IGF 2019 – Day 0 – Saal Europa – High Level Internet Governance Exchange Panel On Digital Inclusion

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 



>> ANDREA THILO:  Good morning, everyone.  Sorry for the delay.  We'd like to start with our Panel on Access and Infrastructure.  May I ask the panelists to come up to the stage please and everyone who would like to join this session, you're free to sit on the first rows as well.  There's enough space everywhere so please don't be shy, come into the front rows.  And then we can start.

>> So we are complete, yes.

Welcome to the panelists, Ministers and Presidents and CEOs from the industry, we're very glad to have you here and I think.

You don't have to move to far away from Berlin to see there are also white spots on the landscape of digital access here in Germany and many other European countries but we all know there are other regions in the world that are underserved and I'm very happy to discuss this today here on the panel.  We will start with the introduction and short introductory note from the President of BREKO and everyone on the panel will have the chance to give a two or three minute introductory statement before we enter into the discussion and I hope that we can also have a short Q & A with you from the audience because that's what Internet Governance and the multi‑stakeholder approach is very much about, not only us here on the panel discussing things but also discussing with everyone who wants to participate in this topic.

So with this I'm happy to leave the floor to Norbert Westfal from BREKO.

>> NORBERT WESTFAL:  I'll do it from this spot here, you've done a perfect introduction.  Everybody thinks Germany, wonderful rich country there should be Internet everywhere.  Unfortunately it's not the case.  Which is why from BREKO the largest German Broadband Association of fixed line carriers is actually working on that bringing the Internet into the white spots.  At the moment we've got 200 members in our Association out of around 300 network operators in Germany and that might already be a small change or difference to other countries, because we're not just relying on 2, 3, or 4 large Telecom operators but have a majority of Telecom operators in the Region or in cities.

We're now on our way to build fiber optics everywhere in Germany.  Again it's the smaller companies who are actually the front runners and not the big ones and this is why we have actually acquired more and more companies building broadband here in Germany and you mentioned the white spots, yes.  Unfortunately, we have got a very good infrastructure in the cities, but further away even in the medium sized cities we've got problems to get the right broadband Internet to the population.  And this is why we are actually encouraging our companies to do that, and for the white spots we've got subsidies as well in Germany, so that should help to get fixed line broadband access to these villages.  Now you might say why fixed line.  Why don't you do mobile services in the villages?  Unfortunately, what we've seen here is that the few mobile operators were actually again concentrating on the urban areas, and did not allow or don't want to allow for the future service providing for others.

So again, very few companies who are trying to make the money in the cities and leave the villages alone.  We're fighting against that and I think we are in a good way to reach that so that in a couple of years' time we will have actually the same broadband capabilities in the villages as today in the cities.

Now, I think there's no question we need fast Internet and we see the opportunities in the digitization and, well, I hope that in a few years' time when we come back to Berlin and come back to Germany we will have really a good Internet everywhere, and let's hope for that.

>> ANDREA THILO:  Many thanks and we hope you all can benefit from that when you come back to Berlin.  May I hand it over to you Ursula to broaden our perspective and Germany to more of the African perspective.

>> URSULA OWUSU-EKUFUL:  Thank you very much.  I think it is important that we all prioritize access to the Internet for all our peoples and traditionally the companies would only go where it is commercially viable for them so we have utilized our universal access funds to ensure Government partners with the private sector which contributes to this fund, I think it's about 1% of the revenues, their profits, to this fund and all of them are obliged by law to make that contribution, and then the Government also facilitates the roll‑out of infrastructure to underserved and unserved communities, by, one, acquiring the land, if need be and taking care of all the permitting processes to remove the hassle from the companies extending their services to those areas.  And we put up shared infrastructure which they can now co‑locate their services to.  Even that has been too slow for us and so Government has decided that, yes, we'll still continue with that track of cooperation and collaborating with the private sector to develop the infrastructure that we need to extend services but Government would also go ahead and secure the funding to actually roll out the infrastructure to areas where the rollout plans would be too slow for us to achieve universal access and in the process of getting that funding so we hope by the end of next year, that 20% of our population that's currently unconnected would all have access to voice and data telephony in our country.

In addition to that as well, our Universal Service Fund is utilizing a technology mix and not just focusing on infrastructure but also providing the digital skills which will enable the people to actually use that infrastructure in place, and providing devices as well for them to have full benefit of it and they're providing training for even illiterate people, those ones using their local languages using technology as well.  They've developed a keyboard which can provide training in about 30 different languages.  We're also providing training to market women, to farmers, to artisans, in addition to students, as well.

We're looking at utilizing satellite to extend connectivity to hard to reach areas, as well.  They're working with the electricity company to utilize aerial fiber also, in addition to putting fiber in the ground.

Now, we want to encourage infrastructure sharing to drive down the cost of accessing the Internet, and we're hoping that with a combination of all these factors, we'd be able to even develop specific pricing models for our telephony project so those in our smaller towns can access the Internet at a cheaper more affordable cost.  We're looking at a differential pricing model for the rural areas as against those in the urban centers.  For us it's imperative that we put in place that infrastructure, provide the digital skills and training and the devices for people to utilize them because the Government is determined to formalize our economy through technology and we're moving rapidly to even the payment of all Government goods and services to be done electronically and everything to be done on a digital platform.  If we don't provide access to every part of our country it means significant portions of our population will be left out of all of the services that are being rolled out across the country and we don't think that's a useful thing.  In a nutshell that's what we're doing in Ghana and varying forms are being done in other parts of the continent but we're using our model and others have come to learn from our experiences in this West African subregion, in Mozambique and eastern and southern Africa as well so we see how we can connect the whole Continent together.  We have a lot of submarine cables landing on our shores.  Getting it to the Interior of the Continent has become problematic.  We do need to look at the means of linking up our systems in transnational manner so that we can work towards connecting the Continent.  We signed on to the free trade area which will be largest single market in the world.  For that to be effective we do need to use technology and without the infrastructure in the ground, and our young people being trained with the digital skills and having access to that technology, we won't be able to succeed so that's a little bit of what we're trying to do in Ghana.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you so much and I would like to hand over Hasim to tell us about potential gaps in terms of Internet access in Pakistan.

>> MAKHDOOM HASIM JAWAN BAKHT:  Thank you.  I think just to look at the future outlook by the time 2025 as for the latest data of mobile trends, we will be having 1.6 billion users added to it and Pakistan will be among the top five countries which will be contributing.  In terms of our access, one of the things which we have seen and which an area of our focus has been that there are market efficiency gaps and there are also genuine gaps where the true access is also there so for that the Universal Service Fund has actually in Pakistan we've been able to take care of certain hard terrain areas and we continue to do so.  It's very interesting because since I was preparing for this Conference and I come with the financial mind set since I'm the finance Minister, as looking at over the last years, the efficiencies which have been brought into the system by improving the access.  We are a highly populous country.  210 million and forecasted to grow to 400 in the coming decade, slightly above that.  So the public service delivery has to match.  We can't add on brick and mortar.  We can't continue to add more classrooms because the number of classrooms which are required, it's an enormous task to do that so we're all in different phases of the lifecycle of digitization and Internet Governance, and Pakistan has a unique opportunity to leapfrog and come into a better service delivery era and we're able to do that if we go through with better access, and we have been able to do that and we're continuing to do that.

There's another aspect which I believe we need to attend and that is the skill component of it.  In addition to having access, it's the usage of the Internet.  What we have seen in recent years is that we introduced citizens portal feedback so citizens were able to report back to the Government as to what has improved in terms of service delivery, what has not.  And this has proved extremely beneficial because it has helped us streamline processes, take out bottle necks, resulting in ease of doing business, improving on certain procedural manner, and this was conducted by World Bank, a recent study, and this sort of an interaction, the Revision of the State and the citizen contract has actually helped us save enormous amounts of money, as well.

So I feel that the Government and the citizen ‑‑ the convergence view is very much there to further improve on access and we will continue to do so.  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  And let us move then to the very right side of our panel from my perspective.  May I ask you to give your introductory remarks?  Thank you.

>> IDRISS SALEH BACHAR:  Thank you.  I talk in French.  I come from Chad.

[ Captioner does not have English translation ]


>> MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, and may I ask the perspective from Argentina, please.

>> Okay.  I have some notes so I'm going to read them.  Regarding infrastructure, this is a really hard task since most of the areas that are not yet connected are areas with really difficult access.  So but connecting them is not impossible.  We have new technologies and already certain ones and we have different ways of implementing them, maybe through Government, through private Government, Civil Society, technical organizations and joint projects between those actors also.  One example is technologies of these technologies are community networks which some of our members, I am managing LACTLD.  It's an Association of CCLDs of Latin America and the Caribbean so our members are not really doing infrastructure or access.  They're at the logical layer of the Internet but they're kind to give back to their communities.  So this might be one way they help with community networks.  For example they're helping develop them around their country.

Today we also have a double challenge since many of those who are not yet connected in general are communities that have preexisting economic exclusion, in addition to their digital exclusion.  This is a double challenge yes but a double opportunity, also.  In situations like this we cannot expect that simply by connecting them to the Internet they will become digital citizens, consumers and producers of content ‑‑ consumers and producers of content.  You'd think once a town gets electricity, it will happen automatically and that will be not happen.  We have to work on real digital inclusion that helps them take advantage of all the opportunities the Internet can bring to their communities and mainly for economic access and this goes far beyond communication.  Several CCLDs, they're Top‑Level Domains so many CCLDs are working towards digital inclusion.  They're doing both, they're training people and also making these problems for their priorities.  Availability of content in the language or dialect of who we intend to include, and this is something that should be emphasized too.  While the area of our members as I've said is the logical layer of the Internet CCLDs are working on IDN, International Domain Names so that registrants of Domain Names can no domains in their own language with their own characters.  And finally affordability is another key point.  We're doing really well with equipment because you can buy really cheap devices but the thing is connection, how we can get cheaper connections.  We have a great example that the Internet exchange point, they're helping a lot.  They're making the Internet faster and cheaper for the ones that are connected to them.  Many CCLDs are helping, and Costa Rica, and Canada is building IXPs in remote areas, not just in big cities.

Munich and Malaysia are hosting their IXPs, too.  That's it.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  I'd like to hand over to Paola to give you a perspective from it.

>> PAOLA PISANO:  Thank you very much.  It's a pleasure for Italy to be here with you today to share with you a common challenge that also in Italy we are, as I have the opportunity to listen to all my colleagues and everybody are talking about more or less the same problem.  So first of all, the connectivity.  Also in Italy we have the problem of the broadband, the fiber, the rural part and try to convince the private to go in the part of the market that is not very available so what we can do together as a country I think that the moment is now the moment that we start to share how to approach this problematic maybe together, because in Italy, we have the problem of the creation of the connectivity.

We know a lot of list of different problematic, why our plan is not so fast.  For example, we have a problem of organization, okay.  We have a problem of authentication.  We never know when the private company, the organization, are planning the rollout the broadband in our country will do the work.  So this is a problem for the Public Administration.

We have two different private operators inside our country, so again, this is a problem around the governance of our broadband.  Then we have a problem of technology, because we can bring broadband everywhere, so we need to think about 5G technology, for example, and create technological infrastructure, and it is one part, so I think what we can do together now is try to share the solution and the problematic that a country has to face for the connectivity.

We have another problem, the digitalization of the service of the Public Administration, so we need to create a platform that ‑‑ shared platform inside the Government in order to enable the digitalization.  The single ID of our citizens, so one citizen to have a single ID, has to have a single application to have the access to our services that has to be digitalized.

So but the citizen is only one, for example, and as a lot of services, and so we need to integrate between the services of the Public Administration and the services of the private part, and so it's also important to create this integration, as the experience of the citizen has to be end to end the same experience and this is another challenge inside the Public Administration, and the higher challenge is the skill that we need to develop again, digital skill and skill for digital that is also very important.

So how to think our process inside the public, how to Engineer our solution and how to reach the citizen in the same way that the private system reach them, and then the digital inclusion, so we have a project for the digital inclusion, the name of our project is Digital Republic, where we put together the private sector and the public sector to create a project in all the parts of our country where we have a very strong digital divide, and we have a strong digital divide in the rural part, in the mountain part, so for this reason we have to keep together all the effort and to go to the connectivity, digitalization with a single ID and single application for all our services, and decrease the digital divide that we have in our country, put together the public sector and the private sector, and that's it.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  Would you hand over the microphone to the last but not least of our panelists here today?

>> MONGI MARZOUG:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I'm happy to discuss with you this highly important topic regarding Internet Access and Inclusion.  Currently I'm working with Orange Group on Internet ‑‑ sorry, in Orange Group on Internet and sustainable energy governance and I'm from Africa and from Tunisia.  I serve as Tunisia ICT Minister several years ago and Energy Minister which partially explain the subject of my work today in Orange.

Orange has more than 20 mobile networks in Africa and enhanced connectivity is one pillar of Orange Group strategy plan for 5 years.  As highlighted by many speeches, Internet is becoming a human right and should be affordable and safe.

In my brief speech I want to address two points.  First, where we are today regarding access and inclusion, facts and figures.  Is connectivity the main issue to access to affordable and safe Internet?

The second point:  What policies are recommended to achieve access and inclusion goals which are tightly linked to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As you know, today around one‑half of people are connected to Internet, but by end of 2018, around 800 million of people are living in area without Internet coverage, so around 3 billion of connected people are in coverage area so connectivity is not the main issue of access to Internet.

51% of African people are connected through mobile Internet and in Tunisia it's around 60%, and as you know, yes, energy is also a barrier to connection to extend Internet, but as you know, around 89% in the world are connected to electricity, so far higher than Internet connectivity.  Sorry.

So the digital divide is far from being a connectivity issue.  The IGF community has identified five main dimensions and policy options for increasing connectivity.

The first one is deploying infrastructure.  I had not to expand.  The second one, increasing usability application service and Administration service also.

The third one, enabling users through human rights inclusiveness, user literacy, digital citizenship and so on.

Fourth, ensuring affordability.

And fifth, creating an end point.  I think this is the main policy recommendation in order to increase connectivity and to know affordable access to more people around the world.  By the end of my speech, as you know, currently digital attacks is discussed at very world High Level policy organization and countries, and for my opinion, it should be an opportunity to bring in particular financial solution to Internet access and inclusion.  Thank you very much.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.

[ Applause ]

I'm very sorry we have limited time but I would move into a discussion.  Let's move away from Europe.  There are problems in Europe as well in terms of broadband infrastructure and all that but we have regions in the world where we do not have any infrastructure at all.  We don't have broadband and we don't have mobility connections.

And something that is seen as a solution from a number of Associations is community networks, where people from some regions are working together.  They organize for example satellite access and then they can't get connected to the Internet and that's the very fundamental condition for solving other problems that everyone on the panel raised here.  Do you have experience with these community networks?  Do you think it's a sustainable solution as well?  Or is that something like a bridge technology?  Who would like to speak about this?  You would?

>> URSULA OWUSU-EKUFUL:  Yes, thank you.  We do have a version of community networks.  We build community information centers in areas without access to the Internet, and they provide three or four services to the community.  We provide Internet access using satellite to those centers.  School children who don't have Internet access in their schools can go there for training within the community itself.  They can utilize that as an e‑Services center to apply for goods and services from those centers because there are trained people there who can assist them to apply for whatever services they want.  The members of the communities themselves can come to those centers for training because we have people there who can also assist them to use the Internet and the devices that we may not be able to put a device in every home, every school but if we find one central location that is properly fitted with the right devices, and with Internet access, we find that it even serves as an area for the community to congregate and that is one quick way that we have found to increase access to the Internet for people who would otherwise not have had it.

And so we have Community Information Centers and Regional Information Centers, larger ones, which were even converted into quasi technology parks that can also help small startups also hone their skills there and utilize those centers.  We found them very useful and so we're replicating them around the country.  We're even thinking of linking them up with our Post Offices as well so that where there are postal offices we can equip them with Internet access and provide a space for the community to also access services using those centers and it's an easy way we find to extend connectivity to areas where they would otherwise not have had it and that's a collaboration between the Ministry of Communications and the universal service entrepreneur.  That's one of the things we're doing to quickly increase our footprint in hard to reach areas as well.  It's useful and the use of satellite has also helped us immensely because we have our own VSAT that we use to extend services.  It's not just the Community Information Centers but we find even Government institutions, schools, hospitals, in remote communities tend to rely on that VSAT backbone to get some limited Internet access and for those Community Information Centers, the Internet services are free of charge so cost will not be a limiting factor to accessing the Internet and we find that's a useful way of extending the Government's footprint.

Is it sustainable?  We think so.  We think it's a worthwhile investment so the Ministry seeks partnerships from interested companies to continue to support us and if that is not forthcoming, the State itself will put its funding to that and utilize a Universal Service Fund as well, so that's a model we thought we could share with the audience.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, so that's really a part of your infrastructure.  Are there other views or experiences?  Yes, please.

>> MIGUEL ESTRADA:  For example, in Latin America, there are many experiences.  I can tell you about for example in Argentina there's a Civil Society organization called AlterMundi, and they help different communities to have their own networks and they help them in a way those networks are sustainable, because those community pays for the connection and they train them to keep them working, so it's once the network is set, they won't be needing anyone, no money from no one, no technical assistance to maintain it so it's really good work.

Also they are working their own equipment.  They developed their own rotors and they are giving them away for them to connect.  Also in Honduras as I was telling you before, the local CCLD is helping communities in the same way so the idea is they will be helpful if they are sustainable.  If they aren't, they won't.  They have to be sustainable.  If not, it's just a give‑away for a couple months and they will be gone.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Could you pass the microphone?

>> Thank you.  To add in fact for me the responsibility of the Government, in fact to low spectrum usage in remote area, to allow common network for all people to share infrastructure.  There are also responsibility that can be provided by communities for example local service, local usage.  We can also use universal fund instruments.  In many countries you know there are more than 60 Universal Service Fund but not use it to contribute to universal service and affordable access to Internet.

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  In the remaining minutes obviously that we only have, I'm happy to open the floor to questions from the audience.  Is there someone who has experiences with community networks?  Maybe also with obstacles when you try to set up community networks?  Or maybe only with your personal perspective on what we discuss here on the panel?

>> URSULA OWUSU‑EKUFUL:  Good day.  I'm the Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies from South Africa.  I think there are similarities and codes of good practice between South Africa and Ghana, especially in expanding on access to Internet, especially in rural areas, using collaboration and partnership with telcos and ensuring that in our case, we do schools and hospitals and clinics for free wi‑fi.  Initially it was 10 megabytes.  Now we go in 200 and it's free so that those in that community are able to, so I think we're learning from your service on the technology parks and I think it's something that we can expand.

But the second thing which I think is a take‑away for us as South Africa, it's the differentiated pricing between rural and urban.  It's something that we can take home and look at whether we can be able to deal with that.  But where we are in South Africa, through our Ministry, we are now at the level we are ready to engage on the finalization of the release of spectrum as an attempt to expand on Internet connectivity and other related things.

But I thought one of the things that we should also leave the IGF with, especially as stakeholders, is that we have the SDGs.  There was this 0.7 commitment by developed countries to assist developing countries.  We really have to look at it and ensure that the Gross National Income of companies really gets given to developing countries for us to expand on Internet access in rural areas.

The other issues that we have, Africa has lots of young people, and women are in majority, and we have structures in the UN and the AU, IGF and other structures.  Please reach out to young people.  Let them be part of this Forum.  You know there's a notion that says nothing about us without us, so let's involve as far as possible youth and women.  You can see here we are an endangered species but you're doing so well.

[ Laughter ]

[ Applause ]

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  And let me take that as the closing remarks, please.  Again, I'm sorry for the limited time that we only have.  I would really like to thank everyone on the panel here or giving us insights about infrastructure and access from your Region, from your country's perspective.  I hope we could kick off a little bit a fruitful discussion that you can follow up in the coffee breaks when you're networking, when you speak to people.  Thank you very much for joining this panel and have a very successful and fruitful IGF.  Thank you.

[ Applause ]

[ End of session ]