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NET EFFECTS: an evidence-led exploration of IGF impact

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As the Internet Governance Forum nears its twentieth anniversary, this report takes an evidence-based approach to describe the forum’s main accomplishments since the last World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) review in 2016. The report introduces direct and indirect impacts of the IGF, and outlines specific wins for the Global South. Entering into the next round of WSIS negotiations the report expects to inform discussions about the forum’s renewal and mandate going forward.
Publication summary

In this report, the DNS Research Federation sets out to explore ways in which the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)  has delivered value and impact. The report hones in on the period 2016-2023, following the latest World Summit of the information Society (WSIS) Review of 2016 and expects to inform negotiations in the forthcoming WSIS+20 review in 2025. Taking an evidence-based approach, findings are based on nearly 50 interviews with IGF participants and large-scale text analysis of over 1,000 IGF public documents and meeting materials.

The report found that the IGF has had lasting direct and indirect impacts on the development of the Internet and Internet-related policies across the world. The IGF has served as a crucial connection point for policymakers, business, technologists, activists and academics; acts as the centre of an international ecosystem where other Regional and National IGFs both feed up and pull down from the annual global meeting; and has provided a national, regional and global voice to individuals and groups that would otherwise have struggled to have their concerns or perspectives heard.

Examples of direct impact include:

  • being a key driver in the growth of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs);
  • serving  as a catalyst for community connectivity;
  • consolidating as a global ecosystem of knowledge sharing; and 
  • nurturing the next generation of Global South leaders. 

Examples of direct indirect impact include:

  • having the necessary responsiveness and flexibility to reflect the issues of the day while also maintaining a focus on perennial issues, such as Human Rights and Internet access;
  • paving the way for the successful conclusion of one of the most contentious Internet governance topics: transition of the IANA functions; and 
  • shaping high-profile policy discussions, for example, on online harms.

In addition, an analysis of IGF participation data shows that the forum offers a venue for Global South participants to engage actively in global conversations on Internet governance. 

IGF participants show great appreciation for the IGF and for its continued existence. In the words of one interviewee for this study: ‘If we didn’t have the IGF, we would have to invent it’.

The report was produced thanks to the support of the UK’s Department of Science, Technology and Innovation.

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First published on
27th March 2024

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