Multiple institutions worldwide discuss more than 600 topics that are directly related to Internet governance. These topics can be grouped into four baskets: cyber security, digital economy, human rights, and technology.


The overall 600+ topics can be grouped into four categories (baskets):

Far-sightedly, the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) had chosen a “broad” definition in 2005. Today, there is hardly any issue in the political, economic or sociocultural sphere that is not somehow related to or influenced by the Internet. In 2003, the “Correspondence Group” of the UNCSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) had compiled a list of roughly 600 topics that could be considered “Internet related public policy issues”.

The terminology introduced at that time has got a broader meaning by now. While “Internet Governance” still is considered a general term, “cyber” is normally used today when referring to security on the Internet (e.g. cybersecurity, cybercrime, cyberterrorism). For economy or human rights issues, the term “digital” prevails (e.g. digital economy, digital transformation, digital dividend, digital divide, digital rights / ministries of the economy, infrastructure, labour and social affairs, development, justice, consumer protection). Private companies prefer the term “eCommerce”, whereas the technical community and academia are still using “Internet Governance”. Additionally, specific national terms have evolved in some countries, such as the German “Netzpolitik” (network policy), which is applied as an umbrella term and covers the political, economic, socio-cultural as well as the technical aspects of Internet Governance.

Today, the Internet in its function as a network of networks connects more than four billion users with roughly ten billion stationary and mobile devices. Since any communication on the Internet uses the same, and thus mutually intertwined, global resources (IP addresses, domain names, root and name servers), all the problems caused by the use of the Internet also are mutually related. On the one hand, technical rules and government regulations on cyber security have an impact on business models and determine to what extent individuals can exercise specific human rights, such as the freedom of expression or the right to privacy. On the other hand technical rules and government regulations designed to grant privacy have an effect on and influence the digital economy and security on the Internet.

Most of the issues of the four baskets (categories) are covered by intergovernmental or non-governmental organisations, bodies or platforms that were set up to process and negotiate the related problems. All in all, the Internet Governance ecosystem is composed of more than 50 such organisations, bodies and platforms. Since there is no central or mutual coordination, overlaps and duplications in their work are inevitable.

Cyber Security

Cyber security is dealt with primarily at UN level, and in particular by the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. Two so-called “Groups of Governmental Experts” have been established under the supervision of this Committee. Their respective responsibilities are a) general standards of international law on cyber-security (UNGGE), and b) a new generation of autonomous weapon systems (GGECCW). Cyber security issues play a major role at the summits of the G7, the NATO and the BRICS countries. But they are also on the agenda of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, the ITU, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the African Union, Interpol and Europol, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC), the Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS), the Munich Security Conference (MSC), the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE), the WSIS, the IGF and the OSCE. For some topics, there are established negotiation platforms:

  1. Norms and standards for responsible behaviour of states in cyberspace: UNGGE, OSCE, G7, BRICS, GCSC, GCCS, WEF;
  2. Confidence-Building Measures in Cyberspace (CBMs): UNGGE, OSCE, ASEAN, G7, BRICS, GCSC, GCCS;
  3. Measures to protect the so-called public core of the Internet as well as critical infrastructures, such as power plants, hospitals, (public) transport systems and voting system: UN, G7, ICANN/PIT, GCSC, GCCS, MSC, NATO;
  4. Control of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (killer robots) and other Internet-based cyber weapons (LAWS): GGECCW, GCCS;
  5. Dual-use technologies: Wassenaar Arrangement, GCSC, GCCS;
  6. Fight against cybercrime: Council of Europe, Interpol/Europol, GFCE, GCSC, GCCS, WEF, EU, AU;
  7. Fight against the terrorist use of ICTs: UN Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee, Interpol/Europol, GCCS, GCSC, WEF.

Digital Economy

The challenges inherent in the global digital economy are primarily discussed by the G20, the G7 and the WTO. Important roles are assumed by UNCTAD, UNDP, WIPO, UNCITRAL, OECD, the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), the UNCSTD, WSIS, IGF, the International Trademark Association (INTA), ICANN, the Trademark Clearinghouse and others. The main responsibility of the UNCSTD is to follow up the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Through ECOSOC, it reports to the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly. There are various bodies who take charge of specific issues:

  1. Digital trade: G7, G20, WTO, UNCTAD, OECD, WEF, IGF, European Union;
  3. Taxation of digital services: G20, G7, WTO, European Union
  4. Infrastructure development: UN Regional Commissions, ITU, UNCTAD, IGF, WSIS;
  5. Industry 4.0: G20, G7, WEF, IGF, OECD;
  6. Internet of Things : G20, G7, ITU-T, IGF, WEF, OECD, European Union;
  7. Artificial intelligence :G7, IGF, WEF, OECD, European Union;
  8. Protection of intellectual property: WIPO, WSIS, IGF, INTA, OECD, ICANN/Trademark Clearinghouse.

Digital Human Rights

Primarily responsible for dealing with digital human rights is the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) supervised by it. The UNHRC has two Special Rapporteurs, one on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and another on online privacy, who regularly report to the United Nations High Commissioner (HC) and the UN General Assembly. Other bodies and institutions dealing with digital human rights include UNESCO, ILO, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OSCE, WSIS, IGF, the UNDP, UNCSTD, the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), Reporters Without Borders (RWB), APC, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Global Commission on the Future of Work.

There are various bodies who take charge of specific issues:

  1. Access to the Internet: : UNESCO, ITU, WSIS, IGF, APC, ISOC;
  2. Freedom of opinion and expression: HRC, UNESCO, Council of Europe, European Union, OSCE, WSIS, IGF, FOC, RWB, HRW, ISOC;
  3. Fake News & illegal content: UNESCO, Council of Europe, European Union, WSIS, IGF, ISOC
  4. Data protection: HRC, UNESCO, European Union, Council of Europe, UNESCO, WSIS, IGF, FOC, ICANN/Whois;
  5. Right of digital education: HRC, UNESCO, Council of Europe, European Union;
  6. Right to culture: HRC, UNESCO;
  7. Online media: HRC, UNESCO, Council of Europe, OSCE;
  8. Future of work: HRC, ILO - Global Commission on the Future of Work, European Union.


Technical issues are discussed primarily by the so-called I*Organisations, including ICANN, IETF, IAB, ISOC, W3C and the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), as well as by the IGF, but also by cross-national organisations, such as WSIS, ITU and ETSI.

There are various committees and institutions dedicated to specific issues:

  1. IP addresses: RIRs, (IGF, WSIS, ITU);
  2. Domain names: ICANN, (IGF, WSIS, ITU);
  3. Root server system: ICANN/PTI, IGF;
  4. Internet protocols: IETF, W3C, IEEE, 3GPPP, (ITU, ETSI, IGF);
  5. IOT standards: ITU-T SG 20, IGF, WSIS;
  6. Over the top: ITU-T, IGF.