Hands of a guy on laptop keyboard

The demography of the Internet Governance Forum

Published on 06 December 2016
Updated on 19 March 2024

The IGF, like any other ecosystem, has its own demography. As can be seen in the illustration, the IGF ecosystem radiates both ways from the centre that steers the process and from edges that provide new ideas and inputs.

internet governance politics, Internet Governance Forum

Each circle in the IGF demography plays an important role. The Multistakeholder  Advisory Group (MAG), the host organisers, and the Secretariat, are at the core. Together, they ensure coherence and the continuous dynamics of the IGF ecosystem.

Session organisers, in the next circle, are the workhorse of the IGF. They are an essential link between the wider Internet governance community and the MAG. They select topics, recruit speakers, and try to persuade the MAG to accept their proposals. Sometimes they do not succeed. Only 80 of the 273 proposals submitted were accepted for IGF 2016.

Session organisers are the most interesting segment of the IGF demography. While the MAG and session speakers (the other two circles) are selected following gender, stakeholder, and regional quotas, there are no quotas for session organisers. Anyone can propose an IGF session. Thus, their proposals are the most relevant indicator of priorities in the Internet governance debate and how that debate is framed. By analysing who the session organisers are, we can learn a lot about the IGF ecosystem. (Scroll further down for an interactive visualisation with additional data)

Our analysis of the session organisers’ demographics shows that most organisers are from Europe (31.60%) followed by North America (19.60%), and South America (17.20%). Europe’s major  role in IGF activities has been constant since the early days of the IGF process (Athens, 2006).

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By far, civil society is the most active in the IGF ecosystem with 45.20% session organisers. It encompasses wide range of actors from activists organisations in online human rights to academic community. Next on the list is the technical community (28%) while other stakeholders – governments, international organisations, and the business sector – cover less than 10% of session organisers.

diagram, Histogram

The regional distribution of the main stakeholders is proportional. Civil society takes 40–50% in all regions except for the Caribbean and Central America; their share is 30%. The technical community covers 28% with a higher presence among session organisers from Africa and Pacific. A possible explanation is that in these two regions, the technical community still has higher importance for Internet access challenges (international connection, local loops, Internet exchange points). Among governments, the lowest participation is from Africa. In the business sector most of the session organisers come from the United States, the main hub of the Internet industry.

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Balanced gender participation (male – 52.40%; female – 47.60%) is achieved due to higher participation of women in the civil society group. In other stakeholder groups, men are more frequent represented in session organisers.

diagram, Product design

Future research on the IGF ecosystem could look at data from the 274 workshop proposals and the 80 workshops finally selected by the MAG.

This snapshot of IGF demography through a survey of session organisers provides some indications of where future capacity development efforts should be made. A priority would be strengthening the participation of governments, in particular from Africa and Asia.

Like any ecosystem, the future of the IGF ecosystem will depend on achieving a reasonable balance  in IGF demography representing different issues, approaches, and interests. The first successes are there: the IGF has achieved gender balance in an otherwise male-dominated ICT sector. But much more needs to be done.


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