IGF 2018 WS #279 Scaling community networks: exploring blockchain and efficient investment strategies

Format: 

Round Table - 90 Min

Subtheme: 

Organizer 1: Laura Kaplan, LACNIC
Organizer 2: Kevon Swift, LACNIC​
Organizer 3: Carolina Caeiro, LACNIC
Organizer 4: Duncan Macintosh, APNIC Foundation
Organizer 5: Stavroula Maglavera, University of Thessaly
Organizer 6: Luca Belli, Center for Technology & Society at FGV
Organizer 7: Olatunde Awobuluyi, AFRINIC

Speaker 1: Phet Sayo, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Jane Coffin, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Alberto Cerda, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Carlos Rey Moreno, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 5: Nicolás Echániz, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 6: George Roussos, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
 

Additional Speakers: 

Speaker: Silvia Díaz Molina, Social Researcher, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker: Carl Elmstam, SIDA (WEOG)
Speaker: Monique Calisti, Martel Innovate CEO, Switzerland
Speaker: Panayotis Antoniadis, NETHOOD, Switzerland

Relevance: 

The goal of the session is to bring together multiple stakeholders from the Community Networks movement, including collaborators from academia and funding agencies, to discuss the  future of community networks through the integration of new technologies –particularly Blockchain—and  the development of effective investment strategies for scaling-up.

The establishment of Community Networks (CNs) has emerged as a concrete alternative to address the challenge of connecting the unconnected. In recent years, a range of CNs worldwide have consolidated and demonstrated not only the viability of CNs from a infrastructure standpoint, but also from community management perspective through the establishment of sustainable business models.

In addition, CNs have a great potential with regard to the empowerment of individuals as well as of local communities. CNs prove particularly valuable to foster the production and circulation of new local content and new local services, thus promoting freedom of expression and access to information while triggering a virtuous circle of knowledge-and-information sharing amongst the community networks’ participants.

Community Networks lie at the heart of the Internet decentralization vision, empowering citizens to own and collectively manage the information and communication technologies that mediate their everyday interactions. Such networks have been successfully deployed and operated in different locations all over the world (e.g. guifi.net in Barcelona). 

The development, the sustainability and the expansion of CNs can greatly benefit from the adoption and deployment of Blockchain technologies. As such, the workshop will seek to explore synergies and foster partnerships between CN and Blockchain developers. The promotion of such synergy and partnerships may have a tremendous impact on the lives of the billions individuals that are currently disconnected.

In addition, the workshop will seek to encourage the debate how to effectively invest in scaling up community networks. The roundtable will have representatives from Internet Society, European Commission, IDRC, Ford Foundation, USAID, SIDA, FRIDA Program, APC, the Internet Society’s Special Interest Group on Community Networks, academia working on related technologies. The session builds upon previous debates on technical and non-technical innovation around community networks and strategies for connecting the unconnected.

Session Content: 

The goal of the session will be to go beyond the identification of the challenges that affect Community Networks today, and debate best strategies to foster and scale Community Networks, as an alternative model to connect the unconnected. The moderator will invite online and in-person participants to pose questions and weigh in on strategies discussed and encourage the debate between stakeholders around the following questions:

  • To what extent do current strategies address the needs identified by community networks?
  • Are there new aspects that can be incorporated to improve the effectiveness of investments in allowing new communities to connect?
  • How can we leverage grass roots initiatives for digital inclusion to work on connectivity through community networks models?

In addition, in this workshop we want to explore how Blockchain solutions could be utilised as the DC3 group will invite special guests to discuss the combination of CNs with complementary tools, allowing CN members to expand their local digital ecosystem, and technologies that can create added value and build trust among relevant stakeholders. More specifically, the focus will be blockchain technology in CNs (tools for customized local, private blockchains).

 

Tentative agenda:

  1. Opening comments by workshop Moderator (5 min)
  2. Introductory presentations/remarks by the panelists (40 min)
  3. Discussion based on the audience’s questions to the panel (40 min)
  4. Wrap-up (5 min)
Interventions: 
  1. Stavroula Maglavera will shortly present the current trends in technological support of CNs and point out the policy impact of the Digital Social Innovation in Europe and its sustainability as worked out through CHIC.
  2. Silvia Díaz Molina, a young social researcher involved in P2P Modesl will present insights on how blockchain could help community networks.  
  3. Jane Coffin will speak to Internet Society’s combination of grant-making and technical support through ISOC chapters, Seed Alliance, CNSIG, among other initiatives
  4. Phet Sayo will speak to IDRC’s involvement in supporting research on last-mile connectivity and the impact of community networks.
  5. Alberto Cerda will introduce Ford’s investments that have ranged from implementation of networks to policy advocacy in connection to Community Networks
  6. Carl Elmstam will address SIDA’s support around community networks through international partners and the promotion of success cases .
  7. Carolina Caeiro will speak to the FRIDA Program’s early support to community Networks through the FRIDA Awards, Seed Alliance’s most recent support to LibreRouter and overall trends from grants applications for Community Networks in the regions of work of Seed Alliance.
  8. Carlos Rey Moreno will speak to APC’s approach supporting the consolidation of networks of organizations and thought leaders working on Local Access, and the consolidation of the CN movement.
  9. Nicolas Echaniz, Chair of the CNSIG, and representatives from other member networks to the CNSIG will react to strategies posed by donors, outline needs as identified by member networks to the CNSIG and propose ways forward to better align existing investment lines with areas in need of funding for new groups to adopt the community networks methodology to access the Internet.
  10. Panayotis Antoniadis (M), NETHOOD
Diversity: 

The organizing team addresses very well the diversity required in terms of gender, geography and stakeholder group. Organisers and speakers are of male and female gender and come from diverse geographical areas, such as Europe (Western and Eastern), North and South America, Asia and Pacific. Speakers involve people from communities, academics and technical communities, NGO founders, Civil Society and Private sector, funding agencies including European Commission.

Online Participation: 

The online moderator will encourage remote participation through various social networking platforms in addition to the platform provided by the IGF Secretariat. Besides using social networks, the remote moderator will utilise the mailing list of the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity and the Internet Society’s Special Interest Group on Community Networks in order to facilitate continuous online debate before, during and after the workshop.

After the first round of interventions, the discussion section of the roundtable will open up with an invitation to online participants to weigh in on strategies discussed and pose questions to the speakers. The organizing team will work to promote the activity on social media, and will specially invite applicants from their grants and awards programs interested in Community Networks to join the session and share questions ahead of the debate.

Online participants will be given priority to speak, and their participation will be encouraged by the online and in-person moderators.

Discussion Facilitation: 

For each of the areas of interest, introductory short presentations/remarks by experts will provide basic knowledge and discuss important trade-offs. The moderator will ensure the active participation of the audience, who will be able to intervene and ask questions to the experts. Sufficient time will be given to online participants to ask questions, by the online participator.

Following these initial interventions, the roundtable will get to the heart of the debate, guided by the moderator who will begin by giving an opportunity to online and in-person participants to pose questions and discuss views on the strategies presented. The moderator will guide the debate on investment strategies with the goal of finding common ground between what funding agencies are currently focusing on and the needs for scaling-up CNs and will further explore the will explore the sustainability of CNs through the development of solutions that could complement CNs for a more holistic approach in building local community networks. 

In addition to the background documents and papers that will be prepared ahead of the IGF, additional articles of interest, reference materials and social media conversations will be published and distributed ahead of the workshop.

The moderator and organizing team will work with speakers in advance as to ensure the quality and the content of the discussion.

Onsite Moderator: 

Duncan MacIntosh

Online Moderator: 

Kevon Swift

Rapporteur: 

Carolina Caeiro

Report: 

IGF 2018 Pre-Session Synthesis & Short Report Template

Pre-Session Synthesis Due: 2 November 2018

Short Report Due: Within 12 hours of when session is held

- Session Type (Workshop, Open Forum, etc.):  Workshop

- Title:  Scaling community networks: exploring blockchain and efficient investment strategies

- Date & Time:  14 November 2018, 9:00 am to 10:30 am at Salle VI

- Organizer(s):

Organizer 1: Carolina Caeiro (F), LACNIC
Organizer 2: Stavroula Maglavera (F), University of Thessaly
Organizer 3: Luca Belli (M), Center for Technology & Society at FGV
Organizer 4: Laura Kaplan (F), LACNIC
Organizer 5: Kevon Swift (M), LACNIC​
Organizer 6: Duncan Macintosh (M), APNIC Foundation
Organizer 7: Olatunde Awobuluyi (M), AFRINIC

- Chair/Moderator:

Paul Wilson (M), Director General, APNIC Foundation

Kevon Swift (M), Strategic Relations Lead for LACNIC, (remote moderator of the session)

- Rapporteur/Notetaker: 

Olatunde Awobuluyi (M), coordinator of FIRE AFRICA

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

 

Speaker 1: Phet Sayo (M), IDRC
Speaker 2: Jane Coffin (F), Director of Development Strategy at the Internet Society

Speaker 3: Alberto Cerda (M), Global Program Officer for Internet Rights and Access at Ford Foundation

Speaker 4: Carlos Rey Moreno (M), Association for Progressive Communications

Speaker 5: Nicolas Echaniz (M), AlterMundi Association Civil

Speaker 6: Silvia Díaz Molina (F), Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Speaker 7: Carl Elmstam (M), SIDA
Speaker 8: Panayotis Antoniadis (M), NETHOOD

Speaker 9: Carolina Caeiro (F), LACNIC
Speaker 10: Stavroula Maglavera (F), University of Thessaly

- Theme (as listed here):

Digital Inclusion and Accessibility

- Subtheme (as listed here):

Community Networks

- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]

Key Message 1

The establishment of Community Networks (CNs) has emerged as a concrete alternative to address the challenge of connecting the unconnected. To scale this solution, CNs, donors and investors must have a closer conversation  to map priority areas for investment. As such, the primarily goal of the round table was to bring multiple stakeholders from the Community Networks movement, including collaborators from academia and funding agencies, to discuss the  future of community networks through the integration of new technologies -- with special attention to the possible use of Blockchain—and  the development of effective investment strategies for scaling-up.

Key Message 2

One key aspect of the workshop was to debate how to effectively invest in scaling up community networks. To that end, the roundtable brought together representatives from Internet Society, IDRC, Ford Foundation, USAID, SIDA, FRIDA Program, APC, the Internet Society’s Special Interest Group on Community Networks, academia working on related technologies. The session built upon previous debates on technical and non-technical innovation around community networks and strategies for connecting the unconnected.

Key Message 3

In addition, the workshop sought to explore how Blockchain solutions could be utilised by CNs to create added value and build trust among relevant stakeholders.

- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [150 words] Examples: There was broad support for the view that…; Many [or some] indicated that…; Some supported XX, while others noted YY…; No agreement…

Donors explained their respective funding strategies and priorities based on specific characteristics and goals of their organizations.  There was a common agreement that it is important for donor agencies supporting connectivity efforts to work with community networks to know what it is they need vs what donors think they need. Internet Society pointed out that small grant-making has worked well when supporting Community Networks, even if it is intensive.

There was broad support for the view that there are sustainable value chains within the community network ecosystem that trigger social innovation, technical innovation and generate economic opportunities where the profits generated will stay and be reinvested in that community. APC member and former CN director, Carlos Rey Moreno, explained that when working with CNs, we may need to move away classic profit-driven models, as these are failing to connect certain populations. He asked donors to “trust the process” as “the problem of connecting the unconnected is a tough one, businesses have not been able to solve it.”

Representatives from CNs provided some specific recommendations such providing funding for collective Community network-based projects rather than supporting individual networks, and the importance of supporting networks to make a case before States to become legally viable and develop comprehensive connectivity policies that consider CNs.

Finally, regarding blockchain for CNs there were two divergent views, those who believe it can represent a means for community governance, and those who believe blockchain seeks to replace trust-building which is crucial to CNs successful performance.

- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]

A couple of suggestions  regarding the way forward were given mainly by the technologists present. These include:

  • The management and effective use of idle bandwidth
  • Access to manage public access points by members of the community and/or  allow the extension of public access points set up by government into community mesh networks by private individuals
  • Ease of access to infrastructures (Towers, etc)  by smaller community network initiatives
  • The enactment of comprehensive connectivity policies that create enabling conditions for CNs to proliferate.

- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words]

The importance of making Universal Service Funds available to community networks was discussed and  the role and influence international organizations, cooperation agencies could have on how to help community networks make a credible case for their governments to actually design lines through which they can assign Universal Service Funds was raised.

- Please estimate the total number of participants.  42

- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present. 15

- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]

There was very minimal discussion on topics centered on gender related issues. There was a single mention of how a  network of community libraries with free internet access across Myanmar had been used to empower girls.

Session Time: 
Wednesday, 14 November, 2018 - 09:00 to 10:30
Room: 
Salle VI

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678