IGF 2020 WS #309 5G: A real possibility for digital inclusion? 

Thematic Track

Organizer 1: Valeria Betancourt, Association for Progressive Communications
Organizer 2: Steve Song, Manypossibilities.org / Village Telco APC/ CIPESA
Organizer 3: Kathleen Diga, Association for Progressive Communications
Organizer 4: Carlos Rey Moreno, Association for Progressive Communications

Speaker 1: Peter Bloom, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Steve Song, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Andrés Sastre, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Kathleen Diga, Civil Society, African Group

Online Moderator

Valeria Betancourt, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Carlos Rey Moreno, Civil Society, African Group


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

The session will address a main policy question from different angles and perspectives: Should investment in 5G be prioritised as the most effective way to accelerate digital development and bring everyone online?

Operators, manufacturers, national governments,and multilateral institutions have variously touted Fifth Generation (5G) mobile technology as a critical enabler of economic development. In a context in which the digital divide remains unaddressed in rural or difficult to reach areas in many parts of the globe, governments, in particular, are being torn in making policy preferences or resource allocations of whether to pursue policies which advance 5G within a country which in some cases are being driven as national directives. How are those policies taking into account the communication needs of communities as well as environmental impact of the eventual deployment of 5G?


GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities


Operators, manufacturers, national governments,and multilateral institutions have variously touted Fifth Generation (5G) mobile technology as a critical enabler of economic development. It is pitched as an urgent next step in the delivery of a digital economic revolution that define economic growth and competitiveness in the 21st century. It has found itself at the heart of an economic "war" between the United States and China. Yet 5G technologies bring both assumptions and risks that are often lost in the rhetoric and hype around its potential. This session, organised as a round table, will undertake a critical assessment of the upsides and downsides of 5G technology from a development perspective. In addition, the session will also look at the issue in the context of the current pandemic. It has provoked questionable concerns about the health impact of 5G while larger and more systemic concerns with 5G receive little attention. By bringing expert perspectives from different stakeholder groups, the session will pose on the table elements for discussion and exchange with participants, in an interactive conversation around the technical, economic, social and political implications of the issue.

Expected Outcomes

Participants will come away with an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of a 5G and its role in the development of pervasive and affordable access to broadband.

The various stakeholders and communities working with the organisers will be invited to take part of the conversation via remote participation mechanisms. In addition, the round table format has been selected for the session in order to ensure a dynamic and interactive conversation based on initial insights and provoking questions posed by speakers.

Relevance to Internet Governance: An inclusive internet requires affordable access infrastructure that reaches all citizens. As a technology 5G may help or hinder the spread of affordable access to internet.

Relevance to Theme: 5G discussion has been primarily framed from the economic development angle. Addressing the issue from a broader inclusion lens is necessary in order to look at the potential and the drawbacks of 5G technology when being promoted as a solution to bridge the digital divide and make progress on social and economic inclusion. The session directly responds to at least two of the Inclusion track subthemes: Availability, Affordability & Access of Infrastructure, and Accessibility & Policy for Social Inclusion. It also relates to the SDGs 9 and 10.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Social networks, particularly Twitter, will be used to do live reporting on the discussion and bring questions and inputs from interested individuals.