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.
>> SARAH KADDU: This session discussed a people‑centered digital environment where connectivity and digital technologies, as well as will align with users' needs. This emphasizes a democratic, open, and inclusive Internet governance. This, in turn, requires that the voices, experiences, and insights of users and communities are heard.
A question to ask us all, ourselves, is, as Internet governance policy dialogues continue to push for more collaborative processes, what approaches are there which amplify users' voices? On this note, some useful insights and good practices can be drawn from the work of libraries and similar organizations to engage communities in Internet governance discussions. These practices build on leading roles in community information policy and lifelong learning. At the same time, such organizations are often engaged in practical digital inclusion work by providing access to the Internet, ICTs, content, and digital skills, learning opportunities.
The session will further explore lessons learned from the work of libraries and similar organizations to engage communities in decision‑making to shape the digital environment around them, by, for instance, engaging users in code design, testing, and rolling out of digital services, especially e‑government applications; in particular, capacity‑building to help users navigate and fit into policy dialogues around Internet governance, which facilitates the dialogue between users and other key Internet governance stakeholders at the local level.
Focus is also about building community, capacity to create solutions for digital inclusion and robust resilient connectivity. Colleagues, please note that this session will be made by a mix of onsite and online speakers, and facilitators will ensure participants fully engage in discussion and get the same experience, regardless of where they are.
I will quickly run through the structure so that we all are aware of what to expect. The session has been structured in two parts, and each will take 45 minutes. The first part of the session is a set of interventions where speakers will present several case studies of Internet governance initiatives. The second part is an open discussion. And during the second half of the session, the speakers and participants will build on the discussion to explore replicable good practices, lessons, and flag additional considerations and questions. The session will also encourage on‑the‑spot interventions from session participants and members of the DC Network to put forward examples from their own work.
Colleagues, allow me to welcome Stephen Wyber from IFLA to speak to us. Stephen, are you with us? You are most ‑‑
>> STEPHEN WYBER: I am, yes. Thank you very much. So, as was said ‑‑ and thank you very much for the warm and positive introduction there. I'm going to share my screen. I wanted to talk a little bit about the logic behind this session and sort of the question, the example that we're trying to share. When we're talking about the idea of libraries in particular as enablers of inclusive and democratic ‑‑ as we said in the title ‑‑ users of Internet governance, why we think, obviously, this is an important issue to cover, why we think that it's really interesting to look at the potential to mobilize libraries in this context, mobilize the 400‑500,000 public and community libraries we have around the world in order to achieve this goal.
So, I want to set up four arguments which lead us toward this conclusion. I've got the map on the screen. I will dig into each of them a little bit as we go, but first is the key argument that, simply, Internet governance, or governance, should be democratic and inclusive. I think probably all of us here agree with that, but obviously, it's an important point to make.
Secondly, that libraries already have a really strong, long record of supporting civic and democratic participation ‑‑ they have a long record of supporting digital inclusion, that libraries have a growing experience of action, of democratic inclusion, and that libraries bring unique characteristics.
So, to dig into each of these, this is probably the most obvious one of the four, that Internet governance itself must be democratic and inclusive. I think we all know this deep down, obviously. We know it's set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is Article 21, that people need a say in the way they're governed. And it's obvious enough that given how essential, how crucial the Internet is to our economic lives, our social lives, our cultural lives, our political lives, as well, when decisions are being taken about how it works, about how it operates, who benefits, who profits, what are the safeguards in place. This needs to be done in a way that reflects the needs of everyone.
So, Internet governance should be democratic. Now, obviously, we've known this for a long time in theory, but certainly we seem to be seeing a race to regulate the Internet at the moment. We've seen the European Union very consciously stand up and say that, well, we should be potential policemen. And I think part of this is a sense that, yes, and as I said, it should be democratic authorities taking decisions. Part of it is obviously commercial, because there's a sense that what if you're the first mover, and if you're the ones who actually define the rules, then everyone else has to follow, and because your companies have been following the rules for longer, they're better placed. And so, we can see with GDPR originally, but now with the Digital Services Act now, we'll begin to see a lot more sort of policy influence going on. This policy needs to be put together in a democratic way in order to be justifiable. To be honest, it's not always. We see various instances of some fundamental rights not always being as well reflected as they should be.
This is not just a national thing. At the UN level, we have fantastic work around the Global Digital Compact, an exciting piece of work and the way it's being put together with the open consultation is exciting. So, first point, Internet governance must be democratic and inclusive.
Secondly, libraries are well‑established actors in digital inclusion. Ever since the early '90s when the Internet started, the web started to open up to people and there started to be possibilities, libraries have been there giving people access, a lot for the first time, to get online. A few years ago, there were statistics that at least well into the 2010s, about 7 million people a year got online for the first time through libraries. So, this is really sort of a crucial role in helping people who may not be sure about the value of the Internet, who may not know what's there, who may feel they need to have a bit of support, who may need convincing before they invest to actually get online.
However, as we know and as was discussed in the previous session and highlighted by Marielza Oliveira at the end, if we're talking about digital inclusion, this is far more about just giving someone a Wi‑Fi or Internet connection in general. Internet inclusion, digital inclusion needs to be ‑‑ the Internet and digital work needs to be inclusive. And so, therefore, libraries, as with the rest of the world, are beginning to evolve this role. We're looking more and more at how do we provide skills and confidence, what are the real values holding people back from making use of the internet. And that said, the government also recognizes, through the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries, which is hosting this session, we've done quite a lot of work looking at government strategies into broadband, into digital skills, and these are demonstrating that libraries do see, that governments do see the importance of libraries, that libraries are places where you actually can access content that you may not be able to access elsewhere, where you can create content, where you can digitize national materials to diversify the range of material available on the Internet.
Libraries are great as places to deliver skills, and even just as social places where people can go online, but in the reassurance, with the reassurance that they can find someone, talk to someone, ask for advice if they really need it. And so, there's really this developing role in being really a part of the infrastructure for digital Internet inclusion.
The third argument is that libraries are evolving their role in supporting democratic participation. Now, obviously enough, access to information is a key factor in enabling engagement in democratic and civic life. I can see that Guy Berger is on the call, who is doing absolutely fantastic work within UNESCO in terms of leading work in terms of government access to information, what are the rules, the practices, the impact of this. It's pretty clear from the SDGs and all the work that's taking place around open government, and it's there implicitly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that access to government to publish information is essential for accountability.
We'd argue that it's access to all sorts of information, actually, also needs to be taken into account. People need to understand the issues. People need to understand what's at stake, what's going on. IFLA, for example, is involved in the SDG Book Club, with the UN and the Universal Publishers Association and others, looking to build awareness amongst young people of key issues so that in the Sustainable Development Goals. It's a fantastic way of mobilizing this activity, mobilizing this engagement, getting people to think from the younger stages about the issues that they will need to take decisions about as voters, and hopefully, then, to take optimal decisions for them, for their societies.
And of course, libraries are providing that. They've always been a place where you go to find out more, where you go beyond what's just really available on the Internet, where you go beyond what you have in your own ‑‑ what you have where your live, what's locally important to have. They've been fantastic as a way of deepening understanding, of deepening debate. But we have more proactive ways, because libraries are not just places where you can passively consume information. We have seen fantastic examples of libraries deliberately putting together collections in order to help people address, to engage with the issues. We've seen this, for example, in Chinese Pompeii.
We see libraries really holding workshops, training people, using the information they have to understand more about the world in all its diversity, to understand more about their rights, to hold debates in order to get different people in, to expose people to different ideas, to help them engage far more actively in the political process, in the civic democratic process, as well, of course, as providing physical spaces for local associations for groups to meet, making a reality for association.
And of course, as Internet access points is also helped here, a place where you can get involved with e‑government, where you can get involved in public consultations, on public projects and so on. So, this is a growing role, but also a proactive approach to how do you make democracy real, rather than purely theoretical; how do we make democracy active, rather than passive.
And the final argument is that libraries, themselves, have been a unique value proposition. Firstly, we're talking about a network. Globally, there's millions of libraries of all types. There's around at least 450,000 public and community libraries. That's only in the countries for which we have data and to be gotten. And for those countries where we have data, that means there's about one library for every 16,000 people, but that drops to as low as one library for every 6,000 people in some regions. And in the Czech Republic, for example, one library for every 1,600 people. So, there is a really good, dense network that's there, that's there to be used.
Crucially, libraries are built on this logic of realizing the right of access to information for all, at all ages. Beyond unlike institutions focused on a specific goal or age group, libraries are focused on everyone, without prejudice to what they want to achieve. When someone comes to a library door, it could be to vote, it could be to participate in a participatory budget, it could be to learn more about a health condition, it could be to look for a job, it could be to research. They're open for this. There's a sense of using information, the ubiquity of the really broad power of information to make things happen.
Linked to this is the idea that drawing on their proximity to people, drawing on their understanding, they can work to provide solutions which are culturally adapted. They're adapted to the individuals, to the people, to the communities they serve.
And so, joining the dots ‑‑ and that's really what we're looking to do in this session, hopefully, is look at how we can bring these factors together, how we can address the fact that Internet governance needs to be inclusive and democratic, how we can use the fact that libraries are established actors in digital inclusion, that they're growing actors in civic and democratic participation, and that alongside other actors, they bring some really unique characteristics to the table, which potentially makes them extremely interesting and useful partners as far as partnerships for inclusive and democratic Internet governance.
So, with that, I will speak again later, but now I will hand back to Sarah in order to go to our case studies.
>> SARAH KADDU: Thank you so much, Stephen, for your remarks, and I'm sure they have helped us to understand the theme even much better. At this point in time, I would like to introduce the panel speakers. Colleagues, we are having four speakers, two online and then two with us here. I would like to start with the speakers who are on site.
On my right, we have Peter. Peter, you are most welcome. And Peter comes from Nakaseke Telecenter and Community Library, based in Uganda. And on my left, I have Damilare Oyedele, a Library Aid and executive member of the Southern Africa Regional Division of Committee. And online, we have Ramune from EIFL and then we have Stephen Wyber from IFLA headquarters. You are all very much welcome, colleagues.
Now, I would like to guide you through the presentation order for this session. We want to share examples of how libraries are supporting engagement in discussions about Internet governance. And ideally, we want to assure that all these practical examples, the case studies that we are going to listen to, are more inclusive in response to the IGF issues. So, I will start with a case study from Peter. Peter, are you ready?
>> PETER BALABA: Thank you so much, Madam Moderator, Dr. Sarah. Peter Balaba is my name. Thank you for the introduction. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening to our colleagues online.
Without wasting time, I would like to share my practical experience for Nakaseke, for how libraries in Uganda in general, how they are using digital skills to bridge the gap. When you look at that slide, you will see we are not working alone to be able to achieve all this. We work in partnership. We have local partners. We have National Library of Uganda, and we have peer‑to‑peer universal and the foundation, but overall, we have our partners, EIFL, that support us with a different take ‑‑ skills, capacity‑building, infrastructure. And of course, not forgot about UCC, Uganda Communication Commission, for supporting us into this kind of work.
That picture you see, it shows one of our classes, especially after COVID. You remember that most of the youth dropped out of school because of pregnancy, because of lack of school fees, and we allowed them to come with their children to attend lessons.
Going forward, allow me also to share with you, to give you the detailed background of the general outlook of libraries, how libraries intervene into bridging the digital divide in Uganda. I would like to present to you giving you a little bit background of my presentation, overall led national technology authority presented the national IT survey of 2020, and the study indicated some little bit of progress in terms of Internet penetration and utilization of IT services. However, there are still some challenges that need some kind of collaboration to feel, especially as far as rural connectivity and gender inclusiveness is concerned.
Adoption of ICT among local government is still another challenge, and the survey indicated that 4.6% of staff have access to a computer, and 5.6% of staff routinely use computers for office work. And the funny thing is that out of that, only 2.5% use computers to access the Internet, which is something very small. So, these gaps remain a priority by the government and other stakeholders to come in and fill.
As far as the rural countryside communities concerned, as far as Internet access, the survey indicated that 90% of the community consistently have no access to the Internet, and this creates a very big gap between the urban/rural digital divide and the 13% of the households also are having less link to the access to the computer and the Internet, and this creates a very, very big gap. And the reason why they don't have access to these facilities is because of affordability. The devices are very expensive. And of course, data is also still a very big challenge. So, that one needs to be covered very well.
Going forward. Next slide, please.
Using Nakaseke as the case study. Nakaseke, for your information, is located in Uganda. It's about 65 kilometers from the capital to our station. And the map you see there, it shows where you see the white circle, it indicates our library, where I work, but this map shows the distribution of other libraries in Uganda, as you are able to see. And these libraries have been building capacity. They have worked hard to ensure that communities have access to the Internet, because as I've told you, most communities don't have access to the Internet, so these libraries have access to the Internet and then they are able to serve their communities very well. Next slide, please.
How do we promote ICTs? Of course, as I told you, together with the partners that I mentioned in the area alone, you will find that most of these libraries I have talked about, they have access to Wi‑Fi. We do also digital and mobile literacy skills training to communities. We move out of the libraries and we meet women, youth, in their respective villages, and then train them how to use these devices. Also, we conduct using peer‑to‑peer online courses, and of course, other free online courses. We provide the access to these online services to our communities to be able to learn and change their lives.
We also promote e‑government services. This was an initiative by the government, and it was launched in Nakaseke before COVID. And we go out, each time we reach out to the community, we teach them. It's one of the programs that we empower communities to be able to access e‑government services using their digital services devices.
Nakaseke Public Library is the only library in Uganda that has a community radio. This community radio is supported by UNESCO, and we are very proud of it, and also, of course, supported by the government and regulated by Uganda Communication Commission. Just last month, we have gone online; we have gone digital. And already, you can be listened to across all over the world.
We have also introduced the programmes targeting children, providing coding skills, just to create a foundation for them to understand how the computer works, which language, and all that. So, we have also received some training tips from Mandela University in Johannesburg to start carrying out their programme. We also do digital literacy. We have Kindles from World Reader, and we take them to schools for purposes of promoting digital literacy in the schools, and also in the communities, for them to be able to have access to the digital devices.
Whom do we target? You will find that most of our work in libraries, not only in Nakaseke, we focus mainly on women, because we know they are most vulnerable in our societies, because most of them, they don't have access to these devices as far as affordability is concerned, so we target women, youth out of school, farmers, the business community, and of course, the civil servants, because most of them, as the survey indicated, you'll find that some of them have the devices, but device manipulation is a problem, and they don't know how to utilize these services.
So, in the picture, you'll see one of our work when we reach out. We have readers and repairs, so we teach them how to use online sources, like on YouTube, to overcome some problems.
>> Sarah KADDU: Peter, I'm about to ask you to stop.
>> PETER BALABA: Yes. Just one slide. Next, please? So, this takes me to the core of our discussion today. So, as the government rolled out the E‑Citizen Services, we realized that people, before they introduced the system, people were very challenged the system, accessing ‑‑ for instance, the passport, it was too bureaucratic. You had to get a form, take it to the Chairperson elsewhere for endorsement. You go through the security. It was too bureaucratic and time‑wasting.
So, by the introduction of this portal, most of our libraries, we support our communities, we teach them, we assist them how to apply for a passport, how to get a driving permit. We have also helped teachers to register online, because it is mandatory now, every teacher, every civil servant, to apply online such that it is granted and transfers and promotions are done without any fear of favor or something like that. So, that's how we have helped the communities. Also, we help them to register their businesses, to get tax identification numbers, also the businesspeople, like coffee dealers, just a few months ago we've been registering them, their stores, their factories, and they come to the library. Of course, we charge them some small fees for printing and scanning.
But of course, there are some challenges/limitations here, because people who are disadvantaged, like people with visual problems, are not catered for in this program. And again, the programme is not ‑‑ there is no privacy, because we would assume that such a facility, someone should be able to sit at his home and apply online, but you will find that much as we train them how to do it using their smartphones, you will find that there are other requirements that needed to be either scanned or photo‑copied or something like that. So, I think there is need to modify the portal so that it is able to support.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you, Peter.
>> PETER BALABA: The last one is just a summary. Sorry, doctor. Just a last one. The second ‑‑
>> Sarah KADDU: It is time, Peter.
>> PETER BALABA: Okay. So, the picture you see is one of such ‑‑ some of the activities that we do in our community. We don't only stop at providing content, but we go online to support communities to be able to empower them to earn a living; how to bake using local ovens, as you see bread. Most of the bread comes from Kampala, so we train them how to make bread at home and also how to earn income. We also go online and teach them how to do hairdressing, tailoring, and so on, and making soap as well.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much, Peter. I will give you an opportunity later on to share the experiences. At this point, colleagues, allow me to invite my colleague to share their experiences. Please take the floor.
>> Okay, I'm present. Thank you so much. Please, my slide, please.
>> Sarah KADDU: I am giving you seven minutes, and I'm afraid I might stop you along the way if you exceed. Apologies.
>> Thank you. I am presenting my case study approach to how libraries are leveraging digital technology to strengthen library Internet infrastructure, more importantly ‑‑ next slide ‑‑ next slide ‑‑ more importantly using data, access library data and impact stories on libraries, and how they identify core areas of Internet infrastructure for libraries, identify key areas of these Internet needs for libraries, and more importantly, the skills for libraries. Okay.
And for us, really draft progress for how libraries can further improve digital access for communities. It is imperative that we understand the need for data to understand what libraries are doing currently. What do they have on ground? And how better can we support them? And besides that, my colleague from Uganda showed to us earlier what they are doing in Uganda, and that is communicate the impact story of libraries and access these technologies and make libraries more viable. Next slide, please.
So, these work by organizations are doing more by IFLA by the library map and we are able to see data and information about what libraries are in diverse countries, the impact of making of the users they have, and this is very essential for advocacy effort for policies. This is for infrastructure developments. How do we have libraries in these communities in XYZ. And this data has been able to support efficacy effort for libraries, and more importantly I mention about this program is the SDG stories, where we're able to get stories about the impact libraries are making. Next slide, please.
The impact libraries are making are to draft progress towards all the SDGs so no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, quality education, okay. And these further key notes and further identifies the importance of data and inform decision‑making processes. And not just that, how we can also empower libraries and librarians with the power and tools they need to be able to communicate much more effectively online, all right, and also communicate the impact of their work as a progress.
Also, another intervention which we've experienced here ‑‑ next slide ‑‑ where I work, is Library Tracker, which is an online platform where you can use it to look at libraries around you and understand what libraries are in various countries. So, we can see that libraries ‑‑ next slide ‑‑ libraries from various parts of the world and library institutions globally are addressing innovative ways to not just identify ways of Internet governance for libraries, but how are we able to apply these tools to draft community impact for libraries? Okay. Next slide.
And that goes back to access to library data and impact stories. The core values with these is to understand the core areas of infrastructure for library development and its five key areas of library needs. More importantly are the skills and capacity for libraries to draft progress. And if we are able to adequately harness library data and impact stories, it will drive a more overarching goal to support library policy or further foster improved infrastructure for libraries, development for library professionals and also draft capacity development for community‑level impact for libraries in various countries. Thank you very much.
>> Sarah KADDU: That is excellent. Thank you for saving us some three minutes. I hope even the online presenters will do the same. We don't seem to be so much in good books with the time. So, at this point in time, I'd like to invite Ramune from EIFL. Please share your experiences with us. Ramune, are you with us? Okay. Maybe if she's not yet ready, we can come back to her.
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: I'm ready. I'm ready.
>> Sarah KADDU: Oh, you're ready! Welcome.
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: Yes. Good morning, everyone. Sorry for the late start of the session. I will try to be short.
>> Sarah KADDU: Ramune, could you please increase the volume?
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: I will try. Just a minute. How about now? Is it better?
>> Sarah KADDU: Much better. Please carry on.
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: Okay. So, thank you, everyone, and thank you for this opportunity to share a case study about Lithuanian Public Libraries. We heard about one library power of changing digital ‑‑ or bridging digital divide in local community. We heard about international‑level power, so I will try to talk about power of national network of public libraries.
So, I am Ramune Petuchovaite. I work at Electronic Information for Libraries, or EIFL. And today I will talk about Lithuania.
So, Lithuania is a pretty small country. There is 2.6 million inhabitants. We got our independence in 1990, joined EU in 2004. The country is divided into 60 municipalities that are self‑governed by the community, and each municipality has a function of establishing and running public libraries.
In general, in Lithuania, we have 1,205 libraries. Most of them are in rural areas. There are five county public libraries and 60 municipal library systems that consist of main library and the branch libraries in small urban and rural settlements. Since 2016, all public libraries provide access to ICT and Internet, regardless where they are. And last year, due to big government investment, over 90% of libraries has connection, minimum 30 megabits per second over our connection.
Public libraries in Lithuania have a role, besides other traditional roles of libraries, to develop information literacy of communities, and also, Lithuanian broaden policy recognizes the public library network as a important infrastructure for digital inclusion efforts. Therefore, every year, public libraries provide over 250,000 citizens with the possibility to upgrade their digital skills and also get consultations on ICT‑related and e‑resource‑related questions. And this is just for context.
You know, in Lithuania, 80% of the population are regular Internet users. More than 50% have basic digital skills. Still, there is senior citizens, those with lower education, lower incomes, and also living in rural areas, they are lagging behind, and some of them have never used Internet. And this is why Public Library Network has become a key partner in all national digital inclusion and capacity‑building initiatives and regular campaigns, such as Safer Internet Week, All Digital Week, or other. And here is one example of the national‑level project or initiative for citizens to improve their digital skills or finally get online. That was implemented by association Windows to the Future, National Library of Lithuania, as well as several government agencies and ministries. Over a few years, half a million people have the possibility to improve their skills. So, you can see what a power of national network of public libraries could be when they are connected.
And here is the most‑recent example of the campaign that is regularly in Lithuania, and I guess in many other countries. So, it's Seniors' Online Week. Before and during this week, Facebook and other social media were full of public libraries, inviting people to join learning events hosted by libraries in rural areas and urban areas. And the themes included, you know, e‑government services, safe Internet use, bank frauds or Internet banking frauds, e‑health services, and so on.
But in addition to libraries serving to, you know, digital inclusion, the playing digital inclusion role in Lithuania, they also encourage public participation in local governance and democracy, enabling dialogue between community and politicians and public servants. And those, first of all, through meetings in person or virtual or hybrid meetings, because they have infrastructure and enables, for example, rural inhabitants gather in their library and meet online, a representative of local government, and talk about local issues. But also, there are usual events like days of self‑governance where libraries organize or initiate those meetings and invite citizens to meet public servants and talk about local issues.
There are also cases where members of parliament held meetings in libraries, either through their digital means or in physical space.
But also, I want to share one example that was held some years ago, where libraries actually administered the online survey on municipal institutions and services, their services provided online and also on site and also asked people about local issues. Close to 5,500 citizens responded to this survey, and then libraries shared data with municipal administrations, and after that, organized meetings and discussions on various issues that people expressed concern of, and there were, like, subsidies for house owners to replace, as discussed, roof covering, or renovation of buildings and social benefits ‑‑ waste collection, drinking water and sewage infrastructure, formal and informal education. So, libraries really have a power of facilitating dialogue and helping and building better understanding between different groups in society and also governments listening to what citizens think.
And this example of Lithuania I took from the case study, from one of the research studies that DC‑PAL did some years ago on libraries in national broadband plans and policies, and you can find this study online, in IFLA and also EIFL website and also DC‑PAL, among DC‑PAL resources, and also there are more information about Lithuania and other countries in another study that we just finalized on the Impacts of Public Access in Libraries. So, thank you very much, and let's stay connected.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much for being brief. I now welcome Stephen to share the experiences he has. Stephen, you're welcome.
>> STEPHEN WYBER: Thank you very much. I will also keep it quick so we can get into the description, get into the discussion later, but I wanted to really focus in on this specific question. So, we've had some really good examples of the ways in which the libraries are including and really reaching out to all members of society. We've had some really good examples of how libraries are supporting engagement in policy‑making, and as said, making a reality of the idea that policies, people should be included, people should be implicated in the decisions that are made about them. And bringing these together, I've got a couple of examples from Canada and Spain.
The first one, this is a two‑parter, is really an interesting example. And I'm sorry we didn't have the Toronto Public Library here. The time zone just wasn't doable, given the time of this session. We've had Toronto Public Library work with an organization called Toronto Mesh, which is a civil society organization that brings together lots of people with strong technical knowledge. They know their way around the technology. They're focusing on Mesh, so this idea of supporting stronger community connectivity. But Toronto Mesh, they realized that, well, you've got the technical people on board, but how do you recruit more? How do you make sure that more people are actually understanding the issues, understanding why you might want to make the decision to actually adopt a mesh, rather than simply going with a major commercial national or international Internet service provider.
And so, a first area, a first focus was actually bringing together the knowledge and the understanding of the issues that Toronto Mesh could provide with the reach and the venue and the space that a public library can provide. And so, at the York branch in Toronto of Toronto Public Library, they organize a number of sessions, a number of debates, where experts came in and engaged with people in the local community in order to actually get that sense, in order to make sure that people understood, that people saw Internet governance as something that they needed to focus on. But I think, really importantly, that they felt that they could criticize the status quo, that they weren't forcing people to accept what's there, but rather, to actually understand and to act, to engage, and to actually be active citizens when it comes to digital policy‑making.
And this was organized into two ‑‑ well‑structured into two sections. Firstly, that focuses on who owns the Internet, explaining how the Internet is governed, how Internet governance works at the moment, who's taking decisions; what are the decisions they're taking? What motivates these decisions? And then a second one on the different options that are out there for taking back that sort of control, taking back that initiative to the Internet, and what are the practical and political tools that citizens can follow in order to make sure that we have a user‑centered Internet by having a more ‑‑ and you do this, in this case, by having a more user‑centered Internet governance.
Again, it's understandable why the public library was a logical focus here. Toronto Public Library already has a fantastic program of democratic debate, of sessions, of events where people can come in, can understand things. So, it made sense to extend this into the digital space.
A second part to this case study was that they then followed up by running a course on building the peer‑to‑peer Internet. And again, this is a fantastic way of going into more detail on these topics of how the Internet is run, how the Internet should/could be run, and how can you combine, how can you make both the technical skills, in the sense of agency, something that's really more widely shared, that's not limited to just a smaller group of people, because a broader share of the population understands why it matters.
The second case study I wanted to share briefly ‑‑ and this is a little bit older, but it's still, I think, really valuable. This links to the whole community networks movement. And obviously, one of the leaders in this has been Guifi.net in Catalonia. Their model focuses very much on going out to the rural communities, which were not particularly well served by commercial providers, and actually promoting this idea of a community network, community‑run, community‑owned infrastructure with an access to the Internet, but also as a way, as a conduit of more local content, making sure the Internet itself was more relevant or meaningful to people.
So, with Guifi.net in many areas actually focus on libraries, and they use libraries as a hub for connectivity. The roof of the library was a very good place to put up an aerial in order to allow people to access, to give the physical side of connectivity. But I think what was really interesting there was that the library provided a known, an acknowledged community space where people could actually get together, where the technicians, the people who are strong on the technical side, could talk to the people who maybe didn't have that but had the enthusiasm, had the energy to do things, that people could talk about the issues, about why they were doing this. And I think, really, again, it's a really interesting opportunity to bring together people who are involved on the more political side, on the political side, about why we need a more decentralized Internet, to bring together people on the technical side, those who have the skills, to put up an aerial or to set things up and to get people connected, and the wider community who, obviously, benefits from it, but often will need, will benefit from the opportunity to actually understand those issues and get involved. So, I think these are sort of interesting issues, interesting areas, and it's certainly something to explore further how we can actually, again, mobilize libraries, make libraries part of these efforts, to make Internet governance, make engagement in Internet governance, to make it an initiative that everyone feels they can get involved in. So, I'll stop sharing and go back to you, Sarah.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much for sharing those insights, and I'm very glad that all the library field is also responding to the issues that are being discussed since we came here this week, the issues of being inclusive. Internet inclusivity and the digital citizenship, ensuring that the services respond to the call of the Internet governance initiatives.
At this point, our colleagues, I would like to go to Part 2. And Part 2 is more interactive, as opposed to Part 1, whereby we listened to the experiences from different countries and the efforts that were made. I will start with Peter. Peter, if you don't want my yellow card, please stick to a minute in responding to my questions.
My first question to you is, why does it matter that you promote inclusive Internet citizenship?
>> PETER BALABA: It matters a lot because without Internet, you cannot now connect to the world. So, that's why we engage, especially the community to be able to, all stakeholders ‑‑ the women, the youth, and the business community ‑‑ to be able to connect the Internet, solve problems that they may interface; for instance, accessing like services, connecting to the market to market their produce, how to add value on their produce, and also to solve issues related to health. So, that's how Internet inclusiveness matters a lot to the local community.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much, Peter. I would like now to move to Damilare. The same question ‑‑ why is it for you does it matter to promote inclusive Internet citizenship?
>> DAMILARE OYEDELE: Yes. It's an essential part of our right as humans, and I think it further provides access to more opportunities in context of empowerment. The pandemic showed us how the Internet is very essential for us to work together and also for sharing ideas.
And also, in terms of skills development, a number of online courses have data and programme development which through Internet access we can harness and provide those. More importantly, in the context to accessing knowledge, this sharing to knowledge support ecosystem have been shared to further improve development of the society. So, I believe the Internet citizenship is essential to further progress in the context of empowerment, employment, and cross‑border knowledge‑sharing. Thank you.
>> Sarah KADDU: Great. Our online participants, the onsite participants, just get your questions ready. I will also give you an opportunity to respond or even ask the panel the same questions, if you so wish. At this point in time, I would like to quickly call upon Ramune to give your views on whether it matters or it doesn't matter to promote inclusive Internet citizenship. Ramune.
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: Definitely it matters, because the Internet is just a tool to, you know, to executive your rights, and the same as in the world, you know, in the Internet we should have similar and equal positions. So, definitely.
And I can say also, the technology has the power also to extend the participation and engage/mobilize those who might be reluctant to participate in debates happening on site. So, yeah, definitely, it matters and it's important for democratic process, for people to participate in society decision‑making and government processes.
>> Sarah KADDU: Okay. Thank you so much. Maybe next time I will kindly request you to speak through your microphone. From this side, you are very faint. We can hear you, but with some difficulty. But otherwise, we appreciate the contributions. Stephen, can we hear from you? Does it matter or doesn't matter for promoting inclusive Internet citizenship?
>> STEPHEN WYBER: Absolutely. I think I've set out some of the arguments before. I guess the useful ‑‑ I think what's important ‑‑ one way of thinking about this is to think about what happens if we don't? What are the costs if we don't have inclusive Internet citizenship? What happens if decisions that are made about how the Internet functions do not take place in a democratic way? And I think, importantly, we probably need to steer away from the purely corporativist model where we say there's two or three constituencies and we talk to business and technical and one or two others. We need to make sure this is as much of a democratic issue as education or health or other things, because if we don't, then we risk policies being shaped by two or three different currents. We risk policies not remembering what actually matters.
I know most about, for example, European laws, and we see a number of European laws that are going through, or risk going through where there's just been a complete absence of consideration of issues that matter to people, like education, like research. These things aren't being taken into account, because the only things that are being listened to is ‑‑ I know that people are thinking about money and people are thinking about digital rights very narrowly defined, rather than thinking about what actually matters to citizens. So, I think that's why we need to make sure that we're not letting the things that matter to people become collateral damage in this all.
>> Sarah KADDU: I know as we promote inclusivity, we experience challenges or barriers. Peter, what would be some of the barriers to active involvement?
>> PETER BALABA: One of the critical barriers, first of all, infrastructure, lack of infrastructure, especially in the countryside, in the rural community side. Again, in addition, the knowledge, the capacity to use, to access to the Internet, to connect to the Internet, it is also another area that needs a lot of intervention by different stakeholders to build the capacities of our people to be able to navigate around the Internet without any difficulty, so at least they are able to be served better.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much. Damilare, do you think that we will experience some barriers in the process?
>> DAMILARE OYEDELE: I will respond to this in the context of how this applies to libraries, and if the libraries have barriers to provide Internet access, we need to establish the community where they are located. And I can recall during the COVID‑19 pandemic in Southern Africa, a lot of libraries were closed and they couldn't afford access to library services. And we had a series of consultations to understand, what were the challenges going on? And during this process, we realized the barriers were a challenge. And this is one library that had a contest of pushing for libraries to open firstly to offer services, and second to the experience was that we needed to move libraries to digital. A lot of libraries were not digital. And that is from the users they serve.
And lastly, some librarians lack the skills and the capacities to engage fully in the Internet space. And this is the need for establishing capacity for libraries.
Looking at these challenges, okay, if these could be adequately addressed, it points to potential for libraries to serve their community better and foster Internet inclusion. Thank you.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much, Damilare. We just listened to some barriers from our colleagues on the African continent. Is the situation the same from Europe or even beyond? Ramune, what do you have to tell us?
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: I think barriers are probably similar in different continents, just about skills, about motivation, access to tools and access to spaces, fora for expressing your opinion and expressing your concerns about governing issues, be it, you know, Internet governance or just usual traditional governance, so it's quite similar.
It's just, like if I take Lithuania again, another example, as a post‑Soviet country. We still are quite ‑‑ our civil society is still quite weak in terms of expressing opinions, participating, protesting. And I think technology also could play a role in people doing so, though you should have skills and understanding of what are limitations and what are your roles and where the threats can come from.
>> Sarah KADDU: Stephen, would you like to confirm the same experience as from Lithuania?
>> STEPHEN WYBER: Yes, I think there's a strong element to that. I think there's also a risk that, firstly, we have to overcome the fact that often people just want to be left alone and they just want to accept what's happening, and I think that's the case in all democracy, trying to ensure that people understand that even though they're only one citizen, they're only one person, they can engage, and the whole system falls apart if no one does. I think particularly in Internet governance issues we have some work to do in terms of showing that these are things that people can engage with.
I come ‑‑ you know, my spiritual home is copyright, which is pretty similar in terms of it comes across as being quite a technical issue, something that you feel like you need a degree in order to actually engage with it. And the same will go for Internet governance. People will worry that they need to have deep, deep knowledge of the issues and deep technical knowledge in order to get involved, and sometimes the debate will make that look like that's the case. However, so many of these issues are, it's fundamental principles, it's fundamental issues that we can and should understand, that are easy to grasp. And just like has happened in Toronto, we need to be able to explain and engage these in a way that we get people involved, drawing on things like all the discussion about fake news, drawing on concern about dangerous content online, to actually kick‑start sensible debates, not hysterical debates, sensible debates about how do we balance rights? How do we take those key Internet governance decisions and really make sure these are broad‑based in communities?
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much for that. Peter, we are trying to encourage a bottom‑up approach towards solving issues that would affect Internet citizenship, among others. In your view, do you think there are factors that could determine communities involving these solutions? We are trying to push for factors that aim a bottom‑up approach to problem‑solving, and especially to issues relating to Internet citizenship, among others. So, my question to you is, do you think there are factors that will determine how will communities themselves could involve these solutions?
>> PETER BALABA: I think some of the solutions, like issues of poor infrastructure, the communities should be able to not be (?) through their local governments and central government, to extend power to them and also to the Internet service providers to be able to connect those areas so that there is connection for them to be able to interact with each other, and also affordability. If there is some civil societies that can maybe chip in to help these communities, to engage them, to find out their problems and how they can solve them, I think it is much better.
And of course, the laws. Most of our governments are passing related to ICT. It should be bottom‑up approach, because right now it is limiting people. When you have something to say, you have to think a lot whether you share or not. So, content creation is going to be limited. Participation is also going to be limited. So, I think the communities should be ‑‑ there must be a mechanism of everything from bottom up.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much for confirming that. Damilare, do you think the bottom‑up approach is the way to go?
>> DAMILARE OYEDELE: I believe it is essential for any long‑lasting progress to happen, the community needs to own the process, right, and that creates the need for an inclusive advocacy with the communities themselves. Leveraging community approaches to drive communication to the stakeholders, to policymakers, the Senators, to the community. And I think that holds a more stronger power to really communicate the message and the community is part of the solution.
And I think the process to this is all about inclusive process of the community as we are part of the inclusion processes and also given the community's pace and the power to co‑create, right. Give what they want in terms of development ‑‑ what do they want to do, what do they want to see, and can we support them to drive progress forward to create solutions to help with their needs. Thank you so much.
>> Sarah KADDU: Stephen, what is your story?
>> STEPHEN WYBER: Thank you. I think a lot of it really has been included there. I suppose, just because I don't want to repeat things, I'm wondering ‑‑ and this is speculation ‑‑ to what extent can we use the logic of community organizing that we've seen really took off with the Obama campaign in 2008, to what extent can we actually use that, apply that logic in the Internet governance space and actually think about, you know, how can we create the new user libraries at the national level, again, drawing on those examples from Catalonia, from Canada. Can we actually use them to build that awareness to practical projects, again, within the logic of community organizing, like meshes, like community networks, and use that and use them as building blocks towards that much more inclusive model globally? That's a speculation. I don't know the answer.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you very much. Ramune, do you concur or you disagree?
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: Yeah, definitely, I agree, and I can give an example. You know, that success of the Digital Inclusion Initiative actually depends on the contribution by local communities. And Peter has mentioned the project that we work together in, digital skill set in the local library, Uganda, supported by Belgium through Enabel Development Agency, and it is about providing digital skills to women and vulnerable youth in Uganda through network of public and community libraries.
So, before starting this project, key partners of projects ‑‑ Mandela Foundation, the National Library of Uganda ‑‑ went to each of 24 communities to discuss what skills they expect to get and what they want in terms of online learning. And this discussion has happened ‑‑ as I said ‑‑ happened in all communities that are involved in this project, and we got really a good contribution, understanding that, for example, in Uganda, and I guess in also other countries where people want to build a livelihood, digital skills and online learning content should be leading to very practical knowledge that they can apply right away and, you know, improve their lives. So, that's the rule. You know, if women are taking care about their family, they are not thinking about academic degrees or whatever, you know, usually online courses lead to. So, that was really good revelation for our project.
And also, besides meeting with communities, partners met with librarians and discussed what skills, what expectations they would have in terms of libraries playing digital skills trainers role in communities and what are barriers and so on. So, I think, like hearing what is needed on the local level is just essential for any success of digital initiatives and also governance.
>> Sarah KADDU: Wonderful. Peter, in a minute or less, what roles would libraries play in promoting digital citizenship?
>> PETER BALABA: Thank you for that question. The role is libraries should engage their communities to find out what are their information needs and in which format do they want them to be received and when. So, if libraries do prefer to find out the needs assessment of their communities, then they will be serving their communities better.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much. Damilare?
>> DAMILARE OYEDELE: I believe that libraries participate as a space and community for society plays an important role in the context of process being digital and Internet citizenship, and libraries are working to drive this process. Because civil libraries are connected, then the community's connected. Okay. So, how do we unearth collaboration to make libraries connected? Currently, the International Telecommunication Union ‑‑ ITU ‑‑ is working around connecting the unconnected. They have ongoing and the development coalition, which enhances on the possibility to facilitate the fast-track Internet access. I think at this particular stage and going forward, more plentiful libraries is to explore more collaborative ways to engage with the stakeholders in this space to co‑create interventions that will seek to address these core issues to make libraries connected, also once the library is connected, the community's also connected.
And we, the extension that we fast‑track libraries' Internet access on the continent. Thank you.
>> Sarah KADDU: Excellent. Stephen?
>> STEPHEN WYBER: I think Damilare captured it. It's come back to what libraries' contribution can be, and that is space and staff. Within the community, the library will often be the only public non‑commercial space that's available for getting together and doing things, which within Internet governance, we know perfectly well the Internet does not obviate. It does not remove the need for the physical, so a space for people to get together; staff, because you need people, you need support, you need skills; provision, in order to actually catalyze some of this work to respond to needs, to analyze exactly as Damilare and Peter said about the community needs.
And stuff. Libraries do have access to collections and they're valuable and important. And the fact that they're curated makes a huge difference. These are unique characteristics. This does not mean libraries can and should do anything on their own. It's working with others, combining these unique characteristics with those of other stakeholders, like Toronto Mesh, like the people behind Guifi.net. That can make the difference and that's how libraries can fit in most effectively.
>> Sarah KADDU: Wonderful. Ramune?
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: I think we don't have much time. I just want to finish that, you know, just with a similar message, I appreciate the IGFs, powerful session, that really public access in libraries matters to many members of communities. And the value in terms of digital inclusion and participation is even ten‑fold in least‑developed countries, so I would encourage all stakeholders running digital connectivity initiatives in least‑developed countries consider connecting public and community libraries to enable citizens to access information, get digital skills, be part of digital citizenship. Thank you.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much, the panel. I really appreciated your contributions. Before we wind up, I would like to give an opportunity to the participants with us a question or two from you is welcome.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you to all the panelists for all of these really valuable contributions. Just a short introduction. My name is Soha. I'm from Aapti Institute in India, and we look at the intersection of tech and society. We've been looking at intermediary organizations that can facilitate greater awareness and advocacy on digital rights and also really play the role of facilitating this bottom‑up participation that was spoken to by all of the panelists. So, this was really fascinating.
The question I have is, well, to all of the panelists, but whoever would like to respond. I sort of see a spectrum in terms of countries and initiatives where there is digital access as well as infrastructure to those that are still working on sort of accessing infrastructure. And I see the spectrum being that for countries that have digitized, there's a greater opportunity to start this conversation on digital rights and data rights because there are these structures and awareness of what these mechanisms are. I see this in the Indian context as well now where the priority is to sort of enable access to the digital, enable access to infrastructure, and questions around digital rights are now kind of being looked at as the second priority in some sense. So, I'm kind of wondering how we start to balance from sort of a Global South perspective, how we balance this conversation around the value of access to Internet, data, and then also consider the question of safeguards and harms that Stephen spoke to around the harms that may come from misinformation, fake news, et cetera, that we are all contending with in the Global South as well.
So, how do we kind of have this balance between the value proposition, as well as the sort of harms, and kind of lead us towards the advocacy of more Internet citizenship and the question around Internet governance, which seems like a step towards that direction but one that we're sort of ramping up towards, especially even in India? Sorry, that was a long question, but, yeah.
>> Sarah KADDU: Thank you so much for the question. Allow me now to give an opportunity to the panel or any other person to respond to it, but I think we can catch up during the lunch break and then we converse about the same more in details. So, at this point in time, I would like to invite Stephen to wrap up this session and we close.
>> STEPHEN WYBER: Okay. And what I will do is I will include a response to the question that's been asked because it's a really important one and it's not an argument that we've made, and elsewhere, that as previously discussed in the Internet universality indicators earlier, we need to get beyond just talking about connectivity and we need to be talking about meaningful connectivity. In some ways, this is basic things, like we need to get away from saying, like 2 megabytes second download, one megabyte second upload as a definition of connectivity to thinking far more comprehensively about what are the different ingredients. And we would argue that one of the ingredients is that you have, even in communities that are already connected, you have public access sectors, you have institutions which are supported and enabled and resourced in order to actually provide those skills, because it's actually quite risky if we get people online without giving them the skills that they need to make use of it. They're just prey for scammers. They're prey for fake news. There's a huge risk of people actually being abused. There's a huge risk of people being damaged, of becoming victims.
And so, I think it was really interesting the way you put it, that there's a phase 1 and a phase 2. We need to get to a definition of connectivity that sees phase 1 and 2 as being the same thing. Is this something that universal service funds need to start making sure they fund properly? But anyway.
I can tell you, I think ‑‑ yeah. Ramune, do you want to add something very quickly? Then I'll wrap up.
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: Yeah, actually, you know, I was following IGF sessions in relation to fighting misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and so on. And I just had this funny idea that, actually, I think all digital skills training should start with so‑called safety themes instead of basic technology themes, and that, similarly, like before driving the car we learn safe rules on the road. So, I think that's the thing that we should do, probably, not focus on technology in digital skills training for citizens, but from social perspective, thinking about what they are and what they should know about harms and also how they can express their rights. Thank you.
>> STEPHEN WYBER: Thank you. Now following up on that, and Sarah, now I promise I will wrap up. So, I think what comes out of this is that, I think there's a connection in a lot of what we heard, that we've been focusing quite a lot on core inclusion, of making sure that people can have access to the Internet and make use of it. We focus on the role, on how digital inclusion interacts with broader democratic participation. And throughout this, what we've been getting to is that these things are all linked, that certainly, these things are linked.
There is real scope to work on this as an issue. There's real scope, in particular, to use libraries, that this is an issue, that Internet governance does not need to be technical. We're not start dumbing it down, but actually, the core issues are there. I think, clearly, we need to start doing this in a positive way. If we just sort of tell everyone that the Internet is dark and full of terror, then of course we're going to scare people off using it properly. So, we need to find a way of doing this that respect cultural differences, respect needs, respect experiences, and then helps people to actually become empowered Internet users.
But we shouldn't just be users; we shouldn't just be passive consumers of the Internet; we shouldn't be sort of scared of what's going to go on, but we actually need to make people into active citizens. We need to create/build that sense of agency. And I think agency, getting involved in Internet governance to me almost feels like the highest form of digital inclusion, when we get beyond using it, when we get beyond simply exploiting the Internet, into actually becoming people who shape it and making sure that the internet works in a way that really works for people.
So, I hope that sort of is a reflection that sort of helps here. I hope it's a reflection that sort of resonates with people and makes sense to people, and that I can certainly say from this point of view and anyone who works in libraries, this is something that we really look forward to working together with everyone else who sees this value, who sees this importance. Thank you. And thank you to Sarah for moderating. Thank you to Damilare, to Peter, to Ramune for taking part, for everyone, for the questions that we've received as well from the floor. Thank you very much.
>> RAMUNE PETUCHOVAITE: Thank you and bye.