IGF 2019 WS #410 Everyone Connected– A Strategy for Universal Access

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Catalina Escobar, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: John Garrity, Intergovernmental Organization, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Stephen Song, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 4: Muy Cheng Peich, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Don Means, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

1) Is there a comprehensive approach that can be employed in any circumstance to include anyone?

2) What factors should be considered when seeking to understand and tackle affordability issues, and how might improvements be made?

3) How can we better utilize primary and secondary schools and tertiary educational facilities to promote and to deliver on digital literacy to their communities and should digital literacy be a fourth pillar of education, alongside reading, writing and maths?

4) How do we ensure that Internet governance processes are truly inclusive? What needs to be done to enhance the capacity of different actors (and especially those in developing and least-developed countries) to actively contribute to such processed and whose responsibility is it?

5) What tools could be developed to promote (better) Internet access for women and girls, older people, people living with disabilities, refugees and other disadvantaged groups?

6) How do we best equip the workforce of the 21st century with the necessary skills to take advantage of the new employment opportunities that will result from digital transformation?  How do we ensure that these skills and employment opportunities are equitable to all and that the global south is equipment to participate on an equal footing?

Relevance to Theme: 1) Public Access Centers such as Libraries, Community Networks and Offline Internet all combine to provide a comprehensive strategy to reach the billions of people not yet connected.

Even as the celebrations for getting half of the world’s population online occur, the need to reach the rest remains as strong as ever. The challenges will not get easier, with non-users of the internet often facing low incomes, remoteness or other barriers that stand in the way of the solutions which have worked to date. There is no easy fix, but a combination of approaches could, together, offer a formula to address almost any circumstance.

Priority approaches include:
* Public access centers such as libraries: promotion of digital inclusion through technology access, information access, and development of ICT skills.
* Community networks: a complementary way – across various sectors, economies, and technologies – to provide connectivity.
* Offline internet: A growing movement striving to provide digital information access for communities that are not currently connected to the internet.

2) Relying on current technologies and business models to reach the remaining 3.5 billion people in the world without access will simply not work in any reasonable time frame. At the present rate of availability and adoption A4AI estimates it will take another 30 years.

Establishing public access centers is far and away the most economical and equitable way to provide access to the greatest number. Such facilities can also act as network hubs to lower the costs of buildout.

DIY community networks can lower costs since they have no external profit making requirements. By only needing to serve themselves they have the greatest stake in helping everyone in the community to thrive.

3) Public access centers like libraries who are OPEN TO ALL, provide not only basic access but are ideally situated to add training and support services that are critical for new users to get online and acquire the skills necessary to make meaningful productive use of the internet.

Libraries, schools, clinics and other community anchor institutions together represent the educational and health infrastructure of any nation. Development of a common broadband infrastructure maximizes return on investment while also supporting life long learning.

Technologies/business models now exist that can enable even the most remote and unserved areas. Autonomous, ad hoc local networks hosting locally appropriate content and educational resources like offline versions of Wikipedia and Kahn Academy as an “Offline Internet” approach, most well represented by the work and tools of Libraries Without Borders.

4) Community and regional institutions are first and foremost accountable to their fellow local citizens. Collaborating to address their common connectivity requirements allows them to better understand each other’s wider economic needs and societal goals.

Central governments have a core responsibility to assure universal access to public information and other e-gov. services. They posses the resources through telecom taxation to at least minimally underwrite connectivity to common access or interconnect hubs in every region or community as a key step in infrastructure build out.

It then falls to each community to take responsibility to create its own broadband strategy and leverage that backhaul connectivity resource to serve the greatest number most economically by whatever last mile technology or business model that best suits their unique circumstances to allow them to “build in”.

5) Libraries Without Borders (Bibliothèques Sans Frontières) has been serving refugees and others in some of the most difficult circumstances since 2007. BSF works in 23 languages, in 50 countries and has curated more than 28,000 sources of knowledge and information. Libraries in general are understood as safe, gender-neutral places dedicated to serving anyone.

A global collaboration called the Partnership for Public Access p4pa.net was formed in 2018 to integrate three public access approaches that can accommodate the needs of any population, anywhere. 1) Public access centers support and are supported by 2) community networks and where no internet is available, 3) “offline internet” systems can be usefully created to provide a level of access sooner even if later integrated into the wider internet.

6) A comprehensive strategy to build out infrastructure to anchor facility hubs combined with strategies to “build in” as local first mile/ last mile networks, or even as “offline internet” in the most remote or challenging environments, offers the most economical and equitable way to reach and enable the greatest number, soonest.

These networks and shared community access points constitute the core of a learning infrastructure open to all for ongoing acquisition of new skills and literacies. Local responsibility to self-provisioning such networks opens opportunities and motivations to learn especially valuable technical skills.

Besides the critical need for effective Universal Service Funds programs, a key enabling companion policy area is in spectrum reform. More open public spectrum like WiFi allows for lowest cost and even DIY infrastructure development where open standards to encourage innovation in tandem with comercially licensed frequencies.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Government, in providing public information and services, is obligated to assure access. While increasing e-gov based services, governments will further widened the digital divide unless they have a strategy to provide access to all their citizens. Public access centers can perform vital function to provide basic no-fee/ low-fee access to public services and as a minimal entry point to the wider open internet.

These same access endpoints can also serve as nodes or even hubs for community networks who may use any combination of technologies and business models to build out and serve whole communities. New users invariably require help and training to make meaningful use of the internet. Once connected new users typically discover value and begin demand faster and/or more convenient services.

Partnerships among government, private, and civil society groups will enable holistic solutions that account for social, economic, and legal issues. By collaborating and complementing the strengths that various partners bring to the table, multi-pronged strategies can leverage these powerful yet underutilized approaches: public access centers such as libraries; Community networks; Offline internet.

The 3-approach strategy is being advocated by the Partnership for Public Access. P4PA is led by collaborating international organizations including: the Internet Society, the International Federation of Libraries, IEEE, Libraries Without Borders and others representing public private and non profit interests in hundreds of countries around the world.

Format: 

Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Description: Partnerships among government, private, and civil society groups will enable holistic solutions that
account for social, economic, and legal issues. By collaborating and complementing the strengths that
various partners bring to the table, multi-pronged strategies can leverage these powerful yet underutilized
approaches:
* Public access centers such as libraries: Promotion of digital inclusion through technology access,
information access, and development of digital skills.
* Community networks: A complmentary way – across various sectors, economies, and technologies –
to self-provision connectivity.
* Offline internet: A growing movement striving to provide digital information access for communities that
are not yet connected to the internet.

Best practices:
1) Fiber to the Region in Colombia leveraged by open spectrum policies to support education and agriculture
2) 6,000 new public access hubs in Philippines to serve the needs of 100's of thousands
3) Offline networks in refugee camps and other hardest to serve areas
4) Community built wireless networks in central Africa
5) Low cost backup networks for disaster readiness in the US

Expected Outcomes: * Demonstrate how central government straegies for public access can most effectively serve the greatest number

*Demonstrate how open public spectrum such as WiFi and TV Whitespace can enable communities to establish last mile connectivity as a way to "build in" toward internet interconnection points.

* Demonstrate how communities without any internet backhaul can still create valuable autonomous ICT resources as "offline internet"

* Demonstrate how an intelligent national strategy of using USAF programs in building out to connect community institutions as top priority end points also acts to extend infrastructure into all regions .

* Demonstrate how communities can increase resilience to disaster with low cost wireless networks

Discussion Facilitation: 

Each speaker will relate a special and unique story of inclusion success as well as challenges each has faced. Members of the Partnership for Public Access (ISOC, IFLA, IEEE, BSF, PCI, A4AI, EIFL, GLN and others - https://p4pa.net/partners/ -) will participate with additional perspectives and other best practice stories.

Online Participation: 

All speakers and supporting organizations have committed to utilizing the Official Online Participation Platform as well as their own extensive and widely varied media tools.

SDGs: 

GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals