IGF 2019 WS #153 Last Mile of Internet: Innovative Attempts on Accessibility

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 3: Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Charity Embley, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Taiwo Peter Akinremi, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Heng Chen, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Belinda Exelby, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: EMMANUEL ACHA, Civil Society, African Group

Policy Question(s): 

1) What are the key barriers for underserved communities and marginalized groups to internet access? What are the underlying reasons and how to overcome these challenges?
2) How to encourage companies to pay more attention to the development of innovative technologies targeting on promoting digital inclusion?
3)What factors should be considered when seeking to understand and tackle affordability issues, and how might improvements be made?
4)What tools could be developed to promote internet access for marginalized groups, such as persons with disabilities and the elderly?

Relevance to Theme: With the progress of global informatization and digitization, while much of the telecommunications industry is focused on next generation technology like 5G and AI, we can't forget that there are still many people excluded from the digital world. The term “digital inclusion” has already been discussed for decades and the focus has extended beyond accessibility and overcoming digital divide towards including applications and skills. After years of efforts, the global digital inclusion has been improved to a great extent. However, there are still more than 3.8 billion people who are offline, and one billion people without mobile broadband coverage. The most difficult to overcome, so-called “last mile”, is the internet access and application of remote and Indigenous communities as well as marginalized groups which confront distinct challenges. To address these challenges and to connect the “last mile” of the digital world, it is necessary promote and implement more innovative approaches.

To fulfill the goal of digital inclusion for all, the workshop will focus on innovative approaches been taken in the following three aspects.
1. Innovative approaches to lower the barriers to connectivity, including cost and coverage:
First of all, in regards to those under-developed regions, the high cost remains the fundamental barriers to internet access. Connectivity is the bedrock of digital inclusion. Therefore, how to lower the cost become the key to solve the problem. For instance, with the advantage of large coverage, wireless access technology has become an effective tool to help connect the rural communities, lower the cost of the laying network cable. A “Ger Internet” wireless home broadband solution was launched in 2017, delivering rural connectivity in remote areas of Mongolia with very low population density. Moreover, innovative financial instruments and technology innovation patterns could also be applied to decrease the financing cost of infrastructure and traffic cost of transmission, respectively.
2. Innovative approaches to bring digital connectivity to the world's most remote regions and extreme climates
For some regions with special geographical conditions, the problem lies not only on their affordability, but also on technical difficulties. For example, network solutions specifically designed to address regional challenges, such as 5G Air Fiber solutions to provide next-generation broadband to Inuit populations in the Canadian Arctic. In addition, the RuralStar solution has been deployed in Zhoushan putting an end to an era with no 3G and 4G signals, where is known for its numerous archipelagos of islands and ore quarries so that the work environment on the island is very harsh.
3. Innovative approaches to develop specialized applications for marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities, or the elderly
Another marginalized group that is vulnerable to be excluded from the digital world is persons with disabilities. According to a report by WHO, about 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) stipulates that ratifying countries ensure that persons with disabilities (PWD) enjoy their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. It also explicitly stipulates that ratifying countries shall take appropriate measures to ensure information accessibility for PWD. A mobile application called StorySign, which Huawei jointly developed with the European Union of the Deaf, translates the content of books into sign language with an AI-powered cartoon avatar to help deaf children overcome barriers when first learning how to read. StorySign is currently available in 10 different languages, and Huawei will keep working with its partners to expand the reach of this application. Many efforts and practices could also been seen in other countries, like Inclusive Smart Cities and Accessible IoT.

Furthermore, by underlining the right and wellbeing of the world’s most remote communities and marginalized groups, the workshop seeks to contribute to the achievement of (SDGs 2030) Sustainable Development Goal 1, namely to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, as well as SDG 10, namely to reduce inequality within and among countries, and to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all. In today’s world, digital connectivity has become an essential condition for development, so that poverty eradication could not only focus on the poverty itself, but also the guarantee of necessary source and service, including internet access. In addition, this topic a correspond with SDG 9 of building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation. It is important to develop innovative approaches to support affordable and equitable access of essential infrastructure for economic development and human well-being keeping up with the global progress of informatization and digitalization.

To sum-up, the primary target of global internet governance is to pass the benefits of digital technology to every person, home, and organization, and to help build a fully connected, intelligent world. Digital inclusion should not refer only to the global majority, but an inclusion for all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. Therefore, technology is good, and it should be used for good, for fulfilling the wellbeing and development of every individual and community.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Internet governance requires the participation and contribution of every individual and community of the whole world under the premise of internet connectivity popularity. It aims to build a global cyberspace that promotes openness, equality, justice, security and cooperative development. Therefore, digital inclusion is one of the paramount topics in internet governance. However, according to the “2018 World Internet Report” released by We are Social and Hootsuite, among the population of 7.7billion in the world, there are nearly half people do not have access to Internet. The attendant problems are sever, that with the digital divide emerging, social and economic inequality becomes more conspicuous.

In the digital world, stakeholders should not only focus on the technological innovation for the group at the top of the pyramid, but also the one that is beneficial for all, for the development and wellbeing of those marginalized groups. To this end, on the one hand, internet companies and research & development personals could pay more attention on the development of technologies and projects targeted on lowering the cost of connectivity, remote regions and persons with disabilities for example. On the other hand, it is also important for government and relevant sectors to provide policy and other support fostering such innovation to promote digital inclusion.

This workshop is designed to explore how Internet can act as a tool to benefit everyone in the world, rather than a booster for the advanced society. We will focus more on the very basic level, namely how can remote areas, areas with extreme climates and other special crowds connect with Internet. It may be slightly different from previous workshop that beyond the traditional efforts, we are looking for some specific innovative approaches (best practices) to lower the barrier of connectivity carried by different stakeholders. For example, a thoughtful designs that ensure the Internet usage in extreme climate or a wise ways to lower the fee. It is hoped the outcomes of this workshop could serve as a reference for internet governance, to promote more cooperative efforts of all stakeholders in the global society and to make the Internet an accessible tool for everyone.

Format: 

Other - 90 Min
Format description: Several speakers share different approaches/ideas/practices(typically by presentations) towards certain problems, then audience choose the preferable/more practical/more valuable ones.

Description: -1-【5 mins】Welcome: Introduction to the workshop by the moderator
-2-【45 mins】Introductory Presentation: Two presentations on each following sub-topics by speaker from different countries and backgrounds about their innovative ideas, technologies or projects.
Three sub-topics:
1). Innovating to lower the barriers to connectivity, including cost and coverage:
2). Innovating to bring digital connectivity to the world's most remote regions and extreme climates
3). Innovating to develop specialized applications for marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities, or the elderly
-3-【15 mins】Onsite and online experience and feedback: invite Onsite and online audiences from targeted groups to experience these innovations or exchange their views with speakers.
-4-【15 mins】 Open discussion and Q&A: After receiving the feedback from the targeted group, speakers will have an opportunities to give improvement approaches of their innovations and answer the questions by the audience.
-5-【5 mins】 Vote for the best innovative practice: All onsite and online will have a chance to vote for the best innovative practice.
-6-【5 mins】 Summary and Closing: Closing remarks by the moderator

Expected Outcomes: Firstly, the workshop is designed to serve as a platform for individuals and companies to share their innovative ideas and technologies concerning to promote the digital inclusion and take this opportunity as a brainstorm to stimulate increasing interest and creativity and to facilitate discussion between various stakeholder groups.
Secondly, the workshop will bring those marginalized groups in today’s digital world into discussion, and wish to cause more concern from the international community to their right and special needs aiming at promoting social inclusion and equality.
Thirdly, the true value can only be realized when these innovative ideas could be put into practice. Therefore, the workshop also seek to attract the attention of policy-makers, investors and other stakeholders in order to provide opportunities of practice and create a supportive environment for more innovations.

Discussion Facilitation: 

This workshop is planned to be an interactive session with meaningful discussion, and the discussion will be facilitated in the following ways.
Organizers: CFIS is a NGO and CNNIC is a technical community.
Speakers: Speakers been invited to the workshop are from a diverse regions and backgrounds as long as with innovative ideas and practices. We fully respect the diversity, to be more specific, here there are 3 women and 2 men; 1 from Asia-Pacific group, 1 from African group, 1 from GRULAC and 2 from WEOG; 2 from civil society, 2 from private sector and 1 from inter-government organization; and 1 young expert under 30--which ensure the discuss value and interaction.
Participants: We will also invite participants from the targeted groups, including people from remote regions and persons with disabilities, to the workshop or through online tools in order to make sure their opinions could be taken into consideration.
Moderator: The moderator is well informed and experienced in animating multi-stakeholder discussions, and able to have a good control over the meeting progress. Questions and input for speakers will be prepared in advance to help stimulate interactive, dynamic dialogue. The moderator of the workshop will at the beginning take a roll call of all the participants and their affiliations, so that the moderator can call on individuals to comment on subject pertaining to their interest Moderate will prep all speakers ahead of time and ask meaningful questions. He will encourage audience participation and engagement throughout.
Platform design: The platform will be arranged as a “T-shape” and the participate will sit on the two sides, with invited speakers within the audience along the left and right side of “T”, to underline the open format of the session. The “T-shape” is designed for the “Experience and Feedback” session for better and more convenient interaction between speakers and participants, which could also be easier to observe for other audience. Furthermore, the moderator will have a prominent seating position and may walk around the room to engage participants.
Tools:
1) Interactive Experience: A session of experience and feedback will invite 1-2 representatives from each targeted group to on-side experience or comment on the innovative ideas and technologies been present. This aims to provide the true feeling of experiencers and to assess the effectiveness and feasibility of these innovative ideas in actual condition.
2) Audio-visual material: Organizers will explore the use of visuals (i.e. videos, PowerPoint slides, images, infographics) not only for presentation, but also throughout the workshop to animate the session and aid those whose native language may not be English.
3) Voting: A voting session is designed to motivate the participation of audiences and to stimulate further innovative ideas and products.

Online Participation: 

Online Participation:
The workshop encourages online participation to animate discussions in the room and online simultaneously. This arrangement is especially for persons with disabilities and from remote regions, who will also be given an opportunity to have a voice on the issue. Remote participants will also be given an opportunity to ask and answer questions during discussion.
The remote moderator will have a key role as facilitator to the online participants. They will be involved throughout the workshop planning to advise on where remote participation will need to be facilitated. The moderator will frequently communicate with the remote moderator throughout the session to ensure remote participants’ views/questions are reflected. We will ensure that the workshop is advertised in advance to the wider community so that remote participants have the opportunity to prepare questions and interventions in advance and possibly generate more interested parties.

Proposed Additional Tools: Tools:
1) Interactive Experience: A session of experience and feedback will invite 1-2 representatives from each targeted group to on-side experience or comment on the innovative ideas and technologies been present. This aims to provide the true feeling of experiencers and to assess the effectiveness and feasibility of these innovative ideas in actual condition.
2) Audio-visual material: Organizers will explore the use of visuals (i.e. videos, PowerPoint slides, images, infographics) not only for presentation, but also throughout the workshop to animate the session and aid those whose native language may not be English.
3) Voting: A voting session is designed to motivate the participation of audiences and to stimulate further innovative ideas and products.

SDGs: 

GOAL 1: No Poverty
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities