario, by allowing solutions focused on people, and not only on the interests of big tech companies. Additionally, in regard to AI regulation, it is important to consider the needs of the Global South, not just replicating the governance that exists in the Global North, since different regions deal with human rights and cultural identity issues in different ways - especially considering second and third human rights generation and the issue of self-determination. Finally, regarding data commons and their use by big tech companies, the solution encompasses stopping the exclusion of the affected voices and, in this context, there must be a shift in perception, attributing these data as common knowledge that belongs to communities and people, including more people in a more democratic way afterwards.

The final panelist, Catalina Moreno, from Karisma Foundation, enriched the conversation by bringing examples of the scenario in Colombia. She reiterated that, although there is a belief that the Internet should be a free and decentralized environment, this does not happen in practice, since it is not available to everyone, nor does everyone participate in decision-making processes. In the Colombian case, she mentioned 04 cases that demonstrate the exclusion of participation in Internet Governance: (a) the existence of a surveillance system developed by the government via which the police can intercept internet and telephone signals, in addition to allowing agencies to access internet traffic, enabling the capture of communications. This tool has been used to monitor journalists and human rights defenders; (b) during the protests of the last few years, the internet connection was shut down, so that it was not possible for the protesters to report human rights violations. In both cases, the internet was used to monitor and silence human rights violations, without the affected populations being heard or considered in these scenarios; (c) the digitization of various data and services during the Covid-19 pandemic, which did not cover the entire population. Many people (such as indigenous communities) did not have access to connection nor command of Spanish and were not informed in time to participate in public civil activities, so decisions were made excluding such vulnerable groups; (d) finally, the case of civil society organizations that use the internet to disseminate their work, but do not necessarily know how these environments work and how their content may be disseminated. The possible solutions presented were: (i) organizations must  be aware of the challenges of digital environments; (ii) civil society must be able to help to engage the affected populations and take these demands into discussions with the authorities in the creation of governance-related policies; (iii) research-based advocacy should be conducted considering local needs; (iv) civil society should promote and expand regional and international networks to amplify the voices of human rights defenders in digital spaces. (v) authorities should develop and implement models of effective participation that consider the views of different stakeholder groups, including academia, civil society, and the technical community; (vi) there must be a strengthening of knowledge about Internet Governance from a human rights perspective by the Judiciary Branch, when approaching such questions.

After this stage, the floor was open for questions from the audience, both remotely and in person.

The audience engaged with the discussion in a meaningful manner. Questions related to issues about  connecting everyone in the world, considering different areas and communities, were raised and then addressed in a sense of recognizing its relevance but, at the same time, considering the need to respect those who do not want to be connected and their rights

Furthermore, a reflection was made on the structure of governance, considering that some regions and some populations are perceived as consumers of technology, and not producers, keeping them away from the discussion on the real governance of the internet. In this sense, it was considered that it is necessary to democratize the construction of these technologies. The idea of democratizing infrastructure was also endorsed by the panelists.

Even more, a comment was made on how spaces for debates exclude people who do not conform to straight, white and cis standards. It was mentioned that a positive path would be creating multisectoral and intersectional spaces, but it should be observed if such spaces are really representative and not just represent a way to "co-opt" an inclusive speech without actually guaranteeing the effectiveness of this inclusion.

Finally, it is important to highlight that there was a concern with gender issue in this panel, which was reflected both in the panelists (out of the 03 guests, 02 were women from the Global South). In addition, two women were involved in the organization and elaboration of the panel (responsible for the moderation and reporting). This presence fostered the reflection on gender issues in governance, which encompasses the need to not only include women in relevant spaces, but also to think about truly feminists agendas in those areas, so that the corresponding demands are really addressed.