Salle I (Main)

IGF 2018 Main Session: 

 Accessibility and Digital Inclusion

1. Title, Date, Time, Format and Venue, Facilitators

Title: Accessibility and Digital Inclusion

Date: 14 November 2018

Time: 11:30am - 12:50pm (80 minutes)

Format: Panel Discussion

Venue: UNESCO HQ / room Salle 1 

Organisers / Facilitators:

●   Wisdom Donkor, MAG Member

●   Zeina BOUHARB, MAG Member

●   Paul Rowney, MAG Member

2. Brief Description/Objective

Whilst the world slowly closes the access gap with 50% of the world's population now connected the challenge associated with connecting and enabling the remaining 50% has not diminished.  Having taken over 20 years to get this far, the question remains how long will it take to connect the next billion and indeed the remaining 50%. Whilst the world has recognized the benefit of connected communities and now  understands how connected communities support development and meeting the UN SDGs, governments are still failing to enable conducive regulatory and legislative frameworks that support last mile and rural connectivity. This is often  compounded by inadequate core infrastructure such as rural power, tower infrastructure and backhaul, with a commercial operator focus lucrative urban rather than rural connectivity.

Since the inception of the Internet Governance Forum, the world has witnessed the digitalisation of knowledge based societies and digital economies. Underpinning this change have been the proliferation of devices, increased sophistication of computers, and more widely available internet access. The number of internet users had more than tripled in recent times but there remains  much to do to connect the unconnected.

In the past years governments have focused largely on global interconnection with submarine cables and fibre landing points and have succeeded in many cases in lowering the cost of access. However as is the case in much of the developing world universal and affordable access remains scarce, with high-cost, low-bandwidth, and often poor quality of service being the norn. Whilst the cost of access continues to fall, and with over 70% of the world’s population living within range of a mobile networks, the cost to connect still remains out of reach for a majority of the disconnected. .

ICT’s and internet are now a norm of our daily lives, we live in an information age, where the digital divide affects all sectors of development; employment, education, health, agriculture, and  trade.  In some cases a connected citizen has substantial advantage over a disconnected citizen perpetuating societal divisions. For individuals with disabilities, this division is often wider when access to internet and ICTs is denied regardless of accessibility or affordability and where many internet based applications and tools are not designed to satisfy the needs of those with disability.

Digital inclusion is more than just building literacy, it's not just about deploying computers into  community and teaching people how to login, navigate the operating system, browse the internet and produce documents and spreadsheets, it's about leveraging the power of the internet to bring social and economic change to the community. Digital inclusion contributes to the socioeconomic development of the society as a whole, it helps to reduce the division between the rural and urban populus.

There remain barriers that need to be addressed, such as infrastructure, network coverage, affordability, digital skills, education, awareness, content, and an enabling environment,By simply focusing on expanding access to broadband in itself, will not address the access and digital inclusion gap.

As such, this main session seeks to discuss, debate, and interrogate existing, new, and innovative ways of meeting the access and digital inclusion challenges of today. To dispel the myths, argue the facts, and present ideas, challenges and concrete proposals in an attempt to address the evolution, adoption of both society and technological drivers. Our focus in the session will be on public engagements and their needs, to identify the issues and to determine how to overcome the barriers to effective use of the ICT and the internet for an inclusive society.

3.  Agenda

This session will serve as a focal point for coordinated and constructive discussions about the different but interrelated aspects of Internet governance as described above. The session will benefit from the inclusion of all stakeholder groups, who shall be able to share in the knowledge and experience of key insight on the accessibility and digital inclusion that is necessary for the Internet to entrench human rights for and well-being of all. The outline chosen to serve that purpose comprises the gathering of specialists to initiate a panel conversation as well as a traditional open mic in order to incorporate the broader views of the audience. The session will be structured around three core segments, with each segment organized around specific policy questions that examine the respective topic, plus a concluding 7-minute and a wrap-up session:

●   Session introduction [10 min]

●   Segment 1 [20 min]: Digital Accessibility (at all level of development)

●   Segment 2 [20 min]:Digital Inclusion (at all level of development) 

●   Segment 3 [20 min] Audience Contributions, observation, comments, Q&A

●    Feed-in: BPF CENB, Gender and Access, NRIS [6 min]:

●   Conclusion and wrap-up [5 min]:

The session introduction will include host country remarks and an explanation of the flow of the session by the moderator.

The initial two segments will follow the same discussion structure: (a) Digital Accessibility (b) Digital Inclusion. Speakers of the two segments will be invited on a panel with 4 minutes each to response to relevant policy question, followed by 20 minutes of questions from online and in situ participants. To speed up the engagement with participants and remote participants, a unique approach will be used to gather questions in writing /text from both in the room and remote participants, to speed the ability to address the questions. The questions will be read out alongside Q&A for the speakers to respond to the questions.

4.  Policy Questions

Inclusive systems and societies can only be realised if stakeholders are aware of the nature of the problem and are committed to solving it. Improved data systems are needed, together with appropriate legal frameworks that are in line with relevant international conventions and recommendations that support the understanding of inclusiveness and accessibility as a rights issue.

Policy Question 1: Digital Accessibility.

Q1:   What are the social and economic benefits of inclusion and how would you convince policy makers to prioritize inclusion in national budgets for what are often scarce or no-existent resources.

Q2:   What recommendations would you make that would expedite the digital promise for connecting the next billion. Further what changes would need  to be implement to ensure that language and disability are no longer barriers to access.

Q3:   What steps need to be taken to ensure that developing countries benefit from the 4th digital (industrial) revolution on an equal footing to that of developed nations.

Q4: One main pillar to increase Connectivity includes deployment of infrastructure. What measures can be adopted to cut cost of deployment and what policies are needed to promote affordability.     

Policy Question 2: Digital Inclusion.

Q1:   Should regulators enable a pro-rural pro-poor regulatory framework that supports licensed exempt spectrum for technologies such as TV White Space and further should regulators      implement dynamic spectrum re-allocation of un-used or under used spectrum.

Q2:   What are your thoughts on 5G, will 5G bridge or widen the access gap. 

Q3:  Trust in the internet may have diminished in recent years with more regular data protection breaches, how do we protect the newly connected, in particular those from  marginalized and disadvantaged communities.

Q4:   Increase of usage requires development of relevant content and enabling users to benefit from internet. How can policies encourage digital skills and literacy for inclusion           

●   Conclusions and recommendations – Connecting the unconnected: multistakeholder,                    global, and international cooperation:  

Regarding the issues of access and digital inclusion, how can international organisations adapt to the ever-changing policy environment while working on improving accessibility and inclusion of all whilst entrenching human rights, with a particular focus on the developing countries? How can these efforts for capacity development improve strategies, planning, outreach, and effectiveness in these areas?

5.  Chair [To be provided by the Host Country]

6.  Moderator: Eldrid Jordaan, CEO, GOVCHAT, South Africa and ​Marilyn Cade, President /   

CEO, ICT Strategies, mCADE LLC / Former MAG Member

7.  Remote Moderator: Paul Rowney, IGF MAG Member      

8. Rapporteurs: Ines Hfaiedh, ICANN NCUC Africa Representative / and Africa Representative in          ISOC's Advisory Council Steering Committee.

9. Panelists/Speakers

The format will allow the session to host up to 5 individual interventions (4 per each of the 2 initial segments, 1 keynote speaker for the conclusion and 2 for the introduction and conclusion of the session). This number is enough to accommodate individuals from all geographical regions and all stakeholder groups, with a view of having a 50/50 gender ratio among the invitees. It is also enough to gather individuals who have convergent and divergent economic, political and social perspectives on the policy questions suggested above. Invited speakers are listed below.

Speakers: Digital Accessibility

  • Bunmi Durowoju, Snr.  Business Development Manager, Emerging Markets  AI and Intelligent Cloud Airband Initiative, Microsoft

  • Nilmini Rubin, Vice president, IEEE (Tetra Tech)

  • Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, Chairman, Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA)

  • Ms. Nathalie Vuaillat, Director, Legal Counsel, eBay

  • Dr. Carlos Rey-Moreno,  APC, South Africa

Speakers:  Digital Inclusion

  • Mr Charles Shaban, Executive Director, Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property, Jordan

  • Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy at Facebook

  • Ms. Nathalie Vuaillat, Director, Legal Counsel, eBay

  • Mr. Adil Sulieman, African Union


10.       Plan for in-room participant engagement/interaction?

An open mic session for contribution, comments and Q&A will follow the two segment of the session to enable the audience and remote participants join the conversation and make their contributions, opinions, suggestions, etc. Audience willing to make contributions, comments or ask questions will queue at assigned mics, and rotate, with online participants having their own equal queue.

11.  Remote moderator/Plan for online interaction?

Remote moderator: There will be a remote moderator to assist with the online conversation, and one or more in situ moderators.

To broaden participation, online interaction will rely on the WebEx platform. Twitter and Facebook will also be employed by the on-line moderators who will be in charge of browsing social media using some hashtags (to be defined). We will try to have an online moderator who speaks English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

12. Connections with other workshops sessions

Representatives of related workshops may be invited to contribute to the main session from the audience. This would provide a smooth and tighter integration of those threads into the IGF 2018 mainstream discussions. Examples of such activities are given below:

●  Workshops:

●   Best Practice Forums: CENB, Gender and Access, NRIs

13. Desired results/outputs? Possible next steps?

●  An overarching map of regional policy initiatives that impact the global Internet   environment in relation to digital inclusion and accessibility at all levels

●  Documentation of expert knowledge from panelists of different geographical stakeholder groups in relation to the areas under discussion;

●  Multistakeholder dialogue on the impacts that some policy initiatives may have on the global Internet environment as well as the developmental issues that are still to be solved on that behalf;

●  Recommendations and conclusions which will show the way forward to outreach and networking to develop ideas generated during this session;

●  Summary of the discussions and the creation of a common and unified space for the discussion of those issues in a coordinated manner through intersessional activities carried out by the IGF community.

SDG linkages:

Sdg 3, 4, 5,7, 8, 10, 11 16 and 17


Digital Inclusion & Accessibility
Session Time
Session Report (* deadline Monday 20 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

IGF 2018 Main Session
Digital Inclusion and Accessibility

Session Type: Main Session

Title: Digital Inclusion and Accessibility

Date & Time: 14 November 2018, 11:30am - 12:50pm (80 minutes)


●   Wisdom Donkor, MAG Member
●   Zeina BOUHARB, MAG Member
●   Paul Rowney, MAG Member


●   Ms. Marilyn Cade, President / CEO, ICT Strategies, mCADE LLC / Former MAG Member
●   Mr. Eldrid Jordaan, CEO, GOVCHAT, South Africa /         

Rapporteur/Notetaker: Ms. Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro, MAG Member, Fiji


Speakers:  Digital Inclusion

  • Ms. Nilmini Rubin, Vice president, Tetra Tech
  • Mr. Charles Shaban, Executive Director, Abu-Ghazali Intellectual Property, Jordan
  • Ms. Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy, Facebook
  • Ms. Nathalie Vuaillat, Director, Legal Counsel, eBay
  • Mr. Adil Sulieman, African Union

Speakers: Digital Accessibility

  • Ms. Bumi Durowoju, Snr.  Business Development Manager, Emerging Markets; AI and Intelligent Cloud Airband Initiative, Microsoft
  • Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, Chairman, Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA)
  • Dr. Carlos Rey-Moreno,  APC,  South Africa

Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [300-500 words]

The session which was moderated by Marilyn Cade and Eldrid Jordan lasted for eighty minutes(80) minutes and deliberate on the difficult digital transformation the world was undergoing and how to bridge the gap in the digital divide that lingered between advanced countries and the developing ones to ensure no one is left behind. 

 ● The Internet is really a powerful tool for inclusion: probably the most useful tool. On the other hand, the Internet itself, if not utilised in the right direction, will easily lead to digital exclusion. Even with availability of access, a lack of trust in the Internet will deepen the existing digital divides in various forms.

● It has taken more than 20 years to connect close to 50% of the world's population. Can we afford another 20 years to ensure digital inclusion for the remaining 50%? The UN Secretary General has emphasized that “the imperative to leave no one behind is just as relevant in the digital world” so what is the role of IGF community as a whole, and respective stakeholder group roles, as we edge toward target implementation and deliveries of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to ensure human rights are respected for all?  

● Electricity is essential for digital inclusion.  “You cannot have the Internet without electricity.  About a billion people do not have electricity right now.

Don’t dig twice! - The environment is protected when activities to connect people to the internet are done at the same time. “Just the digging up and putting down of the road is 90 percent of the cost of the installation.  So, just doing it at the same time is huge- Ms. Rubin, Executive Vice-President of tech track in India”  

When it is hard to extend cables, try wireless and technologies which are somewhat outdated but can help join people with the internet.


Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence

Ms Rubin Nelmini, Tetra Tech, (IEEE)

Electricity is essential for digital inclusion:

If you think about the last time you used the Internet, or you might be using it right now, the one thing that you need in addition to your device and that Internet connection is electricity.  You have to charge your devisor you have it plugged in.  In addition, electricity and Internet go hand in hand.  You cannot have the Internet without electricity.  About a billion people do not have electricity right now.  It is a huge number, and if you think four billion people do not have Internet access, there is definitely an overlap. It is almost impossible to have the Internet unless you are charging and paying for charges in different locations.

If you imagine putting down fiber optic cables for internet access, if you are doing it at the same time, you are doing electricity and you will save tons of money.  Just the digging up and putting down of the road is 90 percent of the cost of the installation.

What is interesting is that, we have had electricity with us about 140 years ago, and we still have a billion people that do not have it. Why is that?  That is not a technological problem but social problem.


Charles Shaban,

Reaching the rural Communities

“It’s not only reaching the areas, it's reaching the people with the limited accessibility and limited knowledge. It is important to have more local languages on the internet. This will help the non-English or French Speakers to reach some information on the Internet. Maybe the knowledge of the use of the internet will improve in the business sector if the HR departments make this skill a requirement for promotion

Nathalie Vuaillat, Ebay

Using Technology to build opportunities for everyone:

Underlining the power of digital skills, she pointed out that, 99 percent of sellers export internationally in more than 23 countries, On like marketplaces are the only representative of the sellers, mainly small business and medium size businesses.  Those businesses are just the essence of the economic growth.  The ICT has fully changed the retail distribution for very small businesses by allowing them to reach customers outside their local communities without having to invest in physical facilities. They strongly believe that cooperation with public authorities will anchor anyone in the world regardless their background, gender, identity, or experience to become an online entrepreneur. 

Focusing on women. Everywhere in the world, the number of women starting and running new businesses is actually growing.  Women entrepreneurship rights are higher in countries with lower level of economic development. To support women in this area, eBay, as long as Facebook has developed a program named “She trades,” which consists in providing and offer regular webinar training on eCommerce issue. 

We cannot achieve the digital transformation without the help of public authorities.

They also have a major role to play in supporting entrepreneurs towards digital tools.  One of the recommendations would be to test programs based on the combination of the digital ambassadors and innovative distance learning. 

In conclusion, digital inclusion issues can only be addressed by joint efforts.  In that regard, the private and the public sector must work hand in hand to collaborate on digital policies of today and tomorrow in favor of the training and the development of digital skills and literacy for inclusion for entrepreneurs.

Bumi Durowoju, Microsoft

Gender and women:

We have seen challenges of women inclusion. in the Internet and actually with the number of people getting on the Internet is increasing and the proportion of women is going down, because you have fewer women getting on line to the number of men getting on line. One of the biggest challenge is also to work on electricity access.

To bridge the gap in inclusion and accessibility gender wise, the progress has to be international. To integrate gender, we need to put it into the policy of women at the table when doing the policy design, doing the program design, include gender in the qualitative metrics, and in evaluation plans. 

Adil Sulieman, African Union

Opportunity, access, knowledge, and skill and policy development.

One-third of the situation in Africa in term of access to the internet, internet contribution to the GDP is 1.1 percent, 60 percent of our population live in rural area and remote area of the continent. One of the issues the Africa Union is facing is to do with spectrum. The African union is working hard with member state on the digital migration from analog to the digital television and we developed guidelines on that, and how the Country can make use of the digital dividends following the migration. 

The second component is to do with the capacity building for members on Internet Governance, and this is going to be all member states.

Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, Chairman, Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA)

Affordability and Accessibility:

There is a positive correlation between connectivity, accessibility, and economic growth both in terms of economic development and per capita economic growth.

Digital inclusion, we can have many interpretations, however, at the end of the day we will all come to one result that we really want everybody to take advantage of the ICT technologies in order to improve living conditions. However, one of the most difficult things to do is working with government Ministries and agencies to promote ideas of ICTs. For us to strife within the government sector, Education will have to be taken seriously.

This multistakeholder approach needs to be in practice within government and the government will have to work more with the private sector. Business as usual, cannot give us the results that we are looking for.  We have to be innovative with our policies. 

Ankhi Das, Facebook


Disabilities should be looked at as a cognitive difference. In addition, tech plays the roles in harnessing and enabling gaps. It is not only an enabler but also something we must deal with and be responsible about.

The issue of gender came up and it was mentioned that to bridge the gap in inclusion and accessibility gender wise, the progress has to be international. It was mentioned that to integrate gender, we need to put it into the policy of women at the table when doing the policy design, doing the program design, include gender in the qualitative metrics, and in our evaluation plans. 

We have made huge investments in terms of looking at people with hearing impairment, visual impairment, and virtual blindness, what we focused on is making investments on video captioning, particularly to address the needs of people with hearing impairment.  We have looked at everyone hear, at least is aware of the rule of screen readers. Making sure people with visual impairment have the abilities to engage with different types of content online and develop skills. What we have done is working with our engineering employees as well as working with other partners in academic institutions, developed automatic alternative text formats, which helps people with visual impairment.

Dr. Carlos Rey Moreno, APC

Community Network, Access and Connectivity:

In Africa today, more than 250 million people do not have access to basic telephone.  More than 500 million people do not have access to broadband.

Internet access is a key component in thriving innovations. This is more than access and connection and being an enabling tool, it is an empowering tool, not just in gaining decent work and employment but also for social inclusion. Equally important to support Internet access is also to ensure that people have a meaningful access that can affect their lives for the better. It is, therefore, important to focus on not just technical aspects but also human [or social] aspects of connectivity. 

Challenges in access and connectivity remain and take different forms in various environments a lack of conducive regulatory environments and legislative frameworks that support last mile and rural connectivity, and new technologies in general, inadequate enabling infrastructure (including rural power and backhaul), and some commercial operators focusing on lucrative urban rather than rural connectivity, among others. High access costs due to geographies is also an issue, especially for landlocked developing countries and Small Island and developing States.

Governments need to rethink, think outside the box. One of those outside the box solutions are community networks. Group of people are organizing themselves to set up communications infrastructure to meet their communications needs. There are several around the world. Governments have a key role in facilitating the adoption of new technologies like 5G, IoTs, AI for the improvement of its population´s accessibility and connectivity. Governments should focus more on extending access and connectivity to the rural communities. Governments should therefore consider its role in allocating sufficient spectrum for mobile connectivity, especially at low bands and exploring network and spectrum.

Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [200 words]


What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [150 words]


Please estimate the total number of participants.


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


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



Session outputs and other relevant links (URLs):


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