Listening To the Opinion of the Global South Is Necessary To Prevent Web Fragmentation

Listening To the Opinion of the Global South Is Necessary To Prevent Web Fragmentation

On October 11, on the sidelines of the UN Internet Governance Forum, the Center for Global IT-Cooperation held the 'Scramble for Internet: you snooze, you lose' session, dedicated to the problems of Internet fragmentation.

Listening To the Opinion of the Global South Is Necessary To Prevent Web Fragmentation

The session was attended by Olga Makarova, Director of the MTS Commercial Resource Management Department, Milos Jovanovic, President of OpenLink Group (Serbia), Roberto Zambrana, Head of ISOC Bolivia, Barrack Otieno, Trustee of the Kenya ICT Action Network and the Dot Africa Foundation and Vadim Glushchenko, Director of the Center for Global IT-Cooperation. The moderator was Roman Chukov, Chairman of the Board of the Center.

"Any attempt to confiscate IP addresses from one or more states can lead to horrific consequences for the Internet. We will face deep structural fragmentation. We will see a real "Splinternet" (split Internet) without trust, unique identifiers, it will lose its global nature," Olga Makarova warned at the beginning of her speech.

She also proposed for the first time to use mathematical rather than verbal apparatus in assessing the risks of fragmentation in each key area. The formation of mathematical models for assessing fragmentation risks is proposed to be carried out taking into account technical, commercial and political factors that may affect fragmentation as parameters. In turn, technical, commercial and political factors are proposed to be assessed taking into account their distribution, influence, focus and nature. This will make it possible to form a more accurate and unambiguously definable assessment of fragmentation threats, to minimize the uncertainty of concepts that everyone interprets the term "multistayholder" in their own way today. In her opinion, without the use of mathematical models, conscious monitoring of fragmentation threats and combating them is not possible.

Barrack Otieno noted that it is important for the Global South that the principles of Internet design are taken into account in matters of fragmentation. Among other things, there is another serious problem in those countries – Internet outages and network failures. Either because the equipment fails, or because of the low level of training in the field of information security. "We see that the areas where multiple Internet outages are observed do not have established network management mechanisms. I am referring to national forums or opportunities for organizing discussions like this, which bring together interested parties to discuss on an equal basis issues affecting the development of the Internet in specific jurisdictions. I would add that it is important for all interested parties to pay close attention to their roles and responsibilities in any country," he concluded.

Roberto Zambarana added that another type of fragmentation, which has a particularly strong impact on the Global South, is related to business models of providing Internet services: access to the network is limited by the high cost of communication. "In fact, the main problem is, of course, the lack of action. Whether it comes from the government, from the private sector, or even from civil society, the problem is that this inaction prevents a huge number of people from feeling part of a global society, connected to the world via the Internet," he said.

In his speech, Milos Jovanovic pointed out that infrastructure is one of the components of fragmentation. Since each state wants to protect its citizens, it not only requires international IT companies to comply with the laws of the country where they work, but also tries to make sure that the equipment is protected from hacker attacks. And for this, it is necessary to produce equipment and create software independently, in other words, to have technological sovereignty so as not to be dependent on external players.

In the development of the topic of technological sovereignty, Vadim Glushchenko drew attention to the fact that the prevention of Internet fragmentation is an important part of the initiative of the UN Secretary-General on the creation of the Global Digital Compact. In his opinion, the upcoming intergovernmental negotiation process should lay down general principles that are designed to define fair criteria of responsibility for global digital platforms, and give states the opportunity to independently manage national segments of the Internet.

Summarizing, Roman Chukov said that in matters of fragmentation, the world community needs to turn more often to the opinion of the Global South. "We are trying to avoid a situation where fragmentation is the result of a lack of technology and critical infrastructure in developing countries. And for this, it is necessary to promote international cooperation so that all countries have the necessary equipment to maintain a stable Internet connection," he concluded.

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