Digital Divides & Inclusion
Gender Digital Divide
Skills Building for Basic and Advanced Technologies (Meaningful Access)
Speaker 1: Agne Vaiciukeviciute, Government, Eastern European Group
Speaker 2: Peter Mariën, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 3: Anir Chowdhury, Government, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Alexandre Barbosa, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Deniz Susar, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Geiger Thierry, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Martin Schaaper, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Panel - 90 Min
A. How can governments and stakeholders ensure universal and meaningful digital connectivity for all citizens, particularly those in underserved and marginalized communities? B. How can policymakers establish robust measurement frameworks and indicators to accurately assess the progress, impact, and effectiveness of initiatives aimed at achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity?
What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants and attendees of this session will learn how universal and meaningful connectivity is defined, how it can help reaching underserved communities, which are the targets and baseline indicators needed to assess where a country stands, and the importance of including the concept in national policy plans. Specific country examples will help bring the concept to life.
Over the past 30 years, the number of Internet users surged from a few million to 5.3 billion. Yet the potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains untapped: one-third of humanity remains offline, and many users only enjoy basic connectivity. Multiple digital divides persist across and within countries, between men and women, between youth and older persons, between cities and rural areas, between those who enjoy a fibre connection and those who struggle on a spotty 3G connection. Achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity —the possibility for everyone to enjoy a safe, satisfying, enriching, productive and affordable online experience— is key for enabling digital transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Connecting everyone is no longer enough. Universality without meaningful connectivity does not allow to harness the Internet to its full potential. Worse: the risk is that connectivity and technology in general deepen existing economic and social inequalities across and within countries, that they become dividers rather than equalizers. This session will discuss the importance of integrating Universal and Meaningful Connectivity into digital strategies. It will feature policymakers and practitioners who will share their experience in promoting universal and meaningful connectivity, their successes, and the challenges they face. The session will also highlight the importance -- and challenges – of measuring of measuring the enablers of meaningful connectivity.
Expected outcomes are an increased awareness of universal and meaningful connectivity among policy makers, the importance of including it in policy plans as well as the need for a set of indicators to assess country progress in bridging digital divides and achieving universal and meaningful connectivity. The presented materials will be made available and a report of the session will be produced and published.
Hybrid Format: One person from the organisers (ITU) will be dedicated to facilitate the interaction between onsite and online. This person will relay questions that are posed online to the session moderator, and will also respond in the chat function of the online tool. At least one of the panellists will be online, who will be integrated seamlessly in the panel. ITU has a lot of experience with organising this kind of hybrid events, and this experience will be leveraged to the proposed workshop.
Universal and meaningful digital connectivity - the possibility for everyone to enjoy a safe, satisfying, enriching, productive and affordable online experience - is key for enabling digital transformation and achieving the SDGs. Achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity requires policy makers to embrace the concept and include it in national digital policies and policy plans.
Good quality data on all aspects of universal and meaningful connectivity are essential to inform and monitor digital policies, highlight to policy makers where the digital divides in a country are, and how severe they are.
Policy makers need to adopt universal and meaningful connectivity, set targets, and include it in national digital strategies.
Policy makers should use good quality data on universal and meaningful connectivity in their digital policies, and in the absence of these data request these data from the relevant statistical agencies in the country and fund data collection.
The objective of the workshop “Beyond universality: the meaningful connectivity imperative” was to inform the audience how universal and meaningful connectivity is defined; how it can help reaching underserved communities; which are some of the targets and baseline indicators needed to assess where a country stands; and the importance of including the concept in national policy plans.
The session aimed to answer two policy questions:
A. How can governments and stakeholders ensure universal and meaningful digital connectivity for all citizens, particularly those in underserved and marginalized communities?
B. How can policymakers establish robust measurement frameworks and indicators to accurately assess the progress, impact, and effectiveness of initiatives aimed at achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity?
The panel provided the audience with perspectives from very diverse countries, namely Lithuania, Bangladesh and Brazil, as well as information on how the European Commission partner with other parts of the world.
The workshop started with a recorded message from Dr. Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, the Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the ITU, which was followed by a short introduction to the project on promoting and measuring universal and meaningful connectivity.
The first panellist was Agne Vaiciukeviciute, Vice-Minister of Transport of Communications, Lithuania. Lithuania is a country that in a relatively short period reached most of the targets of universal and meaningful connectivity. The Vice-Minister explained how policy played a pivotal role in getting there. She spoke about the role of public libraries in skills development, the broadband deployment in the whole country and the fact that Lithuania has the lowest prices in Europe. Various NGOs have initiatives to help citizens in using the Internet. Very important is the collaboration between civil society, government and the private sector.
Mr. Alexandre Barbosa, Head, Center of Studies for Information and Communications Technologies (CETIC.br), Brazil gave a presentation on how solid data can inform policy makers on where the country stands with respect to UMC, where the digital divides are in a country and which are the vulnerable groups. He also mentioned that technology targets are moving targets. He said: “What is good today may not be not enough tomorrow”.
The next speaker was Mr Peter Mariën, Directorate-General for International Partnerships, European Commission. He introduced Global Gateway, which is a program through which the EU is strengthening connections between Europe and the world and helping partner countries address the digital divide and further integrate into the global digital ecosystem. He said that: “We need to make things happen in the field. But ne need to do the basic homework: what is it that we need to do?”
The last speaker was Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor a2i Program, Bangladesh, who joined the session online. Bangladesh is a large Asian country, a country that still has a considerable journey to go towards UMC, but where connectivity is considered important. There are many initiatives underway in the country, and 98% of the country’s population has access to a 4G network, however, only half of the population is using the Internet. The regulator has put a cap on the price of Internet access, but handsets that are too expensive form an important barrier. Another barrier is skills, as highlighted by Mr Chowdury: “Connectivity is important, but digital skills and service design are equally important.”