Human Rights Internet Governance

The IGF 2014 Fragmentation Track


The risk of the fragmentation of cross-border online spaces and underlying technical architecture of the Internet raises increasing concerns among policy makers, business, civil society and the technical community. The Internet Society (ISOC), the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Internet & Jurisdiction Project are organizing three workshops on this issue at the Internet Governance Forum 2014, which will take place from September 2-5, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Together, the three sessions will help frame the broader debate and shed light on complementary perspectives on the risk of fragmentation: What are the processes that could lead to fragmentation, what are the broader costs associated with fragmentation and how can cooperation regimes be developed to prevent fragmentation?

Tuesday, September 2 • 9:00am – 10:00am, Room 8 (Internet Society)

WS112: Implications of post-Snowden Internet localization proposals

Following the 2013-2014 disclosures of large-scale pervasive surveillance of Internet traffic, various proposals to “localize” the Internet have started to emerge. Examples include mandatory requirements for global Internet platforms to build local data centers to serve local populations. While localization of data and traffic routing strategies can be powerful tools for improving Internet experience for end-users, less optimal choices may be made in reaction to external factors. How can we judge between Internet-useful versus Internet-harmful localisation and traffic routing approaches? What are the implications of such measures on the way the Internet works, the ability to innovate online and for users’ rights?

Wednesday, September 3 • 5:00pm – 6:00pm, Room 9 (CIGI)

WS63: Preserving a Universal Internet: The Costs of Fragmentation

As Internet governance and Internet-related public policy issues rise to the top of the international political agenda, a variety of states are exploring measures that may lead, deliberately or inadvertently, to Internet fragmentation.This session will attempt to scope the economic, social, international political, cultural and educational costs associated with Internet fragmentation.

Thursday, September 4 • 2:30pm – 4:00pm, Room 2 (Internet & Jurisdiction Project)

WS97: Will Cyberspace fragment along national jurisdictions?

This session will focus on the challenge to determine applicable law(s) on the Internet, as multiple laws coexist in shared cross-border online spaces. In the absence of appropriate frameworks, uncoordinated national approaches proliferate. A resulting legal competition could have unintended consequences and result in cyberspace fragmentation. How can a multi-stakeholder framework be developed that ensures transnational due process, transparency and interoperability to diffuse tensions through cooperation?

Instructions about Remote Participation will be published by the UN on September 1 at In addtion, webcasts will also be available at

About the organizers:

Centre for International Governance Innovation

The Centre for International Governance Innovation is an independent, non-partisan think tank focusing on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports academic research and advances both national and international policy debate by generating ideas for the improvement of multilateral governance. In early 2014, CIGI, along with Chatham House, established the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG). The Commission is chaired by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. Over the next two years, the GCIG will bring together senior scholars, policymakers, and public figures to deliberate on the major issues in Internet governance. The GCIG is supported by a Research Advisory Network, which is composed of some of the world foremost experts on various aspects of the Internet and Internet governance.  Twitter: @ourinternetGCIG

Internet & Jurisdiction Project

The Internet & Jurisdiction Project facilitates a global multi-stakeholder dialogue process to address the tension between the cross-border Internet and geographically-defined national jurisdictions. Launched in 2012, it provides a neutral platform for states, business, civil society and international organizations to discuss the elaboration of a transnational due process framework to handle the digital coexistence of diverse national laws in shared cross-border online spaces. Twitter: @IJurisdiction

Internet Society

A global, cause-driven organization, the Internet Society is a leading advocate for the ongoing development of the Internet as an open platform that serves the social, economic, and educational needs of people throughout the world. Founded in 1992 by several Internet pioneers, the Internet Society works in the areas of technology, policy, and development to promote an open, accessible Internet for everyone. A shared vision of keeping the Internet open unites the 60,000 individuals, more than 100 Chapters, and more than 150 Organizations around the world that are members of the Internet Society. Together, we represent a worldwide network focused on identifying and addressing the challenges and opportunities that exist online today and in the years ahead.  Twitter: @internetsociety

Growing the Internet Internet Governance Technology

No Small Island Developing State is an Island

In the aftermath of IGF 2013, whether you participated remotely or in person or are currently rummaging through the workshop videos and transcripts, you are likely solidifying your takeaways. Will IGF be another talkshop or will it make a fundamental difference to your work, your community, your region? In the SIDS of Trinidad and Tobago, work continues, striving to make ICT interventions applicable, meaningful and a real difference to people’s lives. By its very definition a SIDS, a small island developing state is an island but the isolated nature that an island geography connotes was powerfully challenged by the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Roundtable at the IGF which brought together voices from all over the world to collaborate on shared experiences, challenges and insights.

Workshop # 33, SIDS Roundtable: The Broadband (Access) Dilemma was organised by ISOC Trinidad and Tobago Chapter with partnership and alliance with colleagues oceans away from the Pacific Islands ISOC Chapter (PICISOC).  It was a followup from another SIDS discussion at IGF 2012 that sought to bring SIDS issues to the main agenda of the IGF and foster collaboration among islands from regions strewn across the globe. In the early Bali morn, on the fringes of the agenda before any other workshop was carded to start, a few SIDS converged then the tide swelled as representation from interest groups from Islands and remote regions across sectors, Government, Private Sector, Academia, Civil Society across the world converged. This was in many ways, IGF at its best, an opportunity for shared interests across the globe to converge in shared interests that can challenge a singular view or an isolated perspective and widen the scope of possibility.

It was a very meaningful example for me on the power of getting people from different SIDS, different remote regions across the globe and uprising their voices to the main agenda. On a very personal level, my PhD project at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is a study situated in Trinidad and Tobago but it is part of an ARC Linkage study of the Pacific that to me gives real testament for the potential of this global collaboration among SIDS. Local specificities of context are real but the SIDS Roundtable at IGF gave voice to the many shared issues between islands territories such as the Cook Islands and Chuuk (Micronesia) and together with colleagues from Australia, New Zealand and beyond expanded this to the shared experiences with the remote rural.

This isn’t a blog so much about the Broadband Access Dilemma that the workshop broached. That is an important topic of course. See the webcast, get involved in the discussion and share solutions. This is a blog on a takeaway from IGF on the Dilemma of going away to corners of the world and working in little pockets when there is so much insight, so many experiences and best and worst practices that could make your work more successful, more meaningful. IGF succeeds in a measure if it can create linkages and strong ties that make possible concrete change to the work in different regions based on learnings from others who have or are facing similar issues. If someone in an island in Trinidad and Tobago can benefit from the experiences of or lend some assistance to someone in the Pacific then there is a real tangible takeaway from IGF. If there is a network built where people in across the globe can ask a question, start a discussion, work on a solution with someone from separated by something as small as an ocean then IGF makes a powerful success. If people can have their voices however small heard, if people leave with a conceptual shift that allows them to create a better reality in their own niche then the IG ecosystem is working.

Growing the Internet Internet Governance Open Internet Standards Women in Tech

What place for Women as Software Developers?

At the 8th IGF, i had the great opportunity to be part of a panel discussing Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) opportunities for developing countries and empowering women. The later is something still missing from a lot of discussions at the IGF, in spite of a series of efforts to make that part of the agenda. But here is why this is so important, in particular for the region I know best, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

While gender gap in access to internet varies massively around the world, for the largest part of developing countries the percentage of women online is far lower than that of men online. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, approx. 30 % fewer women than man have access to internet. According to the recent Women and the Web report, the reverse is happening in countries like France and the US, where women tend to be more present online than men. Yet, in places like sub-Saharan Africa,  these gaps are larger than 45%. At the global level, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women are not connected to the internet at all, making this group 25% less likely to be online. In this regard, it is important to look beyond the availability of the connection itself and to take into account also the affordability of price, since this is one of the obstacles in accessing the internet. Currently, for the Commonwealth of Independent States, the price of the average broadband monthly subscription of 7.3% of the annual per capita income, with great disparities between the rural and the urban areas, in terms of broadband availability, but also connected to the gender roles in the house (the head of the family usually bringing the money and deciding on its allocation).

Apart from the physical connection that facilitates access to the internet, there’s also a need to investigate the engagement of women with the use and development of software. As we know, software is not neutral but rather gendered in both design and use embedding a series of behavioural standards. In 2006, according to a study of the European Commission, only 1.6% of all FOSS developers in the EU were women. This is lower than 2%, which compared to proprietary software, makes a big difference, since for the later women engagement reached 28% of the same time period that the survey covered in order to illustrate the situation.

The FOSS community has a lot to gain from the different approaches that women might take to software development. However, this potential is almost completely sidelined by a series of challenges posed to women developers. First, the main pressure is thinking through the cycle of disparities to ensure that technology is developed within and keeping in mind the community at large, and this is also thinking at those who need it more – low income and rural populations. The second challenge would be overcoming the restrictive gender norms in certain part of the world, and going beyond the myth of techno phobia, that women are less technological savvy than men are.  In this case, developing a context that is fostering women’s involvement would be probably the most fruitful avenue for helping out with increasing the no. of women in FOSS. And there is a 4th challenge, that is that of including more women in decision and policy-making processes, as women are able to speak to a different audience, think through the challenges posed to the larger communities, look at the benefit for the next generations, as well as bringing diversity and innovate in unexplored ways if given a seat at the table and a voice in the process.

At the same time, women empowerment, understood as the capacity to alter structural conditions, in order to govern oneself in the best interest, presupposes that women are not treated as a monolithic group, as being all the same, but rather need to be as a diverse group, revealing the differences across cultures. In the CIS, there is a configuration of structural conditions that reflect both the potential and the pitfall of advancing women empowerment in FOSS. On the one hand, there are very high literacy rates, with only slight variation by gender and almost the entire population being literate in these countries. On the other hand, the computer education lags behind, with the materials taught in school being, most of the times, basic or even outdated, meaning that those who look into doing a career in developing software need to do a lot of work independently.

Third, there is also the context of limited windows of opportunity for consistent and sustainable involvement of women, so even though there might be certain initiatives to involve women more in FOSS, they tend to be one-shot initiatives rather than long-term processes.

I  turn now to policy directions and some potential mechanisms for women empowerment in FOSS. In the first place, there is a need to rethink the learning orientation, from this independent focus to a community thinking. Women tend to be more inclined to participate if they are made aware of the benefits for their communities, their families, their grandchildren. And they tend to work better in groups rather than by themselves – and this is one of the things that does happen in the FOSS community, yet it seems to be dominated by people who are specializing in computer technology from an early age – women, on the other hand, tend to start quite late. In the FOSS community there is the need to work by yourself quite a lot, which might be one of the obstacles preventing women from engaging more, as they might be more community-oriented.

In the second place, there is a need for an integrated approach that would go beyond just singling out women and creating spaces for women only, but actually interacting more with men and teaching also men about what it means to have women involved in FOSS processes. And third, there is a need to create a policy-making infrastructure that gives priority also to women in particular as FOSS is becoming more and more used for governmental operations and it might become the standard in the future for gov websites. There is an urgent need to involve women in such processes, reaching out to segments of the population that might have differentiated needs that might have been unaccounted for so far.

Last but not least, there is a need to sustainable initiatives, that should be ensured constant support and which would foster innovation. I hope we can all work towards this in the post-2015 development agenda.

Human Rights Internet Governance

Protect the Open Internet, Protect Your Freedom

Although the Internet’s original architects likely did not intentionally conceive the Internet as a tool to advance human rights, the principles they built into its design support basic participatory ideals.
In many ways, the Internet has proven to be a powerful tool for promoting the potential of a more open and inclusive society. In some parts of the world, the Internet has encouraged lively participatory social development, promoted access to and sharing of information and knowledge, fostered online cultural diversity and enabled a vast array of new services based on the Internet, including e-learning, e-health, and e-government.
When the Internet is unrestricted and widely available, it enables users to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers, in ways that were not possible before. The network has shown its potential to become a key enabler for realizing the ideal of freedom of expression and information, set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) more than 60 years ago.
From the beginning, the Internet’s creators understood that – in the absence of open, global and interoperable standards – we would likely have a set of fragmented and incompatible networks, isolated and unable to communicate among each other. The Internet’s global nature is sustained by what we call Open Standards: communication protocols, data exchange formats and interface that allow different computers and networks to exchange information. They are the language of the Internet, empowering users to communicate with one another through the network. Like other languages, Internet standards should not be owned, but be freely used by anybody; anyone should be able to contribute to their evolution (read about why The Internet Didn’t Happen by Accident).

All of these manifestations of “openness” have to be considered as interdependent andmutually reinforcing in a virtuous circle. Technical, economic, societal and politicaldimensions of the Internet are closely intertwined and interrelated.

In line with this ideal, the Mission Statement of the Internet Engineering Task Force – the community which is the home of this technical development – highlights the fundamental value of an open model by stating: “We embrace technical concepts such as decentralized control, edge-user empowerment and sharing of resources, because those concepts resonate with the core values of the IETF community. These concepts have little to do with the technology that’s possible, and much to do with the technology that we choose to create.”

Although these words were written to describe the technical context, today they accurately reflect the aspirations of many Internet users for the societal communities that they choose to create.
Of course, while these features without any doubt have a positive impact, there are also downsides to Internet openness; the same technology that is used to foster free expression can also be used to repress it when it is considered inconvenient or dangerous to the status quo. As we witnessed with recent surveillance events, it can also be used in ways that undermine users’ privacy expectations.
It is therefore our responsibility to protect our Internet and to protect our freedoms by making sure the Internet remains open and fosters vibrant and inclusive societies.
The Internet Society is currently engaging on this issue and others in cooperation with other stakeholders at the Internet Governance Forum 2013.

Read more:

The Value of Openness for a Sustainable Internet by InternetSociety