IGF 2021 WS #248 Framing meaningful access for inclusive digital policy

Time
Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (15:50 UTC) - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (17:20 UTC)
Room
Conference Room 3

Organizer 1: Carlos Alberto Afonso, Instituto Nupef
Organizer 2: Sonia Jorge, Alliance for Affordable Internet, Web Foundation
Organizer 3: Juliano Cappi, NIC.br
Organizer 4: Luiza Mesquita, Network Inormation center
Organizer 5: Beatriz Barbosa, Braziian Internet Steering Committee

Speaker 1: Sonia Jorge, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Roberto Zambrana, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Amparo Arango, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Moderator

Beatriz Barbosa, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Luiza Mesquita, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Rapporteur

Juliano Cappi, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Format

Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Defining universal and meaningful access: What are the key elements that constitute universal and meaningful Internet access? How can it be measured? How is the concept evolving in time and what does this evolution mean for policy?
Practical locally-driven policy solutions: What lessons can be drawn (and how) from successful policy solutions to universal access and meaningful connectivity around the world, while taking into account local specificities and needs? In particular, what are the relevant practices implemented by local actors (local government, civil society, local providers and entrepreneurs) to advance universal and meaningful access?

In 2019, the world reached the 50% mark, when half of the world’s population were internet users (ITU Facts and Figures, 2020). In the context of a global pandemic, the range of daily activities that are done exclusively online has increased for many, but half of the world’s population has been deprived of access to basic services like education, health, or civic participation. Even among those who can afford to use the Internet, many do it only through mobile phones with low quality access. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on existing and growing inequalities around the world, which makes the role of the Internet for social economic development even more relevant. Public policies aimed at reducing digital divide today have been mainly focused on connectivity issues. Beyond the lack of infrastructure, there is a broad research agenda warning about the new forms of exclusion emerging from a world mediated by the massive adoption and use of Information and Communication Technologies. In this sense, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has proposed the concept of meaningful connectivity as foundational to a digital experience focused on quality of access for everyone going far beyond the binary online or offline, establishing meaningful connectivity as when we can use the internet every day through an appropriate device with enough data and a fast connection. The concept calls for this target to drive decisions that influence and support universal access policy. In this respect, traditional public policies models for digital inclusion have not only failed to fulfill the purpose of universalization but also have not been conceived to mitigate problems related to discrimination (e.g. algorthimic and data discrimation, online desinformation), local content promotion, internet user agency and autonomy, among others. We advocate that digital policies must be centered on the promotion and protection of human rights, the empowerment of local communities and the autonomy of every individual, thus fostering social and economic inclusion. Recently IGF has established the new Policy Network on Meaningful Access (PNMA) which is leading a broad discussion about the challenges of “providing access to the Internet to make a meaningful contribution to improving people’s lives locally, for ‎strengthening national economies, and more broadly to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals ‎‎(SDGs)” (PNMA, 2021). The workshop aims at contributing to this ongoing dialogue by exploring the multiple dimensions that must be considered when framing policies to support meaningful access for all. In this sense, we plan to explore how the recent discussions around the concept of meaningful access have addressed the various concerns related to digital exclusion and inequalities associated with online access. These concerns have been expressed by governments, academics, civil society and internet companies, as they work to expand access and connectivity at the global level. Secondly, we expect to explore some successful initiatives to bring up a broader understanding of meaningful access and its importance to frame digital inclusion public policy. Thirdly, we hope to promote a dialogue on the possible relations between the different aspects and outcomes of local experience to the ongoing dialogue on the concept of meaningful access. Finally, we expect to contribute to the important work of the newly established PNMA, in its efforts to improve people’s lives, making use of new technologies to foster social development and enabling environments to promote more inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies.

SDGs

4. Quality Education
9.c
10. Reduced Inequalities

Targets: The session will not only be related to some specific Sustainable Development Goals, but it also aims to bridge them. Since we are referring to a holistic approach to Internet access and use, the debate will contribute to promote quality of education (SDG 4), ICT infrastructure quality and access (SDG 9), particularly the target 9.c that aims at “significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2030”, placing at the core the potential of Internet to reduce inequalities (SDG 10).

Description:

The proposed workshop aims at exploring how the concept of meaningful access provides a framework to address the various concerns related to digital exclusion and inequalities associated with Internet access. These are concerns expressed by governments, academics, civil society and internet companies, as they work to expand access and connectivity at the global level. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) proposes the concept of meaningful connectivity as foundational to a digital experience that focuses on quality of access for everyone (with a focus on gender based inequality), one which goes far beyond the binary online or offline, establishing meaningful connectivity as when we can use the internet every day using an appropriate device with enough data and a fast connection. The concept calls for this target to drive decisions that influence and support universal access policy. In 2019, the world reached the 50% mark, when half of the world’s population were internet users (ITU Facts and Figures, 2020). In a context of a global pandemic, the range of daily activities that are done exclusively online has increased for many, but half of the world’s population has been deprived of access to basic services like education, health, or civic participation. Shaping the concept of meaningful access must consider its potential to influence agendas for digital inclusion policy, consequently unleashing the Internet's potential in fostering social development and democracy. Affording meaningful access and connectivity is associated with improving lives, strengthening economies and contributing to achieving the Sustainable development Goals ‎‎(SDGs). The workshop aims at contributing to the ongoing dialogue conducted by the recently established IGF Policy Network on Meaningful Access (PNMA) by exploring the multiple dimensions that must be considered when framing policies to support meaningful access for all. The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, Nupef Institute and A4AI are pleased to propose this workshop and contribute to the important work of the newly established PNMA.

Expected Outcomes

Outcomes The workshop will promote and explore how policy, regulatory and other local experiences can contribute to the debate on inclusive digital policy frameworks that consider the importance of providing meaningful access to internet users. In addition, we expect to contribute to the ongoing dialogue carried out by the Policy Network on Meaningful Access (PNMA) exploring the multiple dimensions that must be considered when defining digital policies and the extent to which this concept can be implemented and measured globally. Outputs: We expect to deliver a report with key perspectives from local experiences on digital policy initiatives which should be considered in shaping meaningful access agenda (particularly the PMNA initiative).

The session will start with a 15 minutes presentation on the evolving discussion about the concept of meaningful access held by the representative from the Alliance for Affordable Internet. In the following, a group of 3 speakers will present local experiences on digital policy initiatives that somehow can contribute to the understanding and adoption of meaningful access (5 minutes each). Next, moderator will organize an open debate, considering contributions from the audience, focused on the important outcomes and perspectives from successful policy solutions to universal and meaningful access while taking into account local constraints and needs (max. 30 minutes). The rapporteur will wrap up presenting a synthesis of the possible contributions from local perspectives to improve the comprehension of the holistic approach to meaningful access and will open the floor for final remarks of the audience (30 minutes). It is important to highlight that during the session the onsite moderator and the rapporteur will be responsible for organizing the interventions and interacting with the speakers to ensure that the goals of the session will be sought appropriately, and also safeguarding the due balance to meet diversity expectations within the interventions, either by the speakers or the audience. The rapporteur will make sure to capture all the highlights and critical information of the session so as to list key takeaways for the short report and consolidate a further final report to be delivered to the IGF Secretariat.

Online Participation

 

Usage of IGF Official Tool.

 

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

There are three main elements that structure the concept of meaningful access: affordable access, social environment (skills, education, content, multilingualism) and meaningful connectivity (technical foundation that allows meaningful access to become a reality). 

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

It is important that we start collecting at the local level inputs to understand what are the key elements to be agreed upon, which could help ungently the vulnerable or weaker social groups to gain autonomy and capacity to act in order to achive their polítical and personal goals.

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

I

IGF 2021 WS #248 Framing meaningful access for inclusive digital policy 

 

The workshop was moderated by Laura Tresca, member of  the CGI.br board from the 

Technical Community GRULAC.

Findings 

There are three main elements that structure the concept of meaningful access: affordable access, social environment (skills, education, content, multilingualism) and meaningful connectivity (technical foundation that allows meaningful access to become a reality). 

 

Meaningful connectivity in urban and rural environments and also in terms of gender presents a deeply different distribution suggesting woman and inhabitants of rural areas cant afford to access the internet integrally.

Many initiatives to circumvent or mitigate the connectivity challenge are mainly carried out by local organizations, including many versions of community networks.

Meaningful access is also  about the ability to share local content too. 

 

10 to 20% of the population in every country cannot afford the Internet, or even more.

There must be free-of-cost solutions through alternative ways. 

 

Areas of agreement

We shall not to measure the Internet from a binary perspective - online vs. offline - it is not enough to understand who is connecting and who is not, how and why. 

 

We need to call for much greater quality and affordable Internet connections. How we get to that point is the main driver of this workshop.

 

Access to infrastructure is critical, but not determinant to meaningful access. 

 

Even the market-based models can flourish, like the Brazilian approach to small access providers. Where the market has failed in providing meaningful, sustainable connectivity they have promoted community works as an alternative. Satellite stations that could not keep operative even with subsidies

 

How to further the discussion

 

Advance with revisiting and reframing these important concepts with the whole Internet community.

 

It is important that we start collecting at the local level inputs to understand what are the key elements to be agreed upon, which could help ungently the vulnerable or weaker social groups to gain autonomy and capacity to act in order to achive their polítical and personal goals.

 

Where the market has failed in providing meaningful, sustainable connectivity they have promoted community works as an alternative. Satellite stations that could not keep operative even with subsidies;

Find the balance. Market solutions are not enough, but we need to address the extent to which they can function in each country. 

 

All have to keep an eye on the innovation spectrum management and make sure that these dynamic spectrum sharing databases could be truly shared.