IGF 2022 Day 2 Town Hall #33 Understanding digital policy demands of rural and urban poor

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF 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.



>> MODERATOR: Good day and welcome to the 17th IGF 2020 town hall meeting 33 taking place on African soil in Ethiopia Addis Ababa. 

     My name is (?), cyber lawyer, tech entrepreneur, CEO of Digital Legal, and member of the UNECA IGF Task Force. 

     Rural committees have long been expected to benefit from information and communication technologies.  In the 21st century, however, the reverse has proven true.  Knowledge falls have fueled urbanization and drawn job seekers to big cities, widened the divide between urban and rural communities. 

     Recent technology and decentralized social behaviors have begun to buck this tendency.  A major reason is rural communities struggle to maintain affordability given the pace at which digital transformation occurs, especially in regions of high density and income.

     Internet and broadband infrastructure policies are not aligned with real community requirements.  In the developing countries, the focus is no longer on the haves and have nots but rather on the extent of the use of edge decentralized technologies and diverse use patterns across communities. 

     The global conversation has focused on the so-called digital gap between developed and undeveloped countries.  Failing to leverage the benefits of ongoing technological revolutions, this is what is believed to contribute to the disadvantage of developed communities in a transforming world.  Data is obscure and is not giving the right information to create relevant real solutions.

     Today, I am going to be your moderator for the session joined by my colleague, Lily Edinam Botsoye.  

     And yeah, so I think what we will do is we'll start the conversation.  So what I just did was just to draw the background and image of what today's discussion is going to be about.  We have got -- I would like to actually thank Mr. Wisdom Donkor for this conversation.  And then we'll have an opening remark by Professor Lee McKnight.  Take the floor.  All yours.

     >> LEE MCKNIGHT: Thank you so much.  Thanks so much. 

     It's a privilege to be here.  And I thank you all for attending this session to discuss the needs of the urban and rural poor that are living, as you know far better than me, at the edge or beyond the edge of connectivity today.

     We are privileged to have the opportunity to try to make some contributions towards overcoming these gaps through new innovations that alone will not resolve the problem but through partnerships and collaboration perhaps can begin to change this false dichotomy between where there can be connectivity and where there cannot. 

     Because, in fact, what we have in the room here can provide connectivity on 95% of the planet.  The only place I can't promise to connect within a few minutes is the North and South Pole.

     Now can I go into the slides or that is later?  Later.  Okay.  Thank you.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that.  So this town hall is brought to you by African Open Data and Internet Research Foundation and Syracuse University's School of Information Studies in the United States of America with the goal of looking beyond the declarations on the digital gap and considering current policy issues, the effects of the standpoint of people's welfare and development objectives of rural and urban poor. 

     As I mentioned, I will be your onsite moderator.  And we'll start with a case study that will be presented to us by Kwaku Antwi, Director of Programs and Outreach of Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation.  And then that will be followed by Dr. Ephrem Kwaa-Aidoo, Senior Lecturer of ICT at the University of Education in Ghana speaking on the role of internet and transformation, education in developing nations.  And then a solution will be presented by Lee McKnight, Associate Professor at School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, United States looking at how the rural and urban impoverished communities in developing nations can effectively deploy cost-effective networks.

     So I'm going to open the floor up to you, Kwaku, just to give us your topic -- connectivity, agriculture, digitalization and innovation, the situation in developing and rural communities.

     >> KWAKU ANTWI: Thank you.  And good morning, good evening to everybody where we are. 

     I would like to just take a more realistic approach in terms of because we have a lot more studies coming up.  So I would like to start off with one of the main pillars when we are looking at rural connectivity and also aligning to the sectors that are important to us in developing countries.  All right.

     So one of the main things that when we look at technologies of internet connectivity is to be able to connect people and also to be able to improve their lives.  And it is important that whilst we are connecting people, the policies, the regulations and the structures which are in place also speak to the people who are in the grassroots, and they are also able to use it. 

     What we see quite happening often is that the folks in the rural areas are often left out in terms of the connectivity.  And even when they are connected the quality of the connectivity becomes an issue.

     The main point of this focus is the policy and how it speaks to their needs and wants.  Today we live in a world which is really connected, but for folks to be able to utilize this connectivity for their livelihoods, for example, what -- the topic we have here at hand, agriculture. 

     Often rural folks produce a lot of food for us to eat.  And in the times of globalization we depend on other food from across the world.  We have seen that the break in our value chain is affecting us.  So what are we talking about?

     If I live in a rural place and I'm unable to connect to the internet and I want to be able to sell something of my produce out to the people out there, it becomes a problem for me.  But if I'm also able to connect to the internet by myself creating that network and also enabling my people in my environment to also connect to the internet, it helps them to also have the skill, helps them to also have the scale. 

     Because you see, very often when we talk from the high level about the connectivity trickling down, which is not really something which really happens, and we're going to talk about the solutions today.

     If I'm able to set up a network in my area, I would know that I'm planting tomatoes, my friend is planting pineapples, and we need to take it to the city center.  Once I'm able to have a network, once I'm able to set up whether it is a page, it's a blog or whatever it is, my people can be able to broadcast it and also that skill set stays within my community.

     While that skill set stays within my community we are able to spread out and do different things because in our African developing nations what really happens much is there are small-scale farmers who are formed into consortiums who are able to feed into the bigger scale of the markets. 

     But the most important thing is that when they get the skills, and they are able to be empowered they are connecting a larger community of people in our countries or even over the continent.

     But most of the times our spectrum policy doesn't empower small groups to be able to connect because of the gap in infrastructure.  And they are looking at big telcos, big ISPs. 

     What we would showcase here today is the ability for you to set up your own network and give the skills to the people in your country or wherever you find yourselves and also market to get money because that is what we are all about.  Once we are empowered and we have the skill set to give people, then we are able to help each other. 

     So those are the remarks I will give.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that, Kwaku.

     So I'm going to open the floor up to the second case study.  And this is by Dr. Ephrem Kwaa-Aidoo, the Senior Lecturer at the University of Education in Ghana with the topic "The Role of the Internet in Transforming Education in Developing Nations." The floor is yours.

     >> EPHREM KWAA-AIDOO: Thank you very much.  I hope you can hear me.

     >> MODERATOR: Not really.  If you could just maybe give us a second for our tech team to perhaps increase the volume if that is possible.

     >> EPHREM KWAA-AIDOO: Okay.

     >> MODERATOR: Let's try again.  How is your day today?

     >> EPHREM KWAA-AIDOO: I'm doing well.  How is yours?

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you.  The tech team, is it possible to increase volume?  He is quite faint and not too audible on our side.  Let's try again.

     >> EPHREM KWAA-AIDOO: Hello Can you hear me?

     >> MODERATOR: Perhaps it is the microphone.  Could you try that for us?

     >> EPHREM KWAA-AIDOO: Yes. 

     >> MODERATOR: So we are going to practice our listening skills today.  I think you can go ahead.

     >> EPHREM KWAA-AIDOO: Okay, all right, thank you.  I will try and be as loud as possible and speak a little slower.

     >> MODERATOR: Please go ahead.  Thank you.

     >> EPHREM KWAA-AIDOO: Thank you.  I hope you can also see my screen.  I've shut down the video just so that you can have a little bit of a fast internet.

     Right.  Okay.  So I'm just going to focus on three issues.  First, the COVID-19 response in Ghana, and we'll discuss the effectiveness of the response, and then the way forward.  But basically I'm focusing on education.

     It's said that COVID-19 has become the biggest digital transformation driver probably in our times.  The question is, what did we learn from the COVID pandemic?

     Obviously due to the nature of the transmission we had to reduce physical human-to-human contact.  And so the question was to change education in a way where teachers can communicate with students, students can communicate with each other without necessarily transmitting the virus.

     So in Ghana, as of March schools were closed down and we had only six cases in this country.  Human Rights Watch said that many children received no education after March or no instructions, no feedback, no interaction with teachers.  UNESCO is also quoted to say that 9.8 million African students experienced some level of disruption to their studies. 

     Here is the case we have only about 24% of our population having access to the internet, which is a big problem.

     And even for those who have, connectivity is very patchy, it's poor, and it's expensive.  And even if you have internet, there are cases where you do have frequent power interruptions.  So the electricity goes off and your internet connectivity is cut off. 

     Now just a brief look at what I have on the screen now.  The median speeds of internet in this country for mobile is about 8 megabits per second and 7.9 megabit per second.  Not too bad, but it is probably not the best as some people can get 200, 300 megabit per second in certain countries. 

     For fixed broadband, the highest you can get for download speeds or the average you can get for download speeds is around 28 megabit per second, which is also not too bad.  But again, by no means in the higher ranges.

     Now during the COVID era this is all that we were able to sample.  In certain areas we were able to get as low as 0.05 megabits per second and some areas 0.3 which is obviously poor.  You can't use it to stream video and even downloading a file using these speeds would take you ages. 

     So these were speeds we took from various locations around the country.  Now, the response of the government to COVID was to shut down schools, use internet using various spaces and radio and TV lectures for the secondary and primary space and then the kindergarten. 

     Of course, even at the tertiary level where we are supposed to have low infrastructure it was very varied because different universities have different capabilities.

     Now the idea to use radio and TV was because it requires only electricity, and you don't require internet.  And you also -- they also wanted to ensure broad-based access to learning content around the country.

     Now the learning space for tertiary, like I said earlier on, was to use various platforms, e-learning basically.  Some were using WhatsApp, some were using Telegram and various other web-based tools.

     Now, I did a brief focus group discussion with my students in the education administration and then psychology, post-graduate students and these were some of the responses.  These are students who are actually in-service teachers, so they are actually in the field from various parts of the country.

     Now, though there is a vibrant radio industry in this country -- and we're talking about hundreds of radio stations -- not all the stations relayed the content.  As a matter of fact, the Ghana Education Service only partnered with state-owned radio service.  So that we have just about a little over 10 stations countrywide for a population of over 33 million.  So there again, coverage was not adequate.

     There were areas in the country where the signals of those radio stations do not get there.  Now one interesting thing that I observed from this discussion was that mobile phones were fast becoming the substitute for radio.  So people would rather listen to radio on their phones.  Although it was difficult for a parent to leave his mobile phone with his kid while he is out and about because he takes the phone with him, listens to radio on the phone.  So it wasn't a case where like in the time when we were growing up there was a fixed radio, you know, in the house where you could always go turn it on and that single purpose device was used to listen to radio. 

     But TV, there wasn't a high availability of TV sets especially in the rural areas.  And, of course, there wasn't availability of electricity in the house.  Look at how they watch TV in some rural areas as depicted by the pictures that I'm showing you.  In other words, it wasn't all of the students who have access to television sets to experience what they used to call the Ghana Learning TV.

     Then again, I'm sure you have seen this in some villages around, those of you from Africa, the horn speakers has become a very popular thing in this country now where communities, especially in rural communities, installed these devices for announcements and to play music.  Now these are not transmitted but they are fixed at specific locations.

     Now there were people who in the community who were keen to do their own announcements or advertisements of various products and medications, local medications.  So though some teachers had arranged with operators of these horn speakers in communities to relay their learning content, they were competing with advertisements and announcements. 

     And also because of the coverage, there were complaints about noise from those living close to the horn speakers.  And those living further away from the horn speakers also could not hear the content.  So there again, it wasn't a very effective means.  There again, these are how the devices are installed in the various communities.

     So the question then is how do we solve -- and I'm trying to dovetail into what Professor McKnight is going to talk about, hopefully.  I don't know what he's going to say, but I'm sure I have an inkling. 

     It would be important to have centers for learning.  Wi-fi hot spots around rural areas, centers for learning.  For example, the library where people, students and teachers can congregate to access the worldwide web.

     And, for example, they need to have remote location compatible devices, connectivity devices as it is in the internet backpack that can use GSM or satellite connectivity or other forms of connectivity.  Because in -- if you talk about GSM coverage in this country, there are several locations where GSM coverage does not get to. 

     But based on what I showed you earlier, you can always see that there are some rural areas with very poor internet speeds.  With the electricity problem, it is important that these devices would have some kind of power, you know, battery powered preferably to be charged with solar.  And it would be useful to have some of these networks, these hot spots in some kind of a closed network loop. 

     For example, in my community in Winneba -- Winneba is not a big city, a small town -- if we would have these network devices connect in some kind of a metro network or wide area network where we can share information from various libraries and also have one contract to reduce prices of connectivity, that would be useful. 

     In the broader perspective, it would also be useful to create a proper ecosystem.  Obviously the discussion has been focused on internet connectivity.  However, the connectivity is one leg within an ecosystem.

     So we should have an appropriate curricula, we should use appropriate teaching methods.  Problem, project-based methods.  We should use various methods to, you know, like I've mentioned, communication between learners.  We can use these devices or online teaching methods to stretch time where, you know, student ambassadors can embark on various projects simultaneously.  And they can also use it for material dissemination.  Collaboration learning, and other online teaching methods.  So we should be able to train and strategize these teaching methodologies. 

     We also should look at ways of enhancing access to devices.  Because there again, if you have the connectivity, the learners must have the ability to connect to internet and the teachers must also have the ability to connect. 

     Then, of course, skills training which is very, very important.  Because they should know where to find materials, how to use the materials, what teaching methods and so on and so forth.

     So this is how I bring my short presentation to an end.  Thank you very much.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for those contributions, Dr. Kwaa-Aidoo.  I'm really looking at the role of the internet and different aspects of transforming education in developing nations.  And I think, as you said, in rural communities who really if you think about impoverished, marginalized, and disenfranchised, that is really where the focus should be. 

     I am going to open the floor up to Lee McKnight who is going to present solutions based on these two case studies.

     >> LEE MCKNIGHT: Could we pull up my slides, please.

     All right.  So thank you so much.  And it is again a privilege to be here and to contribute to this conversation. 

     I am tasked to focus on how to cost effectively deploy community networks and these internet backpacks for rural and urban poor.  You are looking at a rural community in Costa Rica with an internet backpack and a bunch of happy kids.  Next slide, please.

     So we'll first talk about what is the internet backpack itself, talk about some of the elements that Dr. Ephrem was just speaking to in terms of how to coordinate across a wider area, affordability.  And then closing back on the Costa Rican rural community and their backpack networks. 

     Next slide.  So what we are talking about is cost effective connectivity or affordable edge compute and connectivity anywhere. There is a variety of devices inside the pack. 

     The key thing is that Edgeware or software to the right.  And there is a solar panel, two devices, cell phones and a cradle point router.

     I'm trying to get the next slide.  Here we are.  Okay.  So -- I didn't touch it.  All right. 

     So this is -- honestly, it is easy enough children can understand and operate the internet backpack.  There is a series of two minute YouTube videos in English and Spanish.  A series of four of them that could, of course, be translated into the 3,000 African dialects and languages.

     And those can manage to teach children and adults how to operate the internet backpack.  So there is a new term, an internet backpack operator.  With each backpack it is designed to -- perhaps coincidentally to cover around the student classroom, not by an accident.  And up to 250 devices. So our doctoral student here in the room, Jane Appiah-Okyere, reports blasting through those limits to connect 500 people a few weeks ago from one internet backpack. 

     So that is not a hard limit.  It is just a design parameter.  In addition to the cloud to edge design with security built in, we also have capabilities for off-grid mesh networking depending on preferences.  It could be a variety of different networks.

     And then finally, it is not just a connectivity device, it's also a portable mini micro-grid with a foldable solar panel and a battery.  And it's actually essentially power balanced.  So it doesn't come with any laptop because laptops suck up a lot of energy.  Right now the current model comes with two cell phones.  But next year it will come with tablets which are -- again, don't use as much power as laptops.  Next. 

     So if we think about this, these backpacks could be used for education, they could be used for healthcare.  They could be used for emergency response, they could be used for agricultural work.  And they have been used for all of those in different -- in about a dozen countries around the world since their first introduction to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017 where they were insistent that we not just talk theoretically at Syracuse University about this, but we practically bring the solution to them because of their urgent needs. 

     And, of course, they are not the only ones with urgent needs for connectivity.  Over these past few years, the software design of the packs which two are here in the room, has been refined.  So essentially we can bring, as Dr. Ephrem was just suggesting, help coordinate and bring sort of economies of scale for local content, local expertise, local training.

     You don't need to import us from Syracuse University.  In fact, we've deployed mainly never going to any of the places where the backpacks have gone.  Professor Smith and I did go to Costa Rica to assist with some of the deployments which I'll talk about in a minute. 

     But the typical scenario is the pack is shipped, the local community gets a few videos, short info graph.  And we don't say good luck, but we are there to help remotely.  And we have other people that will help remotely.  And people to get up and operate their own local community backpack network.  Next slide.

     Okay.  So to keep moving along, we will focus on the Costa Rican cases that are the most recent with the support of the Internet Society Foundation which we are very grateful to, to Syracuse University, and with our partners in Costa Rica, The Democracy Lab, we have deployed 21. 

     And also in this COVID 19 pandemic condition, six rural communities have been served from four physical packs.  How do you do that?

     Well, you break them apart basically because you don't actually need -- those satellite internet connectivity devices, those are the most expensive.  You don't really want to use those unless you absolutely have to unless there is no alternative.

     The cradle point routers where we think there is no GSM coverage, there would be GSM coverage if you had one of our packs.  It can reach as longer reach.  So you can sort of reach a cell tower that you wouldn't be able to reach from your own cell phone, but we can reach it from the pack some number of kilometers further away. 

     Again, we don't know, we are not there on the site, and we can't tell you exactly what are the limits of coverage for your cell coverage in our community or region that you are trying to help reach.  But the local people working with local partners, in this case The Democracy Lab, were able to say okay, this community we can -- there is no alternative, the only way to connect is with the satellite internet. 

     And in that case, two of those communities in Costa Rica were being served where the government -- and one of them the government had worked for six years or the community had been pleading for six years to get connectivity, they couldn't get connected. 

     Professor Smith and I down there for a week with one little pack and they have been up and running supporting a school that has never been served before.  Next slide.

     Let me go back.  Okay.  So first I should note and emphasize here for the record to my Syracuse University colleagues, I'm -- when I'm talking about affordability and the costs, I'm doing so somewhat reluctantly because I'm a coinventor, I have shares in the company, I was on the board of the company that makes them until a year ago.

     But so I'm not here as a representative of the company, I'm here as a professor.  But Since people want to know about the economics and affordability, I will tell you what I know, which is that essentially any community can be served for about $15,000 hardware costs.  Or the device, the -- the cost of the pack. 

     But that is not -- so that is like not much compared to telecom infrastructure, right?  Or certainly nothing compared to fiber infrastructure.

     The key thing to keep in mind -- and this is what we want to emphasize and what Dr. Ephrem was also mentioning is how do you sustain this, how do you sustain the connectivity charges. 

     If you have to use that satellite internet, that is expensive.  And that is probably going to be beyond the capabilities of very low income communities.  But if you can reach one of those cell towers that you didn't think you could reach, or you couldn't reach from your cell phone and that can reach through the cradle point and then you can create a local hot spot. 

     Then we've experience also in the Costa Rican communities where the local poor community where I was worried about getting some government program going, they just said we'll pitch in because it's so important for their children, for their community that they would pitch in and share the cost. 

     So the key thing is instead of like one individual line and being -- thinking about this as one cost, this is shared connectivity for a community.

     And now you have to -- so instead of divide the cost by 25 or 50 or a hundred or several hundred people in a community and now it is affordable if you can connect through the internet backpack.  Next slide.  Okay. 

     Now this is not magic.  It is not going to solve all problems.  But it can be deployed quickly anywhere.  And it can be deployed cheaply anywhere.  However, for sustained connectivity, you would want to do more. 

     And we have done work in looking at this on the scale of putting in a wireless broadband network, gigabit network through a province.  Once you've demonstrated need and demand, then you have these backpacks, and you can sort of use them at the end points where needed but you could cover an area the size of Tigray Province for $30 million with a wireless backbone.  Not a telecom grade network, but a wireless backbone with security, with all of the cloud capabilities that we would want to do this properly as a research and education network with access to rights of way, with cooperation of the incumbent telcos. 

     Because guess what, you already know their networks are not cost-effective or practical deployed to low density, low income regions.  If they were, they would already be deployed there.  But they are not. 

     So there is a way to bring -- and this is exactly -- I will wrap up.  This is the research and education networks, this is how the internet grew in the advanced countries.  In the United States it started with the separate education and research network.  In Europe and Japan.  It hasn't happened in the global south to the same extent. 

     This would help in a way you catch up by bringing this forward.  I'm not here to sell that.  I'm here to tell you the internet backpack could be deployed right away.  Last slide, I think.

     Okay.  So what I'm saying is within three years you could be -- have your digital transformation at the edge for rural and urban poor communities. 

     And by 2030, those communities could be much further along towards realizing Sustainable Development Goals.  Thank you so much.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that, Lee, and thank you to both Kwaku and Dr. Ephrem for your contributions.

     So we're going to open up the floor now to our discussants.  So today we've got Honorable Samuel George, a Member of Parliament from the Republic of Ghana.  We've got honorable Neema Lugangira, a Member of Parliament from the Republic of Tanzania.  And we've got Dr. Danielle T. Smith, College of Arts and Science of Syracuse University. 

     So I'll open up the floor to you first, Honorable Samuel George, just to give your view on the discussion. Thank you.

     >> SAMUEL GEORGE:  Well, thank you very much.  My apologies for coming in late.  Multiple sessions, was in another session on youth empowerment.

     I think that the topic we are discussing is critical when you look at the digital gap between accessibility and connectivity.  70% of the continent is connected, 25% of the continent is accessing the net.  SO there is that huge disconnect. 

     So for me, it is not just about connecting rural areas but it's about looking at the connections and the affordability of the connections. 

     And the problem with affordability is because we are using the traditional networks.  Using the traditional networks come at expensive costs to the offtakers because, for example, I use my country Ghana as an example.  We've used our Universal Access Fund, which is administered by a governmental bureaucracy called (?) to roll out a lot more of rural connectivity and rural interventions.  We've won ITU awards for that with our innovation.

     However, the question is even when you roll out this rural sites, what is the uptake in terms of use?  Because you then have to look at -- you can roll out the sites.  But the main questions we need to begin to question and look at is the cost standards of living in those rural areas and the disposable income. 

     Because families will not buy a data bundle as against putting food on the table.  And so that is where the real challenge with rural connectivity is. 

     It is fantastic that we can have the internet backpack and the work Syracuse University is doing in that regard.  It is important that we continue to support and even as countries begin to look at how we can use the Universal Access Funds to deploy the services which come at cheaper cost than what your traditional networks are going to do. 

     However, the question goes beyond that.  One thing -- and as a politician, maybe I'm not speaking as one now.  Politicians are interested in what we can put on adverts for the next election.  So yes, how many of these rural communities are actually using the network.  That is where the real crux of Africa's problem is. 

     Because we are seeing the intervention by Meta and traditional networks.  One minute, thank you.  If you leave a politician to talk, I will talk forever. 

     You are seeing the traditional networks Meta do Facebook for free and Instagram for free.  But those are not commercially viable enterprises on the internet. 

     If you want to use local communities and connect them to the internet, you want them to learn online.  E-learning platforms, YouTube videos that they will learn from.  Those are not free.  And so those are the things that we need to begin to look at so that we don't just give them the connectivity, but we empower them to use the connectivity.  That is when Africa will really achieve the agenda 2063 and 2030.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that, Honorable Samuel.  I think you look at it from a very realistic point of view and that is really how true solutions come about.

     I'm going to open up the floor to Honorable Neema for your contributions on this particular topic.

     >> NEEMA LUGANGIRA: Thank you very much.  And before I begin, I would like to recognize our members from the African Parliamentary on Internet Governance.  I see Honorable (?) from Botswana.  If you can just wave so they can see you. 

     Honorable Giamba from Zambia.  He standing there at the back.  And the one who just spoke is Secretary Honorable Sam George.  So I'm very happy to be here. 

     And I think the issue of rural connectivity for me sits very close to my heart because I come from a peripheral region called Kagera.  And in Tanzania it borders Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.  And oftentimes I find when we're discussing digital issues and I always raise the issue that such meetings should be done in the rural so that people also get to experience what they are saying. 

     And oftentimes you find the people who are talking about the rural connectivity, they themselves in all fairness have not experienced challenges or rural connectivity because they live in the cities.

     So there is also the need of empowering the people from the communities to -- for their voices to be heard in such platforms.

     And when we are talking about -- I heard in one of the presentation the issue of school connectivity.  Like Tanzania there was no lockdown, but our schools closed.  But because schools are not connected, it means the kids did not learn.  But even if the schools were connected, you know, the connectivity would be better in urban schools, and it would not be there in rural schools.

     So something that I'm trying to champion in Tanzania is the recognition of community networks.  I think that ITU has recognized that community networks is a vehicle of accelerating access and inclusion, particularly in the last mile. 

     But in most of our legislations community networks are still treated the same as commercial.  So I think targeted efforts are needed to make sure that since it is -- it has been adopted as an ITU resolution and most of our countries are ITU members, then it is important for the issue of community networks to also be recognized and we can critically find ways in which to make it a reality. 

     And then to conclude, if we want true rural connectivity, we also need to look at the issues of infrastructure, access to electricity.  But most importantly, the digital literacy and skills. 

     Because if we take computers in our schools, are our teachers, do they know how to use the computers?  Are they conversant with it?  If we are saying we want to digitize health systems, et cetera, are civil servants equally conversant with the issues? 

     So these are things that we may take for granted, but I think we need to have an active and a massive digital literacy and digital skilling campaign to ensure that we truly achieve connecting the last mile. 

     And as my closing point, there is almost a 50% gap in usage of internet in Africa.  And I think in rural areas it is probably 80%.  You know, so I think this is a very good discussion.  And I'm happy to take some of the initiatives further. 

     And I hope this discussion would not just end up as most global discussions, they end up here and we forget about them, but we will try and make sure that we implement, and we translate some of these things into tangible actions in the African parliamentary and internet governance is available to collaborate with all of you.  We currently have 36 members from 25 African countries.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that contribution.  So I will open up the floor to Dr. Danielle Smith just to give us her viewpoint on this particular topic.

    >> DANIELLE SMITH: Thank you, for your amazing skills and your global reflections as the moderator.  And thank you, Honorable Sam George and thank you Honorable Neema Lugangira and thanks to all of the parliaments here taking the time to attend this session.  And thank you to all our audience members. 

     I will keep my comments very brief because our objective and our hope is that we can engage in further conversation with government representatives, with representatives from NGOs and IGOs and other organizations with representatives from the private sectors and civil society.

     So we are looking forward to beginning that conversation here and we want to allocate as much time as we can to a conversation to the questions and answers.

     But before giving my comments, I also want to say that we have provided more literature on our research projects, and you can find them on the bottom step as you are leaving.  So please feel free to learn about our research and our contact information.  We would love to be in touch with you.

     We also have a workshop tomorrow.  It is Event Number 162 at 9:30.  And the launch of the internet backpack is on Friday.  It is -- Africa Community Internet Program launch is on Friday at 9:30 and it is Event Number 83. 

     And so for brief comments, I would like to say that in our work with the internet backpack in deploying the backpack to various communities and various countries including the GRC, Liberia, the Costa Rica project that Lee talked about and the most recent project in Ghana that Jane is leading, we have spent much time -- I think almost a year in conversations with local community actors, with local people in developing the projects before we actually implement it or deployed the backpack. 

     So although we were in Costa Rica for one week, we spent quite a lot of time developing the local capacity.  Time to end.  I will end there just so that we have some time for questions and answers.  But we really hope that we can engage with you further.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for those contributions.  I think they are right to the point and have really given us a whole lot to think about and really looking at alternative methods to the infrastructural expenses that really talk about the digital divide. 

     So the floor is open.  If you have questions, raise your hand and I will acknowledge you.  And then we will take that.  Honorable, please take the floor.

     >> AUDIENCE: Thank you, Madam Moderator.  My question is centered around the backpack because you said you will be coming up with a solution. 

     But I realize that it is a political solution for some of us who are in the space of politics. 

     The question that I would like to pose here is you talked about the benefits of the backpack, but you never shared the speed of the backpack.  If we can connect more than 200 people, the speed is going to be still the same or we are going -- it is going to be reduced? 

     Because those are the questions when we are thinking talking about the backpack.  When we go back to our respective countries, those are the questions they are going to pose.  And maybe I didn't get you clearly when talking about the coverage of the backpack.  If we can clarify on those area.  Thank you.

     >> LEE MCKNIGHT: As I was coming into the UN center here, the security person that I had to open up the pack and show it to, he was asking some of those same questions about the coverage range.  And I said infinite, and he looked at me funny.  And I tried to clarify further, and I will try to do so now. 

     The pack is designed originally for emergency response where the idea is no matter what you can connect, you can reach someone.  So no matter what, you can reach someone.  It is not promising, a set bandwidth or speed for that connection, but it is promising one way or another you can connect.

     Now if -- so it depends on the specific location and the circumstance of the community in which it is being deployed what is the active effective speed.  If you're deploying the pack and you are able to connect directly to a wi-fi network, then you have wi-fi speeds that are now being -- now it is a wi-fi hot spot and it is relaying at the local wi-fi network speeds.  Connecting to a 5G or 4G cell tower, now you are taking one connection of a 5G tower and making it available to multiple people.  And you're right, each of those individual people cannot have the same speed as if they were the only sole user.  But they can connect.

     Right.  That's what we are promising.  It is a -- it is a sustainable connectivity.  We are not promising that everyone can watch Netflix at the same time off the pack.  I always put that -- I took it out of the slides, but I put that in there specifically.  But if your Honorable Kano, you can connect when you no other way can connect.

     So the range varies depending on the other existing infrastructure and the specific network you are using from the pack.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that.  I think on that point I would like to encourage each and every one of you just to go the booth.  You will get a lot of pamphlets and information there and ask questions.  It is quite an exciting product.

     Can I please acknowledge you and take the floor.  I encourage you to just introduce yourself by name and then ask your question.

     >> AUDIENCE: My name is Naza Nicholas Grama (phonetic), and I'm currently the manager of Tanzania Digital Inclusion program which is run by Internet Society Tanzania Chapter.

     Well, thank you for what you are doing.  Because we are here to make sure that everybody, everyone is connected.  And whatever effort that is out there to connect people, to access digital opportunities, critical.

     The -- there is an issue of content, I agree.  But I think just like any other human right we believe in Internet Society Tanzania chapter it is critical for everybody to be connected.

     And my question is on the issue of pricing.  How much does it cost?  And is there a possibility of actually having our African human resources, the technical people to assemble these equipment in Africa instead of actually shipping?  Because shipping is also expensive.  So if you could also be able to address that.

     More than probably 50% of the globe is not connected given the statistics on the global population.  We believe that to connect everyone takes, you know, collaborative efforts.  And we need to bring everybody onboard, you know, onboard regardless of what they are doing because if we connect we are able to ensure that the next generation of Africans also can be able to participate meaningfully into the digital economy.  Thank you so much.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that contribution.  If I could get one last question on the right.  Please introduce yourself and your question.

     >> AUDIENCE: Okay.  Good morning, everyone.  So my question I'm (?).  My question relates to what you just talked about the pricing because all decisions are financial.  When you say 15,000 U.S. dollars that is quite a lot of money for some of us. 

     Do you have incentives for agents who would maybe buy in bulk and redistribute or sell to smaller units?  That is my question, and I would be interested in that.

     >> LEE MCKNIGHT: You are putting me in the uncomfortable position of acting like I'm trying to sell the pack when I'm trying to be a professor here. 

     But so first the real issue for Africa to receive the packs is volume, as you were just saying.  If there is a demand for large volumes of this, the actual assembly of the hardware whether it is here in Africa, which it could be if there is enough volume, or in Atlanta, near Atlanta, Georgia where it is being done now and could be scaled up. 

     The individual component costs are not -- are what drive the price, not the actual assembly waver so much.  But still, if there was demand, if it got -- if Wisdom succeeds and we all succeed with Africa community internet programs certainly there could be partnerships.  There has been discussion with resellers in Nigeria and different countries.  So it's all possible but it depends on you all. 

     Now the big difference in the costs.  There's two versions of the pack.  What we're showing you, what we have here is like the full pack that comes with the satellite internet which we already said is not -- that's not affordable for poor low income communities really Realistically.  But if that's the only way to connect, that's what you do. 

     But We have another version of the pack -- sorry, the company has another version of the pack that's called the light internet backpack that doesn't come with the satellite device, and that's cheaper. 

     So you can have -- you can -- and so actually what we deployed in Costa Rica were two light packs and two satellite internet backpacks where then with -- because there was a nonprofit partner they said like six communities are sharing four packs. 

     And I will end there thank you.  And we certainly welcome you to come by the booth and come to the other sessions and engage further and certainly continue to work with the Africa Open Data Internet Research Foundation as we try to figure out how to take this work forward for the benefits of everyone that needs access and affordable access here in Africa.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that.  And thank you to the discussants and the questions that were posed and the comments. 

     I'm going to open up the floor to my colleague Peter to conclude for us and just give us some highlights and remarks for this particular session.  Thank you, Peter.

     >> PETER: Thank you.  So my name is Peter, I'm the founder of African Opportunity Network. 

     What we have been discussing so I will actually talk about the five recommendations that follow from the discussion. 

     So here we could see that there is need to connect the rural poor and connectivity to have the ability and while doing that there is need for to utilize the Universal Access Fund to do that.

     And also to achieve SDG goals and the agenda 2063 we need a cost-effective solution to connect the rural and poor such as the backpack solutions that was presented to us.  And we could see that it is a cloud managed mobile solutions that can be deployed in our community.  

     So as well the rural and urban poor, they actually lack local content.  And from what has been presented to us it is actually sustainable infrastructure that can address that in our rural community.  And also from the fallout we can see there is need for collaboration and partnership and it is actually key in bringing this infrastructure to our rural and our urban community.

     And also there is a call for solution that is not only connecting the rural but improve their lives and as well speak to their needs and their wants in Africa rural community.  Let me just stop there.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for the contributions.  And thank you so much for everybody joining us today.  I will conclude on that note.

     I think he did summarize quite well.  I encourage you to go to the booth.  This is just the top of, you know, this conversation.  We really scraped at the top.  There is so much more to learn.  And on that note I'm going to adjourn the session.  Thank you very much.