UN Internet Governance Forum

In this post I will discuss what the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is. I will also summarize a Day 2 discussion from the Internet Governance Forum that focused on “The Future of Digital Identity and Human Rights.” This discussion focused on digital identity and the potential problems that accompany digital identity.

Firstly, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was, “One of the most controversial issues at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and at the subsequent WSIS+10 review by the General Assembly in the wake of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.”[1] In this vastly advancing world the United Nations saw fit to ensure that there are proper policies in place for global internet governance. The IGF is uses a multistakeholder approach, which makes it a powerhouse of information sharing. In fact:

“The IGF gives stakeholders from all countries, including developing countries, the opportunity to engage in the debate on Internet governance and it contributes to capacity building, allowing these stakeholders to build knowledge and skills that will facilitate their participation in existing Internet governance institutions and arrangements. Ultimately the involvement of all stakeholders, from developed as well as developing countries, from governments to international organizations, from the private sector to the civil society, is necessary for advancing dynamic public policies in Internet governance.”[2]

Ananta Sharma and Rethink Aadhaar organized this day 2 pannel on digital identity panel. It was filled with academics that began by discussing what they see as a “digital identity” and the major issues that come along with it. The most thorough definition that I found for digital identity was, “A digital identity is an online or networked identity adopted or claimed in cyberspace by an individual, organization or electronic device. These users may also project more than one digital identity through multiple communities.”[3] In simple terms, a digital identity is how you are recognized online. One of the potential problems that was discussed was privacy in terms of digital identity. A creation of a national digital identity has the potential to be a great threat to citizens of a country. Once a person has a digital identity, the government in theory can curtail the freedom of speech / expression by tracking your online speech or even identifying you as a threat to their regime. I found this point to be very powerful because at first glance a digital identity does not seem to be an outwardly negative thing, but if the government uses that digital identity as an oppression tool, it becomes a problem. Especially because when it comes to one’s online footprint, it never truly disappears and can follow you anywhere. I am definitely interested to see where digital identities go in the future and how privacy will play into the policies surrounding digital identities.



[1] https://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/content/about-igf-faqs

[2] ibid

[3] https://www.techopedia.com/definition/23915/digital-identity