IGF 2021 – Day 1 – Town Hall #3 Digital Inclusion a Tool for Empowerment in the New Normal

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. 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, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> I'm live already? 

>> We started 5 minutes ago?

>> I was sitting outside.  Sorry.

>> Hello, can you hear me? 

>> Okay.  Thank you.  Okay.

>> Good day.  Good afternoon from Katowice, Poland, and welcome to this session.  I'm very happy to welcome panelists who are here. 

     One present Mira Duma and from the Nigerian IGF, and we have Veronique from the APC remotely and also and ‑‑ I have ‑‑ who is representing sitting in for our director of IC the ministry of information and infrastructure in Gambia, who didn't come physically due to the elections that just took place in the Gambia. 

     I welcome you all to this session, and I look forward to it being very interactive, and you're welcome to ask questions as need be. 

      I will first start with Veronique to open the session.

>> Okay.  Thanks.  I hope you can hear me and see me well.

>> Yes, please.

>> Yeah, great.  Well, the challenges of private events, but I'm connecting from remotely from Buenos Aires, and I work with the Association for Progressive Communications, APC.  I'm a coordinator of APC.  I coordinate and work with members and engaging in several digital policy spaces mainly on the global level and many spaces deal with digital inclusion, which is a wide priority for APC, so it's really important for us to be part of this conversation and really looking forward to ‑‑ to discussing and learning from you all. 

      I think I did mention APC is an international NGO, and we're an international network of members, and we work at the intersections of technology, human rights, general equality and sustainability development.

     So I was thinking about starting the conversation ‑‑ talking a bit about what digital inclusion means for you at APC.  We have a holistic approach to digital access firstly the internet and devices need to connect.  Should be accessible and affordable.  High prices remain a huge obstacle in many parts of the world.  A report that was just published ‑‑ 2.9 billion people are online.  It's using internet and thinking its benefits and having the skills necessary to use it and also to benefit their communities. 

      Also means that the internet should be a safe space, that people trust in terms of security and privacy.  The legal frameworks in place do not expression to the rights and association, and digital inclusion for us is also about giving the communities the skills and the tools to solve their own connectivity challenges. 

      So lastly in our definition, on any definition of digital inclusion from our perspective should consider inclusion gender, racial or ethnic origin among other things inference and affordability of being digitally included, so this session talks about digital inclusion in the context of COVID, so that the COVID crisis and how digital inclusion is essentially for those rights and ‑‑ but also the pandemic shows how systemic has work ‑‑ and those that are put at greater risk and women are increasing individuals of gender based violence and women rights defenders in a lot of countries are being harassed online.  Had increased reliance on these technologies we will talk about the growth in cyberattacks, and we also saw how some states around the world used the pandemic as an opportunity to expand their control over population using technology, for example, contract tracing apps.

      I'm going to conclude this first part of my discussion that, yes, digital technologies could be a tool for empowerment, but we know that also the pandemic shows how exigent qualities have exacerbated. 

     The things are widening in the world and alter the power dynamics behind that so basically the pandemic calls for widening commitments to digital inclusion both online and offline.

     And I think I'll stop there to start with so back to you, thanks.

>> Yeah, thank you, Veronica.  Very good opening remarks.

      I'll come back to you because I'd like to look specifically at the ‑‑ what happened in your context during the pandemic, how do you think minority groups were supported through technology and were digitally included especially from your base in Buenos Aries and suburbs and looking at it generally from best practices in the development of South America.

     You know, I know within the Gambia, my base ‑‑ we had an APC member ‑‑ we had got funding from the association for progressive convocation to run a digital inclusive project for women, for women communities in the Gambia and despite the COVID world, we were doing a lot with the women especially in the -- with these women indirectly and people might classify because they don't really speak much English, but most of them were using social media to work with ‑‑ sell their vegetables and use it as a means for raising funds you know and their children supported them.  There's a lot of ways how communities have related to getting access especially during COVID, and I think we will turn to the next speaker who chairs west African and chairs the west Africa governance forum and the last two west African Internet Governance Forum in 2020, and this year all really looked at empowerment, digital inclusion especially in this time of dealing with the COVID crisis, and it would be good to hear a perspective on ‑‑ from the regional approach not only in west Africa but also Nigeria being the biggest country in west Africa and also in terms of population in Africa how Nigeria dealt with it. 

     Over to you, Mary.

>> Thank you very much for having me, and I just want to share my perspective for this topic, which is very, very dear to us in my region.  My region west Africa, my region Africa and my region Nigeria in particular my community, and we're seeing before now ‑‑ before the COVID we're talking about digital divide only, and then what we saw ‑‑ what happened COVID came, and so many people had to go online and those ‑‑ and we were trying to pick up ‑‑ there's ‑‑ there's more gaps we've seen during the COVID in that some schools ‑‑ some schools some children in the city they're parents were able to connect to the internet continued their schooling online, and those in the rural area were affected, they couldn't, so how could we include them?  What policy recommendations can we give to policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that these gaps are closed.

     As I said, I interacted with the Internet Governance Forum and also the African IGF, so this inclusion ‑‑ the digital inclusion is very paramount, is very key and because when I'm looking at even government services as well as education, I've already mentioned education ‑‑ those that are not included will not receive services.

     I mentioned the school children that are out of school because of the COVID, and they couldn't ‑‑ continue their education. 

      Businesses went online, but you can only access those businesses or services of businesses if you are connected.  If you're not connected, you cannot access the services of those that went online, so that's ‑‑ that's where we also see the ‑‑ the gaps. 

      We saw the haves and the have‑nots.  The haves ‑‑ those that ‑‑ well, some people can only connect when they go to the office and when there are no offices, they're not connected, so they are disenfranchised.  So those are things that we witnessed in our country during the pandemic period.

     And this new normal that everything is going online ‑‑ if ‑‑ if we ‑‑ if we don't ‑‑ if we ‑‑ if we continue without making sure that everyone has access where you are -- have access is affordable and is affordable and available, then we'll find out that we're still getting the gaps there.

      I would also look at gender.  She spoke about gender, the women ‑‑ in my own country, some women up north in my country, in Nigeria ‑‑ they're not allowed to go onto the internet because they might not have phones.  And if they have phones, their husbands won't let them use it.  So whatever in your life, you should be included.

     We looked at those with challenges, physically challenged, what policies should we rule out to be able to make sure they're included in this digital transformation era of new normally.

      Our website can physically blind access our websites, so those are gaps that we need to address.  Additionally, we need to make sure that we don't leave anyone behind.

     I also look at the skills.  Some are illiterate.  They cannot access the internet so what do we do?  Digital skills ‑‑ how do we bring it to be a policy issue?  And can we also admit that assets, digital access, is a human rights issue, and so ‑‑ the rights we have offline should be the rights we have online.

      Those are my first interventions.  As we continue to discuss, we'll get it ‑‑ we'll do more interventions.

>> Yes, thank you very much, Mary. 

      And paramount is key and without ‑‑ digitally, we saw a lot of African countries.  We're giving out sort of palliatives to support families and people were right to check about accountability and most of this was done through mobile money.  You know, so people were not ‑‑ they were not getting the monies by someone coming to deliver them cash, monies were being transferred to them on their mobile phones, and they were able to access the money.

     In fact, I know for a fact in the Gambia, you can reliably say that digital ‑‑ the two mobile companies who are involved in mobile money ‑‑ they are mobile money and subscribers got raised during the time ‑‑ especially at the first months of the pandemic because governance ‑‑ were using these two countries to be able to reach out to frontline workers, the health workers, and people in the hospitality industry that lost a lot of income in a country whereby 25% of the ‑‑ 20% of the GDP came from the tourism sectors, so I think mobile money really did a lot of, you know, so I don't know what appearances online ‑‑

     Peter, if you're there, I'd like your interpretation looking at your work with digital inclusion program in Uganda working at women's ‑‑ so I'm not sure ‑‑ she's not online.

     So I'll ‑‑ then ‑‑ yeah, okay.  I'll go back to you Veronica since one of my speakers she's not here, so I'll go back to you my earlier question, and then I will take from ‑‑ from the audience, people that have questions both online and offline so over to you Veronica.

>> Great, thanks. 

     I am based in Argentina and as I said this is a network of members, and I think you're interested in some kind of regional insight or ‑‑ regarding digital rights of the pandemic?

>> Yes.

>> We work together with members in a lot of regions basically doing a lot of things.  We produce research, and we also ‑‑ what we did focus on policy advocacy to raise awareness about the human rights situation in the context of the COVID pandemic, so I think there are a lot of people that could be more familiar with the situations in their countries and other places, and this is what ‑‑ I'll be able to tell you a bit more about that.

      For example, we engage with the human rights council, raising awareness about human rights violations in a lot of countries and regions in the context of the pandemic.

     Another key issue for our work in the policy level that could be also translated to regional bodies and national policy‑making bodies is the push for civil society participation in these discussions that are connected to inclusion because the pandemic follows in different spaces with restrictions, the situation around traveling, so that's what are the things the APC was focused on, to be also included in the discussions dealing with digital inclusion.

     Another thing ‑‑ I think you were mentioning the issue of public/private partnership.

>> Yes.

>> So states need companies to deliver services and put together ‑‑ so we also pushed for more transparency around those agreements that states are coming out with companies, and we private bodies are doing ‑‑ so there's more pothole for more public participation, and we've been working in our policy work, and I think another point to mention is ‑‑ I mentioned in the introduction that for us digital inclusion should rely on building community connectivity and resilience.

      As I mentioned, part of APC and the work we've been doing around the poverty communities, so they can use and benefit from the internet during the pandemic, and we've been also advocating for policy and regulatory environments that allow these types of connectivity models to flourish so a lot of my colleagues were doing work on the regional and national level, and we were bringing those conversations to global spaces, too. 

      So as the description of session says, so this is not their work of one actor.  It's a multistakeholder Pacific digital inclusion.  There is no public policy to end digital inclusion so from the previous discussion of my colleague in the panel, so I think it's important to acknowledge the context so what works in a context maybe doesn't work in another and also to involve the communities in their own connectivity solutions.

     So I would say that so ‑‑ every actor has something to do about this, and I can maybe speak more about what society can do about digital inclusion, but it would also be important to hear from the other actors maybe in the room or in the panel, too.

>> Yes, I think ‑‑ I will take interventions from the room, and I will give it to Mary, and I think it was done on the 2nd of December.  I'm not quite sure.  By the United Nations secretary‑general Antonio Guterres where we talked about apartheid and when you talk about what's these nations have done in this ‑‑ with this new variant of COVID, it's ‑‑ it's only says a lot about what we should do especially those in the global south that still have problems with connectivity in terms of costs, you know, because you have people that, okay, now because they happen to live in one part of the world, they are being banned to travel, but we all know in this new normal a lot of empowerment has happened, but that empowerment also come and digitally also comes with costs because the internet is still in most parts in the global south it's still very expensive for the average person.

     For example, I will say in the Gambia, 5 ‑‑ $5 will only get you 1 gigabyte of data.  And when you look an average man or woman who's in a village or health worker that is trying to feed a family, $5 goes a long way in providing a complete meal for a family of three or four, and you have to balance it that $5 ‑‑ instead of spending 1 gigabyte of data be able to maybe listen to something on YouTube that will empower your community for education as opposed to food, you know, so there's ‑‑ so I would go back to Mary, and then come back to you, Veronique.

>> Okay.  Thank you very much for raising this point of the costs; therefore, the ability of connectivity in some of our communities.

     The truth is that worldwide web has been advocating for 1 to 2.  That is 1% of your income ‑‑ your gigabytes ‑‑ 2 gigabytes should not be more than 1% of your income.

>> Income, yes.

>> So that's been an advocacy.

      What we are doing in Nigeria is make sure broadband becomes pervasive.  If we have broadband all over the places and a competition continues to thrive, then we'll see the affordability would be ‑‑ would be dealt with somehow.  The costs will be reduced.  Apart from the ability person the person ability where the adjutant power is not available and even if you have internet access, and you don't have power you're able to pay for it, and you don't have power you wouldn't be able to do anything to be connected so meaningful connectivity is very, very key for us when we talk about inclusion.

     Again, in our community you walk on the street and buy anything you want to buy, and you're asking people to go online.  They will have to have a website and advertise their products or their services and when they don't have that connection.  If they don't have connectivity, they won't be able to, so economically we're disadvantaged or they're disadvantaged, so we need to look at that.

     And the intervention which Veronica has said about community networks is very, very key, so we have to have ‑‑ advocate for policy change on being able to rule out community workshops so communities would be able to connect as a community not as individuals and also have connectivity or digital connectivity at an affordable rate.

     And again, since there's solar, we should also be looking at alternative power that they will use for the connection.  But before I drop, I want to talk about health because that is very, very key for us.  Connection ‑‑ health technology ‑‑ I don't know we're advocating for that, so that even the community networks would have services to be in the community in the economic services ‑‑ the health services, you know, telehealth, mobile health or whatever health we want to service, so I don't know what it is in Gambia. 

     In our own country, I can only talk about Nigeria.  There are lots of efforts by both private and public sector to see healthcare would be improved, so that as of today, you can receive your medicine online.  You can buy medicine online.  You can consult doctors online they use the Zoom to do the consultation, but there's only somebody that is connected.  Anyone that is connected if I'm sick, and I don't have connectivity, I cannot receive that it so empowerment in terms of health and education and empowerment in terms of business, and so those are things, so the commission network is very important for us, so the empowerment is the new normally.  If we're to empower our community or our communities, please let's advocate for pervasive broadband availability and also exigent internet ‑‑

>> Thank you very much.  I would like interventions online so please if I come to those present in the room here so then I'll get back to Veronique.

      Anyone online please just raise your hand and speak if there's any interventions that you'd like to give.

     There's no one?  There's no hand's up.  Okay. 

      Anyone here in the room?  That would like to say something.  I know you in the back joined us late.  Would you like to say something on our discussion today on digital inclusion as a truth to empowerment and the new normal? 

>> It was very helpful.  I don't have a question ‑‑

(Speaker Not Mic'd.)

>> Oh, okay.  No, that's very good, so I mean, I think there's a lot going on if you look at the recent event that took place in Glasgow.  A lot of people are looking at green energy.  A lot of community networks are trying to go green especially to support disadvantaged communities.  When you talk of cars being looked by 2020 ‑‑ they'll all be electric cars, and you start accessing that how is there a fair balance when we talk about connectivity that can really change a lot of things that can deliver healthcare to remote villages, you look at patients living in a rural place, and there's just a community health center and a doctor is able to talk to a nurse. 

     True, video sequencing they can save a lot of lives, so there's a lot of things we can do but a good thing about this conversation, and that is why it's now part of the new normal.  Schools are going online.  Healthcare is going online.  A lot of businesses that they didn't expect to go online are going online.

     There were recent elections in the Gambia presidential elections 2 December that kept the incumbent in.  We had a mobile app for the elections so citizens were informed in real time by using that mobile app which was called Marble because Gambia votes using a Marble dropped in a drum.  We don't use paper. 

     Paper ballot is very unique and that app really helped a lot of people even illiterate people were using the app to ‑‑ to be able to check why ‑‑ because it had a lot of graphical user interface.  The more you try to ‑‑ we try to use icons and emojis to describe things, the more people who are in remote areas ‑‑ because this diversity is something we have to also look at, you know ‑‑ it's still in my part of the world in Africa, most people come in English or French or Portuguese.  Those are the three dominant languages based on colonization so to say for them to come and get something let me say in Swahili or ‑‑ you know, it's difficult, so we have to do the best using all these emojis and icons, images to describe things online.

     I want to go back to Veronique, because community networks, we think the APC network has really empowered a lot of communities to be digitally included and also to be able to carry out good work.  What do you think community networks can contribute more in straightening digital inclusive programs in this new normal which we don't seem to be ending because a lot of people even for this conferenced despite the fact it has a huge turnout have been here but because of this ‑‑ and everybody is more comfortable ‑‑ those who don't have connectivity issues are more comfortable, you know, doing video conferencing and attending seminars and conferences from their home, but we still have millions that would be able to join if we have very structured and sustainable community networks that is a bottom‑top approach, and I would like for you to share some of the examples that APC has done one of those. 


>> Sure, thanks.  Probably a lot of my colleagues are in a better position to address this because they are directly working with the communities, but, yeah, we have used research and pieces on what the communities and the doing during the pandemic and basically if you think of committee networks as a solution by the community, for the community and with the community is this idea the connections can provide a more direct response with access to correct information and with the needs of the community they are developed in.

      For us it's one of those issues we raised in several discussions and spaces, again, a lot of my colleagues could addressing our specific causes but in general we believe still governments are not aware in terms of digital inclusion and meaningful connectivity so some of the specific calls especially in the IGU we've been advocating for rights to be available for this type of service, and we also call for other measures that could be explored to ‑‑ to ‑‑ in terms of sustainability of community network, for example, the use of Universal Service funds.  A lot of countries, for example, I'm aware ‑‑


>> So those are some of the things the community members could do and some of the things the governments could do in terms of foster an environment that allows them to flourish and to be sustainable. 

      I know we don't have a lot of time, but I think you touched on an issue that we also care about, and I believe it's important we talk about the holistic approach to the digital and the impact of the digital inclusion and the mass production and inclusion of digital devices so there are now personal devices than people in the world, and basically the devices I'm using now and the people online we are using to connect have an impact on the planet so raising awareness and producing evidence about the impact of connectivity efforts in the environment is also APC and others in society and partners are doing, and we can see that these issues is gaining more space in multistakeholder discussions, for example, here in the IGF the ITU and the OCD so, hopefully, we will see more ‑‑ yeah, more discussion and work in collaboration for the component of the digital inclusion issue.

     I wanted to mention that because you touched briefly on that and what's happening, and I think it's important to highlight that.  Thanks.

>> Thank you very much.  I will go back online.  And if anybody has any questions or contributions to make on those online? 

     Anyone here, too, before I go back to Mary, and we come in to some conclusions, but I think it's very important for me ‑‑ one thing that is very important is the universal access programs that a lot of governments claim or want to do, have they really worked with the telcos because most people access connectivity through their phones.  As long as they do that, there should be a way in which those who are the most vulnerable, especially people that use public facilities at a public school or public healthcare are able to be able to have free connectivity provided by the government but as Mary said and all you alluded Veronica, the internet is basically a right, you know. 

     We in the Gambia are having elections that had our presidential elections on the 49 of December ‑‑ a lot of people were just insisting before the elections the government shouldn't shut down the internet because the last presidential elections the government shut down the internet and the country has had a lot of outages, about six outages, which is for a very small country, and this year alone people were a little bit worried with the internet turnoff, and we didn't have any outage, but those are some of the concerns people will raise as when they come to rely on the internet as a means of living, in means of social economic development in means of advancing the rights of vulnerable communities especially women and children.

     So we'll go to you, Mary, to look at basically in terms of universal access ‑‑ the universal access program, what you think countries should do working with their telcos to make that to contribute to more digital programs.  I'm looking at it from an African point of view.

>> Thank you.  It's not only Africa.  I think generally we'll realize that countries do have this problem of universal access which they never use their ‑‑ when I was in my previous life, I worked with the regulator, and we wrote the policy and the strategy for universal access for Nigeria and, unfortunately, the funds were coming, and they were being sucked ‑‑ they were being housed in the bank, and they were not doing ‑‑ they were not being used for what they're meant to be used for.  So for me telcos and governments should work in synergy so see that. 

      Governments should also from the universal access fund see how the government provides connectivity on the privileged, and those that are not connected there are some programs but, unfortunately, the way it's being used is not the way we had expected it to be so as we speak today, there's a program going on with schools on universal connectivity on schools on community networks, and the universal services provisioning fund, which are people which we ‑‑ which was put in place when our ‑‑ our ‑‑ we privatized our Telco funds.  We tried 1, 2, 3 projects, programs, which are ‑‑ at the end of the day because the community was not involved, it will not work, but we believe that if government ‑‑ government and telcos work together, they could find out exactly what the community needs because I was involved in one of them ‑‑ we carried computers.  We took internet access, and we dropped it in a community.  The community ‑‑ that was not what they wanted, so it doesn't ‑‑ it doesn't solve the problem of community communications so if we involve the community, let it be bottom up that the consultation will be at the community‑level.  You actually need community networks.  What you want to do with the community networks?  Do you know what it means?  Can you do business?  Can you get workers to take care of the community networks?  So if you get the community buy‑in, then when you Goth bottom up, then it will work.  But if you just think what the community wants, and you take all the program projects dump it there, they may not use it.  Their computers are not being used as we speak.  The computers are lying idle.

     Because connectivity sometimes you get to the center and the center will tell you I don't have internet access, so you can't do anything.

      In terms of getting it done, let's involve the people.  The people are the next receive the people ‑‑ the next factor that we should be looking at when we're talking about the community or universal access forum and utilizing it.  It should not be utilized for all other things.  They should be utilized for all things that were meant for.  Connect to the people, connect communities, connect the disadvantaged.  Do programs or initiatives that will have the physical challenge to be connected, the unconnected in the villages to be connected; right?  Those that don't have skills ‑‑ have skills to be able to connect, so those are things that will be. 

      So what will be recommended they should have the responsibility for the government for the telcos for civil society ‑‑ we in the civil society should be able to engage the government, should be able to speak out and engage the government, engage the telcos.  They should have their foundations.  Their foundations should be able ‑‑ there was connect school then.  I don't know what I see working or not that started ‑‑ I don't know if they're actually doing and the school connectivity I don't know if that one ‑‑ so we should speak out when these things are not happening.  We should go and see when governments said we're provided connectivity for a community, civil society should go and check what is working or not raise the issues for government, so that way government will sit up, and then it will work.

     Academia should do research.  It is the responsibility of academia to do research and bring up outcomes for governments to pick up policies, so the stakeholders in internet governance or stakeholders ‑‑ the internet stakeholders it is their responsibilities to make these things work, so we shouldn't just take universal access and government will determine on their own from the seat of their ‑‑ from their table saying my community needs this when my community needs something else.

     It's important that the synergy can developed, and we'll be on the same page and talk to the people and know what the people want and provide for them.  That's what I will say at this moment.

     And when we're making our recommendation from this, this program we should be able to send the message to stakeholders.  Thank you. 

>> Yeah, thank you very much.

     I'll go into the issue of the SDGs because it was something in this ‑‑

>> Sure.

>> ‑‑ conversation.

>> Sure, sure.

>> Where we have to look at the ‑‑ let me take a look at SDG 9, for example, industry, innovation and infrastructure, going back to what you spoke, Mary, in terms of this ‑‑ in terms of ‑‑ well, academia coming in.  We cannot ‑‑ if digital inclusion has to be a tool for empowerment, the new normal, innovation has to come in.  Industry has to come in ‑‑ industry has to come in, you know, all those things and when I'm talking of infrastructure, I'm talking of us going, you know ‑‑ we look at what's happening trying to set and develop infrastructure even community networks.  We can do a lot with the innovative space, but this is a problem.  Are we really engaging the academia, the way they are to be engaged or academia also looking at digital inclusion as a pathway that can uplift socioeconomic developments, and that is ‑‑ we come to the first four SDGs and healthcare and education, you cannot exclude 9 because 9 is the catalysts to make us achieve all those ‑‑ all the SDGs and for you to achieve the other SDGs there's no way digital inclusion won't come in to play.

     If you check the amount of students, young peoples all around the world, that are still catching up based on the pandemic because they didn't have digital tools to be able to afford to listen to lectures or they were excluded, not intentionally but because the infrastructure was not there, you know?  So we have a lot of kids doing catch‑up especially in most rural parts of the world.

     We have a lot of information that could have helped in advocacy in terms of healthcare, especially where we had a lot of ‑‑ in different parts of the world where we had resistance.

     Even just using Facebook alone are various ways of communications whether it's in what subgroup to get people vaccinated and kill the conspiracy theorists.  Was that done enough?  And even ‑‑ you talk of health ‑‑


>> It leads down to health ‑‑ do people and young mothers know what to give to feed their babies instead of feeding them junk because they're not well‑informed because information is power.

     So I would like you Veronique to look at the SDGs, which are key as far as the SDGs and No. 9 in terms of SDG 9 in terms of industry innovation and infrastructure relates to getting a more inclusive digital inclusion society that's empowerment in the near‑normal.

     Before you go on ‑‑ I don't know if anybody in the audience or anyone online would like to contribute to this discussion? 

      Going, going, it's very quiet. 

     Over to you.

>> Thank you. 

(Speaker Not Mic'd.)

>> I'm from the Gambia, and I must say it's a very great and very elaborative presentations.

      We're really having a lot of insightful information from Madam Mary and Veronica.

      I'll just take you back to gender and inclusion.  I would like you to shed light on recommendations that would really give us an insight how to improve inclusion when it comes to gender? 

      We know women are not very well represented when it comes to inclusion and having access to connections and affordability.  For example, in the Gambia, most of the women do the local productions especially when it comes to culture, but there's always a limitation to what their socioeconomic developments in terms of their serve their groups, and there's technologies there's a lot of ‑‑


>> Is done online, but you'll see women are left behind, especially the local women so how do we improve their connectivity to enhance their opportunities to sell their products online to have a bigger market at the end of the day, so what's your experiences or would you like to give us recommendations as best practices from your regions from your country on how you've been able to talk about some of the issues when it comes to limitations and gender inclusions.  Thank you.

>> Mary, would you like to go first, and then Veronique?

>> Okay.  Just straightforward WhatsApp has been a very great tool, an app for women to connect one another:  The way they're doing their head dressing or selling tomatoes or potatoes, so there's this group that's being fund through WhatsApp, and so they're dose WhatsApp to market.

     There's one of the ‑‑ you can market when anybody calls you.  They'll see what you do and some are using Facebook.  But when it comes to the rural area, that's where the challenge is.  You remember the percentage of people that are not connected, that are not online, so they're not even on WhatsApp.  Maybe their phone is just to call ‑‑ make voice call.  They're not even on WhatsApp sort of can't even connect themselves on WhatsApp, so it's still a big challenge.

     That's why we're advocating in Nigeria that the broadband should be made available in a rural area.  Broadband is very, very key because it's the broadband that will make it easy for you to market, to share video, to share your product online.

      That is very important, so at the local level, and we need to empower them by teaching them how to use them.  Even if you have it there, and they don't know how to use the tools, they cannot ‑‑ they cannot be socially inclusive and do socioeconomic things they're supposed to do.

     And women groups ‑‑ we should form women groups and speak to them and use their current skills to be able to digitally connected.

      Those are the things ‑‑ I would say WhatsApp, Facebook, and then make broadband available, and then educate them and train them to be able to be inclusive, thank you.

>> Okay.  Veronique, your contribution to her question?

>> Yeah, one of the points that was raised was the gaps that women experience in accessing the internet on the so‑called gender divisional divide, so, yeah, like research shows how culture and norms affects women accessing technologies. 

     For example, let's say boys prioritize for technology online ‑‑


>> Are restrictions to possibility for women to go to public access spaces, lack of confidence to access the internet and technology and platforms and digital spaces that aren't designed to meet women's needs, so I think one point that I wanted to go on that was mentioned by my colleague panelists that people in women and general people in vulnerable and traditionally marginally position should be involved in the design, development, testing and the assessment of digital policies but also programs and services so ideally these groups should be involved and have a voice in the table. 

      And another specific recommendation generally is seen in a lot of places is the need of gender segregated data because there's a need for more data and evidence on women's experience on the internet and how do they use and what are the barriers they face in accessing it?  So I would say that's a practical recommendation also for governments and for countries to have, like, implementation of timelines for data to make better policies on this issue. 

      I would stop here

>> Any contributions? 

     Thank you, Veronique. 

     Any contributions before I make mine?  Any contributions.

     There's one thing I will say in regard to this gender and inclusiveness, Veronique, we don't have any aggregated data and one thing I'm setting ‑‑ if you put wireless technology in any market anywhere in the world, built in Timbuktu, somewhere in Mumbai or somewhere in Vietnam or somewhere in the outskirts of Buenos Aries, you would discover most of the users would be women, and they will use it to trade, they'll use it to share information about themselves, what it's for healthcare or education whether they're looking for a babysitter to help when they're in the market and stuff like that, so just the simple things that ‑‑ it's in the marketplace a lot of ‑‑ whether it's from bottom to top whether it's a rich woman, whether it's an average woman or middle class, they all interact in all parts of the world.  No matter how rich you are, you still them going to the markets and stuff like that. 

      And just imagine you're having ‑‑ in ‑‑ go to the local market here but just imagine there's a local market, and you have connectivity there whereby people are trading ‑‑ most of the people most of the technology is women, and they will find a way because moms are ‑‑ their children are digital natives and are the ones using this technology so their children will help them to use this technology properly, so that's a gap that we take exists doesn't really exist because you will ‑‑ I'll give an example of my own government in Gambia.

     In every three households, there's a smart phone for a population of 2 million people.  You start ‑‑ I mean, this is ‑‑ this is factual statistics, and you start asking yourself, okay.  Some of those homes are in rural ‑‑ rural settlements, what are they doing with a smart phone, hmmm? 

     There's also a high disparate population and everywhere in the world ‑‑ diaspora population – wherever there's a high diaspora situation of people living aboard.  All those things, you know ‑‑ they all do those transactions online so even someone working in Saudi Arabia has to send money somewhere in manilla to the mom, to the grandparents who helped them when they were young, they are doing all these transactions through the internet.

      It just shows that there's a lot of empowerment that is taking place, but we should also be able to look at how those empowerments that have happened with people being digitally included has really empowered communities in terms of achieving the SDGs.  I think it's something that I would encourage also research and blogs from each every one of us ‑‑ because we're all parts of the community.  We're all part of a one subgroup or other.  What university, the what's up app page and just checking how women and your classmates are used to go technology.  Those are the ones that are doing things that are not within the space that we are talking today.  How are they using it what impact does it make, you know, of what they discuss?

     So I will open for discussions.  If no questions, I will allow our two panelists who were here to make closing remarks, yes, Adam? 

>> Your time is up.

>> So take this last question and then two closing remarks, please.

>> Okay.  Just one more point ‑‑ Mary used the universal access fund I think I would just reiterate the fact that the government and the ISP really need to synergize their work towards making an effort ‑‑ making internet affordable and inclusive for the community and the local communities more specifically because they are ‑‑ they are less representative.  I don't know if the government really knows that these universal access funds are available, and they are tapping into these funds because the African government especially the Gambia.  You know, we didn't know they are available and are taking advantage of these funds to make internet connectivity more inclusive and more for the community.

>> I'll ‑‑ Mary, just take that to close, and I'll allow Veronique because we are ‑‑ we have to ‑‑ another session is taking place in this place so Veronique give your closing remarks, and then, Mary, you end up at close.

>> Just to answer ‑‑ the regulator knows where the money is, and the thing is they wield power to utilize the money and utilize it effectively and economically to the benefit of the people and what I want to say in closing, please ‑‑ let's advocate regulatory page for people in the new normal.  Let's have broadband and community networks and let us hold the civil society issues to speak of.  Thank you.

>> Okay.  Over to you, Veronique. 

>> Yeah, just very briefly.  Yeah, just I want to reiterate ‑‑ day it's data from GSMA and others ‑‑


>> In Africa and other parts of the world so just a note on that and women experiences online are different, so just briefly that, and I think we don't of time but very quickly that most effective policies, progress digital inequality will be policies that address inclusive causes, for example, economic and social inequality and that ‑‑ again, there is no silver bullet with digital exclusion and the national context are really different, solutions and policy interventions we'd also have to address that from most governments and companies.  Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss.

>> Yeah, thank you very much.  On behalf of ‑‑ it's good for all you my speakers:  Veronique, Mary, and those online and offline for joining this session and today and let us continue doing what we can in our own ways in our own communities to try to get people digitally included but at the end of the day those will help address all the United Nations sustainable development goals, which we are nearing the now.  Thank you very much.

>> Thank you.

>> And have a nice day.  Bye.