IGF 2019 Pre-Event #53 Electricity, Community Networks and Digital Inclusion: The case of the underserved communities

Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation


The last 20 years has seen some measure of progress. The question remains how long it will take to connect the next billion, and when it will take the earth to fully include the remaining underserved communities. While many reports and studies note the benefit of connected communities to support development and meeting the UN SDGs; yet there remain significant gaps in national level governmental public policies, especially in regulatory and legislative frameworks that support last mile and rural connectivity. This is often compounded by inadequate core infrastructure such as rural power sources, tower infrastructure and back-haul, with a commercial operators’ focus on the more lucrative urban rather than rural connectivity. Internet access is not feasible without affordable, reliable and sustainable energy sources.

Energy and digital connectivity are enabling mechanisms for diverse industries, education, health care, trade which impacts communities globally.  Whilst there has been substantive discussion in the past on bridging the divide, the reality remains that there is no simple answer to the remaining challenges of connecting those who are not connected, or who are under connected – e.g limited access, lack of digital skills, lack of useful content, lack of affordable power sources.

Silo approaches, by regulators and Ministries in healthcare, agriculture, education, finance and economic development, need to be removed, and new technologies and innovation encouraged. There needs to be a multi-faceted approach of changing how electricity can be more broadly distributed, how community networks can augment and co-exist with existing communications and Internet Service Providers, and building skills through partnerships with NGOs and others to help to bring the rest of world into the digital age, regardless of whether they are in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, MENA, SIDS or in indigenous communities tangible support to bridge the divide.

The concept of community networks dates back to the start of wide spread use of the Internet in the US and Europe, when groups of people set up ways to share resources or Internet connections across local networks. At heart, community networks rely on the active participation of individuals and local communities, are owned by the community, and operated in a democratic fashion. Community networks are operationalised through a whole variety of local stakeholders, NGOs, private sector entities, and or public administrations, who are involved in the designing, developing, implementing, maintaining and governing community networks. While the world slowly closes the access gap with 50% of the world's population now connected, the challenge associated with connecting and enabling the remaining 50% has not diminished.

Expected Outcomes:

The session will start with discussions on creating a road map process to better understand what needs to be done in the short and long term. There are several expected outcomes:

  1. Identify opportunities and lessons learned that would support the developing countries alignment of clean energy sources that support both urban and rural and remote users
  2. Identify the most critical gaps hindering the adoption and deployment of community networks in the developing countries.
  3. Identify opportunities for governments to align national broadband and connectivity priorities programs with key community network infrastructure
  4. Identify key issues on funding, resources and capacity at the national level.
  5. Identify key data gaps hindering the penetration of Internet to the underserved communities in the developing countries

Convenors: Wisdom Donkor (Ghana) and Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro (Fiji)

Moderators: Credo Global: Rebecca Crosbie and Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro

Online Moderator: Wisdom Donkor,  Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation

Rapporteur: Hfaiedh Ines, (Tunisia)


  1. Hon. Samuel Nartey George, Minister of Paliament, Ghana
  2. Fuatai Gisa Purcell – Acting Secretary General, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation.
  3. Amelia Kamanalagi Muriel - Pasifika Nexus Think Tank (France
  4. Emani Lui - Founder of MakaNet an Internet Service Provider (New Zealand
  5. Charles Nolan - Former Vice President Qatar Airways and Chief Executive Officer of Focus East, a Cybersecurity and Technology company (Qatar
  6. Dr. Carlos Rey-Moreno, Community Networks Project Coordinator, Association for Progressive Communication (APC) (South Africa)
  7. Robin Atalla – Chief Executive Officer, Hiding Place Foundation (Egypt
  8. Zeina Bouharb – Head of International Cooperation, OGERO Telecom (Lebanon
  9. June Parris – Entrepreneur and Health Specialist (Barbados)
  10. Stephen Mawutor Donkor, Director Projects and Technical, Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation, (Ghana)
  11. Mamadou Lou - Head of Information Department, La Banque Agricole (Senegal
  12. Imran Ahmed Shah, Founder, President IGF Pakistan, UISoc, Urdu Internet Council.
  13. Kwaku Antwi, Director, Outreach, Capacity Building and Business Development, Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation (AODIRF)