Organizer 1: Gloria Nzeka, University of Maryland
Organizer 2: Jongen Hortense, VU Amsterdam / University of Gothenburg
Organizer 3: Jan Aart Scholte, 🔒
Organizer 4: Nahema Nascimento Falleiros Barra de Oliveira, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Speaker 1: Carolina Aguerre, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Nii Narku Quaynor, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 3: Anriette Esterhuysen, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Akinori MAEMURA, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Debora Christine, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Jan Aart Scholte, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Gloria Nzeka, Civil Society, African Group
Jongen Hortense, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Round Table - 90 Min
A. What role do South-based regional multistakeholder Internet governance bodies play in narrowing the global digital divide? B. In what ways can South-based regional multistakeholder bodies empower low-income countries and other marginalized groups in global Internet governance? C. How can South-based regional multistakeholder Internet governance bodies promote inclusive participation from a variety of stakeholders in its governance processes? D. What are lessons learnt from the South-based RIRs’ approach to Internet governance that can be used in other development areas? How can potential challenges to the RIR system be overcome?
What will participants gain from attending this session? Three benefits in particular stand out. First, the session will raise awareness, as very little research and no previous IGF session (to our knowledge) have examined the South-based RIRs. Second, the session will generate new conversations, in the form of South-South multistakeholder exchanges about redressing digital divides with inclusion through AFRINIC, APNIC and LACNIC. Third, this unprecedented dialogue will generate novel evidence, insights, and lessons about combatting the digital divide in global Internet governance. Participants will become aware of the opportunities as well as the challenges facing South-based RIRs as channels for closing divides and fostering inclusion in global Internet governance.
The North-South digital divide constitutes one of the greatest challenges to the legitimacy of global Internet governance. What can regional multistakeholder initiatives in the Global South contribute to overcoming this divide and enhancing inclusion? The regional internet registries (RIRs) constitute a vital part of global Internet governance. By taking a multistakeholder approach, they oversee the distribution of Internet numbers (IP addresses) and handle associated questions about internet access, content control, data protection, and cybersecurity in their respective regions. As such, the RIRs are uniquely placed to address the digital divide and inclusion in Internet governance. This is particularly the case for the three RIRs that are located in the global south: AFRINIC (for the Africa region), APNIC (for the Asia-Pacific region), and LACNIC (for the Latin America-Caribbean region). Yet, despite their innovative approach to Internet governance (in the sense of being regional, South-based, and multistakeholder), little is known about how far these bodies promote a more inclusive and sustainable digital development and what lessons they might hold in this regard for wider Internet governance. This workshop brings together a diverse group of experts and participants in the South-based RIRs to discuss these matters. The session will open with a 15-minute presentation of a recent project, carried out by a global research team across four continents, on regional multistakeholderism in the South-based RIRs as a way to achieve greater inclusion in global Internet governance. Thereafter a group of expert commentators respond to these findings (20 minutes); the audience raises further questions and comments (20 minutes); the panelists respond to each other and the audience contributions (15 minutes); the audience shares their experiences with the South-based RIRs as channels of inclusion in Internet governance (15 minutes).
The outcome of the workshop will be a report that summarizes the various perspectives expressed during the roundtable discussion. It will also present an overview of lessons learnt and concrete suggestions on how the RIR system can contribute to narrowing the global digital divide. The report will not only summarize the views of the invited speakers but also reflect upon questions, comments, and suggestions from the audience. We will share the report with the leadership, staff, and respective communities of the RIRs for their consideration, and make the document publicly available e.g., via social media.
Hybrid Format: The roundtable will ensure an engaging hybrid strategy in various ways. Three out of four organizers of this workshop will be attending the session online. One of them will act as online moderator and ensure that questions and comments from online participants can be shared and will be given careful attention during the session. Members of the organizing team are fluent in four of the most widely spoken languages in the RIRs (English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish) and participants are welcome to share their views or ask questions in languages other than English. If the online platform allows for this, we might use polls or other interactive tools to ensure that both on-site and online audiences are actively engaged in the discussions.
The south-based Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) play an important role in the Internet ecosystem, not only by managing critical Internet resources, but also by promoting wider digital development with training, grants, measurement, community networks, and institution building. AFRINIC, APNIC, and LACNIC can thereby contribute significantly to narrowing the north-south digital divide.
Among the strengths of a regional, bottom-up approach is that it helps promote participation from diverse south-based local communities and stakeholders, enabling them to engage in policymaking in their own context, language and time-zone. Multistakeholderism can be adjusted to meet the specific circumstances in the regions. Important discussions are taking place on ways and extents that the RIRs are multistakeholder (and whether they should be).
Several participants argued that, to respond effectively to challenges facing the RIR system, it is necessary to have a) more (formalized) collaboration among the different stakeholder groups within an RIR; b) more mutual support among the RIRs, including through the NRO; and c) more extensive relations between the RIRs and the wider Internet ecosystem. Reforms to the RIRs’ policy procedures and governance structures might also be considered.
The legitimacy and effectiveness of the RIR system is partly shaped by the extent to which it can attract participation from diverse stakeholder and social groups. Multistakeholderism is praised for being open; however, more awareness needs to be created about opportunities for participation in the RIRs, especially from non-technical constituencies.
Bringing together a diverse group of experts from different stakeholder groups and geographical regions, this workshop session focused on the role of South-based regional multistakeholder Internet governance bodies in narrowing the global digital divide. Most of the discussion addressed the three Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) located in the South: AFRINIC (for the Africa region), APNIC (for the Asia-Pacific region), and LACNIC (for the Latin America-Caribbean region). The session opened with a presentation of a recent research project on legitimacy in the South-based RIRs and subsequently explored the following questions:
- What role do South-based regional multistakeholder Internet governance bodies play in narrowing the global digital divide?
- In what ways can South-based regional multistakeholder bodies empower low-income countries and other marginalized groups in global Internet governance?
- How can South-based regional multistakeholder Internet governance bodies promote inclusive participation from a variety of stakeholders?
- What lessons from the South-based RIRs’ approach to Internet governance can be used in other development areas?
- How can potential challenges to the RIR system be overcome?
Summary of the Session
Many speakers and participants at this workshop session emphasized the importance of the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) in the Internet ecosystem. Not only do the RIRs manage several critical Internet resources (IP addresses and Autonomous Systems Numbers); they also promote wider digital development with training, grants, measurement, community networks, and institution building. Through these efforts, the South-based RIRs (AFRINIC, APNIC, and LACNIC) contribute to narrowing the North-South digital divide and can serve their communities beyond a narrow technical mission. Contributions additionally elaborated how the South-based RIRs shape wider Internet governance through their representation at, and collaboration with, other Internet governance actors, strengthening southern voices in these spaces.
Speakers and commentators at the workshop emphasized the importance of taking a regional, bottom-up approach to policymaking. This approach promotes participation from diverse South-based local communities and enables them to engage in policymaking around the Internet in their own context, language, and time-zone. As one of the speakers mentioned: regional multistakeholderism in the RIRs ‘brings closer to home the idea of a global Internet.’
Some diversity of perspectives emerged regarding the role of multistakeholderism in the RIRs. Several speakers discussed how the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance can be adjusted to meet the specific circumstances of the region. Other speakers and participants from the audience raised questions as regards the ways and extents to which the RIRs can be considered to have a multistakeholder character, as well as whether they should do so. These exchanges touched upon larger debates as to what the multistakeholder approach entails, how structured it should be, and what values these governing initiatives should embody. Some contributions mentioned that taking an inclusive and bottom-up approach might be more important than taking a multistakeholder approach.
There appears to be consensus that diverse participation (in terms of stakeholder-, social- and regional groups) is important for the RIRs and partly shapes the legitimacy and effectiveness of these bodies. While multistakeholderism is praised for being open, more awareness needs to be created about opportunities for participation in the RIRs, especially from non-technical constituencies. The door to participation may be open, but different stakeholders need to be aware that the door is open.
Finally, many contributions touched upon the challenges that the RIR system is currently facing and how to address these. Suggestions include:
- More (formalized) collaboration among the different stakeholder groups within the RIRs;
- More mutual support among the RIRs, including through the Number Resource Organization (NRO);
- More extensive relations between the RIRs and the wider Internet ecosystem;
- Reforms to the RIRs’ policy procedures (e.g. the bylaws) and governance structures, depending on community support for such measures.