(No.106) Understanding Internet Infrastructure: an Overview of Technology and Terminology

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Workshop Theme: 
Theme Question: 

This workshop provides an introduction to Internet technical and governance terms.

Concise Description of Workshop: 

This workshop builds upon successful previous workshops in Rio, Hyderabad, Sharm El Sheikh, Vilnius, and Nairobi. This workshop has been offered at the very beginning of each IGF, in order to afford new IGF participants an overview of the sometimes-obscure terms of art of the Internet governance and technical communities. The workshop provids an educational, factual backdrop to the policy debates which are the focus of the IGF. Many people in the civil society and intergovernmental spheres whose interest in Internet governance is recent are disadvantaged in fully participating in the policy debate by abstruse technical terminology and concepts. This workshop serves as a layperson's introduction to the topology of the Internet, providing definitions and explanations for key terms like transit, peering, exchange point, root and top-level domain name server, routing and forwarding, and the International Standards Organization's seven-layer protocol model, as well as an overview of the constellation of Internet governance organizations and their respective roles and responsibilities. This background, provided at the very beginning of each year's sessions, gives participants the background to decode the arguments presented in other sessions through the remainder of the week. Each year, this workshop also serves to introduce a number of volunteers who serve as mentors to new participants throughout the week, continuing to answer questions, make introductions, and provide further information. The main purpose of this workshop is to ensure that new attendees' first encounter with the Internet Governance Forum is a warm and welcoming one.

Organiser(s) Name: 


  • Bill Woodcock, Packet Clearing House

  • Jane Coffin, Internet Society


Submitted Workshop Panelists: 


  • Bill Woodcock, Packet Clearing House

  • Nishal Goburdhan, AfriNIC
  • Jane Coffin, Internet Society

  • Liesyl Franz, Consultant


Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Bevil Wooding, Packet Clearing House
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
The majority of participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised
Reported by: 
Bill Woodcock
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

This is an introductory workshop that's conducted each year.  Normally, it's held at the beginning of the first day, and serves to give people an overview of the terms they're likely to hear bandied about over the course of the week.  This time, through some sort of scheduling mishap, it was held near the end of the week, so the questions were much more topical than in past years.  In addition to the usual questions about routing, the domain name system, and Internet governance organizations, we also got questions about the ITU, WCIT, and the short-lived ETNO proposal for settlements.
The prepared content of the workshop remains relatively constant from year to year, since the fundamental principles of the Internet are slow to change.  We cover routing, the domain name system, and the Internet governance organizations, and then engage in Q&A with the floor.

Conclusions and further comments: 

Based on the questions we received, there's substantial interest and a dearth of understanding among at least this subset of IGF participants of the economic principles that underly the Internet's operations.  We will focus more heavily in that area for next year.