IGF 2021 WS #177 From commitment to action: braking barriers to connectivity

Time
Friday, 10th December, 2021 (12:45 UTC) - Friday, 10th December, 2021 (13:45 UTC)
Room
Conference Room 3

Organizer 1: Timea Suto, ICC BASIS
Organizer 2: Ross Creelman, European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO)
Organizer 3: Barbara Wanner, U.S. Council for International Business
Organizer 4: Lise Fuhr, European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO)

Speaker 1: Chris Wilson, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Ana Valero Huete, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Christine Arida, Government, African Group
Speaker 4: Lidia Stepinska-Ustasiak, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Geoff Huston, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 6: Sophie Maddens, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Moderator

Lise Fuhr, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Barbara Wanner, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Rapporteur

Timea Suto, Private Sector, Eastern European Group

Format

Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

Barriers to universal and meaningful access: What are the main challenges that people face in obtaining and making full use of Internet access? To what extent are these the result of social, economic and cultural factors, and to what extent do they result from aspects of the digital environment? How can we use the responses to these questions to better understand the intersection between digital policies and other policy areas? Can this understanding help us to develop and implement more realistic Internet-related policy goals?
Business models and investment: The IGF has frequently addressed the principles, approaches, business models, incentives and coordinated actions by various stakeholders (governments, local authorities, regulators, fixed and mobile broadband Internet service providers, telecom companies, local communities, etc.) to spur investments in connectivity solutions and enable more affordable Internet access in developing countries. What can the IGF do to capture and communicate the emerging consensus resulting from these discussions? What are the barriers to this emerging consensus being implemented and how can they be overcome?

Issues

The imperative to harness the power of technology as a force for good in the world and chart a digital future that works for everyone, everywhere cannot be understated. To this end, enormous progress has been made in the past years to bring all populations online, by both private and public sector actors. There are numerous private venture, intergovernmental agreements and multistakeholder commitments to advance on the shared goal of connecting the unconnected. However, while 93 percent of the world’s population lives within physical reach of mobile broadband or Internet services, only 53.6 percent of the world’s population uses the Internet, leaving an estimated 3.6 billion without access. The least developed countries are the least connected, at only 19 percent of their populations.

Starting from the premise that successful connectivity projects depend on technological, financial and regulatory support, the session aims to identify specific barriers that stand in the way of delivering connectivity to everyone, everywhere.

The objective of this workshop is three-fold: 1. explore the main barriers to connectivity under these three categories (technology, finance, regulation) 2. building on real-life case studies, highlight how innovative technologies, regulatory frameworks, financial and investment approaches or business models can help address these barriers and, 3. identify concrete policy solutions that can be transposed or scaled up to empower relevant stakeholders to achieve universal connectivity.

SDGs

Targets: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for several advances by the year 2030. Although access to and deployment of information communication technology (ICT) are cited as specific targets in only four of the SDGs (4, 5, 9 and 17), we believe ICTs and digital technologies play a role in the realization of all of the SDGs by equipping populations with tools to relieve poverty, access education, achieve gender parity, provide healthcare, reduce CO2 emissions or increase their resilience in the face of global crises – just to name a few. To sustain these opportunities on the long run and ensure efforts are impactful across geographies and cultures, it is imperative that all populations everywhere have quality access to connectivity. This workshop aims to identify the barriers to connectivity and discuss how to overcome them so that progress on all 17 SDGs can be achieved with the catalyzing power of connectivity and digitalization.

Description:

*The issue* For years, the IGF and the entire international community has advocated for the potential of digital technologies to act as catalysts for accelerated implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The imperative to harness the power of technology as a force for good in the world and chart a digital future that works for everyone, everywhere cannot be understated, especially in the context of COVID-19 – both in terms of containing the pandemic and enabling a sustainable economic rebuild. Over the last year, the world has witnessed first-hand a rapid adoption of digital technologies to enable continuity of essential services from both businesses and governments. Without doubt, digital solutions have played a key role in helping mitigate the already heavy human and economic effects of the crisis, from enabling distance learning to facilitating remote signatures of contracts, technology has helped to connect people and enable commerce to continue in the face of widespread disruption in the physical world.

But COVID-19 has also exposed and exacerbated gaps between those who have access to digital technologies and the opportunities that they bring – and those who do not. The pandemic underscored what economic analysis has shown for years: those without meaningful access to digital solutions are at real risk of being left behind. The sad truth is that those often without meaningful access – women and girls, migrants, refugees displaced persons, citizens of rural and remote communities – are the very people who would benefit most in relative terms from the gains in development that digitalization can bring

Enormous progress has been made in the past years to bring all populations online, by both private and public sector actors. There are numerous private venture, intergovernmental agreements and multistakeholder commitments to advance on the shared goal of connecting the unconnected. However, while 93 percent of the world’s population lives within physical reach of mobile broadband or Internet services, only 53.6 percent of the world’s population uses the Internet, leaving an estimated 3.6 billion without access. The least developed countries are the least connected, at only 19 percent of their populations.

This session aims to go to the heart of the problem and uncover why, despite universal commitment, we are still so far away from universal connectivity.

Starting from the premise that successful connectivity projects depend on technological, financial and regulatory support, the session aims to identify specific barriers that stand in the way of delivering connectivity to everyone, everywhere. Participants of the workshop will take stock of both successful and unsuccessful initiatives and approaches under these categories to draw lessons and models to follow (or not).

The objective of this workshop is three-fold: (1) explore the main barriers to connectivity, (2) building on real-life case studies, highlight how innovative technologies, regulatory frameworks, financial and investment approaches or business models can help address these barriers and, (3) identify concrete policy solutions that can be transposed or scaled up to empower relevant stakeholders to achieve universal connectivity.

*The Discussion* The session aims to bring together experts from organizations that are experienced in developing connectivity projects in various settings, as well as representatives of all stakeholder groups contributing to or impacted by such projects.

Invited speakers will first engage in a thought-starter discussion amongst themselves to set the scene for subsequent discussions and stimulate debate. Then participants will be invited to join in the roundtable conversation to discuss barriers to connectivity under the three categories mentioned above: technological, financial and regulatory.

Following the discussions the moderator will summarize key messages and main take-aways.

*Session format* The goal of the roundtable format is to create an open forum in which speakers and attendees participate equally in the discussion and knowledge sharing. The open discussion will facilitate distilling opportunities and challenges, deliberate appropriate responses as well as sharing best practices and lessons learned from deploying connectivity projects and initiatives. These will be collected and shared in the workshop report as a tool for those aiming to launch such initiatives in the future and to provide input to future work of the IGF on this topic, especially the Policy Network on Universal and Meaningful Access.

Online interaction will facilitate this format, by incorporating real-time the thoughts and questions of the audience expressed in writing in the chat or Q&A function of the online platform provided for the session. Collecting the questions from the audience not just in-person in the room, but also online will help involve everyone at the same time (in-person, remote, extrovert, shy, differently abled).

*Agenda* Although discussion and participants’ contributions will ultimately drive the agenda, the following will be used to guide conversation:

1. Setting the scene (5 minutes): the session will start with the introduction of invited speakers and a short setting the scene presentation by the moderator

2. Thought-starter discussion (20 minutes): a few invited speakers, with different policy perspectives, will take the floor in turn to provide their thoughts and perspectives and stimulate discussion with the audience

3. Roundtable (30 minutes): Speakers and participants will participate in a moderated discussion to: - Share their views and experiences on existing initiatives they participated in, know of or helped launch. - Survey examples of where innovative regulation / technology / business models were put to work to help surmount challenges in delivering connectivity - Reflect on how these examples could be scaled or transposed in other settings and evaluate opportunities and challenges faced. 4. Wrap-up: The moderator will sum-up discussion, confirm the key take-aways with the participants and close session (5 minutes).

Expected Outcomes

The workshop will provide participants with an improved understanding of the technological, financial and regulatory barriers to connectivity. It will also gather examples of where innovative strategies were put to work in these three categories to help surmount challenges in delivering connectivity. The session will provide an opportunity to reflect on how these examples could be scaled or transposed in other settings and evaluate opportunities and challenges faced.

The summary of the workshop will feature a list of case studies mentioned by speakers and participants and will provide a menu of good practices for policy approaches.

Last, but not least, the workshop will aim to highlight areas for future action and potential questions to be explored in future IGF sessions and aim to contribute to the future work of the IGF Policy Network on Meaningful Access (PNMA).

Discussion Facilitation

The list below provides examples of the ways discussion will be facilitated amongst speakers and with audience members (both online and in person participants) and ensure the session format is used to its optimum:

* Set-up for online participants: Online participants and speakers will connect to the session plenary room, during roundtable discussions, online participants will be able to ask for the floor or note their thoughts or questions in writing, which will be weaved into the discussion by the online moderator.

* Seating for in-person participants: In-person participants will sit in a u-shape format (room permitting), with in-person speakers seated randomly between them, so that this provides an inclusive setting for the roundtable discussions. The virtual room will be projected on a screen facing the U-shape, but in-person participants will be encouraged to also connect to the session on-line so that they are aware in real-time of the chat discussions and can see online speakers and participants. This will facilitate discussion by creating an enabling and comfortable atmosphere where all speakers and participants are given an equal footing in the discussion.

* Preparation: A preparation call will be organised for all speakers, moderators and co-organisers in advance of the workshop so that everyone has a chance to meet, share views and prepare for the session. Given the varied background of discussants and audience members, organisers will advertise the session and introduce questions to animate discussion on social media in the run-up to the workshop. This will introduce the subject, encourage conversation and create links to other dialogues on the topic taking place in other forums to create awareness and help prepare in-person and remote participants for the workshop. Social media will also be used to generate wider discussion and create momentum for online participation as the workshop is unfolding. Co-organizers will ensure that the workshop is promoted in advance to the wider community to give remote participants the opportunity to prepare questions and interventions in advance and to generate interest in the workshop. Organizers will also explore the possibility of connecting with remote hubs around the globe and organize remote interventions from participants in those hubs.

* Moderators: The speaker moderator is an expert well-informed on the topic and experienced in animating multistakeholder discussions. The online moderator has experience from moderating online discussions, both at the IGF and other events and will play an important role especially in conveying interventions expressed in writing by online participants.

*Reporting: Following the discussion, participants will be encouraged to share their key takeaways from the session through online tools and social media. This will help ensure diverse perspectives raised during the discussion are included in the reporting.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.