IGF 2023 WS #445 What is the nature of the internet? Different Approaches

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (05:45 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (06:15 UTC)
WS 2 – Room A

Global Digital Governance & Cooperation
Digital Commons as a Public Good
Role of IGF

Organizer 1: Paula Martins, Association for Progressive Communications - APC
Organizer 2: Yoojin Kim, 🔒

Speaker 1: Peggy Hicks, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 2: David Norman Souter, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Anita Gurumurthy, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Anriette Esterhuysen, Civil Society, African Group


Paula Martins, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization

Online Moderator

Pavitra Ramanujam, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Paula Martins, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization


Debate - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Is access to the internet a right in itself or a tool for the exercise of rights? If we consider internet as a right, what are exactly States obligations in relation to it? What does access mean, who should provide it and which terms? If the internet is a public good, are private sector internet providers concessionaires of a public service? What are the implications in terms of shared infrastructure and others? If the internet is a public good, can States intervene on behalf of “the public interest’’? What are the risks that it poses? How can commons be governed?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants will gain insights into concrete obligations that arise from different governance models for the internet, looking at specific responsibilities and accountability schemes that would apply to different stakeholders, depending on the model adopted.


While the scope of internet governance, and all internet-related policy and regulation grows, and spaces where these matters are discussed proliferate, one topic appears to be, at worst missing, or, at best under emphasised. What is the internet itself? How has it changed? What are its fundamental characteristics? The UNHighCommissionerForHumanRights affirmed that “It may be time to reinforce universal access to the Internet as a human right, and not just a privilege.” Growing recognition of the direct relationship between access to the internet and the exercise of both civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, has been evident in global human rights standard setting spaces. In the 2023 GenevaDeclaration, the internet is referred to as a “global facility available to the public”. The GlobalCommissionOnTheStabilityOfCyberspace put forward the idea of the internet having a “global public core” and proposed the protection of this core as a norm, critical to a secure and stable cyberspace. The UNSG, in his report OurCommonAgenda, refers to both the global commons and global public goods, also referring to the internet itself as a global public good. The report addresses the twin concepts of the global commons and global public goods, pointing out that even without fully “agreed definitions they represent a useful starting point for a serious review of where the global community stands with regard to shared natural or cultural resources”. Are these positions mutually exclusive? In this session we aim at comparing and contrasting pros and cons of each of these approaches. Speakers will debate the specific and very concrete policy implications of these different concepts. Our goal is to contribute to key global debates concerning the governance of digital issues and technologies and the role of the internet and meaningful connectivity in promoting social, environmental and gender justice.

Expected Outcomes

Increased debate about the nature of the internet and very concrete policy implications and recommendations arising from that Promote the definition of more concrete roles and responsibilities of different actors in the digital space Systematic identification and sharing of different values and narratives concerning internet governance Concrete policy recommendations ideas that could be taken on and further developed by participants to input into key global governance discussions underway, including GDP, WSIS+20 and the continued development of human rights standards in this area

Hybrid Format: The workshop is planned as a debate, but the final 30min will be dedicated to an interactive dialogue with speakers, organizers and participants. Remote participants' questions will be prioritised. Online and inperson moderators will engage participants and a pad will be used to collect inputs from online participants, in addition to allowing them to take the mic. Opening remarks - Gov of Chile Introduction - Paula Martins Debate Internet as a human right - Peggy Hicks, director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division at the UN's human rights office Internet as a commons - Anita Gurumurthy, IT for Change Internet as a public good - Luca Belli, FGV Respondents Anriette Esterhuysen - AFRISIG David Souter - ictDevelopment Associates Closing remarks - Valeria Bettancourt