IGF 2021 DC-SIDS The Pandemic Internet: Ensuring SIDS do not fall behind

Time
Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (12:50 UTC) - Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (14:20 UTC)
Room
Conference Room 8
DC

Dynamic Coalition on Small Island Developing States in the Internet Economy

Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Subtheme

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?
Leveraging infrastructure and technology innovation and development: How can the significant expansion of mobile infrastructure around the world, as well as other existing and emerging technologies such as satellite, fibre, and wireless networks, be used to expand affordable access?

Description

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the economies of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in several devastating ways. For example, from an economic standpoint, many of the SIDS economies are tourism-dependent and the sudden and dramatic onset of the pandemic has resulted in many SIDS economies being starved of anticipated foreign exchange earnings, which have lasting ripple effects through both the formal and informal sectors. From a more internal perspective, however, the various lockdowns and related restrictions including the pivot to online learning, working and business models have exposed and amplified significant digital inclusion and digital literacy issues that have been simmering under the surface for at least two decades. The IGF 2021 DC-SIDS Roundtable will seek to address these issues, attempting to uncover the underlying systemic problems with inequity, access, and inclusion that contribute to ensuring that these problems continue to exist despite the continuous attention being called to them and will also attempt to propose concrete solutions for partnership and digital cooperation among SIDS stakeholders that will ideally address these concerns once and for all.

Using the pioneering DC-SIDS Roundtable format, lead discussants will introduce key points on the topic, and Roundtable participants will be invited to contribute by the Moderator. While this is being proposed as a hybrid session, online/remote Participation will be prioritized and encouraged through the posting of advance questions/topics and will be fully integrated into the Roundtable through full participation of the Remote/Online Moderator as a Discussant as well as the utilization of complementary tools such as WhatsApp/Signal/Slack and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.).

OUTLINE AGENDA

1. Welcome and introduction to the DC-SIDS session by Tracy Hackshaw, TTMAG

2. Welcome and introduction to the Pacific DC-SIDS report by Maureen Hilyard, PICISOC

2.1  Report from the Pacific Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC) and the Pacific IGF - Cherie Lagakali, Chair of PICISOC (from Fiji)

2.2  Introduction to the Pacific eCommerce Initiative - Maureen Hilyard, PICISOC (from the Cook Islands)

2.3  Update on the Pacific eCommerce Initiative - Dr Andrea Giacomelli, Trade Policy Advisor on the Permanent Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum to the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, and other international organisations in Geneva.

2.4  Report from our Pacific IGF MAG member, Dalsie  Baniala, PICISOC (from Vanuatu)

3. Reports from the Caribbean region, introduced by Tracy Hackshaw

4. Open participation, Q&A from the onsite and remote participants in the session. 

Organizers

Maureen Hilyard, Chair, ICANN At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) of ICANN; Board Chair of the DotAsia Organisation, Civil Society, Asia Pacific Tracy Hackshaw, Chair-Elect, Trinidad & Tobago Multistakeholder Advisory Group (TTMAG); Director, FinTech Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago, Technical Community, Latin America & the Caribbean

Speakers

The DC-SIDS Annual Session is held in Roundtable format and as such, the traditional speaker format would not hold. The Roundtable utilizes the concepts of Discussants as opposed to Speakers. The proposed Lead Discussants (to date) are: Pacific Islands: Cherie Lagakali, Chair PICISOC, Fiji, Civil Society, Asia Pacific Dalsie Baniala, MAG member, Vanuatu; Government, Asia Pacific Maureen Hilyard, ALAC Chair, At-Large, ICANN, Cook Islands, Civil Society, Asia Pacific; 

Dr Andrea Giacomelli, Aid-for-Trade and Trade Policy Advisor, Permanent Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum to the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and Other International Organizations in Geneva

Caribbean: June Parris, former UN-IGF MAG Member, Barbados, Civil Society, Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC), Nigel Cassimire, Telecommunications Specialist, Caribbean Telecommunications Union & Caribbean IGF convenor, Trinidad & Tobago, Government, LAC Bevil Wooding, Director, Caribbean Affairs, ARIN, Trinidad & Tobago, Technical Community, LAC Carlton Samuels, ICT Consultant, Jamaica, Civil Society, LAC Lance Hinds, CEO, Brainstreet, Guyana; Private Sector, LAC Tracy Hackshaw, Chair-Elect, Trinidad & Tobago Multistakeholder Advisory Group (TTMAG), Trinidad & Tobago, Technical Community, LAC

Onsite Moderator

June Parris

Online Moderator

Maureen Hilyard & Tracy Hackshaw

Rapporteur

Mauricia Abdol-Tshilunda; 2021 Internet Society IGF Youth Ambassadors - Fred Kwadwo Aazore, Vincent Mwando

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

* The pandemic continued to challenge the economies and working modalities of SIDS, especially as it impacted the growth and development of the Internet/Digital Economy. While usage of the internet necessarily increased as a result of the pandemic-related restrictions, critical areas such as online education & learning (lack of devices, weak infrastructure, low levels of digital literacy and skills) require increased support and and collaboration

* e-Commerce, Digital Business and Digital Entrepreneurship can be significant vehicles of growth for SIDS promoting collective regional action towards digital transformation and e-readiness, and as such represents a true agenda for change within the SIDS.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

+ IG & Digital Economy stakeholders in SIDS need to work together, ACROSS and DESPITE geographic boundaries, to develop common solutions to shared challenges. Support and resources (not necessarily financial) from entities such as IGOs, the United Nations (IGF), ICANN, the Internet Society and the RIRs are critical to survival of SIDS post-pandemic.

+ The time has come for a non-regional approach to addressing the challenges faced by SIDS, and developing a platform for action and change. Members of the DC-SIDS agreed to lobby for and work towards the establishment of a SIDS-IGF, as early as 2022.

Session Report (* deadline Monday 20 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

SESSION REPORT OF THE IGF 2021 DC-SIDS ROUNDTABLE
The Pandemic Internet: Ensuring SIDS do not fall behindGroup photo of #IGF2021 #DCSIDS Roundtable Zoom Session

The Annual Roundtable provided an opportunity for speakers and participants from primarily the Pacific and Caribbean regions to experience an inclusive discussion by contributing their views and comments about the current state of the Internet Economy in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and exploring the best practices in proposing the way forward in the Island when facing the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the increasing impacts brought about by climate change and persistent social and economic problems.

The discussions spanned wide on internet topic areas ranging from access and connectivity, socio-economic developments and its impacts, education, agriculture, security and environmental sustainability challenges, and emerging technologies such as AI, Machine learning, Internet of things to mention a few. 

The presence of the pandemic brought with it both challenges and significant opportunities. The increased sensitivity for the need to be connected and the digitalisation of operations on the part of key stakeholders within the digital economy presented a unique opportunity to advocate for the inclusion of minority groups, poorly connected and the unconnected.

Discussions focused on several key areas:

  1. The pandemic has contributed to recognizing and drawing close attention to what has been working in similar topographies  to be promoted or replicated in another to address the  common challenges and issues faced
     
  2. Internet Governance networks are starting to obtain recognition and support from government, regulators, and other similar networks
     
  3. Innovative ideas have emerged and introduced for uptake where there is a need and collaborations amongst all similar regions must continue to be maintained and promoted for good works that are positively impacting lives
     
  4. E-commerce activities will contribute to drive willingness and acceptance to be trained on positive use of the internet by rural citizens who see ICT as the least priority, and also for improvement on network coverage and its reliability.

Session takeaways :

  • The pandemic continued to challenge the economies and working modalities of SIDS, especially as it impacted the growth and development of the Internet/Digital Economy. While usage of the internet necessarily increased as a result of the pandemic-related restrictions, critical areas such as online education & learning (lack of devices, weak infrastructure, low levels of digital literacy and skills) require increased support and collaboration. Territories who adopted digital modalities earlier reaped more benefit in productivity whereas other territories who took their learning online later for example missed out on that opportunity in preserving absorption of learning and as a result had a lot of catching up to do.
      
  • e-Commerce, Digital Business and Digital Entrepreneurship can be significant vehicles of growth for SIDS as it promotes collective regional action towards digital transformation and e-readiness.  As such it represents a true agenda for change within the SIDS. For example, the PTI business survey showed a significant increase in the percentage of businesses that are using electronic means to support the selling of their goods and services online, the increase was specifically from 12% to 35%. The Pacific e-Commerce Strategy and roadmap is the key strategy being utilized to align all development efforts hereto, the first report will be due at the end of 2022. 

Session Calls to Action:

  • IG & Digital Economy stakeholders in SIDS need to work together, ACROSS and DESPITE geographic boundaries, to develop common solutions to shared challenges. Support and resources (not necessarily financial) from entities such as IGOs, the United Nations (IGF), ICANN, the Internet Society and the RIRs are critical to survival of SIDS post-pandemic.
     
  • The time has come for a non-regional approach to addressing the challenges faced by SIDS, and developing a platform for action and change. Members of the DC-SIDS agreed to lobby for and work towards the establishment of a SIDS-IGF, as early as 2022.

ADDENDUM:

Inputs from the Pacific e-Commerce Initiative:

The Pacific E-commerce Initiative, established by Forum members back in 2018, is our attempt to increase the region’s readiness to trade electronically by promoting targeted collective actions. 

As of December 2021, under the umbrella of this initiative, National E-commerce Assessments were undertaken in eleven Forum Island Countries. These assessments, which are freely available on our website ad were based on a methodology developed by UNCTAD, have informed the subsequent development of a Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap.

The Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap is the document embedding priority collective actions to improve E-commerce readiness, and as such represents a true agenda for regional change. This agenda was endorsed by our members in August this year after having benefited from input by 174 stakeholders and validated by a workshop attended by 234 participants. 

Leveraging the UNCTAD’s E-Trade Readiness Assessment methodology, the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap prioritises regional measures in seven policy areas including (1) National E-commerce Readiness and Strategy Formulation; (2) ICT Infrastructure and Services; (3) Trade Logistics and Trade Facilitation; (4) Legal and Institutional Framework; (5) Electronic Payment Solutions; (6) E-commerce Skill Development; and (7) Access to Finance for E-commerce.

In total, the Strategy identifies 54 Priority Measures, for a total cost of about USD 55 million, excluding the cost of infrastructure-related measures. 

The Pacific E-commerce Initiative is now entering its second phase which is focused on implementation of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap. An implementation framework of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap is being established to ensure that the Strategy is duly monitored, resources for its implementation are mobilized, partners are coordinated, and regional ownership is maintained. As part of this implementation framework, the PIFS is in the process of establishing an E-commerce Unit with resources from like-minded development partners. 

The PIFS is also implementing some projects which are aligned with the measures recommended by the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, including: (1) Development of a Pacific E-commerce Portal; (2) Development of National E-commerce Strategy of Samoa; and (3) Regional Training Program on E-commerce for Pacific negotiators.

By the end of 2022 we should have developed the first annual report on implementation of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, and we will be happy to share further updates at this important Forum if you will like us to do so.