IGF 2022 WS #352 Youth lenses on Meaningful Access and Universal Connectivity

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (12:00 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (13:00 UTC)
Press Briefing Room

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 3: Civil Society, African Group

Speaker 1: Nicolás Echániz, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Raquel Gatto, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Nigel Hickson, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Adarsh Basavapura Umesh, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

Defining universal and meaningful access: What are the key elements that constitute universal and meaningful Internet access? How can it be measured? How is the concept evolving in time and what does this evolution mean for policy? (Universal Acceptance for EAI and IDN, Quality of service, Digital skills in the society, Educational use of tech in institutions, Disability complaint Community networks development, Greening part, Cybersecurity regulation, Regulations in the Spectrum, Internet cost and coverage Available backbones: (Satellite internet, Towers, Wi-fi, Fibre, Broadband) Relevant local content in their own language, Barriers to universal and meaningful access: What are the main challenges that people face in obtaining and making full use of Internet access? To what extent are these the result of social, economic, and cultural factors, and to what extent do they result from aspects of the digital environment? How can we use the responses to these questions to better understand the intersection between digital policies and other policy areas? Can this understanding help us to develop and implement more realistic Internet-related policy goals? Leveraging infrastructure and technology innovation and development: How can the significant expansion of mobile infrastructure around the world, as well as other existing and emerging technologies such as satellite, fiber, and wireless networks, be used to expand affordable access? Business models and investment: The IGF has frequently addressed the principles, approaches, business models, incentives, and coordinated actions by various stakeholders (governments, local authorities, regulators, fixed and mobile broadband Internet service providers, telecom companies, local communities, etc.) to spur investments in connectivity solutions and enable more affordable Internet access in developing countries. What can the IGF do to capture and communicate the emerging consensus resulting from these discussions? What are the barriers to this emerging consensus being implemented and how can they be overcome? Practical locally-driven policy solutions: What lessons can be drawn (and how) from successful policy solutions to universal access and meaningful connectivity around the world while taking into account local specificities and needs? In particular, what are the relevant practices implemented by local actors (local government, civil society, local providers, and entrepreneurs) to advance universal and meaningful access? Challenges and solutions in regulating the spectrum: What are the relevant regulatory issues that require attention when it comes to enabling broader access to the spectrum in order to stimulate the dissemination of affordable and quality access at the community level?

Connection with previous Messages: Message 4) expresses “Access to the open Internet is key for bridging the digital divide, as well as fostering democracy and human rights”, that is why we included policy questions related to Meaningful access. It is also worth mentioning that as the next paragraph expresses "While access to the Internet must be supported, it also must be ensured that the open Internet access goes hand in hand with infrastructure deployment", that's why we will address the issue of Community networks as an alternative way to achieve MA. Also in the same 4) "Multilingualism is a foundational component of Internet inclusivity. The development of local language content, the widespread adoption of Universal Acceptance (UA), and the promotion of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) are key to creating a truly multilingual Internet " so we included the topic of UA as an additional technical component in the discussion.


Ensuring that all people everywhere have meaningful and sustainable access to the Internet is a priority, as the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated. The concept of universal access has evolved over time, from referring the availability of a payphone within walking in the 1990s, to the widespread availability of either fixed or wireless broadband Internet connectivity from the mid-2000s. However, evidence increasingly indicates that access to connectivity is not sufficient on its own. People and institutions from all sectors and stakeholder groups should reflect on connectivity in a holistic way that takes into account how people are able to make use of connectivity once they do have access. This requires considering links between digital equity and social and economic inequalities, the ideals of the youth, and adopting a user-centric approach that combines access (in terms of availability of affordable connectivity and devices), adoption, and ability to use (digital skills and readiness), uses driven by content and applications (e.g. education, economic development, health, agriculture) and equity/diversity (e.g. gender, race, language, disability, geographic location, ownership, and control). There is a need for creative and accountable approaches to policy, regulation, enabling financing solutions, infrastructures/content platforms, partnerships, and business models that can help achieve meaningful access and universal connectivity. Examples include public and private partnerships; local access provision, through, for instance, community networks; use of universal service/access funds in financing access; infrastructure sharing; decentralized approaches to infrastructure development; and use of emerging technologies and sustainable energy solutions. Other factors that can contribute to advancing ubiquitous and affordable Internet access range from developing the capacity of regulators and service and content providers, to incentivizing the development and the issue of multilingualism, et ist, the use of local language content, and locally relevant content. The aim of the session is to maintain a round table discussion between high-level speakers and the youth about the main aspects of Meaningful access and Universal connectivity, addressing the 4 following main policy corners or perspectives: 1) Meaningful access 1) Universal Acceptance but also Multilingualism, 2) Opportunities such as Community Networks and 3) Rural Development. In the last 20 minutes, we should also examine why many of the policy solutions which are already known and proven to be effective are not being widely implemented via a Mentimeter word cloud exercise with the audience.

Expected Outcomes

The rapporteur will collect the key findings and experiences from the panelists in order to prepare a report of the session that could highlight the main direction to achieve policies to accomplish or direct meaningful access, universal connectivity, and universal acceptance.

Hybrid Format: 1) We will have 1 onsite moderator directing the session and giving the floor to the speakers both on-site and online. In the slots for opinions and questions from the public/audience, for each of the three perspectives, the onsite moderator will be attentive to the physical queue and will ask the online moderator in the case of hands raised or written comments, in which case the questions will be allowed in a round-robin basis (that is, starting with the online hands and written chats, and then following the physical queue, and so on). The online moderator has the main task of maintaining the order of the raised hands and written chat, reading the questions, and giving the floor to online audience speakers. That way we will achieve an equal foot between the online and on-site audience. 2) The online moderator will be posting messages in the Zoom chat for people to prepare questions in the chat or raise their hands. We will use Mentimeter Word Cloud for the final part of the session as already explained. 3) We will use Mentimeter’s Wordcloud and the onsite moderator will be reading and deepening the concepts with the speakers as the word cloud is being formed, the online moderator will share via Zoom chat the link to the Mentimeter in the final word cloud part.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.


Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Connectivity is still a big issue in the global south. Rural areas especially lack basic infrastructure. Private companies run into the issues of profitability, hence alternate routes are required such as community networks, IXPs, etc.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Funding is a big hurdle for community networks and IXPs and needs additional efforts, specially in Latin America. Meaningful connectivity doesn’t always translate to meaningful access

Session Report (* deadline 16 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Session Report:

Historical perspective: Adoption of technologies and infrastructure work is usually slow. For example, in the early 80s and 90s, the Internet was seen as something fancy that would phase out like a trend after some time. However, due to the optimistic approach by some people, it slowly made its way through schools, village halls, and then finally to everyone’s homes. 

Baseline Perspective: For meaningful connectivity, there is a requirement for an Internet with 4G-like speed, an appropriate device, unlimited broadband access, and daily use. One further issue with the current metrics is that they are outdated. For example, ITU currently considers an Internet user who has used the Internet at least once in the past 3 months, which is totally not reflective of the current scenario. 
Although the issue of access and connectivity is less pronounced in the developed countries, it is still a big issue in other parts of the world. 2.7 billion are still unconnected in 2022. Gender disparity also exists. ¾ over 10 own a mobile device. Meaningful connectivity doesn’t always translate to meaningful access. We need an Internet where there is equity with respect to gender, race, social class. To convert connectivity into meaningful access, we also need to look into non-Roman domain names. Significant work has been undertaken towards International domain names. However, widespread adoption still remains unachieved due to critical bottlenecks in the DNS infrastructure and backward compatibility among other issues. Technical capability, however, exists and we should work towards achieving a truly multilingual Internet infrastructure.

Rural and developing world perspective: There is a big gap in connectivity and access between rural and urban areas. Primary issues include affordability, infrastructure, digital competence, language barrier, information overload, and unavailability of local content. There is also a cultural context in some regions, for example, in India. Rural women want to buy a smartphone but the cultural norms do not support it. Aversion to the Internet exacerbated by previous experiences with online scams and fake news.
Due to the issue of profitability, it’s very difficult to serve rural areas with broadband connectivity. However, typically, national broadband networks serve up until village boundaries. Hence, if we find a way to solve this last mile connectivity problem, we could improve the connectivity issue in a lot of rural areas. Community networks have a great potential towards solving this. These community networks can also work as interconnections for additional funding. This could be achieved by creating a small IXP that will be administered by the community networks in the area, available also to small providers and local providers. Furthermore, they could also work on developing IXPs that could connect to national and regional providers/networks. However, starting any such initiative requires significant funding which is currently very limited as well. So, to solve rural connectivity issues, funding for local initiatives is necessary.
In most developing countries, the amount of bandwidth allocated for daily use is limited, even though the subscriptions are advertised as being unlimited. There is also the issue of poor connectivity inside homes and thus to meaningfully access the Internet, a person has to go outside their homes.