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Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billions – Phase III

Introduction

IGF Intercessional Work

 

This report is part of the Internet Governance Forum’s Intercessional work developed in response to The United Nations (UN) Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) working group on Internet Governance Forum (IGF) improvements in 2012 recommendations to develop tangible IGF outputs to impact Internet governance debates globally.

 

In 2015, the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) approved the launch of an intersessional program in 2015 in consonance with efforts made by Dynamic Coalitions, National and Regional IGF initiatives, and Best Practice Forums to create a continued discussion on critical issues beyond annual meetings at the Internet Governance Forum. Intercessional work furthers the IGF’s mandate to identify key issues, facilitate discourse among relevant stakeholders and to make recommendations, as laid out in the World Summit of Information Society’s Tunis Agenda in 2005.

 

Participation in IGF intercessional work is governed by the IGF Code of Conduct.

Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billions

 

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) ‘Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billions’ process is a bottom-up, community-driven endeavor to produce a collaborative document to identify ways to connect the four billion unconnected people in communities around the world. This output document represents the compilation of the third phase of multistakeholder consultations with a focus on case studies that show how connectivity initiatives are helping countries and communities make progress on the sustainable development goals.

 

In 2015, the first phase focused on defining the connectivity challenge, identifying key obstacles, and suggesting concrete policies to achieve increased connectivity, including an emphasis on infrastructure, enabling users, increasing usability and user-friendliness, accounting for affordability and facilitating an enabling environment.

 

In 2016, the second phase augmented this work by expanding the focus to ‘Connecting and Enabling the Next Billions’ and elucidating local and regional specificities and discussing how ICTs can broadly help make progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

Over 130 submissions contributed to the development of comprehensive sets of Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billions (Phase I and Phase II). Many of the contributions came from national and regional IGF initiatives, Dynamic Coalitions and Best Practice Forums, as well as external organisations and individuals.

Objectives of Phase III

In 2017, the third phase of Connecting and Enabling the Next Billions seeks to supplement the recommendations made in the first two phases with concrete case studies to highlight the ways in which projects on the ground are making helping make progress on key sustainable goals.

The focus of the third phase is the following three Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Methodology

 

Phase III of Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion(s) followed the multistakeholder-driven, inclusive approach that is at the heart of the IGF intersessional processes. An online public consultation was open to all members of the IGF community and facilitated the participation of a diverse selection of stakeholders in the work. Contributors are listed in this document’s appendix, and their contributions are published in full on the IGF Website <link>.

 

Initial planning for Phase III began with virtual discussions within the Multistakeholder Advisory Group in early 2017. Various MAG members provided input in shaping the framework in the first few months of 2017, and the coordinators published a public call for input on the 13th of June, 2017, during the second physical MAG meeting in Geneva.

 

A call for input was issued to various mailing lists to invite responses from various stakeholder groups. Communities within the IGF, specifically the NRIs, DCs and BPFs, were reached out to through targeted outreach mechanisms, and invited to participate.

 

The first draft has been compiled by taking note of relevant contributions by all stakeholders, and organized by themes that emerged from the contributions. It has been augmented by desk research and a wider literature review. The case studies have been lightly edited for readability and reflect text from contributions directly, where relevant. They have been organized by the sustainable development goal that they contribute directly to.

 

<to be updated with further insight on process as it unfolds>

Structure of this Report

 

This report is structured into four parts. The first part exemplifies the relevance of ICTs to the sustainable development goals more broadly, and provides a framework to understand the ways in which the two go hand in hand. The second, third and fourth section focus on each of the sustainable development goals chosen for this phase: Goal 4 that focuses on Education, Goal 5 that focuses on Gender Equality and Goal 9 on Infrastructure.

 

<more to be added on structure as it unfolds>

Linkages between ICTs and the SDGs

All member nations adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda in 2015. The agenda, in goal 9c, sets a very ambitious goal to "significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020."

A robust ICT ecosystem is key to attaining that goal. As ICC-BASIS elucidated in their contribution, “an interoperable, seamless ICT ecosystem is crucial to help populations reap the benefits of ICT and further development opportunity.” Another submission by 
Picosoft Nepal underscores the relevance of ICTs in attaining all of the sustainable development goals. “With roughly half the population lacking internet connectivity, it remains clear that underserved communities in the developing world and beyond require better access to physical technology, access to the internet, as well as digital literacy and computer science education. This is especially the case for women and girls, who are often left behind. To truly solve SDG 4 (Education), SDG 5 (women empowerment), and SDG 9 (infrastructure development), technology remains a key driving force that crosses over these three SDGs in addition to the remaining fourteen.”

Contributors also emphasized that unique nature of the challenge that SDGs pose, and the need for information sharing through ICTs as part of the solution. As Shreedeep Ramanjhi put it, “SDGs need an open and collaborative approach for technological sharing and development,” which ICTs can facilitate at a more rapid pace than alternatives. The nature of ICT governance in a multistakeholder model also enables innovative approaches and creative collaborations flourish. Picosoft Nepal adds, “the information poverty a direct contributor to lower economic and social prosperity, local social entrepreneurs are (1) designing and implementing unique solutions enabling internet connectivity, (2) developing locally-driven content, and (3) partnering in multistakeholder approaches to improve digital communication and economic opportunities…. We must partner across the private and public sector in a multi-stakeholder approach to truly solve these lofty goals.” Panama’s IGF report also emphasized the need for public-private collaborations to make progress on ICTs and the SDGs.

<more desk literature to be added>

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

 

Case 1: [email protected], Yemen

 

[email protected] is an initiative by ISOC Yemen that seeks to set up Internet access hotspots and provide training in ICT skills through workshops and lectures to secondary school students, as well as by commissioning training materials in the local language (Arabic) in four schools in Sanaa and Aden in Yemen.

 

[email protected] used a two-pronged approach to improve adoption and educational outcomes: first, to connect four schools to the internet through wireless hotspots, and second, to train secondary school students through workshops, lectures, and material in the local language. ISOC-Yemen has received a grant under the Beyond the Net grants program for the deployment of [email protected] in 2016-17. The project identified schools in areas relatively shielded from the conflict to deploy wireless hotspots.

 

The chapter introduced an Arabic-language illustrative primer for secondary school students who have never been exposed to the Internet before. Multiple workshops, and guest lectures to train students in information and communications technologies, along with contests to engage the students and measure their progress in adopting to the Internet are used to improve adoption. The project culminated with the first ever [email protected] conference, conducted in July 2017.

Case 2: Project Tawasol, Tunisia

 

Project Tawasol is a project in Tunisia led by IEEE Sight, Tunisia chapter and People Centered Internet. The aim of the project is to connect primary schools across the country to the Internet, and train students to use the Internet through ICT skills workshops conducted by IEEE.

 

The project seeks to provide students small Raspberry Pi operated devices with hard disks that can be updated periodically with relevant content such as Wikipedia pages, TED Talks and other educational content from the Internet. The devices have been developed by IEEE Sight in Tunisia with aid from the San Francisco chapter. They are capable of automatically updating content when connected to Wi-Fi or 3G networks. 

 

In December 2016, the Sadiki school in Tunis was identified as the first “Connected School” for the dissemination of these devices coupled with digital literacy training workshops by members of IEEE Sight. With support from the government, the project aims to connect, by the end of 2017, 24 such schools – one school in each region within Tunisia. The project focuses on primary schools, with an aim to make the next generation aware of new technologies and information that can be accessed through the Internet.

 

As part of the project, technical talks and digital literacy as well as ICT training workshops are organized by IEEE Sight, Tunisia. These talks cover interactive sessions that teach students how to build their own websites using drag and drop interfaces. The first workshop conducted in 2016 had a 50% participation by women, a key step in enabling gender parity in Internet access and skills.

 

In digital literacy training workshops that have been conducted by IEEE Sight, students have built their own prototype websites such as a school blog using HTML, CSS and modular website building interfaces. The reactions in post-workshop surveys conducted thus far have been tremendously positive. “Most students asked us when we will return to provide them with their own devices for development,” says Skander Mansouri, one of the IEEE Sight members that conducted these training workshops.

Case 3: Escuela+, Latin America

 

Escuela+ is a program that uses satellite technology and solar-powered infrastructure on the ground combined with innovative educational programming to connect rural schools in Latin America that do not have any Internet access to high quality educational content. The program, active since 2007, has reached over 1 million students, 65,000 teachers, and 6,800 schools in eight countries in Latin America including Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. It is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including AT&T, DirecTV, National Geographic, Discovery and Fundacion Torneos.

 

ESCUELA+ uses last mile satellite connectivity to provide educational content from high quality sources such as the Discovery channel and National Geographic, as well as the National Television Council’s educational content, to students in rural schools. The satellite connectivity provides access to this programming in any school with TV and electrical power. Where such electrical power was not easily accessible, solar-powered alternatives are being deployed to make streamed educational content easily available to school-going children in rural areas, as part of ESCUELA+ Solar initiative. DirecTV’s DVR recording facility allows teachers to manage content and record over 100 hours of programming, and use this content as part of a pedagogy that integrates interactive and integrated learning supplemented by online information.

 

Teachers are trained in the use of ESCUELA+ audio/visual technology, as well as the Discovery en la ESCUELA pedagogy. Using media, technology and digital satellite television, learning processes are tailored to incorporate an innovative teaching methodology in these schools.

 

Over 80% of ESCUELA+ schools are in underserved areas. Independent evaluation studies conducted by the University of Chile Department of Education and by the Faculty of Social Sciences in two waves concluded that students receiving education supplemented by ESCUELA+ methodology performed consistently better than a control group.  ESCUELA+ students registered higher performance scores analyzed by year-on-year performance, grade level and subject matter.

Case 4: Digital Village Squares, India

 

Digital Village Squares is an Indian corporate social responsibility initiative implemented by American Tower Corporation in collaboration with the NIIT Foundation and Hole in the Wall Education Limited (HiWEL). HiWEL learning stations and digital literacy training classes by the NIIT Foundation are now available at 51 Squares in rural India. Students can engage in self-paced interactive learning through the learning stations, and adults are trained in basic computer skills using the National Digital Literacy Mission’s curriculum at these locations.

 

Digital Village Squares are locations in rural India that are either adjoining tower sites or at local schools, where digital literacy training occurs. The initiative is part of American Tower Corporation’s corporate social responsibility efforts in India, and seeks to advance the Digital India vision. American Tower partners with Hole-in-the-Wall Education Limited and the NIIT Foundation in India to implement this initiative.

 

The sites for Digital Village Squares are carefully chosen in locations that are central to villages. After a pilot was run in a few villages, community buy-in proved to be a strong determinant of the success of the program. A comprehensive mobilization plan is therefore used to create awareness about the training and services offered at the center. Pamphlets, skits, and sessions at the Gram Sabhas are held to reach as many people as possible. Children enrolled in schools have also proven to be helpful in spreading awareness about the project within their communities. The trainers recruited for imparting digital literacy training are all local to the areas where these Squares are located.

 

A sense of ownership also plays a role in whether there is increased use of these learning stations and classes. When learning stations were installed adjacent to tower sites, initially, there was more engagement at those locations than in schools. Continued engagement with school administrations to emphasize the utility of these learning stations has led to better uptake and use. At the training classes, the National Digital Literacy Mission’s curriculum is taught over the course of 20-25 days, at the end of which an assessment of ICT skills is administered by the trainer.

 

The program hopes to evolve to cover a wide range of e-governance services and engage local entrepreneurs in key ways to maintain these sites, as a means to enhance long-term sustainability.

 

Digital Village Squares are presently available in 51 sites all in rural areas, with 28 that are standalone HiWEL stations, and 23 that offer digital literacy training using the National Digital Literacy Mission’s curriculum. The demand for training has seen a rise in these locations, evidenced by long queues for classes at the Squares.

Case 5: Zaya Learning Lab, India

 

Zaya Learning Lab is a non-profit organization established in 2013 to provide Wi-Fi access to low-income English-language schools in India. Their unique learning-focused connectivity devices provide Internet access and educational content at a much lower cost than a regular, open-Internet Wi-Fi connection. This case shows the value of tailoring connectivity to the needs of a specific site (region, culture, class, institution) and the importance of technical and person-to-person communication in making Internet access an effective tool for education.

 

Zaya Learning Labs provides affordable Wi-Fi to low-income Indian schools via a curated secured dynamic device called ClassCloud. This device is both a wireless router and a high-process server. It functions like any cloud service on the Internet, provides a wide-range WiFi signal, and runs software all at once. For a yearly fee (roughly the cost of one dollar per year per child, in their estimation), Zaya provides interactive and region-appropriate digital content through this device.

 

This content is based on an educational methodology known as “blended learning,” which harnesses the capabilities of an online classroom in order target students’ individual requirements, educational levels, and learning speeds. Not only is the software able to dynamically respond to each student’s progress through a digitized workbook or textbook, but this software is also programmed to communicate student struggles and successes to Zaya and their content providers, who use these analytics to refine and improve their tools.

 

Zaya currently has 400 schools spread throughout India subscribing yearly to their service, which reaches about 200,000 children between the ages of five and thirteen. They are currently working on expanding the age range of their software content to fifteen and continuing to subscribe additional schools—in and outside of India— to their service.

Case 6: Cisco Connected North, Canada

 

Cisco Canada’s “Connected North” initiative augments educational and healthcare services available to youth in remote indigenous communities in Northern Canada since 2013. It deploys Cisco’s Telepresence technology (MX 300 G2) to offer real-time, live interactive experiences with experts and students in other classrooms around Canada, the project has grown from a single pilot location to implementation in 30 schools.  Within five years, Connected North expects to have Telepresence units in 100 schools.  Connected North is indicative of the utility of immersive, interactive internet learning for students in remote regions to combat endemic local social issues such as a graduation rate of approximately 20% and highest global per capita suicide rate among youth whose expansion is curtailed by funding concerns.

 

Connected North is an immersive, digital education and mental health and wellness network that provides customized services and real time experiences to students in remote Indigenous communities.  Begun as a pilot in a single school in the Territory of Nunavut, the project has greatly expanded since 2013.  Using Cisco TelePresence technology, Connected North leverages real-time, high definition two-way video to make powerful connections for students, bringing experts into JK - Grade 12 classrooms on a wide range of topics. There are five overarching content areas that Connected North focuses on – virtual fieldtrips, mentoring, experts on demand in a vast array of subject areas, classroom cultural exchanges (both between indigenous and non-indigenous student populations and indigenous to indigenous classrooms), and programming called “Future Pathways” which aims to help students attend post-secondary institutions as well as make them aware of career paths that are available to them.

In terms of content, 90% is indigenous-themed.  Connected North staffers work hand-in-hand with teachers for content-offerings and work to reinforce indigenous cultural educational styles, such as emphasis in Inuit schools on collaborative learning.

 

In smaller schools, Telepresence setups are put in common areas so all classes may use them as needed.  In larger schools, each intermediate classroom (6th, 7th, and 8th grades) has a unit.  Cisco sells these units for $30,000 Canadian, however, they offer a seventy percent discount to Canadian school districts, bringing the cost down to approximately $9,000 Canadian.  Due to the program’s success, Cisco spun-off Connected North into a non-profit organization, which partnered with Taking IT Global.  This latter organization has constructed an ecosystem of over 50 funding partners including Federal, Provincial, and Territorial governments, private sector lenders, private foundations, and individual donors.

 

The impetus and continued support for Connected North comes from two tragic statistics of Canadian indigenous youth; the dropout rate is approximately 80% and these communities have the highest rates of youth suicide per capita in the world.  Combatting these systemic problems required more than just educational resources.  The second facet of Connected North was to provide students with access to remote mental health and wellness professionals that would traditionally require great travel expense for the students’ families and were thus generally unavailable.

Case 7: New Sun Road SolConnect , Guatemala

 

New Sun Road develops technology solutions to address energy-poverty and enable Internet connectivity for off-grid communities. A lack of affordable and reliable electricity limits the full productive potential of communities, presenting a key constraint to Internet access in remote locations. New Sun Road’s primary mission is to remove this barrier by developing affordable, resilient technologies to optimize the operation and management of off-grid solar microgrids–driving down their costs, unlocking additional capital and enabling the scale of additional systems. Employing this technology with the support of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, New Sun Road have developed the SolConnect Productive Centers model–community-run energy, connectivity and economic development centers.

 

In Aldea Liano Grande, Santa Rosa Department, Guatemala, A SolConnect Center is being planned for deployment in 2017 in a school in a rural agricultural community near vast (100km long) sugarcane plantation. The center powers the school, computers, provides community internet and power access, and is used for printing. Partnering with the Guatemala Ministry of Education and a local architect, New Sun Road will introduce the Productive Center model to a proposed pilot girls school where digital skills will form a key part of the curriculum and community members will have access to internet and digital skills training.

Case 7: New Sun Road SolConnect , Guatemala

 

New Sun Road develops technology solutions to address energy-poverty and enable Internet connectivity for off-grid communities. A lack of affordable and reliable electricity limits the full productive potential of communities, presenting a key constraint to Internet access in remote locations. New Sun Road’s primary mission is to remove this barrier by developing affordable, resilient technologies to optimize the operation and management of off-grid solar microgrids–driving down their costs, unlocking additional capital and enabling the scale of additional systems. Employing this technology with the support of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, New Sun Road have developed the SolConnect Productive Centers model–community-run energy, connectivity and economic development centers.

 

In Aldea Liano Grande, Santa Rosa Department, Guatemala, A SolConnect Center is being planned for deployment in 2017 in a school in a rural agricultural community near vast (100km long) sugarcane plantation. The center powers the school, computers, provides community internet and power access, and is used for printing. Partnering with the Guatemala Ministry of Education and a local architect, New Sun Road will introduce the Productive Center model to a proposed pilot girls school where digital skills will form a key part of the curriculum and community members will have access to internet and digital skills training.

Case 8: Libraries’ Efforts

 

Libraries have connected people to the information society for much longer than the concept of an information society itself has existed. They have offered free, or nearly free information services to their communities, regardless of the status or wealth of their users, understanding that information access is empowerment, and so development. They have welcomed the potential of the Internet and ICTs to deliver this goal, but at the same time have recognised that just having the possibility to connect is not always enough.

 

Libraries have a long-standing commitment to education and individual growth. They offer literacy and reading support to the young, give access to the latest scientific research as a basis for innovation, and offer adults a second chance through courses and private study. They can bring this practical experience to bear, and, when combined with the potential of digital tools, develop exciting and effective new means of engaging populations and achieving results.

 

Libraries can complement the work of schools, especially in situations where education is underfunded: The Kibera Library, in a project started in 2012, has used tablet computers pre-loaded with educational content, linked to the school curriculum, to help schoolchildren from under- resourced schools in Kibera, the biggest slum in eastern Africa, to improve their school results.Librarians teamed up with the educational agency, eLimu, which creates digital educational material in fun formats, including animations, film and puzzles. Working with eLimu, the library taught 120 children and 48 teachers to use the tablets. To assess the children’s progress, librarians organized games and quizzes. More than half of the children interviewed in a library survey said the program had helped improve their English, mathematics and science. Similarly, in Kenya, a small grant from EIFL allowed librarians, working with schools and local authorities, to develop an online math tool while successfully engaged children who might otherwise have dropped out of school.

 

Libraries can provide job-related education for vulnerable groups: In New Zealand, library staff at Hutt City Libraries have teamed up with volunteers to teach ICT skills to young people from disadvantaged communities. They learn how to use Photoshop, complete basic electronics projects, mashed up circuitry, make and edit films, take part in robotics competitions, completed graphic design jobs for community clients, and create start-up businesses. The unique ability of libraries, as trusted institutions, to reach out to people in vulnerable communities helps make this possible.

 

Libraries can be pioneers in adopting new technology and sharing it with users: In Sweden, Vaggeryd’s joint public and upper secondary school library became the site of the first makerspace in Sweden in 2013. It offers workshops on robotics, lessons in CAD drawing, and the library is home to an upholstery machine that has enabled asylum-seeking unaccompanied minors to learn upholstery and carry out furniture repair as a social enterprise.

 

From March 2016 to June 2017, a project was implemented to create opportunities for Ethiopian children to practice basic skills such as reading and writing. Beyond Access supported the development of educational technologies such as e-books, reading apps, and games, to increase the number of tools available to educators and caregivers. Beyond access also emphasized the role of libraries as important pillars for national-scale early grade reading efforts.

 

Libraries have an impact beyond their walls. Volta Regional Library, Ghana: the library began using a mobile operation in 2012 to improve educational opportunities for students attending schools with limited resources. The program provides hands-on computer classes, addressing a subject area in which rural schools have had high failure rates in national exams. An evaluation showed that this intervention contributed to an increase of almost 50 percent in the pass rate (rising to 65 percent from 45 percent) in information and communication technology (ICT) exams among third-grade students when compared to previous years. Based on these positive results, in 2014 additional funding supported the expansion of the program to three additional regions in Ghana. The project reached more than 3,800 students at 25 schools by the end of 2016.

 

SCOAP3 Networking Repositories: Internet has transformed our ability to collaborate, which in turn promotes higher impact research. However, information is not always structured or presented in a way which facilitates this cooperation, or the application of newer analytical tools, such as text and data mining. Libraries have been at the heart of efforts to overcome this challenge, both through building and structuring repositories, but also by linking them up. The example of SCOAP3, established at the CERN Library, offers a positive example of how libraries can be at the heart of realising the potential of the internet to support and promote effective sharing of information. Through its work, it has converted key journals to Open Access, further supporting access to information.

Case 9: Colnodo, Colombia

 

Colnodo, with the support of Google, has designed and implemented the JuvenTIC project, which is as an inspiring case of digital, social and youth employment to overcome the skills mismatch between unemployed youth workforce and the market demand and strengthen ICT competencies. The project seeks to further the development of intermediate and advanced competences in ICT for men and young women, expand opportunities for access to the productive environment through labor inclusion or creation of ventures and create low cost, certified, short-term and aimed at strengthening competencies practices. This project was implemented in 2015-16. Designed in collaboration with Google Colombia and executed by Colnodo, the project seeks to strengthen ICT skills and competencies through online and face-to-face training processes. In 2016, JuvenTIC contributed to the peace process by training young victims of violence with scarce educational opportunities on ICTs through a 120-hour diploma with 14 contact hours and 106 virtual hours of training. The face-to-face training is focused on entrepreneurship and employability.The online training course  comprises sections on the digital market, design and production of content, communication, and management of local information systems. It is concluded by a capstone. It reached 2,500 young men and women. It seeks to equip these people with jobs in Colombia. 3,699 young people participated in the three formative cycles of JuvenTIC.1,274 have graduated. JuvenTIC ventures with the support of Colnodo and Google participated in the peace process initiated by the Colombian Agency for Reintegration (ACR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the EAFIT University, Reconciliation Colombia.

 

In collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies, Colombia, Colnodo has designed locally specific digital literacy content targeted at diverse priority populations between 2008 and 2013. They have engaged in strengthening Telecentre Managers as local ICT managers, digital literacy training for people in vulnerable situations, provided assistance to local communities at risk of displacement, developed ICT tools for the rescue of the indigenous language (En Mi Language - Winner of the 2013 CMSI prize in cultural diversity and identity), designed online content for government officials and online training materials for sessions run out of the National Telecentre Academy. Close to 97,000 people in training were benefited and gained competencies in ICT including elderly people, person with disabilities, people affected by the conflict and people in extreme poverty.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

 

Case 1: Libraries’ efforts

 

Libraries have many advantages over other information venues in providing access and promoting use among girls and women. They maintain a wealth of information resources – books, periodicals, journals, and audio-visual materials (CDs, DVDs, etc.), as well as increasing availability of multiple forms of access to ICT. Internet access in libraries is generally free, and people can access books, documents, periodicals, and databases in-library or remotely through websites. Evidence suggests that libraries also achieve more favorable shares of female Internet users than other public access venues. The key element in libraries’ success appears to be their active outreach to girls and women and the assistance they render. Cybercafés that only offer access to technology have the fewest women users.

 

Libraries often offer mobile services, bringing their materials to communities rather than requiring travel to a central location, and delivering information via specialized libraries. Libraries are perceived as safe, reliable, and affordable, often with trained female staff that can help in places where it is not always appropriate for females to interact with males. Librarians serve as invaluable infomediaries to guide those with little experience in accessing information and/or using ICTs. They also frequently offer training in use of multiple varieties of information services, as well as other information activities, while other venues and media tend to specialize in one type of information and means of access.

 

 Empowering women through ICT access and training: The Braka Miladinovci library is in the town of Radovis in eastern Macedonia. It serves about 38,000 patrons. The area has high unemployment rates, especially among women (38%). Librarians launched a survey among library female users aged 18-40, discovering a lack both of computer skills and of economic resources to undertake any relevant training. With support from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) to cover equipment and operational costs for a year, librarians bought and installed 13 laptop computers, wireless internet routers and a printer in the library’s training centre. They partnered with two non-governmental organizations, Citizens’ Creative Centre (KREA), which builds young people’s ICT capacity, and Women’s Action, an association for improving the status of women. With their new partners, they developed a training curriculum that integrates motivation, confidence- building, ICT and job-seeking skills. In just one year, the service trained 82 unemployed people, mainly women. Trainees learnt basic computer skills, how to write a CV, job interview preparation and how to look for a job online. Almost half (39) of the library’s trainees found jobs. The mayor of a nearby municipality, Konce, is now investing in the construction of a library with the support of the entire community.

Correcting the Balance: PerpuSeru is a public library program operates in Indonesia, where, in 2015, only 22 percent of the population had accessed the internet. The program launched in 2011 in a pilot phase by installing computers and internet and providing training to library staff in a small number of public libraries, but has since expanded to reach hundreds of thousands of Indonesians with a goal of reaching 1,000 public libraries by 2025. It is estimated that by reaching that goal, public libraries will provide access to information to 20 million Indonesians who had previously lacked it. Women make up nearly two-thirds of the users at public.

 

Ugandan National Library Digital Skills Training Programme: This program is offered in local languages and designed for female farmers. In addition to building women’s digital skills, the program helps them find agricultural information, such as weather forecasts and crop prices, and sell their products online. Such library programs are a start. However, stronger commitments from the public and private sectors may still be required for women to truly reap equal benefits from equal participation in the digital revolution.

 

Chile’s Infocentros: BiblioRedes is a network of some 400 library-based Infocentros. The Infocentros approach to capabilities and the development of freedom has had important implications for women’s empowerment. Infocentros offer free public non-commercial access to the internet. They aim to provide a safe, secure, and non-judgmental space for information gathering. Special efforts are made to ensure gender balance among participants, encouraging men

 as well as women to use their services, since most of the users were women at first.

 

While overall internet use is equally divided between men and women, 65 percent of those enrolled in the free information technology classes were women, who also preferential access to all BiblioRedes services (alongside young adults and poorer people). Users have the freedom to use the technology to do whatever they perceived as valuable, but in addition, the service actively sought to extend the capabilities of less advantaged people, the majority of whom were women. Female users can talk and help each other as well as get help from the (most often) female directors of the centres, in a way that they couldn’t from and with men. The centre becomes a meeting place for women where they use their social resources for information empowerment, in a country still marked by machoism. Chile’s Infocentros won the 2006 Stockholm Challenge Award for creating a network that delivered free digital literacy classes to 220,000, served 6 million internet users, and brought about the development of municipal websites with local content in 3,000 localities.

Case 2: SheWillConnect, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa

 

The Intel She Will Connect Africa program is an initiative that uses a combination of digital literacy training, development of gender-relevant content, and the creation of an online peer network to help bridge the gender gap in Internet access. The program has trained upwards of 150,000 women in Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya in face-to-face trainings conducted by the program’s partner organizations since its launch in 2013.

 

Launched in 2013, Intel adopted a three-pronged approach to fast track the uptake of information and communication technologies by citizens. It used Intel Learn Easy Steps ™ modules to teach women who had no skills in using technology to use the Internet for the first time. The modules were tailored to be interactive and based on completion of tasks, so that women could gradually progress to completing complex tasks online. They started with basic lessons on what computers do and with the help of activity cards, progressed to teaching women how to create a resume online and how to use email and search functionalities.

 

Intel partnered with multiple organizations at the local level in order to provide this training to women in community centers – prominent organizations include CARE, ChangeCorp, Telecentre.org, World Pulse, and World Vision. The modules were provided for free to organizations willing to engage in training women. Training for trainers was organized by Intel.

Intel created an application that supports an online peer network to allow women to share common interests and find mentors. This aspect of the initiative, rolled out in collaboration with World Pulse, allowed users to search for and find relevant user-generated content in safe online spaces. It enabled users to create communities online and reap the benefits of connectivity many fold. The application is also available for free through a collaboration with Free Basics in Africa, enabling greater impact.

 

Recently, Intel launched My Digital Journey, an application that adopts an interactive approach to digital literacy training.  Learners on My Digital Journey receive a digital completion certificate after successfully completing three quests, each of which involves completing three to six missions.

 

In addition, SheWillConnect also offers a mobile skills application that women and girls can use to receive training on their own personal devices.

Case 3: ICT for Girls, Pakistan

 

The Universal Service Fund in Pakistan has several specifically focused special projects. ICT for Girls is a program that seeks to empower women from marginalized communities through training in digital literacy and Internet and communication technologies. So far, they have set up 50 centers that serve 4,000 women. There are also sites set up in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh aimed to help users with disabilities.

Case 4: Colnodo, Colombia

 

Training Project for Equal Opportunities for Women through ICT: In collaboration with the Mayor's Office of Bogotá, the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications, the District Secretary for Women and Colciencias, Colnodo enabled public access to ICT through the implementation of digital inclusion centers in Houses of Equality of Opportunity for Women, and  provided training with a focus on women's rights and training to over 9,000 women. This project was implemented between October 2013 and February 2015. The project gave women the equipment and technological services necessary to increase their capacities for participation and representation in spaces of decision making, as well as reduce the digital divide. The project provided ten online training courses as part of this initiative.

 

Ella Aprende Ella Emprende: In collaboration with Facebook, Colnodo established a training program for women entrepreneurs. This project is carried out within the framework of the Campaign #EllaHaceHistoria.This initiative directly contributes to the goal of empowering women and improving their quality of life through ICT. This project is an innovative commitment in

terms of ICT skills training to add value to women-led businesses. The main objective of the project is to train 2,000 women in Bogotá and cities surrounding through a face-to-face training of 12 hours of training. Women learn tools of social media marketing on Facebook. The workshops will be held in mobile classrooms and in the Digital Inclusion Centers of the Houses of Equality of Opportunity, as well as the District Secretariat for Women. Between October 2016 and July 2017 more than 2,400 women have been trained in Bogotá.

 

Basta Violence Project: Colnodo collaborated with the Association for Progressive Communications and the Fund for Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) of the Ministry Dutch Foreign Relations (DGIS) to implement to tackle Violence against Women. The project collects evidence through documentation, information, surveillance and analysis of online violence against women. It speaks to coalitions of leaders to identify legislative and policy solutions and to major companies to develop policies and corporate practices that respect women’s rights. Colnodo has initiated online campaigns to foster a culture of mutual respect.

 

Comparative study of ICT uses, online security and possible information management risks for gender rights activists in Colombia and Costa Rica: Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, Colnodo and the SulaBatsú cooperative conducted research on use of online media by gender rights activists in Colombia. The project sought to strengthen the capacities of women leaders and activists inICT and in the use of resources for online security, and provided online trainings, face-to-face workshops, and public forums, among other training spaces. The project developed a communication plan as part of Take Back the Tech campaign.

Case 5: All Girls Tech Camp, The Gambia

 

Give1 Project Gambia is a not-for-profit organization that organizes All Girls Tech camps across Gambia. The project trains young girls aged 13-20 in web design, computer graphics, coding, and database design. Leading women in technology in Gambia give career talks and advice to youth, as part of the tech camp. The initiative brings girls from across the country to participate in training programs, develop ICT skills, and be paired with an entrepreneurial mentor. Currently, the initiative serves five schools and provides free training, food and transportation costs for participants.

 

All Girls Tech Camp started in Summer 2015 to train young girls in urban and rural areas of Gambia in ICT skills. Educational programs offered at the tech camps include basic ICT skills for beginners, and more advanced training in developing apps, web design, Javascript, and coding. Volunteer instructors form tech teams to go into schools and organize camps.

 

The initiative brings girls from across the country to participate in training programs. The camp provides opportunities to learn new skills, develop critical thinking and problem-solving techniques. The pedagogy integrates leadership and entrepreneurial sessions to empower women to start enterprises. After every training, youth participants are assigned to a mentor who encourages and monitors performance. The mentor provides guidance to youth to become a mature woman entrepreneur.

 

The Tech Camp seeks to empower young women in the ICT sector and raises awareness about opportunities in ICT. Publicity around the camps promotes awareness via social media and television. At the end of each camp, an award ceremony is organized with a Give1 Empowerment talk on the importance of ICT training for girls in Gambia and Africa at large.

 

All Girls Tech Camps have been organized at five schools in Gambia and trained over 500 girls aged 13-20.

 

After a year of operation, All Girls Tech Camp won the Gold Fire Award for innovation in Africa, enabling the project to scale up its initiative and expand to other schools in Gambia. They won a Google grant for $3000 to support this effort in 2016.

 

At present, Give1 Project is working to create training modules for prisoners in collaboration with the Minister of the Interior.

 

They are promoting awareness of the initiative and of the importance of ICT training for girls in Gambian and Africa at large via television and social media, especially Facebook.

Case 6: Amakomaya, Nepal

 

After being awarded a $4,000 grant from the ISOC in 2011, a team of local ICT and

healthcare professionals developed the web app amakomaya, “mother love”, to help women

in Nepal deal with the challenges of prenatal care, pregnancy, and maternal mortality. Once

a woman sets up her free profile on the app, she receives audio, video, and text content suited

to the stage of pregnancy she is at. These materials are accessible via mobile device and can

also be downloaded to be viewed at times when there is no connectivity. So far, amakomaya

has reached 11 communities and 1077 women have taken advantage of its materials.

Amakomaya is an example of leveraging ICTs to affect a successful public health

intervention.

 

Since 2011, Amakomaya has been a free digital portal for pregnancy and prenatal care to

Nepali women. Once a woman creates a free profile and enters her approximate conception

date, she is provided with audio, text, and video materials. Currently, this includes 5 videos

dubbed in the Nepali language, 19 audio recordings, and copious text-based information. All

of these materials are available to be downloaded so they are still accessible even when there

is no connectivity. The app also encourages participation of family members by focusing

certain materials towards them.

 

Another functionality of Amakomaya is a built-in button to speak to emergency services.

Amakomaya maintains a 24-hour a day call-center to ensure that women can receive a live

response when facing an emergency issue. The call-center is able to employ Google Maps to

triangulate the location of the woman and the health center nearest to her.

 

Amakomaya is funded predominately through grants, though there has been some governmental support.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

 

ICT is an enabler and accelerator for the development of SDGs in local economies by fostering the emergence of new value-added models through policies of innovation and entrepreneurship. The development of incubators which support the emergence of start-ups and new technologies can develop innovative services and contribute to local social and economic development.

The use of the Internet can expand the market for innovative products and services and support the growth of small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from developing countries in global markets. Electronic commerce platforms can create opportunities for transactions that would not otherwise occur or that would not be pro table in the marketplace. The Internet can extend the geographic reach of the market and provide opportunities for transactions that could not have occurred without its existence.39

ICT access can improve information management and sharing and facilitate collaboration between and with third parties, including suppliers, consumers and research organizations, universities, employees through networking sites and collaborative tools, such as electronic conferencing tools and discussion forums and wikis. The use of participative networks can allow outreach to customers and academics to help orient innovation e orts and improve their work. Furthermore, ICT and broadband networks allow SMEs and institutions to participate in larger research networks, which may encourage them to increase their research and development activities.

ICT can also facilitate knowledge diffusion and result in further development of innovations. ICT access and broadband enabled trade in services allow companies to get access to less expensive inputs and services by reaching global markets. These services create new opportunities for business efficiency. For example, cloud computing allows firms to adopt a pay as you go model for computing resources instead of making significant upfront investments in ICT infrastructure or software.

Case 1: Connectedos Hogares, Costa Rica

 

The Connected Homes Program is a public-private partnership in Costa Rica that seeks to subsidize Internet access and computer equipment for 14,000 vulnerable households by 2018. Initiated by the Presidential Social Council of Costa Rica in 2015, the program aims to reduce poverty and inequality for 15% of Costa Rica’s overall population and promote economic growth through creation of new jobs over the course of the next six years.

 

The Connected Homes program is an initiative that brings together different state institutions, including the Vice Presidency, the Rector and Regulator for Telecommunication. It is implemented by telecommunication companies and supported by NGOs, and is part of the “Bridge to Development Strategy” of the country. The Universal Service Fund provides the financial support for the subsidy. The telecommunications service providers provide both the Internet service as well as the computer resources and software licenses, engage in program promotion, as well as provide the requisite e-government applications and digital literacy training.

 

The government determines eligible households using criteria such as whether the household is at or below poverty level, as well as whether they belong to groups in the fourth and fifth deciles of income but have specific social needs to include the indigenous, differently abled, female-headed households and self-employed. It provides three levels of subsidy at 80%, 60% and 40% depending on their income and special needs, using the ratio of household income to the cost of internet service and a basic to determine subsidy amounts.

 

The program, which officially started disbursing subsidies in June 2016, will invest US$ 128 million over the course of five years. The subsidy lasts three years, and covers the cost of a basic computer and an Internet service at 2 MBps. FONATEL, the universal service fund, covers both the cost of the subsidy as well as the service.

 

The main goal of the Connected Homes program is to combat poverty and inequity, and promote job creation and economic growth through increasing access to information technology in vulnerable groups. The objective is to provide up to 80% of subsidy for computer and broadband to almost 150,000 low income families, around 15% of Costa Rica homes.

Case 2: Nepal Wireless Networking Project, Nepal

 

Nepal Wireless Networking Project is a social enterprise that provides connectivity to villages in Nepal through community Wi-Fi projects. Since 2001, it has connected over 200 rural hamlets in Nepal to the Internet. In late 2015, the team helped connect 12 villages in earthquake-affected areas and is presently pioneering an effort known as ‘Smart Village’ to provide the various benefits of connectivity such as easy access to online education, government services, health services and smart trekking routes to these communities. Nepal Wireless is implementing pilot project for the deployment of a community based hybrid wireless network using TV White Space and Wi-Fi spectrum in remote valleys around Manaslu Himalaya and Dhaulagiri Himalaya region in 2016.

 

The project started as an effort to bring a telephone line and an Internet connection to the Himachal Higher Secondary School in the Mygadi district of Nepal in 1996. After overcoming an environment of political strife, stringent government regulations, as well as technical challenges and financial constraints, the first project was completed in 2002. The project’s locations – mostly rural and isolated areas – are often inhabited by indigenous people who are subsistence farmers. There are many marginalized or socially disadvantaged groups living in these isolated villages of the Himalayan regions of Nepal.

 

By 2008, Internet connections had been provided to community centers, schools and clinics in 42 villages, with plans to expand to at least 19 more. In 2016, over 200 such villages have been connected to the Internet and had access to a whole host of services including telemedicine, online education, and online banking services.

 

The Nepal Wireless Project uses 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequencies to connect the villages, relay stations and base stations. Most of the network backbone is connected using Motorola Canopy radios at 5.8 GHz due to high reliability and to avoid signal interference. Last-mile connectivity uses wireless Ethernet (802.11b/g standard) radios at 2.4 GHz, which is cheaper and compatible across various manufacturers. In Mygadi, for instance, the system has two relay stations to forward the wireless signal to a base station and Linux server facility in Pokhara, the nearest city with Internet access, with a connection to a hospital in the city. Users at the school use Internet on desktop computers and laptops.

 

The Internet connectivity is used to provide teaching and telemedicine services to the villagers. While dependent on the distance of a village from the relay and base stations, most connections provide a minimum bandwidth of 1 MBp/s in the local network, which allows for video conferencing facilities. At the telemedicine clinics, doctors use a network camera that can be controlled remotely.

 

The project charges a service fee to rural communication centers to ensure sustainability and cover the operating and maintenance costs of the network. The management structure allows community organizations to make their own decisions to run their communication centers and the system is deployed with active participation from local governments and youth from the communities.

The Nepal Wireless Networking project has connected 200 hamlets in remote, rural and mountainous areas in Nepal – the populations in each of these villages vary from a few hundreds to a few thousands. This connectivity provides villagers with vital information for trading their produce in local markets. Many villages now provide online bookings in trekking areas for tourists. Nepal Wireless has established a mechanism for online money transfers through different local agencies in rural areas, which benefits tourists and mountaineers. 

There are also educational and health benefits that stem from providing connectivity to these rural hamlets. Telemedicine services at eight rural clinics now connect patients in remote villages with Kathmandu Model Hospital, Skin Hospital, and Pokhara Om Hospital for expert care. Teleteaching provides children in rural schools with multimedia educational content on the Internet.

Nepal Wireless has also partnered with several international organizations and has established weather stations for real time weather monitoring to assess the impacts of climate change over a long period.

Case 3: Sarantaporo.gr, Greece

 

Sarantaporo.gr is a non-profit organization that aims to revitalize communities by providing Internet connectivity and technology education in rural Greece. Officially established in 2013, the organization has grown from connecting the mountain village of Sarantaporo to providing high-speed Wi-Fi to residents, organizations, and visitors in fifteen different villages in the region. With volunteer labor, grants, and a longstanding partnership with TEI University, Sarantaporo works to help villagers incorporate connectivity into their daily lives. Conceiving of the Internet as a commons, the organization endeavors to foster community-oriented mindsets in order to ensure the sustainability of the networks. This case highlights the importance of active community participation and investment in implementing and maintaining Internet connectivity and infrastructure in small towns.

 

In 2010, a small group of young people who had grown up in the village of Sarantaporo decided to help their village connect to the Internet. With no experience in IT or telecommunications, they reached out to open-source connectivity communities and applied to a local Greek foundation offering grants for hardware. They were successful and installed the first mesh routers in their local village, providing free local connectivity for the first time.

 

Word spread and the project expanded to fourteen other villages in the surrounding region. Several volunteers with no connection to the villages joined the project out of a sense of social reasonability and outreach.  Through this expanded demand for Internet connectivity in previously underserved areas, the group could secure a 90,000 Euro grant to solidify the network in 2014, interconnecting all the villages, and partnering with TEI University (60 km away) for free bandwidth.

Today, the project maintains its operations with low overhead from an all-volunteer staff, financial donations from private citizens and the communities themselves, and grants from organizations such as CONFINE (a European FP7 project), The People’s Trust, and the Greek Free Open-Source Software Society. They aim to provide improved quality of life and social cohesion to inhabitants of rural areas that have suffered from increased isolation due to economic crises and ongoing digitization in metropolitan areas.

Case 4: Tucan 3G, Peru

 

TUCAN3G is a largely European-funded research organization that has worked since 2009 to provide 3G mobile voice and data access and infrastructure to isolated areas of Latin America. The organization’s focus is on providing sustainable low-cost ITT solutions to improve quality of life and life expectancy in rural communities. With a focus on healthcare, TUCAN3G aims to connect underserved populations in developing countries with the medical resources of urban hospitals and treatment centers via telemedicine.

 

In its early instantiation, TUCAN3G deployed its 3G femtocell and WiLD (WiFi for Long Distances) technologies in order to provide single-access points for rural Latin American villages to connect to urban medical centers. These access points were by and large centered in regional government outposts and meant for widespread community use.

 

In recent years, a TUCAN3G project in the Napo River basin in the Peruvian Amazon has begun partnering with telecom companies to enhance the sustainability of its networks. The Napo network is additionally significant in that it is experimenting with shifting TUCAN3G’s emphasis from providing telecom access to regional government outposts to connecting entire communities.

 

The link between sustainability and community is key: by facilitating relationships between large mobile service providers and smaller regional ones, the project is hoping to incentivize the continued participation of telecom corporations that have ignored these sparsely populated, low-income areas. By growing the user base, TUCAN3G aims to make the rural network a worthwhile interest for urban-centric corporate profitability and thus maintain connectivity in these underserved communities.

Case 5: Open Wireless Network of Slovenia, Slovenia

 

Since 2006, WLAN Slovenija has been working on a community wireless network to provide open and free access to the Internet across Slovenia.  As of 2017, over 400 wireless nodes are active with over 2 million non-unique usages.  Originally started in the Ljubljana region of Slovenia, WLAN Slovenija now extends beyond the country’s borders and into Croatia and Austria.  Costs are low because the system relies on common technologies already in use, though there has been private support.  Users join on a voluntary basis and each individually adds value to the overall network by increasing its reach.  WLAN Slovenija is an example of building a community wireless network that is a symbiosis of accessibility needs and a shared interest in propagating the network that has the potential to be hindered by uneven retention, unfriendly or indifferent governmental/legal restrictions, and a too localized model.

 

WLAN Slovenija is an open-source and free community wireless network that has been active since 2009.  WLAN Slovenija, like many other community wireless networks, repurposes widely used technologies (e.g. commercially available routers) and capitalizes on fiber-optic internet capabilities of urban centers to make the network function.  By finding redundant capabilities within the existent networks (e.g. bandwidth users are paying for but not using), WLAN Slovenija provides individuals with reciprocal use ability.  Users consent to allow for their bandwidth to be shared and then link to a larger antenna which broadcasts their “unused” internet.  In this way, users are able use their own internet at home, have connectivity for guests, and “borrow” from another participant in the network when they are mobile.  Beginning with the cities, WLAN Slovenija has moved into rural areas as well to meet demand. Awareness of the project generally travels by word of mouth.

 

While the initial genesis of the network demanded expertise, WLAN Slovenija has made the end-user process as frictionless as possible.  Originally there were DIY instructions for interested participants to repurpose their in-home modems, however, users asked for already-made versions and WLAN Slovenija provided these by mail. From the outset, WLAN Slovenija has fostered a community that is linked by its desire to see the whole country have access to network.

 

WLAN Slovenija has minimal overall costs, though they have received some private and grant funding, and relies on voluntary participation and expertise.

Case 6: Colnodo, Colombia

 

Community network: In collaboration with Rhizomatica in Mexico, the Internet Society, National Spectrum Agency, Association for the Progress of Communications and Organized Communities of Cauca – Colombia, Colnodo has been deploying community networks to reach unreached communities through unlicensed spectrum.

Case 7: ARMIX, Armenia

 

Energy costs are a significant contributor to an IXP’s monthly operating costs, which was growing concern for ARMIX, an Internet exchange based in Yerevan, Armenia. In 2014, ARMIX reached out to the Internet Society (ISOC) seeking ways to help them integrate renewable energy into their operations, promote green energy solutions, and reduce their electricity costs and consumption. ISOC eventually donated 18 solar panels that produce more than 4 kilowatts of power to help them with one of their points of presence (PoPs).

As a result, their electricity costs have dropped by more than 30 percent, and they are now much less reliant on non-renewable energy sources. The panels have been so helpful, they are now looking for ways to expand the use of solar to their other two PoPs. Moreover, they want to set a good example of technology companies that help to change their physical environment, and are also encouraging other operators within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region to integrate renewable energy sources.

ARMIX’s success is also an example of the success that can come from the combination of enabling government policy-making, effective public-private partnerships, and sustainable planning, since the government began incentivizing solar and a local solar solution provider assisted them. It is also a good example to other operators looking to cut their own costs. Perhaps other local or country-specific initiatives could help bring solar, wind, or other renewable solutions to an IXP or other technical body’s operations, whether it is via a government mechanism or by collaborating with local solar providers in the private sector.

Policy-makers have an indispensable role to play in promoting sustainability and ensuring the SDGs are realized. Thus, there is so much more we can do to help people get online and ultimately stay online. The Internet is an inherently collaborative project, and the more we work together, the better it will get. We hope policy-makers and other related decision-makers will help catalyze the technical community’s role in ensuring that future of Internet development continues to be more innovative, enriching, and life changing – but also, by enabling a policy and regulatory environment that also make the Internet and ICTs greener.

Case 8: Picosoft Nepal

One innovation driving such innovative and affordable access includes the use of TV White Space connectivity in Nepal by Picosoft, or connecting to the internet through unused TV channels. By combining new solutions with digital literacy and computer science programs designed for and by the local market, we can drive local communities and citizens to empower themselves through true digital inclusion.

While regulatory policy is often a consideration in such endeavors, it is important to identify unique ways to empower local communities and local partnerships, and encourage local

regulators to balance existing rules with the need to advance society.

Picosoft was one of ten recipients to win Microsoft’s annual Affordable Access Initiative grant aimed at furthering local entrepreneurs actively involved in increasing energy and Internet access around the world. Through this grant, mentorship from Microsoft and other industry experts, as well as participation in an incubator program with Village Capital, PicoSoft aims to further its existing footprint of providing affordable, high-speed Internet services in rural Nepal.

In a country with difficult geography, delivering broadband through traditional means is exceedingly challenging, not to mention economically infeasible. Picosoft believes other rural communities could replicate such technological innovations to empower its citizens via Internet via TV White Spaces technology or what is often referred to as “super Wi-Fi”. TV White Spaces can travel over long distances and through mountainous geography, making this unique and affordable connectivity solution extremely viable for rural and developing communities within

Nepal and beyond. Our program plans to increase connectivity to more than twenty K-12 schools, which has already been piloted during recovery efforts following the devastating 2015 earthquake.

We believe there is a more cost-effective way to solve the digital divide, to introduce telemedicine options in unserved communities, and to innovate within the agricultural sector an beyond. We believe TV White Spaces is one of the keys to solving these three SDGs in Nepal and around the world, where being disconnected from the Internet means not participating in today’s digital economy. By bringing together the research community, local Internet Services Providers like Picosoft, practitioners, teachers, NGOs, nonprofits, industry partners, government, and our rural communities, we believe we can identify and articulate opportunities for research and impact. We believe TV White Spaces and locally-driven content might just be the silver bullet to overcome the overarching challenges that lead to improved quality of live in rural communities and drive greater inclusion.

Case 9: World Economic Forum Internet for All - Northern Corridor, Africa

The Internet for All initiative aims to accelerate internet access and adoption for the world’s 4 billion unconnected people through new models of public-private collaboration. The initiative provides multistakeholder platforms at the global, regional and national levels through which leaders from government, donor organizations, the private sector and civil society can collaborate to develop, deploy and scale innovative models and activities to close the digital divide. Country programs launched so far concern East Africa’s Northern Corridor (Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda) and Argentina, and the Internet for All framework has been used as the basis for these programs. Achieving the target of accelerating internet access and adoption in the Northern Corridor requires that four main hurdles be addressed.

Infrastructure: The intervention chosen was to expand 3G and 4G coverage. This was due in part to the realization that 42% of people in the Northern Corridor countries are not covered by a mobile broadband signal.

Affordability: The intervention chosen was to increase access to smartphones. Smartphone adoption in the region is low, ranging from only 10% to 29% in the four countries, owing in part to the high cost of devices.

Skills and awareness: Not only do people in these countries lack ICT skills, but basic literacy and numeracy are also widespread problems; for example, less than half of eligible youth are enrolled in secondary education. The intervention chosen was to train two people per family in digital skills and provide 10% of the population with advanced digital skills.

Local content: Numerous studies have shown the importance of locally relevant content in encouraging local internet adoption and use. Local content is hard to find – in the Northern Corridor countries, only 0.1 internet domains are registered per 1,000 people, compared with the global average of 26 per 1,000 people. The intervention chosen was to develop a tech park to support the development of local content.

Case 10: New Sun Road SolConnect, Uganda

 

SolConnect Productive Centers aim to provide a centralized solution for off-grid communities without effective power or internet services. The Centers address the problem of how to support more all-important value-added commercial activities in communities faced with infrastructure constraints. The key objectives of the Productive Centers are to optimize power usage for a variety of productive needs articulated by a community, while enabling Internet connectivity and introducing ICT skills development in tandem. With energy access as the anchor, centers rely on partnerships with local organizations advancing health, education and/or economic outcomes, aiming to accelerate and broaden these outcomes via connectivity. With the current SolConnect Productive Centers still in their infancy, New Sun Road are exploring further partnership opportunities, as well as the role of community-based networks in developing more robust, sustainable frameworks for future centers.

 

Currently active SolConnect Centers:

  1. Kitobo Island, Uganda: A SolConnect Productive Center has been commissioned at the village center of a poor fishing community with few services in August 2016. People use this center for renting tablets, Internet access, computer lessons, sewing activities. Adopting a community-operated business model, this SolConnect center was developed in the Kitobo village center, adjacent to the solar power house. It provides energy and physical infrastructure supporting light industrial work, access to digital training and access to the internet – enabling access to markets on the mainland.
  2.  Tekera Resource Center, Masaka, Uganda: Serving a poor agricultural community, Tekera Resource Center (“TRC”) provides health clinic, child education, craft outlets and agricultural services. It was commissioned in June 2017. People use this center for Internet access, computer lessons, vocational school, sewing, printing, and using power tools. In addition to its medical clinic and a wide array of services, TRC provides educational, agricultural and crafts services, with an objective of increasing the prosperity of the community and making the center completely sustainable. New Sun Road has introduced energy and Internet connectivity to support the growth of additional productive activities, internet and digital skills training for children and women in the community.

 
 

Contact Information

United Nations

Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa La Bocage

Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

Switzerland

+41 (0) 229 173 678


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