IGF 2017 WS #160 Policy and technology approaches for expanding broadband to rural and remote areas

Short Title
Expanding broadband to rural and remote areas

Proposer's Name: Ms. Lorrayne Porciuncula

Proposer's Organization: OECD

Co-Proposer's Name: Ms. Phillippa Biggs

Co-Proposer's Organization: Broadband Commission for Sustainable Developement


Ms.,Lorrayne,Porciuncula,Intergovernmental Organisation,OECD

Ms.,Phillippa,Biggs,Intergovernmental Organisation,Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development

Additional Speakers

Session Format: Panel - 90 Min


1. Setting the scene (5 minutes) - The moderator will explain the purpose of the workshop, present statistics regarding connectivity in the world and share some of key questions related to policy and technology approaches to expanding broadband to rural and remote areas around the world.

2. Challenges (30 minutes) - The moderator will invite the main panellists to answer the question “What are the main existing challenges to expand broadband services to rural and remote areas?”. Each panellist will have a maximum of 6 minutes to provide their remarks, after which the floor will be opened for the audience or other panellists to add to or discuss the list of challenges identified.

  • Doreen Bogdan (ITU)
  • Kivuva Mwendwa (AFRINIC)
  • Helani Galpaya (LIRNEasia)

​3. New approaches (40 minutes) - The moderator will invite the main panellists to answer the question “Which new policy and technology approaches are already assisting to expand broadband access and which new trends are on the horizon?”. Each panellist will have a maximum of 6 minutes to provide their remarks, after which the floor will be opened for the audience or other panellists to add to or discuss the list of approaches identified.


  • Amrita Choudhury (CCAOI)
  • Bengt Molleryd (Sweden)
  • Constance Bommelaer (ISOC)


  • Michael Ginguld (AirJaldi)
  • Robert Pepper (Facebook)

4. Questions and answers (10 minutes): The moderator will open the floor for questions.

5. Summing up (5 minutes): The moderator will summarize the main takeaways of the session.

Content of the Session:
The Agenda for Sustainable Development specifically acknowledges the role of ICTs and the Internet as horizontal enabler for development or as cross-cutting ‘means of implementation’. However, with over half (an estimated 53%) of the world’s population was still not using the Internet by the end of 2016, with only 49% penetration of mobile broadband subscriptions and 12% with fixed broadband access. While there are a number of initiatives at the local, regional and global levels, much needs to be done to expand broadband services in rural and remote areas.
The purpose of this workshop is to bring together representatives from diverse stakeholder groups to explore the new policy and technology approaches to provide universal and meaningful access to these underserved areas. This topic matches the overarching theme of IGF “Shaping Your Digital Future” as it will address how innovative approaches from both the public and private sectors are shaping how we will connect the unconnected. It builds on the IGF’s Best Practice Forum on Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion by presenting new research on different policy approaches being implemented by the public sector and on technology trends being developed by the private sector.
On policy approaches the workshop will discuss issues such as setting national targets of connectivity, universal service policies, rural infrastructure projects, municipal and community networks, public tenders for competitive bidding and open access policies. On emerging technologies to fill the gaps in broadband services, different technological developments will be discussed, including fibre optics, coaxial cable, copper, fixed and mobile wireless, satellites and hybrid approaches. Through an interactive multistakeholder discussion, participants will consider the challenges and solutions for connecting rural and remote areas.

Relevance of the Session:
The Internet is crucial to the important transformations that are happening now and that will continue to take place in the future changing the ways in which humans interact with each other. However, over half the world’s citizens remain unable to benefit from this transformation and the sustainable development potentially enabled by it. The challenge of connecting rural and remote areas cannot be overlooked when addressing the challenges and transformation ahead. 

Tag 1: Broadband
Tag 2: Digital Inclusion
Tag 3: Emerging Issues

Speakers for this workshop were selected in terms of their expertise in the subject and on the different perspectives they will bring to this multi-faceted discussion. The moderator will make sure that they present their views in a way to contribute to the objective of the workshop:

  • Lorrayne Porciuncula (Moderator) is an economist at the OECD, specialised in telecommunications, author of the Broadband Policy Toolkit for Latin America and the Caribbean, currently carrying out the OECD research on expanding broadband access in rural and remote areas.
  • Doreen Bogdan-Martin is Chief of Strategic Planning at ITU and acts as the advisor to the ITU Secretary-General, as well as the manager of the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
  • Constance Bommelaer is Senior Director of Global Internet Policy at the Internet Society (ISOC) and lead the work for IGF’s 2016 intersessional theme 'Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion'.
  • Bengt Molleryd is Senior Analyst at the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) and has authored several reports on broadband policy and municipal networks.
  • Helani Galpaya (LIRNEasia) is the CEO of LIRNEasia, a regional think thank working on ICT issues in the Asia Pacific, and has done extensive research on broadband policy making in developing countries.
  • Amrita Choudhury is the Director of a not-for-profit association called CCAOI, which represents the ecosystem of Internet in India, and will bring country insights regarding the promotion of Internet ecosystems, community building and access.
  • Kivuva Mwendwa is a policy fellow at Google, working with policy formation for AFRINIC, and will bring local and regional perspectives from Africa regarding access and content.
  • Robert Pepper works for Facebook’s Global Connectivity and Technology Policy team and will reflect on the technology trends being developed by to connect underserved areas.
  • Michael Ginguld is the CEO of AirJaldi Networks, a private company dedicated to bring fast and reliable Internet to rural India through wireless technologies.

This workshop is designed to provide diverse perspectives. It is balanced in terms of stakeholder groups (with intergovernmental organisation, technical community, academia, civil society, government and private sector representation), gender (with a balance of 4 out 8 speakers being women), age (with below 30 representative) and, also geographic representation (European, African, North American, Latin America and Asian). 

Onsite Moderator: Lorrayne Porciuncula (OECD)
Online Moderator: Anna Polomska (ITU)
Rapporteur: Verena Weber (OECD)

Online Participation:
Remote participation will be facilitated by the remote moderator who will be involved throughout workshop planning to advise on where remote participation will need to be facilitated. The moderator will frequently communicate with the remote moderator throughout the session to ensure remote participants’ views/questions are reflected. The workshop will be promoted in advance to the wider community to give remote participants the opportunity to prepare questions and interventions and to generate interest in the workshop. We will also ensure the workshop is promoted on OECD’s and Broadband Commission’s websites and via social media, through the hashtag #IGFruralbroadband.

Discussion facilitation:
The moderator will set the stage by providing a context to the workshop, with the latest statistics on rural and remote connectivity in the world.
Through an interactive, multistakeholder dialogue, the workshop will then be structured in two parts guided by the following questions:

1) What are the main existing challenges to expand broadband services to rural and remote areas?
2) Which new policy and technology approaches are already assisting to expand broadband access and which new trends are on the horizon?

After the first and second round of questions, the moderator will open the floor for participation of the audience (remote and on-site). Specific questions which the moderator can pose to speakers will be prepared in advance to aid discussion and debate only if necessary as all participants will be encouraged to contribute to the discussion.The moderator will summarise the main takeaways of the session.

Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: Yes
Link to Report: https://www.intgovforum.org/cms/wks2015/index.php/proposal/view_public/154

Additional Reference Document Link: http://broadbandcommission.org/Documents/reports/bb-annualreport2016.pdf

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

- Session Title: Policy and technology approaches for expanding broadband to rural and remote areas       

- Date:     20/12/2017        

- Time:         15:00-16:30       

- Session Organizer:        Lorrayne Porciuncula       

- Chair/Moderator:              Lorrayne Porciuncula

- Rapporteur/Notetaker:            Verena Weber


- List of Speakers and their institutional affiliations:                

  • Doreen Bogdan-Martin (ITU)
  • Helani Galpaya (LIRNEasia)  
  • Bengt Molleryd (PTA Sweden)
  • Amrita Choudhury (CCAOI)
  • Sebastián Bellagamba (ISOC)
  • Michael Ginguld (AirJaldi)
  • Robert Pepper (Facebook)

- Key Issues raised (1 sentence per issue):            

  • Supply-side issues: The access to broadband services across the world is unequal, especially in rural and remote areas: 52% of the world is still offline, in the developing world 59% is offline, which means that 3 out of 5 are offline and in LDCs only 1 out of 7 online
  • Demand-side issues: In addition to availability, there are issues of affordability, relevance and readiness related to Internet connectivity.
  • Rural regions have larger issues both regarding supply-side challenges and demand-side barriers.
  • Solving this gap requires a partnership of both private and public sectors and using both technology and policy innovations.


- If there were presentations during the session, please provide a 1-paragraph summary for each presentation:                 

Helani Galpaya presented the results of recent ICT use surveys carried out by LIRNasia. She illustrated the point regarding adoption barriers with graphs on Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. The data showed that Latin America was doing better than Africa and Asia in terms of smartphone penetration and that the main reasons why people do not have one is due to affordability issues and for thinking that they do not need one. Helani linked the perception of “not needing one” to the Internet experience these people do (not) have. Helani also talked about several gaps between rural and urban areas and highlighted the affordability is a bigger problem in rural areas. In terms of skills, data made it difficult to do cross-regional comparison, but the conclusion was that it is a general problem. Helani also mentioned problems with electricity outings in rural areas. She noted that overall more is needed: more awareness in Asia, more devices in Africa and better digital skills in Latin America.


- Please describe the Discussions that took place during the workshop session:          

The purpose of the workshop was to bring together representatives from diverse stakeholder groups to explore the new policy and technology approaches to provide universal and meaningful access to these underserved areas. The workshop started with an introduction by the moderator, Lorrayne Porciuncula, who recalled that the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the Internet and ICTs as enablers for development and who highlighted that despite the fact that 53% of the world population still does not have access to the Internet, only a few workshops in the IGF were dealing with these issues.

The ‘challenges’ segment of the panel was opened with an Intervention from Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Chief of Strategy and Management at then ITU. Doreen recalled the stats on connectivity gaps, the UN 9c goal calling for universal and affordable connectivity by 2020, the fact that many times investment is made only in areas where there is already coverage (because they are financially more attractive) and mentioned that awareness was also an issue. She made reference to a report by the UN Broadband Commission on Satellites that could be useful in closing the gap in rural areas. Following that, Helani Galpaya presented graphs with data showing the rural vs urban disparities across the world. She made the point that even where there is coverage, adoption does not follow automatically, and that skills, awareness and affordable devices are needed in Asia, Africa and Latin America so people can effectively use the Internet. The floor was opened to questions and the audience raised issues related to the survey design, local content, multimedia content, definition of broadband and the relationship between electricity and broadband services. Robert Pepper mentioned a study Facebook carried out on relevant content and inclusive Internet, Sebastián Bellgamba mentioned the issue of electricity and Helani Galpaya clarified the issue of survey designs and questions, adding that internal behavioural questions exists to check previous questionnaire’s responses.

The second segment on ‘innovations’ was started by Beng Molleryd, from the Swedish regulator PTA , who presented the government and Scandinavian perspective on policies that drive connectivity.  He highlighted that the involvement of municipalities in aggregating demand and setting broadband targets, that network is a local endeavour, that micro-trenching is a way to reduce costs and that public-private partnerships can drive municipality networks. Bengt also cautioned against policies that undermine private investment and said that networks should have open access models and that state and regional financing should be made available for deployment. Sebastian Bellagamba, from ISOC, talked about the widening gap and focused on the social innovation of having community networks connecting people with a bottom-up approach. Michael Ginguld, from Airjaldi, stated that while several technological innovations that have matured (such as in the use of wifi), scale and growing is still an issue in many parts of the world. He questioned that statement that even with low prices people are not using the Internet and said that if you bring Internet at the right price point, people will use it. Moreover, he said interesting technologies such as TV white spaces are not being used due to lack of spectrum and authorisation. Following that, Amrita Choudhury shared a civil society’s perspective on the Indian experience. She shared development on MVNOs and said that more needs to be done to make sure services are more affordable and that people are more aware and to understand what is needed for remote and rural areas. Lastly, Robert Pepper, from Facebook, talked about the need of robust networks, licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and about projects that are being carried out by Facebook with operators to deploy backhaul infrastructure and with innovative technologies, such as que Aquila drones.

The moderator summarised the main points and thanked panellists and participants for the discussion.

- Please describe any Participant suggestions regarding the way forward/ potential next steps /key takeaways:    

In terms of suggestions and key take-away, panellists and audience made important points on what is needed to connect people in rural and remote areas:

For community’s network to work, as an innovative solution to bridge the rural digital divide, panellists agreed that public investment is required, as it is sufficient spectrum, proper licensing and a smarter way of using universal service funds. For rural ISPs in general, the point was also made regarding splitting up universal service funds into smaller packages and focusing on subsiding users and not necessarily ISPs. Moreover, panellists raised the point that attention should be given to understanding the specific needs of rural areas and focusing on Internet applications for development, such as environment monitoring, precision agriculture and water usage.

The conclusion was that this topic needs to be better discussed and that more workshops on this topic should be organised in the next IGFs to come.

Gender Reporting

- Estimate the overall number of the participants present at the session: 60 people
- Estimate the overall number of women present at the session: around 25 
- To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women’s empowerment? 
Doreen Bogdan-Martin (ITU) mentioned the issue of the gender digital gap when discussing access and use gaps regarding broadband services.
- If the session addressed issues related to gender equality and/or women’s empowerment, please provide a brief summary of the discussion: The session focused on the broader rural digital gap.