IGF 2017 - Best Practice Forum on Local Content

IGF 2017 - Best Practice Forum on Local Content Wim Degezelle Tue, 12/12/2017 - 14:07


The BPF on Local Content aims to be bottom-up, open and inclusive and therefore invites all interested to comment and contribute on its draft output document.

After each section there's a possibility to leave comments by clicking on 'Add new comment'. Comments are schown in column on the right.

document structure:

Part 1:  Framinig the BPF on Local Content

Part 2:  Local content, a key component to shape the local digital future towards achieving the SDGs

Part 3:  Fostering local content development: Best practices and observed drivers and hindrances

Part 4: Conslusions and way forward

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Internet cultural and linguistic diversity as an engine for growth

draft v2

1. Framing the BPF on Local Content 

One of the key outcomes of the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) was the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The IGF is a global forum where governments, the technical community, civil society, academia, the private sector, and independent experts discuss Internet governance and policy issues. The annual IGF meeting is organized by a Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) under the auspices of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). The 12th annual IGF meeting took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 18-20 December 2017.

The IGF Best Practices Forums (BPFs) bring experts and stakeholders together to develop a tangible and useful best practice output through a collaborative, bottom-up process. The BPFs are an answer to the call for intersessional work and more tangible outputs of the IGF.

At its virtual meeting on 25 April 2017, the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) approved local content as a topic for a Best Practice Forum leading into the 2017 IGF meeting. The BPF worked in an open and iterative way to produce a tangible best practice outcome.

Local content is a returning topic at the IGF and considered to be a challenge that could benefit from cooperation and coordinated effort of all stakeholders.

The 2014 Best Practice Forum on ‘Creating an enabling environment for the development of local content’ undertook an attempt to define ‘local content’ and studied what is needed to create an enabling environment from the perspective of users, the infrastructure and the law. In its conclusions, the 2014 BPF recommended to ‘encourage regional cooperation and collaboration by organizing and sharing existing case studies of local content production and capacity building. A repository of such content would be a useful resource for Internet users’.

The IGF’s Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion - Phase I (CENB I) observed that ‘the need to ensure that people are able to use the Internet according to their needs was reflected in many of the contributions. Providing access to the Internet is only the first step - once in place people must be able to use it. Ensuring availability and the ability to use applications, to stimulate the development of local content and services in all languages, and to implement strategies for safeguarding access to people with disabilities were some some of the issues identified by the community.’

The IGF’s Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion - Phase II (CENB II) pointed out that providing meaningful access to the Internet requires ensuring that people ‘can both consume and produce content’, and that ‘access inequalities and barriers like content availability not only affect those in developing countries more profoundly, but also those in rural areas as well as cultural minorities, women, refugees, and disadvantaged groups.’ In addition, the CENB II identified several linkages between the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the availability of content, amongst other with SDG 4 (Quality of education), SDG 16 (Peace and Justice).

The IGF Best Practice Forum on Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in 2015 and 2016 identified a two-way relation between locally stored local content and the growth and development of IXPs and the local Internet Infrastructure, contributing to a more affordable local Internet of higher quality.

The IGF Best Practice Forum on Overcoming Barriers to Enable Women’s Meaningful Internet Access listed the ‘availability of relevant content and applications as a barrier for meaningful access.’ Some of the testimonials in the report explicitly refer to the lack of available content in the local language.

In addition, local content has been the topic of numerous workshops and discussions at the annual meetings of the IGF since the first IGF in 2006. In these meetings content creators from various countries have talked about their experiences in bringing their projects to life.


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2. Local content, a key component to shape the local digital future towards achieving SDGs

2.1. Lack of locally relevant content slowing down global Internet uptake

‘The three issues affecting Internet growth are: not everyone wants or needs it, not everyone has access to it, and not everyone can provide it.’[1]

Hardly half of the global population is online and can reap the benefits of the Internet. Still, many people ‘don’t want or need the Internet because there is a lack of locally relevant content and services or training how to use it.’[2]

Access and cost - the availability and the price of access to the Internet - are still a major challenge in many regions, with multiple barriers still to overcome. Continuous effort is needed at different levels - infrastructure, technology, regulatory, etc. - to bring the Internet to more places and get more people online.  The 2014 BPF on Local Content identified cost and access as a hindrance for the creation of an enabling environment that facilitates local content development.

There's a symbiotic relation between Internet access and local content, with Internet uptake and usage as an explanatory factor in the middle. Based on recent data for the Sub-Saharan Africa region, a 2016 report[3] noted that ‘as a result of new investment in access infrastructure, including most notably mobile Internet networks, Internet availability now far outpaces adoption, and raises the question why adoption is lagging behind.’ This leads to the observation that providing Internet access alone is not per definition a guarantee for  success and growth in Internet uptake.

The ability to access the Internet is necessary, but not sufficient,to increase Internet adoption in a country.’[4]


Despite the rapid spread of the Internet and the increasing agreement on the opportunities it brings, a significant part of the world’s population remains offline. ‘These gaps in the availability and penetration of the Internet persist and a large portion of the population is still unable to directly reap digital dividends. Enhancing access to infrastructure (...) is therefore a major task for developing economies. The task of closing the access and usage gaps is a multifaceted one. It involves major ‘supply-side’ challenges, notably of encouraging investment and competition, extending broadband infrastructure outside of urban areas into rural and remote areas, and upgrading networks to match rising demand. Additionally, demand-side issues such as low levels of income, education and local content production add new challenges to improving affordability and relevance of services to users.’[5]

In some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, ‘90% or more of the population live within range of a mobile Internet signal, but adoption may be 20% or less of the population.’[6] At the same time, other countries and parts of the world are witnessing an explosive growth in usage, and particularly of mobile data and usage.

Leaving aside factors such as cost and access, people choose to go online because they expect the Internet to be useful and interesting to them. In other words, what the Internet brings to them, in terms of content and services, must be relevant and useful from their perspective and meet their expectations, whether they are looking for information, amusement, or helpful tools for their business, study, or hobbies, or to keep in touch with family and friends.  

Relevant local content and services motivate users to go online. The ‘mobile Internet adoption has been so successful in the US and Europe because of the ubiquitous availability of content that is locally relevant to those populations,’[7]  while the seemingly lack of interest to go online in other regions is believed believed to be caused by a lack of available locally relevant content and services.

‘Without content and services adapted to [the] local taste and language, it may not be attractive or digestible. At the same time, local access and education are necessary primers to produce such relevant and meaningful content.’[8] This year’s BPF is focusing on what is needed to increase the available content relevant for the local Internet user, with a special attention for measures to enable and stimulate the creation of local content by local creators and entrepreneurs. 


Footnotes & references

[1] ‘The Internet, Homemade’, Leandro Navarro, 2 November 2017.

[2] ‘The Internet, Homemade’, Leandro Navarro, 2 November 2017

[3] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.

[4] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.

[5] ‘Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20’, OECD, January 2017.

[6] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.

[7] ‘Local world - content for the next wave of growth’, GMSA Intelligence, September 2014.

[8] ‘The Internet, Homemade’, Leandro Navarro, 2 November 2017.

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2.2.  Locally relevant content

‘In order to be relevant, content must be in a language understood by the local population, and it must meet local demand’


Encouraging Internet usage by individuals and small businesses is to a large extent ‘a matter of stimulating the development of relevant and useful content. Such content is often developed in, or translated into, the local language and deals with matter of local interest.’[1] ‘In order to be relevant, content must be in a language understood by the local population, and it must meet local demand, whether those needs are social, educational, government or business related.’[2] From the perspective of the Internet user, content can be divided into ‘six major categories: entertainment, information, utilities, business services, sharing platforms, and communications.’[3]


Footnotes & references

[1]Internet for All, A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption’, World Economic Forum, April 2016.

[2] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.

[3] ‘The Global Information Technology Report 2015’, World Economic Forum, April 2015.

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2.2.1.  International and locally created content

‘Much of the international content and many of the services available are relevant in many countries worldwide - this is true of social networking services, educational access, and, of course, entertainment. However, we also note the importance of locally created content, both for the relevance of the content in the local context, as well as for the opportunities provided to the creators for earning a living and creating jobs.’[1]

‘And even where language is not an issue, local relevance is key. While much of existing content has international appeal, much is also targeted. A local online newspaper in Spain may not be on any interest in Mexico, French e-government services are of little use in Senegal, and uber is only of interest in cities where Uber operates.’[2]

Footnotes & references

[1] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.

[2] ‘Why is Internet growth slowing down?’, Michael Kende, 23 January 2016.

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2.2.2. Local language

‘Lack of relevant content in local languages can impede bringing people online. The World Bank estimates that 80% of online content is available in one of 10 languages (...). Only about 3 billion people speak one of these languages as their first. More than half of the online content is written in English, which is understood by just 21% of the world’s population according to estimates by Mozilla and the GSMA. To reach the goal of global connectivity, the problem of relevance as it relates to awareness and language must be addressed.’[1]

In many large countries, the local language that is spoken and used in parts of the country and in particular in rural areas, is different from the country’s official national language(s). Local users do not always sufficiently known or feel familiar in the official language. For those areas, it is important that online content is available in the language that people understand and use. Websites from the government and official institutions, or e-government platforms, which traditionally will be in the country’s official language(s) often fail to reach local populations.[2]

Footnotes & references

[1]Internet for All, A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption’, World Economic Forum, April 2016.

[2] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.

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2.2.3.  Creating Local Content : benefits and opportunities

‘Digital ecosystems that produce local content and apps are vital for building digital literacy, attracting local users and serving local needs. Digital services can also address local problems and boost competition in an increasingly digital services market. In addition, using the internet can have a significant impact on local businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).’[1]

‘The lack of local content means that there are great opportunities for local entrepreneurs and other content creators to step in and address this need. Especially for local developers of content, this also may create new sources of income. At the same time as providing developers with income, local content can help to address local needs for information, coordination, entertainment, and other Internet services, through apps and websites.’[2]

‘Local developers have several advantages with respect to local content. First , they know the local market and information needs. Second, they know about existing channels and methods of communication, as well as cultural referents, allowing them to best target the local market.’[3]

Bringing local knowledge and experience online is relevant for the own community but creates as well the opportunity to share this knowledge with the Internet and the rest of the world, what can lead to useful exchanges and enriched insight for the own and other communities.  

Footnotes & references

[1]Internet for All, A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption’, World Economic Forum, April 2016.

[2] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.

[3] ‘Promoting Content in Africa’, The Internet Society, August 2016.


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2.3.  Stakeholder roles and opportunities for action

2.3.1.  Governments

Governments play a key role with regard to the availability of relevant local content in their countries, both in their role as policy maker and as provider of essential information and services online.[1]

In its role as policy-maker the governments can take initiatives to promote and stimulate the content development of others, by creating a policy environment that enables content production.  There are many factors that contribute to an environment that encourages the creation and distribution of locally relevant content including  freedom of expression, intellectual property protection, appropriate privacy protections for users and creators, consumer protection infrastructure, and secure payment platforms. All of these factors are needed to ensure that both creators and users benefit from the value of the content.

A primary component of an enabling environment for content creation is support for freedom of expression in all its forms - creative, political, social and economic expression.  Expression allows people to connect and to build communities, and it drives political movements, creative endeavors, economic growth and social discourse.  Another important element of the enabling environment for content creation is intellectual property protection and enforcement. Studies, such as a 2014 examination of Bollywood, find that effective protection of intellectual property supports greater content creation.[2]Without the incentives for content creation created by an effective intellectual property framework, digital content creation will flag or -- worse for less connected countries -- never materialize.

Last, a trusted Internet infrastructure and services that encourage users to engage in e-Commerce will enable the creation of additional locally relevant content. Consumer protection and the availability of secure payment mechanisms together with secure distribution platforms are critically important enablers for content creation.  The infrastructure to allow users to easily purchase digital products, and responsible business practices protecting them when they do, spurs the availability of digital content.[3]

Footnotes & references

[1] ‘The Global Information Technology Report 2015’, World Economic Forum, April 2015.

[2] Rahul Telang & Joel Waldfogel, Piracy and New Product Creation:  A Bollywood Story, at 27 (Aug. 6, 2014), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2478755 (finding that “during the period of widespread unpaid consumption, revenue fell by a third to a half . . . [and] the number of new products released fell substantially”).

[3] Consumer Policy Guidance on Mobile and Online Payments, OECD Digital Economy Papers, No. 236, at 4–5 (2014), available at  http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-technology/consumer-policy-gui…

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2.3.2.  Private sector

‘The private sector has the ability not only to contribute to content development, but also to profit directly from its efforts.’[1]

  • Solve payment and monetization issue (in some developing countries)
  • Opportunity to engage with new and growing segments of online consumers (eg women, rural population)
  • Provide easy-to-use tools for the creation of user-generated content (in and accepting local language)
  • Idem … for low-cost phones

Footnotes & references

[1]Internet for All, A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption’, World Economic Forum, April 2016.

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2.3.3 Civil Society

  • Promoting content development by others


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2.3.4 Academia


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2.3.5 Technical community

  • Further promote the introduction and uptake of IDN domain names in 'local' scripts, and sole solve the universal acceptance of these IDN domain names.

  • Support for local languages and characters/scripts in applications.


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3. Fostering local content development: Best practices and observed drivers and hindrances


The BPF is still collecting examples of initiatives and projects aiming at

  • the creation of content relevant for the local Internet users, or at

  • enabling local entrepreneurs and content developers to put their content online.

Please fill in the survey https://goo.gl/forms/NttJHyBbN3WMSw102


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3.1.  Projects and Initiatives

The BPF Local content collected - via a public call for contributions - examples of initiatives and projects that aim at the creation of content relevant for local Internet users, or at enabling local entrepreneurs and content developers to put their content online. Contributors were asked to identify in their contributions which factors helped or hindered the project to maximize its success.

To date, the BPF received 14 contributions from 11 countries:

  • Femmes et Développement du Contenu Internet Local  (Chad)

  • Asociatividad institucional para el desarrollo e integración de infraestructura y servicios de conectividad  (Argentina)

  • Proyecto Armonía: las TIC y el desarrollo humano en comunidades rurales.  (Cuba)

    Harmony Project: ICT and human development in rural communities. (Cuba)

  • Bislama Online Dictionary (Vanuatu)

  • Summit CSA Cloud Security Alliance Argentina  (Argentina)

  • Fiji Museum Virtual Museum (Fiji)

  • Food is Life Media Campaign (PNG & Melanesia)

  • Examples of public service broadcasting enablers for local content (UK)

  • Dominios Latinoamerica (Uruguay/Argentina)

  • South School on Internet Governance (Uruguay)

  • “Correspondentes” from VEJA website (Brazil)

  • Art in Hawaii (USA)

  • Triggerfish Story Lab (South Africa)


The description of the projects can be found in the annexe.


From these examples, the BPF crystallized the factors that helped or hindered projects in achieving their envisaged result. They are listed here to help and inspire others who run or plan initiatives that am at creating or enabling the creation of locally relevant content.

There’s a variety of projects and approaches, depending on when, where, what and who’s involved. As a result, it’s only natural that some of the observations and advise may be useful while other suggestions may be irrelevant for a specific project or initiative. It is not the BPF’s intention to be normative or exhaustive. What follows is per definition open, flexible and incomplete and should be adapted to and supplemented with own experiences and insights.

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3.2.  Factors that contributed to success

What contributed to the success ?

  • The active involvement of different stakeholders;

  • Working with the local government and a locally established partner was instrumental in helping the project succeed

  • A good understanding between the authorities and technical parties;

  • The partnership/collaboration with private partners with the technical skills to facilitate the work;

  • The will to innovate and to serve all citizens, of all classes and of all ages, on all platforms (with content free of charge);

  • Working with professionals to collect and create the content (in the example, experienced journalists);

  • Simultaneous translation and broadcasting via audio and video streaming for remote participation.

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3.3.  Factors that hindered the project to achieve its results

What hindered the project in achieving results?

  • Slowness of processes and (official) procedures;

  • The high cost of Internet connectivity in the country;

  • A lack of resources and financing (e.g. to obtain or procure hardware - PC, Camera, video);

  • The main problem, beyond the political will, is the problem of the resources needed to create the (initial) content and launch the service;

  • Facebook and instagram are not the ideal platforms as they don’t allow full control over the own content and its circulation. On the other hand, they do allow to garner   a strong following and access people and communities that we may not be directly connected to.

  • Multiple parties (e.g. authors’ rights organisations) may have a say to make high quality content available on a digital platform.


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3.4. Lessons learned

Lessons learned?

  • Constructing a local project and progressively enlarging its scope in a bottom-up way, might be more effective than pursuing the large scope from the start;

  • From the start, it’s important to persuade and sensitize decision makers, managers, teachers  and residents of the importance of the project in terms of human interest for the whole local community;

  • Initial scarcity of material and financial resources in rural areas can be intimidating at start, but will be compensated by the gratitude, participation and support of its inhabitants;

  • Strong partnerships are vital and solutions need to work within the technical capacity of the target audience;

  • All the successful stories of V.o.D. of public service media around the world prove two main things: that local contents remain the preferred ones by each citizen of the world, at equivalent quality conditions; and that the contribution and the active involvement of all the stakeholders is needed to achieve success;

  • Language is a barrier, and creating or making the content available in two or more languages is challenging, but worth the effort.

  • SMEs have all their human resources focused on concrete issues, and few time for networking, attending conferences etc..

  • Social media is the perfect medium to connect across communities and oceans.


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4. Conclusions and way forward

4.1.  Conclusions

Conclusions and way forward will be included after the BPF’s workshop at the 2017 IGF meeting in Geneva, and will be based on and include a report of the discussions at the workshop.


IGF 2017  Best Practice Forum on Local Content


Thursday 21 December

11:50 - 13:20 (UCT +1)

Room XII - A United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)



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4.2.  Way forward and further work

The 2017 BPF focused on creating and making content available that is relevant for local users, to solve the lack of interest in the Internet and to motivate more people to get connected and share in the benefits to the internet. Content is important, and the lack of locally relevant content can explain the low growth in Internet use in some areas in spite of important improvements in access and infrastructure.

Relevant local content is only one of the driving factors that can contribute to getting more people online and further developing the internet in areas where uptake is low. In its focus on local content, the BPF deliberately ignored the question of the access at a reasonable price, which is in some area still an important roadblock for potential Internet users.

The BPF chose to limit its scope to initiatives that contribute to making more content available that is relevant for the local Internet user, and in particular focused on best and current practices to create local content and give incentives and support local entrepreneurs to provide their content and services online. The BPF collected examples of successful initiatives and looked for opportunities for further action and stakeholder cooperation.

Local content is a more complicated subject and was only partially discussed in this document. There are other angles and facets that require further attention, and could benefit from stakeholder action and cooperation. They could serve as topic for a future BPF or other initiative.

The following topics should be further explored :

  • Digital literacy, skills and awareness, support and guidance for those who need help.

  • Monetization of local content: initiatives to help local content creators and entrepreneurs to monetize their content and services, including the need of working payment system.

  • Local content distribution: the need for local and regional content distribution platforms and infrastructure to make content more easily available; for example the establishment of data centers, hosting and exchanges (IXPs).


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List of references and background documents

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