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.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Hello, everybody.
I think the first session in the morning, so we are very pleased that you have made it all the way here from your beds effectively. And we're hoping for a dynamic discussion today on this very important topic of closing the digital gap for marginalized communities. We have a very impressive and well dynamic panel here. We have slightly more speakers than we initially planned but I think the fact that we're trying to focus on project examples will give some color and energy to this discussion.
So closing the Digital Divide is still a major issue. And it's issue in Europe, Latin America and beyond. This session is organized by ourselves. So the European telecommunication network association and our counterpart in Latin America. And I think the fact that us the telecommunication associations are also looking at this issue, it really brings together hopefully all our efforts so the fact that governments are trying to connect rural areas, remote areas, we have community initiatives who are trying to make this happen and also then us from the private sector from the operator community who are hoping to be able to support this project with more resources and effort going forward.
So we will be focusing in this session on good practices. We hope it to be concrete. And then also from those good practices that you will hear today to address some of the key questions. So address some of the key questions at policy level. Address some of the key questions in terms of collaboration. So how can us, operators, collaborate with community projects?
What is the role of governments in this equation and so forth?
And I see some familiar faces in the audience, and I know some of you are very active in the community network projects. So we're also hoping for your participation and your active questions from the audience. So after the first round, we will open it for questions. We also have a remote way of submitting questions so you can use that too.
So I would like to introduce our panel and we will kick off with a short round of statements from all our panelists. So we have on my right‑hand side Mr. Oscar Martin Gonzalez from the Argentinian. He's the undersecretary of regulation and looking specifically on remote area connectivity issues as well. Then we have Ms. Sarbani Belur. And she's the senior research scientist there and has been involved herself in many rural community projects in India. So she will talk about that example.
And we have Mr. Christoph Steck, public policy at Telefonica. And he will talk about project they have been involved in Peru and Latin America. We have on my left‑hand side Ms. Lorrayne Porciuncula from OECD. And she will be addressing some of the anal sis they have done on remote area connectivity. We have Mr. Matthew Rantanen who has been involved in projects with indigenous communities in the United States. And finally, we have Mr. Laturi leading efforts in the republic of Georgia in the caucuses area.
I would like to ask Mr. Gonzalez to start and high level of understanding on what is the role of remote connectivity in the governmental realm and move on to project examples to actually understand what can be done and what has been done. So Oscar, please.
>> OSCAR MARTIN GONZALEZ: Good morning. Is this fine?
Yes. Thank you very much. I will try to be brief as the intent of the colleagues here to have an open discussion and exchange. But first of all, I wanted to say I'm very happy to be here this morning. I understand that access to Broadband remains the main challenge for all the multi Stakeholders in the internet community. Though, competition and market models have helped us to develop greatly over the last years. There are geographic regions and also sectors of our societies especially in developing countries like Argentina that remain difficult to bring access to. So half of the world population is still offline and that means really a lot. And to us, it's the main challenge that remains to be solved by the internet community.
Over the last four years in Argentina we have generated 2 million fixed Broadband access. We have brought 4G coverage to 90% of the population. And we have increased the fiber to the home network access from 1.8% to 10% over the last three years. But that's clearly not enough. And that's where policy and regulation comes into place. And I would like to mention a few examples of what we have been doing in order to help to bring access to those that are still without it.
I think it is very important to have a closed corporation between the public and the private sector as a policy guideline. I think states for this regions and these communities that are still without access have a key role to play. And we have understood that and made an important investment to develop backbone network of over 30,000 kilometers. As you probably know, Argentina is the 8th largest geography in the world. So the state has putty norm us efforts that brings fiber and connectivity to the small towns where the market is failing to attend. We have service funds and develop a set of programs to give subsidies to small enterprises comparatives and we have started to work also with community networks but unfortunately that is a step that is not concluded yet.
So public or state investment, universal service funds through different programs for small communities have been the tools we have used to bring access to isolated geographic regions, more communities, small towns, et cetera. And then it comes regulation. In terms of regulation, there is a lot to do. First of all, I think it's very important to simplify regulations. And help those who want to develop projects and develop networks to access the market. We have worked on simplifying the licensing regulations. And granted 1,200 licenses over the last four years. We have worked with the community networks and is created specific regime to them don't have to pay fees and simplify the requirement to access the license. We also introduce some concepts about the internet exchange points in order to recognize the internet exchange points as part of the inter connection system.
And then we have worked greatly on spectrum access. We develop or we regulated the concept of shared spectrum. We have been working quite a bit with dynamic spectrum alliance not only to use the so‑called Wi‑Fi bands but also explore the possibility of TBY spaces which would be a good solution in terms of rural connectivity.
So I would say license interconnection spectrum as some areas of regulatory development that need to be addressed to help develop rural connectivity. And then public investment and efficient use of universal service funds as policy tools also to help bring connectivity to the places and the people that the market is failing to do so far. I would like to close here and then we can go back to some questions. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That was very clear. So we heard key governmental tools, public investment, universal service funds, specific regimes and the whole spectrum discussion on how to facilitate access to spectrum to also smaller players. That's great.
Sarbani, would you like to follow?
Try and understand what has been done in different parts of the world in terms of community connectivity. And perhaps also to highlight what are the key challenges being tackled and encountered in the different parts of the world. So would you like to start please?
>> SARBANI BELUR: Thank you. I am a senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai, and I work in a project which is known as Gramar. So we work on enabling connectivity to the remote rural villages of India. This has been an on‑going project since the year 2012. And I have been involved in this project for the past five years. Gramar being in the department of electrical engineering was focusing initially on technology interventions to connect the connective. And so we have worked on the TV wide space to enable connectivity to 7 villages. 7 rural villages, remote rural villages. Very close by to Bombay. Not very far but unconnected. After that, we connected 25 villages where in we did not do it on TV wide space because we did not get a license for it. We did it on 5.8 gigahertz. And we set up community‑led networks. That was the first time the community themselves wanted to own the network. And that was the moment when it made me realize that, yeah, why should we just give them connectivity if they don't even know how to use the connectivity?
And communities themselves came up to me. But they did not have enough ownership to it. Later for the past year and‑a‑half, I have been working on a project with association for progressive communication. This is a project that's meaningful and sustainable connectivity to the remote rural villages. To the tribal population of 2500 population size. In completely remote location which does not even have a telecom operator over there. So here, what do I mean by meaningful sustainable connectivity is that we enable connectivity only when the community wants the connectivity. Before that, we enable other facilities for them. Like, for example, try to make them understand or let them talk about it. What are they going to do with the connectivity?
After we enable connectivity, there's no use in telling them come on, let's learn English, let's learn how to operate the smart phone. No. So if you identified problems along with the community and now we set up the connectivity there. We don't enable connectivity to the entire village. It's only at one location in the village where we have enabled the connectivity. And at that location, the banking facilities and the e‑governance services are enabled by village entrepreneur and banking correspondent at that location. Because the villages have to travel 12 kilometers through the city to even withdraw money from the bank. There are no banks there because there is no connectivity. And the rest of the network is off‑line network which is they are building up on local knowledge. Local knowledge that they have indigenous knowledge related to seeds, related to arts and craft, anything that is there indigenous with the communities. Which is being sold in e‑commerce platform made for them.
So we are making the connectivity meaningful for them and sustainable. So the money that comes in from the e‑commerce platform goes back to the community and that's how the community looks into ‑‑ sustains the connectivity over there. The challenges that we have are quite a lot because still now there is not a telecom operator over there. GEO has not reached that location. But we are trying to work with the local ISP. The local internet service provider, we are trying to work with them. We are working on a sim card solution. I will be happy to get questions from you and answer them. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I think you raised a very important point with the whole demand side engagement. So doing it with the community rather than just for the community. So I'm sure we'll have more questions on that later. Christoph, would you like to take the floor next please?
>> CHRISTOPH STECK: Thanks, and good morning, everyone. I have three or four slides which I think if you can put them up, that would be helpful. I think it explains a little bit. I'm going to present to you from Peru. I work for Telefonica. It's an operator. We operate networks in Europe and Latin America. We are in developed markets. And emerging economies. I will show you now a project which comes from Peru which is in the letter category and you have similar issues to the one we just talked about and heard about. That there are still a lot of regions and people not connected. And so we started more than two years ago with an idea of creating internet para todos which is pure wholesale operator in the rural country side. So operator offering services to everyone who wants to use the network. And at the same time, not publicly funded. It's funded, actually, by four partners currently. That's ourselves, Facebook and there are two development banks. And the ones who have started the company. So that's a company specialized on rural access. And doing it in an open wholesale model. So I will just show you a little bit what's behind that.
The idea is to build connectivity in remote areas.
And also work on areas where there is not a very good connectivity. I think we have to separate these two areas because there are different challenges around them.
We have quite ambitious targets. We're trying to get the capital investment in networks down. We feel one of the key reasons why there's no connectivity in these areas is the deployment of networks is too expensive. The power is also not very high. So you have to build, first of all, a business, a commercial model you can offer. Sometimes people think companies don't want to give connectivity. That's what we've done to 350 million people already in our markets. But as I said, sometimes the business models need innovation and need to work on that. What we did, I think, quite interesting here is we innovated in various aspects.
First of all, as I said, we tied up with other companies and other organizations. That's not very common in our sector. We still tend to have more idea of integration that we operate our own networks. So here we have set up alliance and open for others to join. So we have, for example, just signed an agreement with Google regarding the loon project.
In Peru in the remote areas, which is really hard to reach and very scarcely populated, we are going to get connectivity there with the balloons. The first really commercial use of that technology. So we are really open to any technology, any idea we can find to do that. We have also innovated on technology in the sense that the planning of the network, I think, has been changed. So, for example, one of the issues for us is that we don't know exactly where the demand is.
So sometimes it's hard to know if there's a specific area where there would be a demand. You can guess it by people and so on but it's easier if you have more data. So one of the things we did with Facebook was Facebook would provide us data and they could say we know that in that area, for example, people own smart phones.
And that's an indicator, for example, that there will be a demand once we built. That's very good for a business because you immediately get return on investment. So people get quite motivated once you have that. So basically, these are the innovation on the technology side. We also innovated on the operational side. And work with them for the market thing. But also sometimes for this network. One of the reasons hard for us to operate in remote areas is it's not that easy to provide them technical support. And so we can basically tie up with communities there and try to work together on that. So we also did things different on the operations side. And finally, there was also innovation done on the regulatory side. They provide the right regulatory conditions to build such a specific operator just for the country side access. Just to give you an idea what the challenge is. We see Peru. There are around 6 million people still without internet access or mobile Broadband. You can basically say that half of them live in areas where there basically needs to be an overlay. It's going to be out of service very soon because it relies on old‑fashioned technologies. So basically, we have to change that to build an overlay network which gives 4G connectivity in the areas. That's the blue spots you see there. And the Greenfield as we call it. No voice service, no data service. No connectivity at all.
So in the overlay areas, it's sometimes easier cause you have some sort of infrastructure in place. You have 2G usually infrastructure up and running. At least one. You have towers, electricity. So the challenge here is just to update technology. In the Greenfield areas, we have to go a step further. Provide connectivity using solar energy. It's more of a challenge. You don't have the backbone and the transport capacities there. So that's really complicated and even more challenging. Both things are very important.
So just to give you a couple of indicators, we have connected half a million 4G clients already. Built over 500‑4G sites. What we found that's interesting is the average revenue per users is higher than we've seen before. Also buying power in these areas. Good news for everyone. A motivation for commercial operators to go to those areas and we plan to get to 4 million connected people in the next two years. So that's basically two third of what I just showed you.
I have a little video. I'm not sure if you can put it on just to give you an idea. I think it's in Spanish, but you can put subtitles in YouTube in English. I hope it works. Gives you an impression. You have to click on the picture. Oh, okay. Don't worry. If you Google for it, it's on YouTube. Internet para todos is the name. We're quite fascinated about it. It's the first time we are seeing a privately invested and run operation specifically for the countryside and offering open access for everyone who wants to use that network. And we're seeing it's working quite well.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. I think from our side this is very interesting and would be later interesting to hear how you see this kind of operators more closely involved working out. And I think the big gain is the fact that, of course, operators have a lot of experience in the business case and sustainability aspect. So could the involvement of operators in a way help scale the community networks and make them more sustainable?
Next, Matt, would you like to talk about your project?
>> MATTHEW RANTANEN: Thank you. So my name is Matthew Rantanen, and I am the director of technology for the Southern California tribal chairman's association. That is 20 federally recognized tribes in the United States in Southern California. I'm also the partnering and business development for a new project or new company called Arcadian infracom. And I'll talk about both of these a little bit.
Specifically to the unserved community building the model from the bottom up, we started in 2001 building a network that supports these 20 communities in Southern California and there's roughly 8,900 people spread out across 20 different land masses and we built a microwave network that uses every available unlicensed spectrum in the United States that is free to use for public access. And then we actually have licensed some links to do some long haul to avoid interference and enable ourselves to free up unlicensed space to do multi point deployment. So our network spans over 650 miles. To drive a car, it takes two hours to get from the beginning to the end of the network. For the longest time, we only had access at one end of the network.
So the network design was a single point of failure anywhere along the route, if it broke, everybody behind the break would not work. The last three years we've achieved a second access to the rest of the internet. We have fiber now at both ends. 10 gigs of fiber at each end and deploy everything in the middle with wireless. This was a community effort that was paired with private funding and University knowledge in the beginning in 2001. And it was an opportunity brought to the tribes about connecting their resource programs and after‑school programs. And evolved into wireless internet service provider business, if you will, that is run by the tribal governments. It is a community network of sorts. I know it's sometimes a conflict to call that a community network. But a tribe is self-contained in the United States. They are a sovereign entity and they have a government and an education system in a library, and a fire department and police. And they do basically everything for themselves.
So the network that they are going to build is going to serve multi purposes and it is based in their community. Acts as a community network and operated by the community. It is a little different model than some of the community networks we talked about today.
And we've run into many obstacles in policy regulation, partnerships with carriers along the way. There's hurdles and barriers to entry for tribal communities in the United States. There are 573 federally recognized tribes of which none had internet when we started this project back in 2001. And the other company I'm a part of builds long haul fiber and we have announced currently 2500 miles of fiber. We're doing a unique approach to this. Commercial data centers in large cities. But along the route of development, we're dragging the line of fiber 50 to 100 miles left and right along that path to be able to include all of the reservations that are along that path as well as small towns throughout the rural United States which are also lacking in connectivity.
So it's a unique approach. It's a top down approach. I'm getting to work from both angles to be able to solve this problem and change the landscape. I'll leave it at that.
>> MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Matt. We have our fourth and final project example. We have Ocheck. So please.
>> Thanks. I'm from Georgia and I'm working for community networks but my regular job (?) What can I tell about two projects?
We support the society in Highlands and near the Russian border. And also the easiest project, we had two months (?) Government in advising activity for locals for e‑commerce and et cetera. Years ago, we started another project, it's also near the Russian border. So we had here up to 100 (?) Up to 20, two passes and all modal but most of our sites are on the high slopes above sea level. We have (?) And this area is protected area. And near the border at the top. Another interesting point is Stakeholders of the project mentioned about. In this project, it's a replica of other projects solely for this. And in this project, we have 11 Stakeholders. First of all, (?) And mind player of the project giving mind points and directions for us. Second interesting and very important donor is the government. They gave the money and not money from the fund and et cetera. It's just donation from community networks. And another Stakeholder is mobile operator. They gave (?) They gave 10 years for location. We have also an organization to help local society organization mounted community network for three years for legal support. We have also two local lenders and other private companies from my association. So we have more than 11 lenders in this project. And I think it could be interesting for the people. We have quite good supportive government and mobile operators. We have two challenges, actually. The weather and mother nature. The roads are just open for four months. The connection is crucial for locals. And thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. So I hear that in Georgia we've had a positive experience both in terms of collaboration with government in terms of funding and also the regulatory approach. But also then with vendors with this which is a great thing. It seems all that it's coming together.
Having heard the four examples here, I would like to ask Lorrayne from the OECD to give your impressions on the discussion so far and based on your analysis you've done at the OECD, does the different challenges and things that have been discussed here, does that correspond with your analysis?
>> LORRAYNE PORCIUNCULA: Thank you very much. I work at OECD. OECD is the organization for economic development. What we do is to ‑‑ we're known for collecting data and producing analysis. I work in the science and technology innovation specifically with communications infrastructure and services. And a lot of what I've heard here today in previous IGF sessions relate a lot to the work we've been doing. So I like to make three main points today in this session. The first one is on a principle of fostering private investment first. And using public money later. So by private investment, both by small and large service providers from either business or associations or tribal communities, for example. But the idea is simple. The more geographic areas that are served by market forces, the less demand there will be for scarce public resources needed to meet public policy objectives. Policies, for example, to promote competition, private investment and independent regulation have been very successful in OECD countries and non-OECD countries. To increase the size of the pie of people actually covered.
So if there is insufficient investment and people are still left uncovered, first tray to think about solutions and how to foster more private investment. And there's several tools available for governments to do that. And some of them were mentioned previously. But for several other players here as well. So I wouldn't bid injustice if I didn't say first we need data. And we need to understand the gaps that actually exist in terms of quality and affordable access to Broadband. Cause without that, there can be no real assessment on the size of the issue and no evidence policy making.
It's very important that countries focus on streamlining administrative procedures and the example Argentina was mentioned in terms of simplifying regulation in terms of eliminating administrative redundancies. And implementing d1 policies and common regulations for laying out cables across roads. That's with a view of establishing a uniform practice across the country.
It's also very important that we enhance the access to resources from network operators. And that was mentioned again in discussion today. The existing barriers, for example, of passing infrastructure but also restrictive rights of way should be eliminated. And, of course, another issue that was mentioned is sufficient spectrum which is very crucial. It's crucial to reduce the costs from both fixed networks. And only once the steps have actually been explored and the size of the pie of the people select quality and affordable access to Broadband is reduced should there be public investment. In good practices like this also in terms of both municipal networks and we have several examples in countries such as Sweden that have had a lot of investment in public network. Also in terms of Broadband strategies in how to use service fund.
The second point I'd like to make is in terms of the developments that we'll continue to disrupt not only business models but also regulation. So in terms of technological development, the convergence on networks to IP networks, artificial intelligence, internet of things and how much will drive demand for more infrastructure for fiber. But also augmented reality, virtual reality watching all sorts of crowd source and decentralized solutions.
Very recent study we did in OECD looks into operator models in the future. And one of the things we analyzed is today there's no single entity that provides all communication infrastructure services. And this has led to the development of what we categorized as four types of business model.
The first one being the integrated operators.
The second being cable operators.
Third, wholesale only operators. And many of the utility ones.
The internet companies investing in infrastructure. Interestingly, what we found is both traditional vertically integrate operators are innovating the business models. They are expanding to different areas. That can be from financial services, banking, to some sorts of these analysis or business consultancy for small firms. Cable operators comprised of around 32% of Broadband subscriptions and also advancing different areas.
We see a lot of new developments in terms of wholesale provision of Broadband services. That was mentioned in many of the examples today. Just the case of (?) And why it's important to think about that is because that will impact regulation. So regulation will need because of technological developments, need to be more responsive and need to be constructed based on interactive approach. And policy makers in our view would really benefit from fostering regulatory sandboxes where both small and large businesses can really prioritize new approaches in different areas.
And the third point I'd like to make that is very important for this session is that we need to weight regulation and really shift from one size fits all regulation to data driven and segmented approach. And outcome based regulation in terms of focusing results and performance instead of focusing on the form.
And finally, the point I'd like to make is in terms of collaborative regulation. Understanding both the local needs in rural and isolated communities and also fitting that international regulation. In the same way, we need good international practices to expand inclusion in those areas. So engaging with a broader set of Stakeholders from those local communities to international organizations, very crucial to promote connectivity.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Lorrayne. So what I heard there is that business models play a key role and we need to consider the whole range of possibilities. You also highlighted the technical development. So we cannot be restrained to the current technologies that we have. We need to consider the future potential. And then the regulatory impact and how can we regulator if it will be useful and to what extent should it be centralized or localized. So what I would like to do now, we've touched on many aspects on the supply side, how do we provide access?
We have touched a bit on the demand side. We need to have the communities on board and think about skills and such things. What I would like to do is to see if you have any questions to our competent panel at this stage from the audience. We would like this to be an interactive session. So any questions at this stage?
We have two questions here. We have four questions. Do we have a microphone in the room?
We have some in the back rows. Maybe we'll start from here. Please introduce yourself and ask the question.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. My name is Gregora. I represent a German membership organization. My question is across the whole panel, actually. It's more of ‑‑ it goes into technology as well as project base. So we're providing access to communication so it's basically it seems like it's a lot of people that are going to be consumers of information. So my question is when you go to these and try to implement these projects, how much discussion is going on into creating actual knowledge?
How much are you informing them or providing them information in terms they can be become nodes in this network world?
And it would be interesting to see particularly with vested technology in terms of how much servers or technology building as well as projects in the U.S. would be interesting.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. So knowledge and the role of technology. I'll take another one and we'll go back to the panel.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. I'm a Ph.D. researcher. My question is more directly to Matthew of what you talked about tribal community. Could you explain further when you use the word community what it actually means. What is the concept of the structure of a community over there. When you say it's a community‑based initiative, is that only completely done by the community or is it more of assistance or only community initiative?
Can you put some light in that?
>> MODERATOR: Very good. We'll take two more questions. I think the lady there, if you can come up front. One more there and then go back to the panel. And do another round after that.
>> AUDIENCE: Good morning. I'm Deana from IT solutions foundation from Ghana. We are deploying integrated learning transformation programs for schools all over the country and we are about to also expand to other west African countries. We bring smart boards to the schools and local networks. And then we meet people who are angry because they are in the village and they miss the internet. Many of them have smart phones and want the internet to also come. And why we're moving to more and more remote areas. We find ourselves on our own. So what is the most frugal way to go about it?
I'm interested in examples from India. I think they are in similar situations where villages feel they are alone and don't know how to go about it to do things themselves. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. Thank you for the presentation that you made. One thing that I would like to add is when we talk about the marginalized communities, one of them is the people with disabilities. My name is Dr. Azizi and I'm a volunteer with the only blind school. I work for them and with them for the last 13 years. I would like to see if any of the panelists have experienced working with the blind communities and the visually impaired communities. Because in Afghanistan, unfortunately, we have got almost half a million blind people and from the public sector, unfortunately, there's attention towards them. I want to see how we as the non‑profit can engage with these communities and can help them. Thank you very much.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. Excellent question. So we had one specifically for Matt. Maybe we'll take that when we come to you. We had the questions on the knowledge hubs and creating this type of ‑‑ hubs in the communities. We had the question regarding demand for telco. There is demand in villages but operators not always willing to invest. And then we had an excellent question on disability. So how can we integrate this into the approaches. So who would like to take the floor first?
Matt, please go ahead.
>> MATTHEW RANTANEN: So specifically, to answer your question, a tribal community in the United States is a sovereign dependent of the United States. It's a group of people that are ‑‑ it's hard to do this because the United States government took several groups of people and divided them up the way they saw fit to try to eliminate them in the long run. Put them on reservations in places where they may be roamed through but specifically didn't live. And they were set on that land and said this is where you have to live. You can't live anywhere else. You can't leave this land. To become recognized in the United States, we did not get recognized as citizens until 1926 to be able to vote. And the reservations themselves had to develop their own constitution, their own structure of government.
And a list of people which they call the federal role to be part of that community. So that's the community that is defined as the U.S. government. As we've evolved and worked away from that and gone away from some of those rules, some of those tribal organizations opened up their role to linear descendance. And the other fun thing the United States government did is institute a blood quantum. If I'm half of this tribe, I can be enrolled. If I drop below half, I cannot be enrolled. And each tribe is different based on how they structure constitution, but all suggested by the constitution. Increases their population, it also allows their family to have the same benefits as the original people enrolled.
The effort made at the community level to create this network. In the 20 communities I'm a part of have been together for 40 some years. To be able to strengthen their numbers and go after federal subsidies and opportunities with a larger number base. So they work together as one non‑profit tribal organization. And they've chosen to work together to deploy this on each of their reservation. They wanted to work together and create an entity that would govern this for them. There's an entity that is developed there.
>> MODERATOR: Thanks. Sarbani, would you like to comment on the question from west Africa?
>> SARBANI BELUR: Yeah. I would first like to answer about the knowledge hubs. So in our community network, what we see is that through the interaction with the community, they don't want our knowledge to be given to them. They know a lot about us and they know there is a gap between the knowledge we provide to them. What we do, we ask them can you share your knowledge with us?
And there's a reason we have put up local access servers in the community through access points. Acts as access point and all the information is not only our information that goes into the community but communities also creating and sharing information that goes into a local access server. That is locally managed through a moderator in the village. So these are knowledge hubs there within the community. The indigenous community over there. They have a lot of knowledge. So many things about (?) There are various things. They don't even go to the hospital to cure their disease. They do it in the village itself. So all this knowledge, they don't know how to read and write. They have not gone to school. And they need to have a depository of this knowledge. The knowledge hubs we make for them over there.
To reply to the other comment on Ghana, I would like to tell is that in our communities, we face the problem that people told us that please bring internet. Please bring internet. But we're always asking the question that we bring you internet, but can you pay for the internet?
How much can you be able to pay?
So we also ask them and oh, yeah, they can pay. We can pay around $5. But then there is a crisis. India had too much rain. That did not go well. So they don't have that income now. So what we have devised is with the community we have told them that, look, you can get the internet if you climb up on a hill. Which they always do now. They get signals all across the village. They know what place in the village that they can get the best signal. And I've seen people putting up mobile phones in the loft of the house so the phone calls come and speak on the blue tooth. So that's also there. I have seen them. But the thing is that if you enable them services for which they have to travel to the city.
So for a birth certificate or merit certificate, they have to go to the city, walk from 12 kilometers to the city. So if you enable those services to them in the village, what we do is to an sim card and one person takes responsibility for the sim card. So it's purchased from a telecom operator in that location and the services are enabled to the people there.
And the rest of the village is completely offline on a local access server. So this is ‑‑ I think we should (?) But if there is not so much intent which they can produce on the internet, cannot read what is there. The internet is in the language they don't know how to read. It's in English which they don't know how to read. Perhaps you can tell them build the internet in your own language. Something in your own language, that gives them the enthusiasm and the inspiration to work on it. Thanks.
>> MODERATOR: Would you like to add to that?
>> CHRISTOPH STECK: I will agree. I will just add one thing. First of all, about the knowledge. Of course, that's very relevant. We have a foundation and they are focusing on education and creating startups. And I think what I like about your example before is when you talked about how you created e‑commerce service, it brings also some of the resources to pay for the internet and so on. So I think that's great. Very often I'm concerned that we are consuming a lot and not reproducing and not regenerating value once the intent is there. That's one of the things we should all be aware of. And education is key as well. And that brings me to the second part, what can we do?
I totally share your pain. We have a huge problem called (?) And that brings to many parts of Africa as well. And we have the same issue. There's no connectivity. So what can you do?
I think the best way is really to do a collaborative effort here. There are things like national Broadband plans set up in many countries. And you can do a lot of things. Usually, what you first do is you connect specific places like schools and hospitals and so on to create the first kind of connectivity there. But I think it's important to have really a different attitude. We have issues in the past with regulation. We set up universal service obligations to operate this. And that meant the industry paid money to specific fund which then was supposed to be used to build connectivity. The problem is these things get bureaucratic and outdated. So one of the issues in regulation, very simple things we see in many countries is they are only sold for specific technology or fixed connectivity.
And so then the fund cannot pay out the money. And then things get stuck. So it's not easy to do it. So I would really say the best thing is to try to sit down with the industry in each country, try to figure out what is the challenge. Try to see how we can get there and do a plan. And if everyone supports, politics and regulations supports the rights, I think there is interest in giving connectivity and described to you before how we try to bring down deployment costs. In many, many different ways and you have to really every little thing helps to bring it down. And then you can send a network for $5 when people can only pay $5 a month and you can run it and make it sustainable. And that's my final word on subsidies. And that's okay. Subsidies are fine. Maybe in some areas are necessary and they can help. Having said that, I think networks relying on subsidies will not be sustainable. Let's be fair. In many of these countries, politics will not support that eternally. You will not have sustainable networks if you need a model where you depend on subsidies. Sustainable in the sense they generate sufficient funds, money revenues to be able to maintain the network and upgrade it at a certain point of time. What we often see with subsidies is they are paid and they are out dated. This is technology, very dynamic environment. It's not easy with the one‑off kind of initiative.
So I always try to make the point. I think it's important to understand you can on a commercial basis have more sustainable models in the end and subsidies can play a role in that.
I would not build networks relying on subsidies. Not a good investment long‑term.
>> MODERATOR: Very good.
I would also like to get reactions to the question from our colleague on the disabilities. Maybe from ‑‑ I don't know if Lorrayne or Oscar from the governmental perspective would start. How do you take this into consideration when doing the Broadband plans and other things for your countries?
>> OSCAR MARTIN GONZALEZ: Thank you. I work on the access side of the government, but we do have digital inclusion plans in other sectors of our government. Working on disabilities and also developing digital skills which, I think, it was some other question here. But I cannot give you ‑‑ and get back to you some specific information.
>> For the local knowledge, I think local knowledge creation that we work on together with the communities, there will be actually breaking down large types of barriers. So I, myself, know of an uncle in the village. He is blind but he is a very good musician. He plays the indigenous, it's called the Tarpa. And there is no one in that village apart from him who plays the Tarpa. And he knows where to put ‑‑ I mean, how to play it and even how to make a Tarpa without even seeing it. So he knows about that. So we have also asked him to put up his knowledge about the music and the instrument making in the local access server.
>> We had an analyst work with us in the OECD which is a lawyer expert in AI and she was blind and that was the first time we had someone in staff, at least in our team in digital who was blind. And for us, it was quite a benchmark. It made us rethink internal processes within our team. And also to see how important it was to technology for her to do her job. She was doing work with technology and using technology every day. From a more general level, this was a discussion we've been having in several dimensions. We've been looking to how we can promote more inclusive policy making and that takes into account people with disabilities but also taking into account the mention of gender and other vulnerable populations as well.
And what's crucial in terms of policy making is making sure these people are represented when you are developing these policies. Policy makers often do not know what they don't know. So there's such a gap of knowledge and first, going back to the point of data, we need more evidence. We need to be able to engage in associations that represent this particular population. So the viewpoints actually represent when policy is being done. We're going to go through a process where we are reviewing the Broadband recommendation of the OECD. And one of the aspects that have been raised by several countries for us is the aspect of inclusion particularly of people with disabilities.
So we are a reflection of the many thoughts that are happening within different OECD countries but also Stakeholder groups. We have societies at community business and trade associations. But it is a crucial point that, I believe, needs to be further made further clearing in Broadband policies.
>> MATTHEW RANTANEN: So when we originally started in 2001, the concept of disabled access to the internet specifically blind was focused on building web sites that had functional code that was allowed to be read very easily by a reader for people that were blind. So as time evolved, our original network administrator only had one functioning eye and his one functioning eye was failing. And his health was degrading. And he was legally blind by the time he passed. And it made us very aware of the issues involved with is that impairment and building a network. The evolution of the internet of things has really focused that you have to have access to internet. You have to have access to a Wi‑Fi in your living space. Then you can access the internet of things that makes that lifestyle more functional for you. There are a lot of tools out there to make life better and more interactive without sight. If you do not have access, there's a barrier. So that's what we're working with today. And that's kind of the extent of it.
>> MODERATOR: Very good. Thanks very much. I would like to take another round of questions. We have a bit of time. We have some questions left there. Do we have any further questions at this stage?
We have one here and another. So let's take these four questions. Perhaps you would like to start.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi. Good morning. My name is Nicolas. I'm part of the association for privacy communications. Thank you very much for a set of conversations and so many questions. First, I'm interested in universal service fund. And I am interested in knowing something that a colleague of mine, Steve Song, he speaks about the jar of stones. It's about how different markets can be regulated in different ways for different levels of prohibition. For example, in the food market, we have a set of regulations that apply to a wholesale vendors. And a set of regulations that regulate the supermarkets, the small ones. And another set of regulations that regulate (?) And there's another one set of regulations that regulate the people that sell on the streets. And you can't apply the rules to the ones selling this and the other way around. But you understand in order to get to have the full coverage to have plenty of service for everyone at the food level, you want to have different levels of regulation. Different kinds of regulation. But you want to support them all in their activities. And I guess from the regulatory perspective and also how you invest the resources that look to bridge the gap, universal service fund, funds around the world, are meant to deal with a problem of the market. The market has not been able to get to everyone. So the state said, okay, we will take back the responsibility and see how we can manage to do that. But the market has already did its best to accomplish that.
So in that multi-layer approach, I would like to hear from Oscar what are your thoughts in relation to the fund can be applied in other ways. The director mentioned to apply universal service funds in ways we haven't been using it yet.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. Please also try to keep your question short because we are running out of time. We took a note of USF and how to make the use of them.
>> Yes. That's one question. And just one other question. It's usually said, like, I really appreciate the mention of technologies in terms of things and such. It's impressive what ‑‑ as far as humanity has got in evolving technologies. And half of the population is unconnected. A lot of investment is going to these spaces. But still half of the population is unconnected. So I guess my question would be how do we shift attention like from OECD and also the government, how do we put the energy in these spaces so we can work all together and not leave people behind as the process is going right now?
Because this conversation shouldn't be here.
>> MODERATOR: Thanks for the questions. We had one here. Let's just collect the four of them.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you, madam chair. My name is Techafa. We are in the process of deploying internet connectivity to under served and served areas at schools and to what we are calling community information centers. But the challenge that we have had is that this connectivity cannot go beyond themselves but want to reach a wide population. So from what we are discussing here, I see we could achieve that through the use of community networks. But how do you strike a balance between covering a wide geographic area and preventing interference in most of these community networks make use of unlicense the events. How do you achieve that balance?
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. We had a few more here. You had a question?
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. My name is Vacilis. And I'm from Greece. I represent the community network. I would like to address a question to Oscar. You mentioned that it is important if we want to achieve universal coverage to do some simplify the requirements for access to licensing for community networks. I understand that you have worked together with community networks in order to be able to put it this way. And I was wondering what was the critical characteristic to trust community networks and work with them?
And I ask this question because from our side, we have approached our regulator. I understand that they need to trust our work, they need to trust our organization. And I was wondering how do you build this trust between the community‑led initiative and the government or representative of the (?)
>> MODERATOR: We are running out of time. So please be brief.
>> Good morning. My name is Alexandra. I have a question for all speakers. If we talk about closing the digital gap for the marginalized, I think there are different dimensions we have to look at. One important aspect is to provide internet and connectivity. But I think another important reason why people are not connecting to the internet is not the lack of internet but the lack of digital skill. So this is another important dimension we have to think of, the promotion of digital skill. So to what extent do your initiatives take?
>> MODERATOR: Thanks very much. And the remote questions, please.
>> AUDIENCE: Hello. This is Ganzalo. One of the interesting conclusions of the workshop is this initiative would be replicated across the regions. I would like you to share what would be your request for governance or the regions so you can replicate your initiatives in other places. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: You stole my last question, actually. That's perfect. So let's do a little round. I would also like to introduce we have Christopher Yoo who joined us a bit late. If you could start with brief comments and then we can come down with Oscar. You had quite a few questions.
>> CHRISTOPHER YOO: I offer my apologies for coming late. I had to speak in another session. Attempting to study the ‑‑ provide empirical base of successful and unsuccessful interventions to connect more people to the internet. Right now, there is no data. People are speaking about opinions and on business models. We wanted to study everything. And look and see, try to create a uniform information base that allows cross project comparison. We have a database of over 1,000 interventions. We contacted all of them. The detailed case study interviews for 120 of them. We're now in the process of analyzing them. So I can answer some of the specific questions that have come up. About disability access, there's only one case in our database that's the adaptive technology center for the blind that provides vocational training, internet cafe and transcription services. Leading a fantastic program that is quite innovative that I think is quite interesting. But the comment I want to make. How do you get the (?) To come in?
How do we get a cooperative relationship with the new innovative community network?
I think this panel and the way the questions were set up for it is a sign of a new appreciation of a new relationship and a new more creative approach to how to serve the unserved. The reality is there are large parts of the world which telephone companies cannot justify serving. And you can ask them to come in simply put, they have responsibilities to the shareholders, often legal responsibilities. It's just not a realistic thing to ask. They have corporate social responsibility funding. They do provide basis for doing that. But what I'm discovering is there can be a cooperative relationship between these innovative community network models. The community network models do not want to compete directly with traditional providers. That is not the point. They are trying to find ways to collaborate to fill gaps. And in this sense, they are working through the same goals as traditional providers in areas where the model the providers follow will not reach, will not help. And so what we can see here is a different means of actually co‑existing.
What's interesting is someone mentioned spectrum policy. In the rural areas, spectrum is not as invested as it is in other areas. I can give you very interesting successful models. One of the more interesting ones is in Mexico called Rhizomatica. They were given experimental licenses and qualified a micro tower cell site deployment to provide internet connectivity on a localized basis for $3 U.S. per month. And that's a business model that won't work for most traditional companies. They did this over the objection of the incumbent. But this is a good example where I actually think a reflective opposition to some of those sharing perspective that the incumbent is not using might not serve the company or the industry very well.
What the industry is recognizing if they oppose that, there will be increasing pressure on traditional providers to fill the gaps. So trying to find new models, I hear the call for sandboxes and avoiding universal service, the six‑line only model. I know there's another provider asking why do we have to provide traditional voice in a world where everyone is doing VOIP?
We need to sync and create a cooperative environment. The last thing I'll say is there is a different part of it. It is simply not true that if you build it, they will come. You need digital literacy skills training. Someone talked about capacity building. Partly on the supply side if you build it and can't maintain it, it will fail. But also, you need to build baker spaces. Local content industries, entrepreneurship networks and building sustainability not just on the network side but on the demand side if you want to see the entire Eco system succeed. This is something we're seeing from the data we actually see which ones are working and which ones are not.
>> MODERATOR: Excellent comments. Thank you very much. Oscar, would you like to take the questions on the USF and the ways to use them and the trust issue. How do you build trust between community networks and government?
>> OSCAR MARTIN GONZALEZ: Thank you.
It's important. You raise an issue about not only accessibility. I focus on (?) But I think it's equally important to deal with affordability and digital skills. And some comments have been relevant. I would like to answer a specific comments.
First of all, what we can see from the experience we have shared today is there is no automatic solution for network access. In previous decades where it was either market or state. What we have today is a lack of government. That allows for diversity and the question about accessibility can be solved only if we put aside and allow greater diversity the telecom network market. Whatever the entities and the structure to provide that network. We pride ourselves in Argentina. We have community networks. We have three large operative in every country in the world. I think it's important to nurture the diversity and provide from a regulatory standpoint to provide solutions for all of the active present in the market. I agree with Lorrayne that the state is subsidiary to the probation of solutions.
And there is no economic way to afford disability for everybody in the country. I think it's important to point that out. And I have mentioned our intervention in small areas and the market has failed.
And also in terms of backbone network. We have complimented and competing in terms of access.
And the intervention of the state in the wholesale market has allowed us to have a decrease in the price of megabyte. So those are a few of the comments. One last specific comment I wanted to make with regard to the experience.
I think it is fantastic news that the platforms have been involved in solving accessibility. I think it's important to have the major platforms. I don't want to make names. I don't know how it is in English. I think it's name names. I think it's fantastic news we have the involvement to bring solutions of network access. We have seen that recently in the communications conference of the IPU, how they have been active at requesting on innovation new technologies. The accessibility is an issue of all Stakeholders.
And everyone should contribute to solution. We will not solve half the world of the population. We need to bring everyone on board. Now coming to specific questions, part of the answers already been answered. We need to be flexible in terms of policy regulatory use.
There is also an issue about trust. I think sometimes it's the other way around. Why should we trust the community that is organizing itself to provide service?
That's basically what we are discussing in Argentina?
Why should we trust a group of people to provide service to a community that is under served or not served at all. That's why we see the licensing regime. Eliminated license for community network. I wanted to mention (?) and he knows the community network. Behind me is Esteban who represents the Argentine internet association with more than 500 members. And that's what I referred to when I mentioned diversity. So eliminate licensing fees and provide an easy licensing regime for community networks. Just have to solve sometimes legalities and keep it general sense of regulations. But we don't have a trust issue. Sometimes the state needs to change the approach and (?), not as a policeman. We need to facilitate and allow innovation and development of services. And that, I think, is the main switch the government and regulators knead to make.
There is no longer state besides who, where and how the services are provided. The state now has to allow innovation and allow competition and allow diversity and different type and kind of organizations to provide the access to the citizens. You asked me specifically about universal service funds. We have done something in terms of digital skills and afford ability there.
And programs to provide devices to the elderly and also we have granted the monthly fee for those students that have been granted as student loan or student subsidy. It's a very limited group of people. But we have understood that it's a group of people that need the support on the demand side. So specific case in terms of afford ability. In terms of accessibility, we are working with the community networks to design specific plan for capital investment. We only (?) But sometimes when it comes to community networks, there are legal issues on the accountability or the responsibility by how they will be able to comply with obligations. So that's what we are trying to figure out. And we hope to be able to have it too.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your comprehensive comments. We are five minutes overtime. I would like to give everybody one-minute chance to share their last top of mind. And maybe you would like to state your remarks first.
>> CHRISTOPH STECK: Very quickly. Final comment. We hear that markets fail and that's true. Markets fail because of conditions unapplied. First step, that's really a call to the government to be honest. I understand they cannot put huge amounts of money in there for various reasons. At least, they should rethink if the regulation is right. The businesses of providing rural Broadband connectivity is totally different from areas. And I think we have to recognize it in regulation. And generally, it's not done. We have nationwide regulation and many things you can do with taxation. The government with the industry and think about rural areas.
How could make it easier. And that's the same for all operators, whatever you like. If you do this regulation applied to everyone and let's see how competition works out. That's the most clever way of seeing it.
Just back to the colleague on technology. Ultimately, the whole thing will be solved by technology. Ultimately, you can only solve connectivity by other technologies than what we have to do. And I think that's the ultimate solution. There's a very interesting project and have a look at that.
It's called telecom project. Done by hundreds of small and bigger companies involving inter companies but also operators. And they are working in open solutions and I think that's the future and that's going to be bringing down deployment and then we have other projects. I mentioned loon. But might be (?)
We have to see what's going to work.
That's going to be the solution in the long‑term. So but, again, a call to government to do a corporate effort with everyone trying to provide for connectivity and think out of the box. And then we can provide.
>> Your final thoughts. Any wishes for the government or otherwise?
>> Same. I just have one question and one comment about this.
If the government really like to do something, they have to find ways to help people because it's crucial. Have the same situation for five‑six years. To create some up scales, licensing frequency, it's not working. And we regulate. So we have to find ways to help our citizens, our members.
>> MODERATOR: Matt.
>> MATTHEW RANTANEN: Telephone companies and carriers think they have the answers. And not based in the community. I feel like you have some solutions. You are coming from the top down from a regulator and a carrier approach. And you are not exactly in the community learning what the needs of the community are. And I don't know that technology will solve it all. You need community working together to build this situation and when we start to build them ourselves. And there is no solution otherwise, I don't think that you can come in within approach that you have the answer. The community probably has the answer and use some of your tools to solve that problem.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. Lorrayne, any final thoughts?
>> LORRAYNE PORCIUNCULA: Quick thoughts on the question on emerging technologies.
The point on mentioning technologies in connectivity. The idea was to try to understand how the technologies are changing and shifting the sector. What we've been trying to do is try to bring attention back. It's taxing to talk about traditional transformation and all the technologies going around. And saying you actually need cables and you need infrastructure to be able to provide the foundation for the additional transformation. And my wish list for government is collect data. Two, simplify, and three, innovate with people.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you.
Very clear. Sarbani.
>> SARBANI BELUR: I would like to focus that connectivity after putting in so much of hardships in enabling connectivity to the unconnected. It's very sad to see the connectivity died down within a year or so.
It's not sustainable over there.
The thing is that we should really work towards making it sustainable and try to understand how we should make it sustainable.
So that's something that I would really like to focus on. And also in India, the project which is the optical fiber project is laying, it's also reaching unsustainable future. Because then there is no sustainability at the last mile. So that's also dying down. So I think we should focus on sustainability of the connectivity and try to make it as sustainable as possible. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Just a final word from my side. You have one more sentence to add. We have to leave the room.
>> I want to congratulate (?) To change the attitudes about how different parts of the industry. And I hope everyone in this room ceases that opportunity that will actually serve the goal which we all have which is trying to extend the benefits of internet connectivity.
>> MODERATOR: Just on behalf of outside, we want to organize this event to also express our willingness to be part of this dialogue and to confirm that we are open for collaboration to remote, to connect remote areas. So thank you, everybody, for your kind contributions. And to our speakers. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
[ End session ]