The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> We all live in a digital world. We all need it to be open and safe. We all want to trust.
>> And to be trusted.
>> We all despise control.
>> And desire freedom.
>> BOTH SPEAKERS: We are all united.
>> BERNADETTE LEWIS: Good day to all. My name is Bernadette Lewis, and I'm the Secretary‑General of the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization, or the CTO. And it is my pleasure to welcome you to the CTO's first Hard Talk for Action discourse. The CTO is the Commonwealth's oldest intergovernmental ICT organization. We have reinstructed the CTO's operations to support our members in formulating, accelerating and successfully implementing their digital transformation programs.
Hard Talk for Action will be addressing the topic fostering meaningful connectivity for digital transformation. Meaningful connectivity encompasses universal, affordable access to broadband networks and devices, and the ability of all citizens to use the network facilities and devices safely.
It speaks to the availability of appropriate content, applications, and services for enhancing everyday life of the citizen. When we speak of digital transformation, we are referring to the process that integrates digital technology into all aspects of a nation's activities, changing the operations of its people and systems to deliver value.
Now, it's very easy to talk. And we've heard of many wonderful ICT plans and strategies. But what we need are the tools and approaches for accelerated action in achieving universal broadband connectivity and digital 21st Century governments.
The Provocateur for our Hard Talk for Action is Professor Tim Unwin, holder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT for Development. He is also the Emeritus Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway University of London. He's also the former Secretary‑General of the CTO. He's the author of the book Reclaiming Information and Communication Technologies for Development. Professor Unwin will separate the wheat from the chaff. He'll mill and refine the substance of the discussions into practical advice for all who are seeking to accelerate meaningful connectivity or digital transformation. Professor Unwin, the floor is yours.
>> TIM UNWIN: Thank you very much, Secretary‑General. It's a real honor to be invited back to support you in this really important agenda. I don't think ‑‑ I think I'm really just the time‑keeper, making sure everything runs smoothly, but if everyone keeps the time I hope I will be able to summarize at the end. Let me make three or four introductory points. The first is we want this session to be interesting, lively, and actually enjoyable. I'm not just rolling out the same old platitudes that we seem to hear at the IGF all too often. We have four incredible speakers and they will focus first on political will, second on economics, and then thirdly satellites, fourthly, 5G. But this is very much from a Commonwealth perspective, fifty‑four countries from all the continents of the world, with some similar traditions behind them, and especially focusing on the Caribbean. And I think this is increasingly of wider relevance because representative of the SIDs, the Small Island Developing States, which all too often seem to me to get left behind in our discussions.
I will only introduce our speakers very, very briefly. You can follow their distinguished profiles on the web. I'm afraid, those who know me, I can see there are some friends in the participants list, I'll be using a yellow card to warn them there's a minute to go and a red card when we'll politely ask them to be quiet, and we'll see how that goes.
His Excellency Minister Hassel Bacchus has to leave before the end, for something called a cabinet meeting or something like that, that important people have to attend, so I'll be asking him immediately after this ten minutes, and the others I'll have a concluding session with them, challenging each of them on one or two points.
Hopefully, if we keep to time, there will be an opportunity also for participants to engage in some questions. Please put those in the chat. We'll try to answer those as we go along.
Without more ado, thank you Commonwealth Communications Organization for this really important session. It is about how we turn rhetoric into reality and make a difference, particularly to the lives of the poor and most marginalized.
So Your excellency, Hassel Bacchus, you're Minister of Digital Transformation, as I'm sure you know, from the wonderful Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and your 10 minutes is on engendering political will for digital transformation. Over to you. Thank you so much for making the time for us today.
>> HASSEL BACCHUS: Good morning to you all. Thank you very much for the invite, the CTO for doing this, of course Madam Secretary‑General, fellow panelists, everyone. It's really, really a pleasure to be here.
In the short time, I realize I don't want to get any cards. Being a footballing nation, I know exactly what that means. Just to do quickly a couple of the concepts, I think this audience will be well aware of, you know, digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation, and the differences between them. Secretary‑General did quite a good job of explaining what digital transformation is and what we want it to be.
Just suffice to say, to put it in a nutshell, we digitize information, digitalize processes, and we digitally transform businesses and strategy. Of course, that's what we're aiming to do.
But as far as the political will is concerned, when we in the Caribbean, and I guess other places may be no different, when defining political will it's really about committed support among key decision‑makers relative to policy decisions to solve problems that we have. And there are a number of things that will affect that.
The key piece here is committed support, and of course the key decision‑makers and influencers. You need to have the correct amount of influencers and a common understanding of what the issue is, and the support has to be committed.
Of course, there are things that tend to work against that and you need to have resolve to work against that. And in Trinidad and Tobago , this digital transformation agenda is championed by no one less than the Prime Minister, and he's enabled the Minister of Finance and Minister of Planning, the creation of this Ministry itself, as a testament to the fact that he and all of the government is committed to doing this.
As far as political will and how it influences what you actually get out at the other end, all the inputs at the beginning, you know, making sure that you have a roadmap, understanding where you want, partnering with people to make sure you have the appropriate frameworks. All of that is set. And then you get that political will block in the middle of it. If it is present, then what you get out at the end is some level of success in what you're doing.
If it isn't, what I have found, and I've seen this, is that it will not work. You'll get mixed results one way, if you have it. Even if you have political will, there's no guarantee it will work, but without political will there's no successful whatsoever.
There are barriers you have to overcome even with political will, but there are barriers to political will itself: Obstinance, ignorance, even within the political regime, culture. But the ones that I think make the most impact here, at least in the Caribbean, would be political change because our governments tend to change every so often. That has happened within the Caribbean recently in a number of places. And then, of course, there's the question of if I'm back on this revolutionary type of transformation, what does it do to my chances to remain as the governing body of this particular entity? That's a very powerful thing.
There are a number of really great initiatives that have not happened because when you look at the potential consequential backlash from the populace, they don't work.
I'm just using those to show why some of the things don't happen and why 21st century governance doesn't necessarily happen and people tend to be stuck and mired in where they were all the time.
In Trinidad, in ministry, the way we set it up, this is just furthering the political will, we're really working across three big political pillars: Digital government, digital economy, and of course digital society.
And the way the ministry is set up to work with all the other ministries, divisions, agencies, stakeholders, partners, et cetera, it's built that way so there's this crescendo of effort, but the ministry is not doing it all.
It's kind of like we're facilitating all of that happening together.
And so it's while there is political will, there is stakeholder buy‑in.
I think once the government starts by proving it wants to do it, I think the buy‑in comes along right behind that.
There are some guiding principles that will work in terms of engendering political will and doing it in a new way.
There are many of them. I'll name a few. One of them in particular is challenging the status quo. People wanting to remain the way they are, not wanting to make changes. Remember, we're trying to influence people, processes, and systems. Systems in this case would include the infrastructure and so on, but also the legislation.
People who are mired in the old way of doing things will tend to be resistant. These are the people to the introduction of new forward‑thinking process that are absolutely essential for us to forward this political agenda or/or transformational agenda. Having ministry of public administration support, where a lot of guidelines are built to address how customers of these systems work, is key.
So that's just one of them.
There are lots of others, thinking, agility, user experience, end‑to‑end delivery of things. All of these things have to go into it.
But challenging of status quo is really required to be fixed in order to have a lot of political will that's required.
What's the mandate we're going to get at the end of this if political will and all the other things come together?
We created our own statement of it. I'll read it. It's a new way to address the end‑to‑end consumption and delivery of goods and services to customers using appropriate digital technology.
I think I'll put a patent on it. It seems whenever I say it people like it because of the components of it.
"A new way" speaks to a number of things.
"End‑to‑end" speaks to a number of things.
"Customers" in this case is also critical. It's just the people who consume the services but also the people who deliver them.
And Of course "appropriate digital technology" is key.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago has deemed broadband as a public good. So it is very much like electricity and water. A lot of the things we have to do in the digital transformation space is based on having ubiquitous broadband across for all citizens, agencies, for everyone to use. That's exactly what we set out to do through a number of things.
There are some core values that drive what we're dealing with specifically as it relates to government and its will to continue. For a ministry of this type that deals with so much transformation, two of them in particular are quite strange. In the core values in the Ministry of Digital Transformation that are driving what we're doing, two of them are trust and hope. And it is essential, because if you are going to make the type of cultural change we want, even with all the political will in the world, people have to believe and trust and hope that what you're going to do is going to work and we have to engender their trust through the establishment of credibility and transparency and so on. So that is absolutely critical.
We have to partner with a number of agencies to do this. I think that's going to be true throughout the Commonwealth. You have to do that. Governments or non‑government won't do it alone. The CTO is an example of one of many organizations we have to work with in order to do what we need to do.
An example of what we're trying to do, we've come up with this concept of a connected city.
The interesting thing about it is, when you look at cities, you'll see signals on top of everything. It is the broadband connectivity that's working to make it work.
So when we start putting in the appropriate rules and laws and pieces of guidelines people to use, pushing people towards using a digital‑type instruments to do what they want, there's significant levels of increases of digital literacy of your population that has to increase.
You have to be able to then have the necessary frameworks and infrastructure for that to happen.
Then, of course, you have to have the appropriate levels of legislation to ensure what we're doing is not illegal and would put us in trouble with elements of the Constitution.
If all of this works, including the political will, you'll get some outcomes out of it.
Increased accessibility, access for all, is important. You have reduced digital skill and literacy divides. That's evident throughout the entirety of all of the Commonwealth through various reforms and positions.
We have improved internal governance and efficiencies, reduced bottlenecks and so on associated with that.
We will and have to have a strengthened ICT legislative framework.
And, of course, we will have a stimulated economy.
Starting are the top, political will has to be there. The key stakeholders have to be involved. We have to partner. There has to be a willingness to withstand backlash when it happens and the resilience to address anything that comes along, which would include cybersecurity breaches, all of that.
How do you react? How do you manage? How do you take all that forward while still engendering hope and trust from the population and the customers that you have?
Without getting the red card, that's what I have. I hope it has worked.
>> TIM UNWIN: Thank you very much, Minister. I have just one request: Please don't digitalize Pam.
>> HASSEL BACCHUS: Unfortunately, we have. Professor Copeland and the guys at the university have already created a digital Pam. We still have the old traditional ways. A bit late, but we've already done it.
>> TIM UNWIN: You actually touched on the question I was going to ask you. Working in different parts of the world, I think there's a challenge with democracy, and that is almost always the government in power gets replaced sooner in some cases, later in others. And then very often in that process digitalization and digital issues tend to become a political tool. "I will promise you X thousand laptops in your schools," for example.
And I've seen all too often the policies, wise policies set in place by one government, then there's an election, and they get forgotten because the new government wants to do something new.
So my tough question for you, and I have to say I've been impressed in the times I've visited Trinidad and Tobago, about how you manage this reasonably well.
You spoke about commitment. But how do you get long‑term cross‑party support in liberal democracies to achieve systemic change in digital technology?
>> HASSEL BACCHUS: It's a good question. In the digital space, strangely enough, it's been a lot simpler than it has been in other industries. That's simply because what has happened in the Trinidad and Tobago space, particularly with this government, spanning back the fact that it's been now in two terms, is they've created basically not just policy documents that really form part of what they promised the population, but there are a number of published and established documents, the Roadmap to Recovery document, the Vision 2030 document, that replaced the 2020 document, the National ICT Plan document.
There are a number of documents put together by academia across the divide of Trinidad and Tobago partnerships, with all the universities and leaders of industry, technocrats within the government. And what they've done is they've created these roadmaps, if you will, that are basically nongovernmental but are really development documents for the country.
So all any incoming administration has to do, even if they want to change the focus of it, the bias in which one government may be doing something, the general guidelines remain things that they generally tend to adhere to. Because it's created that way, that's why it works.
You're on mute. You're on mute.
>> TIM UNWIN: I know. So there's a place for Civil Society and academia in providing this.
I have to say, many of us here have been in this field a long time and we see the same stuff rolled out time and time again in different policies. Look at the UN Secretary‑General Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. There's very little new in that, not reinventing the wheel and moving on.
But thank you for that explanation. I've been thinking about having some external commitment in the wide race.
Without more ado, I'm going to pass on to our second speaker, Professor Avinash Persaud, who is Special Envoy for the Prime Minister of Barbados on Investment and Financial Services. Perhaps we should say congratulations on the new status of your country, but we hope you will retain those strong links within the Caribbean but also with the Commonwealth.
Let me hand it over to you on building the Caribbean's economy, a digital approach. So we've heard about the political will. We're now going to turn to you for some economic insights. Please, I hope I don't have to use these. Avinash, over to you.
>> AVINASH PERSAUD: Thank you for your congratulations. We are, of course, merely catching up to Trinidad and Tobago who have been a republic for quite a few decades now and performed well.
I'm going to talk a little bit about the Caribbean, but perhaps more so from my role as chair of the CARICOM Commission on the Economy, where digitization plays an important part in our discussions about the future for the Caribbean. But development is global. It's not just about the Caribbean.
What is development? Development is the ability of all people to be able to choose the life they wish to lead. And that applies in the Caribbean and it applies everywhere else. So I think what we have to say here is universal. The Caribbean is at a crossroads. For the 20 years up to the late 1980s, early 1990s, we were the fastest growing region in the world. That was partly a testament of big investments in public education, public health, and they were really showing a lot of dividends.
But somewhere around the late 1980s, early 1990s, we began to slip back relatively. We didn't notice it too much because in absolute terms we were still growing. And of course the commodity countries like Trinidad and Jamaica and Guyana were on a somewhat different cycle, but the region as a whole began slipping back. Today, we're on slowest growing region in the world. We're moving backwards relatively.
For a region that had some of the most amazing public health statistics, literacy, education, we're now seriously slipping back. So what do we do about it?
And clearly, digital will play an important part of that story.
But I think it's very important, and here I'm going to tread a little bit on the Minister's turf, because everything is political.
And it's important that we have a reality check about digital. Because with every revolution you have your zealots and that's good. You can't have a revolution without zealots.
But the narrative is that digital is going to transform our economies, make us grow rapidly, it's going to be democratic, we're all going to benefit, and the only reason why we would not would be some laggards who have the wrong culture or attitude and they're background‑looking.
And I'm afraid that is really completely myth.
So the computer revolution that's been here since the 1970s, the internet revolution since the 1990s. The Internet of Things maybe the past 10 years or so. Despite these three waves of evolution there's been no upward trajectory to world growth.
This has not had any dividend in world growth.
And indeed, since then, since those revolutions, perhaps coincidentally, income inequality has worsened in the world.
Technology and digital has the capacity to bring many great things, but it also has the capacity to bring things that are not so great for some people.
If you, all of us here, taxi‑hailing services, like Uber, are fantastic for us. They lower our costs. They increase our convenience. They're really bad if you're a taxi driver.
And for those of us who like to travel around, the sort of home‑sharing sites like Airbnb are fantastic. They lower our costs and increase our opportunities and we can go and see all different things. Really bad if you're a hotel owner.
So there are winners and losers. The secret is if we want to win together is we need to identify the losers and we need to help the losers and support the losers. That's why we have political obstacles to change.
It's not because people are culturally backwards, but because they know they could be a loser. They feel threatened. We need to disarm that threat by investing heavily in them. And digital can play an important role in that.
So education is something that the Caribbean has long been a believer in. Sir Arthur Lewis' words can be recanted by almost every schoolchild in the Caribbean, which is that the solution to poverty is not money; it is knowledge. He may have actually got that wrong, but anyway, we all know that.
But we need to invest in a different kind of education. There's something that we've done here in Barbados where we've given every single citizen of Barbados by virtue of citizenship free access to Coursera. Coursera gives them 50,000 courses on anything they want. We've transformed the way education is.
Back in the old days, in the Caribbean, we used to have to think, what will people need? What skills will people need? There were tons of committees about identifying future skill needs. We don't need to care about that now. People know what skills they need. They can go on this site and pick whatever skill. We have had 22,000 people in the last few months sign up to Coursera. 66,000 courses have been taken. And 3,800 of them have picked Coding with Java for Developing Software Apps. Nothing to do with government. They've decided that's what they need, they've done it, and we've facilitated it.
I think digitizing government which allows people to use government services 24 hours, 24 by 7, is also an important way of giving them greater access.
But we have to think about investing in people who may be losing and we have to think about these new tools as rights so there's a right to broadband. And that right doesn't mean that they can demand it for free, but government has to invest heavily in giving great access and inexpensive access.
As you know, one of the keys was for a significant reduction in the barriers to roaming costs between the Caribbean. CARICOM is 15 sovereign states. If you go abroad with your phone on by accident, you may come back to a $6,000 bill, as I once did, for just a few days of roaming.
So we're negotiating with the telecoms companies on a single roaming rate or a roaming‑like home rate and making good progress and hopefully we can announce success for 2022 on that.
So broadband, technology, digital government, and education, these are all important rights.
I want to end, though, with making another political point. Which is imagine, Tim, that you owned a robot that can do everything, believe it or not, everything that you can do. You know, it wakes up in the morning, comes down, cooks you the most perfect scrambled eggs, packs off its bag, goes off to work, comes back at the end of the day and delivers you a check for the day's work. This is fantastic. You spend the day reading books or watching Netflix is whatever you want to do. You live much better, fantastic. Now imagine that same robot is owned by Microsoft. Suddenly your life is so different. You're trying to live your life in between to do everything that the robot can't do. So the key is not technology. The key is not the robot. The robot is the same in both worlds. The key is ownership. We need to find, and I challenge everybody on this call, to find new ways of ownership, new ways to own this technology. And that's the only way we're going to all benefit from it. Thank you very much.
>> TIM UNWIN: Thank you. I've been dipping out of the way because I've been taking copious notes of all my questions to be asking. I suddenly realize I've been disappearing. Avinash, I had no idea there's so many things in common but thank god there's not a robot anything like me. We'll get on to that later.
I have to pass on, without more ado, to our next speaker who is Christopher McLaughlin. I had him down as Chris but it's Christopher on there, so I need to keep things a little bit formal.
Thank you for joining us, Chris. You are Chief of Government, Regulation and Engagement at OneWeb, in case your robot didn't tell you that when you got up at whatever unearthly hour this morning to join us. We're really, really grateful. I'm sorry it's only five minutes. But how can satellites really contribute, and particularly the new OneWeb constellations, contribute to making this different that the right honorable Hassel Bacchus and Professor Persaud had to say? Five minutes, over to you.
>> CHRISTOPHER McLAUGHLIN: Tim, it sounds like a challenging BBC program of my youth. I'm going to take the next four and half minutes to speed along as best as I can. Bernadette knows that I have a terrible half Irish gene which enables me to talk forever on any subject.
>> TIM UNWIN: Can I just interrupt you there? My grandmother was Irish and I have my application in for full Irish citizenship. But it's got bogged in the system of digital technology.
>> CHRISTOPHER McLAUGHLIN: Good man.
Right. So this is a very, very exciting time for OneWeb. We, as I talked to Bernadette about before, came back from the dead. OneWeb had a horrific near‑death experience in March of last year, when the last 2 billion that was needed from our friends at SoftBank vanished in that vortex of COVID when the whole financial world just imploded. The money wasn't there.
As I was explaining in the House of Commons this morning in front of a select committee, I was asked if I could go to British Government and ask them, "Could we have a COVID loan?" Nobody knew what a COVID loan was at that time. By process of elimination, we then ended up with the British Government doing something it never does, and it took a $500 million equity stake in OneWeb, alongside a company you'll know as Airtel, which is Bharti Global, led by Sunil Bharti Mittal, which transformed the company.
Because suddenly, as I like to say, from the orphan waiting at the top of the hill for a car to come pick them up, it had new parents. And the new parents said, yeah, but you haven't got enough money for your full existence, but because of the strength of the new parents we have attracted another $1.7 billion in inward investment. The company now has $2.7 billion dollars of equity. Also a result of the Chapter 11 process, the 3.4 billion that went before to get it where it is has gone to wherever money goes when it vanishes, but it's gone.
OneWeb is now this wonderful creature with 358 of its satellites, 61% of its fleet, up in space. It has a fully‑funded model for the whole of the 588 satellite network. Our next 34 satellites launch at the end of December. We're able to produce a satellite once a day in our factory in Florida with Airbus. We have uniquely reduced the cost of getting into space, to Avinash's points earlier and the Minister's points.
We're in a very exciting position for the Caribbean and for you all in general in that we've actually begun our first testing down to 50 degrees, obviously the frozen North and down to the equally wet Great Britain, to get the signals sorted.
We are now able to demonstrate connectivity via teams 4k satellite‑delivered YouTube video. We're able to send email. We're able to do voice over IP. All the things that people want to bring them together and to empower in the way Avinash was saying earlier, and the Minister was demanding earlier, OneWeb is offering. As we roll out our satellites over the next weeks and months, we are going to be building on that footprint.
In short, OneWeb, newly funded and ready to go with new shareholders, is in a position to say we will have a global network working by mid‑year next year. And by the end of 2022, we are available to all citizens of the globe to be connected.
How are we aiming to do that? In partnership. Our model is to work with the telecoms companies of host nations and so they can best determine how they want to reach their customers.
We don't presume upon ourselves to know what is the best way of delivering.
For example, in Alaska where we're doing some testing at the moment, with a very high north community in a place called Akiak, where they put a single terminal in and they're using a Y‑max model to connect up all the school and the village and the people in the village. We're very, very interested in how that hub will work.
A British telecom, just begun testing in Great Britain ‑‑ one minute to go ‑‑ we're in a situation where they're going to determine what they want to do with the highlands and islands and in the more remote areas.
So we're ready to work with you. We have a system that I know Bernadette and others have been looking for for some time. We're terribly excited to be a bridge of connectivity to work with the telecoms organizations to deliver for you.
I'll hand you back five seconds.
>> TIM UNWIN: Thank you very much indeed. I always get these unions and organizations mixed up.
>> CHRISTOPHER McLAUGHLIN: Sorry.
>> TIM UNWIN: No, no, no, whether it's telecommunication or telecommunications. But thank you. Thank you for your enthusiasm and commitment.
Our final speaker is Peter Goodwin, the Founder and CEO of Circle Gx, who I think is joining us from somewhere in central U.S.A., Peter. Sorry for any confusion over timing. Where is that great city in your backdrop? You're allowed to unmute.
>> PETER GOODWIN: Dallas, Texas.
>> TIM UNWIN: Great. Over to you. You've seen how it runs. Your five minutes and your turn for talking about meaningful connectivity, what that really means.
>> PETER GOODWIN: Well, meaningful connectivity, and of course, you know, looking at what we've experienced here with the pandemic, really means a lot now. Because now, it has exposed in the United States some of the areas where you have unserved and underserved people. Our company is really focused on underserved and unserved people and bridging the digital divide in areas that really need connectivity. You know, uniquely, just listening to the gentleman from OneWeb talk about what they're doing with the innovations there, all these things make a big difference in what we seem to believe is the democratization of technology and the opportunities that are prevailing here.
At this crucible moment you have this opportunity where you're seeing this quantum leap in technology happening at the same time the demand for connectivity has come to bear.
We started with 5G back in 2013, and one of the things that we were thinking is that, you know, by moving from a proprietary hardware‑centric wireless infrastructure to a more software‑enabled programmable infrastructure, this was going to change the dynamics.
And when we became a part of the 50 Founders for Dell, one of the things we were seeing, the reason why the operators went to them, at the time the hardware‑centric guys were really controlling the cost of everything. And they wanted to move to this whole software medium from the core and in the RAM to a more democratized just run it on basic hardware. Of course, this changed the cost per seat from $30 per seat for next generation of infrastructure to $3.
So at the same time that this innovation has taken place there's an opportunity here for the democratization of technology. We always talk about in telecom it's a race to zero. Right? In terms of costs. As these cost pressures are getting pressure, having the ability to be able to put out there an effective infrastructure that's cost effective to the end user is a dynamic change.
And we've seen that happen in several phases here in the United States in terms of the first interruption or disruption that happened with Craig McCaw coming in, and also with Roger Linquist with Metro PCS when he said, hey, look, people just need a phone to talk. People said, no, you're going to make all this investment that's capital intensive and you have all these big guys out there and they're going to squash you. But as we see that this innovation is coming to place, we now can fill the gaps. I love what OneWeb is doing and really like some of the things happening there.
It comes down to more than just connectivity. If I say what's meaningful connectivity? I say this is the opportunity to take these new technologies and these new innovations and be able to move them into an arena where you do more than just connectivity, but you create these ecosystems that are dynamic, that tie communities together in terms of their businesses and drive small businesses, with the homes, and these are the type of innovations we're working on in the United States, launching in Dallas County, partnering with Qualcomm.
I'll leave you back some time so I don't get the red card.
>> TIM UNWIN: People online, a round of applause for our speakers. They all get to time. That is brilliant. Congratulations.
So I was asked to ask some tough questions. So forgive me if these are a little bit challenging. I'm going to combine Avinash's and Peter's ones, but first of all, Avinash, you come from a commercial, financial, economic background. And there you were saying everything is political. I thought economists said everything is economics and that's all that matters, but that leads into the question I'm going to ask you and Peter.
I was struck that you both focused on what I think Peter you called underserved, and Avinash, neither of you used the word "inequality," I think, if I heard correctly. The focus on economic growth, the SDGs are fundamentally all about economic growth and that is going to solve poverty. Most people forget SDG 10. I wonder how many people, actual participants, go on and sign up in the chat, if you know what SDG 10 is before I say it. It's about inequality. The rest of the SDGs and SDG 10, to me, are in conflict. I want to shift us to inequality. The real question is we know it costs more in the principle of equity. It costs more to reach the most marginalized. And we know that, actually, the economic growth model causes inequality.
If you have the latest best new phone you'll leap miles ahead of a person who still has an old, dare I say, 2G phone. I actually still have one, but that's another story. Digital tech tends to increase inequalities or be used to increase inequalities.
Two aspects of this question. How do we change the global rhetoric away from economic growth to how digital tech can reduce inequality?
>> AVINASH PERSAUD: Firstly, Tim, I would say tha I did actually talk a bit about inequality, about how in fact since the computer revolution and the internet revolution ‑‑
>> TIM UNWIN: You didn't actually use the word but we can check it out later.
>> AVINASH PERSAUD: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because it's a very important issue. It's a vital issue. Inequality has worsened, I said, since the computer technology revolution. And we have to ask ourselves, because the narrative is that somehow this is democratizing. But I don't think technology has original sin. It's really about how we use it.
And so I don't think ‑‑ I think if we leave it and don't do something about it, it will concentrate wealth and power and inequality. Therefore, we have to actively work against it.
And that's why I think digitizing government actually improving access. We often say in Barbados when we talk about reforming government what it means is a poor little girl from one of our most remote villages can get her planning application approved without her having to know various people or having to take several days off work to line up. So digitizing government is actually about empowering citizens.
And I think that the final thing would be that we need to actively be thinking, to solve your problem, we need to actively be thinking about how technology can be used to reduce inequality. If we don't do that, it reduces equality and increases inequality.
>> TIM UNWIN: I absolutely agree. Of course, you talk about the young person. My elderly mother who has now had to go into a care home because she has dementia has been unable to use digital technology to fill in all the forms online. She's being further marginalized. And there are firms throughout the world that sell data. You have to sign on to an app.
>> AVINASH PERSAUD: I would say one thing, though. In Barbados we have an old security system set up in the 1960s, old social security system.
And we were giving people checks.
The story used to be, these old people, you can't send the money online. They're not digital. They don't have a mobile phone. And they enjoy lining up in the bank with their checks and chatting to their friends.
Well, the minute COVID happened, the concentration of people using checks was 80%, it collapsed from about 80 to 20%. So it actually showed what could happen if people were really pushed.
>> TIM UNWIN: Do you sell your health data of your citizens to Private Sector companies, for example?
>> AVINASH PERSAUD: No, but I once had a weird job and I only accepted it because it was housed in (?) Arch, which is an amazing place in the UK. It was the UK's public sector information committee. The big choice is, should governments provide a fair bit of information for free, the American model, and then allow the Private Sector to build all kind of apps on it as long as privacy is maintained, of course, or should we charge for it? The UK model was charge. Survey, hydrology, charges for data. The U.S., that data is free. I think you really need to go towards seeing how we can send more data freely available, usable, because then you'll get a whole industry of useful applications off of that.
>> TIM UNWIN: Taken.
>> PETER GOODWIN: I'd like to take a different twist here, because when you talk about the inequality, that's Circle Gx was built all around that. So let's just break it down into a community, like a Dallas County. Right? In Dallas County you have 940,000 households. 14% of these households qualify for a subsidy the government offices to provide them with free service. Right? But in essence, if you look at the benefits that come from this new generation technology and the capabilities that it has, what you have going on is the ability to be able to reduce the cost to everyone by being able to take this cost reduction. Right? So now, 940,000 households is spending $220 million a month for communications services. Right? Not only do you have the unserved and the underserved. You have overpriced. And so by putting green fields of new infrastructure in, what you have the opportunity to do is reduce the overall cost. At the same time, by the government's participation in helping put out these big, big, big, big funds like the Infrastructure funds, ARPA funds, and all that that have come out, you now by serving the underserved, and finding this equality you're talking about, you have the ability to provide the city with better efficiencies in terms of energy consumption and water consumption and all of the things they do to waste things in terms of the smart city overlay that you put into these infrastructures.
So in our model, we see that there's a grand opportunity in the transformation of looking how dollars are spent from community and what we're seeing is that the money is leaving the community and if you could build a green field, maybe you can get half of that $220 million back. This is how we built the partnerships to go forward throughout the United States and partner with Qualcomm.
>> TIM UNWIN: If you can deliver for the most marginalized more cheaply, you undercut, of course, everyone else who is charging more. Then therefore you can make it work.
>> PETER GOODWIN: Race to zero. Race to zero. Right? Everyone has to pay the bills.
>> TIM UNWIN: Everyone has got to make a little bit of profit.
But you mention that magic word "green."
Chris, I think this is a horribly tough question for you. Almost nobody has done any work on the environmental impact of satellites. And I've been fascinated in recent years by the models of how digital tech in general affects the environment. And there are a lot of works, but nearly all of that focuses on we've had COP 26 recently, on carbon. But we've been trying to do some modeling around the environmental impact, and how do you treat outer space? Most people treat it like the ocean used to be treat, just put satellites up there. I'm not saying you're doing that. It's a bit of a harsh view. But have you thought about the environmental impact of your work? That broadens out to an environmental question for other people on the speakers. Because of course, the SIDs, the Small Island Developing States, bringing it back to the Caribbean, are some of the most vulnerable to environmental change.
I'm fascinated to know whether at OneWeb you have actually developed means of understanding the environmental impact of what you do?
>> CHRISTOPHER McLAUGHLIN: It's a very good question. I thought I'd done all my bear baiting in West Minister this morning, but I'm delighted to step into this one as well.
The fact of the matter is that a satellite launch in and of itself obviously uses fuel to escape the earth's gravity and then to get out. You, with Elon Musk has a returnable rocket, which he refurbishes and flies eight or nine times so he has a leap on the technology; or if you're Arianespace or some of the others they haven't got that technology yet, and it descends and gets dealt with in a different way. There's an impact on launches. But you then have to say to yourself, there's an impact on launch, but you then have five or ten or fifteen years of operation from that one launch.
So in my classic, I was never particularly a good LSE student, but in my classic days, I would say you could amortize the whole thing over that period of time for the good that it does.
You might then look at what does that connectivity do? Has it given the islands, to come to the specific point that Mark had asked, has it given the islands a degree of resilience? Has it over and above given them something they can do something with in moments of crisis? I would argue that adding a satellite layer to your telecoms is a smart thing to do because if you your only infrastructure is a user teller terminal, you're in a pretty good place.
We've seen time and again satellite coms being the only thing that can be used in disaster recovery, also in governments and good governance, as well.
We've also seen satellites used in election results in some places like the Philippines where it's the only way to get all those election results in time.
To earlier points to the minister and Avinash, it is about democratization. There is an environmental impact, obviously. And one of the big changes ‑‑ and you have to trade off that. One of the big challenges for the world now is are we going to go forward in this new ocean with only countries being able to chuck up as many as they want to and nobody doing anything with it, or are we going to say, you know what, we do actually need an international maritime organization of space? I think the IMO was a brilliant invention.
And when will the FCC, the Chinese, the British, the Canadians, the Indians, all go, "You know what? We think we're all better if we're in one place."
For example, OneWeb is 588 satellites in Gen One. It may well be less satellites in Gen Two. It certainly won't be thousands. Mr. Musk has gone on a different model which is, "Oh, I'm going to put 1,400 at 550 kilometers. Oh, actually, I have a better idea; I'm going to put 4,400. Oh, I've got an even better idea with FCC, yeah, I know I'm in trouble, I'm going to put 30,000 up."
We can't go on like that.
And when Mr. Bezos joins in, it's going to get pretty crowded.
Sorry. I step back.
>> TIM UNWIN: Exactly.
I do think the ITU, the International Telecommunication Union, is trying to tackle that. Of course, we won't mention ‑‑ I don't think you mentioned the word Russia in what you just said and the fun damage that they're going to do. Anyway, park that.
I'm going to turn to the chats. We have got questions coming up. And Mark has got one. It's also for you, Chris. And I think many of us in the CTO for many years have been passionate about the role that satellites can play in some of the most marginalized island states, peripheral parts, but also in interiors of the country where the fibers don't necessarily reach. Mark has asked, how easy is it for community network projects in remote areas in LDCs and SIDs to maintain cheap satellite connectivity for internet access?
I think you actually technically answered that, and really it's probably a question of political will. But if you have one or two words you'd like to say, and then the Honorable Minister is there, so I might turn to him on that.
>> CHRISTOPHER McLAUGHLIN: I would turn to the minister, but the way we're approaching it in OneWeb is we'll provide on the connectivity and you'll decide on the social goals through your telecoms people. In the UK, they have a 5 billion broadband fund they're investing but a lot of that is going into fiber networks and into solid presence, but maybe the minister has a better guide for us.
>> HASSEL BACCHUS: Sure. Just to touch on it quickly, the conversation that was happening about inequalities is a significant one. I went the other way, from private industry and telecoms into government, so it's a little bit different for me.
But let's think about it. Technology is considered both sword and shield across the world. It's a great equalizing thing when you can say, using the same example, that a little girl somewhere in a remote village now has access to everything they need because they don't have to go buy an encyclopedia set. But it can also be a very limiting thing when that same little girl has no access.
And Trinidad has 400,000 homes. The Telecommunications Authority is currently doing a digital inclusion survey, have already done one, and 80% of those, over 80% of those have access to broadband.
The question is, is it appropriate broadband and capable broadband given what is required to be down now? What has the government done? It's done a couple of things. One, having access to broadband and not knowing how to use it is terrible, so they've created access centers where people can go, whether they have devices or not, and you can get access and training in that way.
They've also created specific programs through the telecommunications authority to address all of those areas that were once served but now become underserved and have never been served or otherwise.
OneWeb, even for a country like Trinidad, that has fibers in some places, there are still very remote places and pockets of people that deserve to have the same levels of broadband activity, given the idea that we have already promoted it as a public good.
It's government policy, with government funds behind it, in a lot of cases.
>> AVINASH PERSAUD: Can I just mention one thing?
>> TIM UNWIN: Sorry, Avinash, I have to close. I wanted to give the final word to the Secretary‑General. But before I do that, if you all switch your screens to gallery view, that's a little button at the top right‑hand side. And while you do that, if you go also to the reactions at the bottom, wouldn't it be great if everybody who enjoyed this session did a little clap symbol in the top of their screen to thank our wonderful speakers. So there we are. Thank you. I will just do it like this, as well. Thank you all for being so wonderful. Before I hand it over to the Secretary‑General for some final words, I was asked to try to summarize this. Completely impossible. You're all too good for that. But four key things, the first was politics matters. It was lovely to hear you, Avinash, stressing that, and Honorable Bacchus. We need to have politicians who can drive this forward who understand what this can do and who work in the interests of the poorest and most marginalized. Secondly, we heard OneWeb and you, Peter, that we need new business models, and stepping away from some of the old business models and we need creative thinking.
And thank you, Peter, for mentioning the word "green" and there's issues of sustainability. We need models for evaluating the environmental sustainable and digital tech.
And finally, I think you're all more positive than I am, and that's probably a good thing. I think I'm probably older than you all are. This is a boring, old, middle‑aged white man saying it, but I look at the harms more. I know the goods. But because I can also see the harm digital tech can do, I've become very much a person who pushes back.
Secretary‑General, thank you for letting me lead this. Two minutes.
>> BERNADETTE LEWIS: Thank you very much, Tim. You did an excellent summation. All that's really left for me to do is to thank you, Tim.
>> TIM UNWIN: That was too much. It closed the mic down. Bernadette, can you hear us? We've lost you.
>> PETER GOODWIN: She's got a delay.
>> TIM UNWIN: Yes, you're back on, Bernadette. I'm afraid that ‑‑ you're on mute, as well. Bottom left of your screen.
>> BERNADETTE LEWIS: I muted myself. I don't know what happened but I was thanking our excellent Provocateur and also our panelists for their important insights. Some very important points I believe have come out of our discourse. Thank you, Hassel Bacchus, Minister of Digital Transformation from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Professor Avinash Persaud, he's Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Barbados on Investment and Financial Services. Mr. Chris McLaughlin, thank you so much, Chief of Government and Regulations and Engagement of OneWeb. And Mr. Peter Goodwin, CEO & Founder of Circle Gx. And to our audience from around the world, we thank you for joining and participating in the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization's first Hard Talk for Action discourse. It's 11:00. This brings us to the end of our session. Thank you all.
(Session ends at 9:00 AM Central Time.)