Online-Conference on Digital Fragmentations and Digital Sovereignty

Date and Time

Friday, Sep. 17, 2021, 2:00 p.m. – Saturday, Sep. 18, 2021, 5:30 p.m. CEST

Event Location

Online-Event via Zoom 


Recently, there has been a steady global trend towards “digital sovereignty” and “data localization”. Tensions are therefore rising between the vision of an open, global Internet and state tendencies to invoke sovereignty in cyberspace. Data localization requirements could even lead to a splinternet with many regional systems, which could further deter innovation regarding a wider variety of data-utilizing sectors. Accordingly, the idea of the fragmentation or Balkanization of the Internet began to play a growing role in debates on global Internet governance. This debate, however, does not solely cover the Internet as an infrastructure but also considers geopolitics, national jurisdictions, and a power struggle about the future of global governance.


This conference advances theorizations and conceptual understandings of digital sovereignty and fragmentations in cyberspace. To take up the challenge of understanding the problem of digital fragmentation and its relation with the notion of “digital sovereignty”, it is essential to theorize the degree to which the Internet is either unified or fragmented, which parts of the Internet are fragmenting, and which actors and processes are causing the fragmentation. The new digital spheres are perhaps only superficially reminiscent of earlier versions of geopolitics. Although these spheres are no digital containers, major economic-legal regions (such as China, the EU, North America, India) create their own regulatory spaces with different rules and norms for digital technologies and datafication businesses (i.e. cloud services). The Chinese ‘great firewall’, the ‘clean network’ program of the U.S., and the EU’s data protection law represent such spheres. As protectionism, polarization, and the power of platforms are growing simultaneous to the lack of shared imaginaries, this threatens not only the promise of a joined Internet of Things (IoT) but also undermines the potential for progressive digital policy agendas

Schedule of the conference

17 September 2021

14:00-19:00 PM (Central European Summer Time)

08:00-13:00 AM (US Eastern Daylight Time)

20:00 PM-01:00 AM (Beijing Time)

Welcome & Greetings

  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Dohmen, Speaker of the Transdisciplinary Research Area "Individuals, Institutions and Societies" of the University of Bonn


  • Prof. Dr. Milton L. Mueller, Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Public Policy: "Against digital Sovereignty? Cyber-Fragmentation and the contested future of cyberspace"

Discussion & Moderation

  • Prof. Dr. Maximilian Mayer, University of Bonn
  • Prof. Dr. Philipp Staab, Humboldt University of Berlin: "Technopolitics of AI made in Europe"
  • Prof. Dr. Yu Hong, Zhejiang University: "China’s Globalizing Internet: Towards future politics of the cybersphere"
  • Dr. Lloyd G. Adu Amoah, University of Ghana: "Africa, Power and Global Internet Governance: A Ghanaian Perspective"
  • Prof. Dr. David Tyfield, Lancaster University: "Does the vision of a global, open Internet and state’s digital sovereignty contradict each other?"
  • Dr. jur. Katharina Kaesling, University of Bonn: "EU Private International Law and Digital Sovereignty: Data Protection, AI and Underlying EU Policies"

Moderator: Dr. Ying Huang, University of Bonn


  • Prof. Dr. Yik-Chan Chin, Schlool of Journalism and Communication of Beijing Normal University: "A Comparative analysis of data sovereignty policies in China and the EU"
  • Dr. Sven Herpig, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung: "Cybersecurity and Digital Sovereignty"
  • Dr. Mischa Hansel, Dr. Jantje Silomon and Emilia Neuber, IFSH in Hamburg: "Cybersecurity as a Global Public Good: Revisiting the Internet Fragmentation Debate"
  • Dr. Scott Robbins, University of Bonn: "Data Localization. A bad solution to the urgent problem of re-gaining digital sovereignty"
  • Yasmin Al-Douri, TUM School of Governance: "(Defect) Democracies in the Digital Age: Does Surveillance Capitalism push Democracies to Digital Authoritarianism?"

Moderator: Denise Feldner, Bridgehead Advisors


18 September 2021

13:00-17:20 PM (Central European Summer Time)

07:00-11:20 AM (US Eastern Daylight Time)

19:00-23:20 PM (Beijing Time)

  • Jasmin Haunschild and Prof. Dr. Christian Reuter, Technical University of Darmstadt: "De-Securitizing Critical Infrastructure with Volunteer Cyber Forces"
  • Prof. Dr. Iris Eisenberger, University of Graz: "Sovereignty through Digital Applications? The Example of Blockchain Technology"
  • Dr. Daniel Lambach, Goethe University Frankfurt: "Don’t Panic! Digital Sovereignty and the Everyday Fragmentation of the Internet"
  • Dr. Laura C. Mahrenbach, Technical University of Munich, andProf. Dr. Maximilian Mayer, University of Bonn: "Digital Polarity Theory"
  • Prof. Dr. Rogier Creemers, Leiden University: "The Great Normalization: How Digital Sovereignty is Ending the End of History"

Moderator: Nicolas Huppenbauer, University of Bonn


  • Prof. Dr. Cuihong Cai, Fudan University: "The Fragmentation of Global Internet Governance: Features and Underlying Causes"
  • Dr. William J. Drake, Columbia Institute for Tele-Information, Columbia Business School, Columbia University: “Internet Fragmentation and the Global Governance of Digital Trade”
  • Yen-Chi Lu, University of Bonn: "Results from the 2020 Data Fragmentation Index: Emerging Pattern Within the Landscape of Data Regulations"
  • Prof. Dr. Josephine Wolff, The Fletcher School of Tufts University: "The Broadening Scope of Digital Sovereignty: When National Laws Have Global Impact"
  • Katharin Tai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Graham Webster, Stanford University: "The United States and China: Technology, Connectivity and Interdependence"

Moderator: Dr. Mischa Hansel, IFSH in Hamburg

Closing Remarks (17:05-17:20 CEST)


Further details

funded by the Transdisciplinary Research Area “Individuals, Institutions and Societies” (TRA 4) of the University of Bonn

This event was held in English

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