Speaking on a panel on Internet Governance and Digital Cooperation at the annual IGF conference, Fabrizio Hochschild, Under-Secretary-General of the UN, put out a stern warning against the internet becoming too divided. “A fractured internet is a serious threat to the open, free, and safe internet that was envisioned by its Founding Fathers”, Hochschild said.
The high-ranking official drew a line between the issues of digital cooperation and climate change, among other things. “Cooperation at an international level is wanting at the very moment where it is most needed”, Hochschild stated, referring to current global priorities such as climate change and the disparity between the global North and South.
Geographical divides seem to be at the root of the issue for Hochschild: “Europe, America, China, Russia and other countries are generating different, and at times, incompatible sets of rules and regulations and norms. We cannot afford the dangers of incompatible fragmented digital regulations.”
The need for breaking down borders could be one means of achieving the ‘One World, One Net, One Vision’ motto of IGF 2019. Hochschild went on to speak on behalf of those excluded from the digital world: women, ethnic minorities, and in general, the global South.
The future plans of the UN around digital cooperation include the appointment of a technology envoy. This envoy role is still under development with potential responsibilities and powers to be defined.