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.
>> MODERATOR: Hello, welcome to the workshop Bringing Meaningful Access for Inclusive Digital Policies. The workshop was organized NIC.br, Alliance for Affordable Internet, Web Foundation. I'm not Beatriz Barbosa. I'm Laura Tresca. Bea had a last-minute work appointment and she asked me to cover for her.
I'm a journalist. I'm social science and also third sector at CGI.br. I have been working with digital inclusion for over 15 years, and I'm glad to join in this workshop.
As online moderator we have Luiza Mesquita from Nic.br and Rapporteur is Juliano Cappi that is also from NIC.br. I asked for the speakers to introduce themselves at the beginning of their speech.
The session we will start with 10 minutes and involving discussion about meaningful access to internet and the key elements and the concepts on how it can be measured.
This block will be held by the representative for Alliance for Affordable Internet Sonia. Next we will have 10 minutes presentation to access the set of elements which should be considered for key -- for the concept of meaningful access. Carlos Afonso from Nupef will make this presentation.
Then we will have an open debate and the presentation of three concrete experience of connection to discuss the important elements to the meaningful access.
Finally, we will wrap up the session with the summary of the contributions to improve the cooperation of elements that construct meaningful access and then we will open the floor for gathering several points of views.
In the context of the global pandemic, the range of daily actions done exclusively online has increased but half of the world's population has been deprived of access to basic services like education and health because they don't have access to the internet.
Even among those who can afford the use of the internet, many do it only through mobile phones with low quality. And then we raise the questions, what are the key elements that constitute universal and meaningful internet access? How can it be measured? How is the concept and what does the evolution mean for policy? Sonia, the floor is yours. Please, welcome.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you, Laura. It is a pleasure to be here with you. My name is Sonia Jorge, I'm the Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet and lead up the digital inclusion programming at the Web Foundation and the cochair of the IGF Policy Network on meaningful access that some of you might have heard with my colleague Sylvia Cadena of Afnic.
I'm mentioning that because we are doing this session not just to clarify what is meaningful connectivity but really to understand it and help you learn more about how do we think about meaningful connectivity in the context of the more holistic approach to meaningful access.
And how do we see these two concepts and their parts as a way to allow us to think about internet connectivity not just as a technical solution but as a human-centered solution to support livelihoods around the world. And especially, I would say, in the global south in low and middle income countries where digital inequality and exclusion is still and remains a major concern to all of us interested in digital development.
In addition to myself presenting today, I have the real pleasure of also having my colleague Anna Rodriguez joining me. She and our colleague Teddy Woodhouse are really the masterminds behind the analysis on meaningful connectivity and especially an upcoming report that we are going to give you a little bit of an early, you know, kind of a soft share of some of the findings of this new research that we have done to measure meaningful connectivity around the world.
So you have a very special moment here today not just to hear from us on our thinking, but also to get a glimpse of the early findings we are going to publish next year on meaningful connectivity.
But let's first define and clarify what all these terms are and why are we here today to talk about these. Some of you have already heard, but please bear with me. It is really important for us to think about meaningful access as a whole as something that facilitates meaningful use.
And why is that? I'm trying to think of these in a very pragmatic and basic way. Ultimately our goal in digital development overall is really for every human around the world to have the opportunity to engage with technology however they choose but with the right protections, safety, and a really good connectivity that allows them to do and to make the choices that they want to make.
This is really important. And the reason why for us it was important to clarify the concepts is because meaningful access as a way to facilitate meaningful use or the digital opportunity that every individual women, man, girls, boys, rural population, what have you, can take is really based on three important elements of meaningful access.
First, affordable access. We are the Alliance for Affordable Internet so as you can imagine we care a lot about the cost of access to the internet. And affordable access remains a key barrier around the world, especially in low and middle income countries for people to have access to connectivity.
So affordability is very important, and we can never take away from the important meaningful access. Just as important is meaningful connectivity. I'm distinguishing the terms here meaningful access from meaningful connectivity.
Meaningful connectivity is the technical foundation that allows meaningful access to become a reality. Anna is going to tell you a bit more about that.
So affordable access, the cost. Meaningful connectivity, the technical elements that allow us to have quality, reliable connections. And just as important, the social environment that brings the possibility together with affordable and meaningful connectivity that then allow us to take full benefit of the access.
And when we talk about the social environment, we talk about skills, education, content, right? Ability of having content in different languages. For some of you that just heard the speech at the main session around these issues, I'm sure you learned a lot about multi-lingualism on the internet, for example, and these kind of issues that are absolutely critical to make sure that the construct, the concept of meaningful access is, in fact, meaningful to every individual on earth regardless of what language they speak. Regardless of the level of education they have. Regardless of the cost. Regardless of the type of connection.
Everybody should be afforded a baseline connectivity that allows them to fully benefit from the opportunity that digital access affords them. Okay. So with that in mind, for us that is the foundation for meaningful use. Use of the internet for a purpose. Use in development for any kind of possibility from education, agriculture development, you know, crop management, health sector, information sharing, knowledge acquisition, you name it. And again, for everyone regardless of their background and regardless of who they are and where they are in world. Okay.
This is really important for us. So I'm going to pass on to Anna to tell you more and really focusing on that concept of meaningful connectivity and why that is so important as the foundation for everything that is built around meaningful access. So that blue dot on the slide, Anna is going to really zoom into it and share with you not just what it means but also what does it look like in the world right now. Anna?
>> ANNA: Thank you for the introduction. And I'm going to talk about that technical concept of what is meaningful connectivity that we have developed in the Alliance.
So this meaningful connectivity concept is another term to raise the bar of how do we measure internet access worldwide. We invite everyone not to measure internet just with the binary of who is connected and not connected but bring that to another level and understand how people are connecting around the world. And especially on how the global south is having issues when connecting.
And so meaningful connectivity for us it is that we developed this because it is insufficient to measure the internet just with the binary that I was telling you before. It is not enough to understand who is connected and who is disconnected. We need to understand how people are connecting and if the connection is meaningful for them and if they are getting everything that they need from the internet and if that connection is allowing them to do everything they want and need.
When we measure internet just with the binary of who can access and who cannot access, that gives us an illusion, a false illusion of coverage.
So when we measure just with the binary, we can think that, for example, in Colombia where I'm from, 60% of the population is using the internet. But when you really look at the numbers of meaningful connectivity, you understand it that, that 60% is not having a meaningful connectivity. Only around 20% is having the access that allows them to use the internet in a powerful way to change their lives and have an impact on their lives.
That is why we developed the concept trying to raise the bar of how to measure that and developed the technical concept of meaningful connectivity to understand how people are connecting and what are they getting when they connect.
So what is meaningful connectivity? From the surveys and research developed in the alliance that are four aspects important and are the main things that people need when they connect.
First of all, we think that people should have the right speeds when they connect. They should have 4G at least to be able to have the right speed to be able to download videos and use everything in the right way.
The second thing is that they should have an unlimited connection. It is not enough to have one gig in your cell phone or have two or 10. You should have an unlimited connection that allows you, again, to do everything you want and need in the internet.
The third thing is that you should have the right device. You cannot use the internet if you don't have the right device in your hands. So our minimum -- our minimum we suggest that the minimum thing that you should have as a device to be able to connect is a smartphone. Of course, we encourage people to have desktops or laptops or tablets, but the minimum should be a smartphone with the right thing so you can connect and use the internet.
And the fourth aspect of meaningful connectivity is that you should be able to use it daily. It is not enough to use the internet once every three months. It is not enough to use it once every week. It is key that people can use it every day so they can access healthcare information, updated information. Contact family members. Follow the news on new variants, for example, on COVID and keep themselves informed daily about the internet. And, of course, to work.
I mean if we cannot access the internet daily, some of us won't be able to work or connect to different conferences, Zoom calls. So we encourage people to use internet daily. And that should be the minimum.
So what is meaningful connectivity? Someone has meaningful connectivity when they can access the internet daily on an unlimited connection, the right speed and with a device that allows them to connect to the internet.
So these are the dimensions that I have been telling you before. Having the appropriate device and smartphone, connecting with the right speed, minimum 4G with enough data, unlimited data and using it daily.
So we have been developing the concept from a couple of years, ago but now we have done a new research with surveys in different countries in the global south with my colleague Teddy Woodhouse we have been developing these and we want to share with you some numbers here.
And just a soft launch I'm sharing with you some numbers. The report will come in January, but we wanted to really share with you these numbers. Here you can see that in the -- we measured these in nine countries. You can see that the percentage of users, it is high for some of them.
For example, in Colombia, nearly 60%. But the meaningful connectivity number and how many are connecting through a meaningful connectivity you see that the number goes down. And most of the countries the gap between the internet users and the ones with meaningful connectivity is huge.
And the gap there is what we need to close and connect people not only with an internet that they can access every three months but really through a meaningful connection. We measured the different milestones of meaningful connectivity. And here we have identified with the new research the main bottlenecks are insufficient data and the right speed.
People are not getting unlimited data and they are not getting the right speed to be able to connect meaningfully.
And with the new report that will come in January, we are going to as well highlight the differences that are present in rural versus urban because we have identified that there are huge gaps there not only in gender but also in the geographic location.
Meaningful connectivity differs a lot between urban locations and rural ones. As you can see here in this graph, when you look at the internet use, for example, India is at 20%. And the urban/rural ratio is 0.62. But when you look at urban/rural ratio in meaningful connectivity it goes down to 0.58.
So it is more than what you have in internet -- in the general internet use. And that is the situation for all of the countries that we measured. All of them have a huge -- a larger gap when you look at meaningful connectivity between the geographic location of urban and rural. And these gaps are not only present in the geographic location but also in the gender.
So women and men experienced the internet in different ways. And this is not only in the general internet use but also in meaningful connectivity. And it is worse when you look at the meaningful connectivity numbers. Women are suffering more than men when it comes to meaningful connectivity. They are not able to connect through meaningful connectivity. We know that there are disparities in the general internet use, but these get larger when it comes to meaningful connectivity.
And that's it for now.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you. This is really great. I will just finish with a couple of points. Hope these made sense to you including colleagues online.
Two things to consider as we close on the initial presentation. One is, again, don't think of internet access as simply that binary that Anna was mentioning. This illusion of coverage and illusion of connectivity that exists is really an illusion.
The reality in many environments is actually quite different. The other thing that is really important is that -- and this is why it's so important for us to have the discussions on meaningful connectivity and meaningful access in general is that we need to demand and call for much greater, much greater quality and reliable connections to everyone in the world.
We cannot accept these kind of reality that Anna was sharing with you were not only internet access is considered okay if people, you know, have access just once a month or once a week or once every three months. We cannot accept that. That is not the kind of internet connection that we want to see the world, you know, cheer about.
We want to be able to see a world cheering about meaningful connectivity that allows for also meaningful access and that is what we need to work for. So making sure that the quality of internet connection, also affordable and the social environments, all come together to make sure that meaningful access is possible and meaningful use becomes the standard reality, right?
So that people can choose how they use the internet. And this is what we want you to get out of hopefully the rest of the discussion as well is how do we get to that point?
So I'm going to pass on to our moderator Laura to continue. And, of course, we would be happy to answer any questions and we are happy to share the slides as well.
So Laura, you don't probably see the room. We already have a few hands up. I don't know if you want me to help you with moderating the hands that are up here in the room or if you -- because I don't think you see the rest of the room. You only see us on the screen line, right.
Let me see if someone can share a mic. There is two people with hands up. Should I do that, or do you want to go to the next one first?
>> MODERATOR: I would prefer if we could let Carlos to make his presentation and then we open the floor for the debate.
>> SONIA JORGE: Sorry, Carlos. In just a few minutes. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: And thank you, Sonia and Anna for the amazing presentation.
We know that the COVID pandemic has brought an enduring -- which makes the whole of the internet for social development even more relevant. The aim to reduce the digital divide is focused on connectivity issues. Beyond the lack of infrastructure there is a broad research agenda warning about the new forms of exclusion emerging by limited adoption and use of ICTs.
I invite Carlos Alberto Afonso. Welcome, Carlos, to do this presentation. And then we'll open for participants. Okay. Thank you, Carlos, the floor is yours.
>> CARLOS ALBERTO AFONSO: Can I share my presentation, my screen. Host disabled. I cannot share my screen.
>> MODERATOR: Yes, you can.
>> CARLOS ALBERTO AFONSO: It says host disabled participant screen sharing. Thank you for excellent presentations which mentioned or referred to things that I will try to comment on but are very well covered in the previous presentations.
First for a very quick historical record. When this idea of universal access and the importance of increased information society came to be, first there was a governmental track deriving from the ITU resolution in 1998 proposing that the UN lead a summit for he information.
And then the civil society track which is the people that are here from NGOs, from civil society organizations. And remember the CRIS campaign, Communications Right in the Information Society started in 2001. And the UNESCO and New World Information Communication Order, and they built -- started to build a concept of communication rights in the Information Society from that.
Then we came to Geneva 2003 to the relevant proposal to establish the foundation of an information society for everyone taking into account specific forms of each sector translating into multi-stakeholder collaboration.
And in the first page was collaborate the concept of internet governance which we did through the creation, the work of the working group on internet. And then came the second phase of WSIS plan of action with 122 items,
Ten of them dedicated to the future IGF. Policies to stimulate universal access again, local idioms and cultures which is related to the meaningful access and then the definition of what an Internet Governance Forum should be.
The IGF should be a non-binding dialogue based on policies, et cetera, and we know basically what the IGF has been accomplished.
And then the impacts of the IGF is important to recall. Stimulates national and international dialogues on internet governance, stimulates the creation of many national and regional annual forums, influences multi-stakeholder dialogue process and even decision-making process in some cases in the field of internet governance and Information Society.
In 2015 came the SDGs, sustainable development goals, and these helped drive the IGF to prioritize universal access.
And we end up at the IGF '21 which we are now universal access and meaning. Connectivity is one of the two main focus things especially driven by the consequences of the pandemic.
This is a map of the national and regional Internet Governance Forum, so you have an idea through the IGF what is accomplished in the discussion of the worldwide.
Framing meaningful access started with the Geneva Declaration of Principles, the WSIS 2003 which said that we should develop a people-centered and inclusive information society where everyone can create access, utilize and share information and knowledge enabling the communities and peoples and individuals to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life.
And the same declaration set the challenges to harness the communication technology to promote the development goals of the Millennium Declaration. At the time it was the Millennium Goals. And now we have the Sustainable Development Goals. In the policy paper, published by UNESCO in 2019 said digital exclusion refers to existing inequalities in the access, use, and appropriate ICTs resulting from interactions with other social, economic and cultural inequality such as rural and urban contrasts, socio-economic levels and education levels and gender inequality.
It is linked to other aspects such as the quality of technological infrastructure, devices and connections and digital skills. And above all, cultural capital to transform available information into relevant knowledge at an individual and/or collective level.
You see that the idea of universal access is coming through and especially from the beginning of the 21st century. And these are interesting information regarding universal access.
Statistics show that more than half of the world's population has some form of internet access. Most precariously via prepaid cell phones and relatively high costs with ridiculously low data caps. While more than 3.5 billion have poor or no access to the electricity grid. In the later case, about a billion, about a billion as found by the IEEE usage program.
And 20% of homes in the world are still without electricity.. As Michael Oghia recalls, how can we expect the people and communities who don't even have access to the power grid to participate online in languages they don't speak or with a device that when they can get it they can't even easily charge. This is important.
And characterization of meaningful connectivity is sought so that parameters can be quantified that is based on evidence of relevance by the users themselves, that is universal for all gender, socio-economic positions and ethnicities. And that is open, unrestricted, without data caps or walled gardens.
Universal access assumes sufficient speed for contemporary internet multimedia standards, sufficient functionality on the user's device for creation and interaction without data caps and with quality compatible with everyday needs. Which are these needs, distance learning, teleworking, tele consultations. Unrestricted use of e-government services and, of course, entertainment which is important. We are human!
Universalizing access without data caps and with permanent connectivity in all households is a challenge that very few countries have managed to overcome, even the most advanced ones.
Households here must be understood dependent on the social settings that we are in. A community in the rural areas has a different need than households in an urban area. It can be said that almost no national broadband plan, no matter how sophisticated and well planned has effectively managed to universalize permanent fixed internet of a quality compatible with today's multimedia internet in all households, in all homes. Even mobile internet via 3G or 4G still has dark areas.
Many initiatives to circumvent or mitigate the connectivity challenge are mainly carried out by local organizations, the many versions of community networks with or without support, usually with the indifference of local governments.
These community networks generally have precarious alternatives for accessing the internet. In some cases they function as local networks with access to an inaugural local server with prerecorded content that us updated periodically when possible.
In most municipalities, remote communities beyond the reach or interest of local providers when they exist, and there remains the alternative of contracting a satellite link, expensive with ridiculous data caps and long latency for many applications in addition to a security risk, sharing a public IP via CGNAT, the same IP shared with many communities, many users.
Low orbit satellite alternatives are usually not available to reduce latency. Typically there is no strategic plan to make fiber backbone reach all municipalities. In general this is not to the market, resulting in the deepening of inequality of access.
How to provide solutions to the lack of access to devices, computers, tablets, smartphones to properly use the internet is the question. No country universalizes 4G or the new 5G without a future-proof universal fiber network.
Mitigating meaningful access in addition to widespread connectivity at reasonable cost and quality in all homes encompasses all public and private structures and facilities, especially schools, health facilities s and government services at all levels.
It is not enough to be connected. It is crucial to remain connected with the quality compatible with the reality of today's multimedia internet.
So this is all these questions and issues brought to IGF to organize the policy network on meaningful access, as you know, which is to pursue the dialogue on advancing universal access the IGF created.
Meaningful connectivity because it encompasses all layers of the network. And It is with this holistic view that access to the network is considered a decisive element for achieving the 17 SDGs. Access to infrastructure is critical, but if the access is not inclusive, useful, sustainable and accessible and linked to the development of capacities and the provision of content that make them viable, it will not achieve this relevance.
The IGF will support the network through co-facilitators of the multi-stakeholder advisory group and will encourage the participation of experts. And network will work alongside the existing IGF-related initiatives such as dynamic coalitions, best practice forums, youth engagement, et cetera.
This is all at the end to stimulate all of you to try and participate in the ongoing policy network. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Carlos, to share with us all of your knowledge. It's a pleasure.
Considering this is a roundtable, I will open for interventions and comments. And then after I would ask for at the other end, Roberto and to share with the concrete experience for the debate.
We have a question in the chat. For Sonia and Joseph is asking what is the economic mention of meaningful connectivity?
And Sonia, you said there are some people in the room that would like to make comments or questions. Please invite them to make their interventions.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you. Can you hear me? Okay, great. Anna and I can answer the first question.
And then there is others here, Laura, that have questions. If that is okay with you. Can we start with the ones that had their hands up earlier, so I don't forget? There were two people, and then we'll go to Joseph's question. There was a gentleman there, and there was a lady here. I think you are next. Okay. I think you should be able to hear, Laura. Go ahead.
>> AUDIENCE: My name is (?) from Georgia and working for the community networks and somewhat related directions.
My question actually is related to the presentation to the data. Thanks for this interesting information and good luck with this. It looks very interesting and very important.
First of all, what is the source of all of the data?
Next question, related, do you have the information about the eastern Europe and some other maybe European countries, maybe Canada and some of the other countries because drivers of the selection are quite interesting?
And my last question -- well, that is enough. Okay. There are many people so.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you. And then the lady. Was there anybody else that had their hand there? Yes, okay. Go ahead.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. I was rather shocked to hear I was also vulnerably connected since I'm also living in urban areas. So speaking of meaningful connectivity and as the report shows that we are not yet there, and it is a long way to go.
I wanted to know and have you as affordable, I mean A for AI. What do you have in terms of plans or entry points on how you are going to start so as we can reach to meaningful connectivity? Because we are seeing that the right devices maybe we cannot have everyone in the world to have the right devices or get online whenever they want and have unlimited internet.
Do you have an entry point, or do you have -- or do you want to work with organizations that are already doing something on the ground to ensure that you are arriving at the goal of meaningful connectivity that you have in the future? Thank you.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you. And then Neema and we will start answering.
>> AUDIENCE: I was very much interested with the gaps that you showed in terms of the number of internet users versus meaningful.
And something that is happening quite a lot, for example, in Tanzania, we are reporting that we have about close to 30 million people using the internet. But I always ask myself is it 30 million people or is it 30 million gadgets?
I think when we talk -- I wanted to just get your experience on how do you also divide and get to the level of, you know, drilling down further that is it actual people or is it handsets.
And then I applaud your work on making sure that there is rural connectivity and the gender divide. But just to understand the data, how can you segregate the data in foreign policy? Thank you.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you. Let's start with some of the questions about the actual methodology and data source and economics behind it.
Anna, do you want to take those first? And then I will talk to you about what we are doing as the Alliance to address some of the things and what kind of guidance. So you start.
>> ANNA: Thank you for your question. In terms of sources of the data for the internet users, we used ITU.
And then for the meaningful connectivity figures we have done ourselves surveys in the nine countries that we are reporting. Individual surveys in each country to gather meaningful connectivity. Those are our sources. So ITU and our source.
And then unfortunately we don't have numbers for European countries or eastern European countries. Our focus is on the global south so most of the countries that we do surveys in are low and low or middle income countries. Unfortunately, we don't have figures for Europe.
>> SONIA JORGE: Let me add one thing. Anna and I wanted to let you know and we'll tell you more about it later that as part of the process that Carlos was explaining of understanding the evolution and the policy network is work with the Secretary General office and ITS there is now an effort that is going to be in place to collect data and measure these kinds of things and beyond.
Connective framework of the digital cooperation process. And that is going to be collected hopefully in 2022 for the first time in collaboration with the ITU and partners for all of the countries for which they get data.
Hopefully by the end of next year we will have more detailed data including the countries in your region here. Anna, back to you.
>> ANNA: And on the question of the gaps and how do we measure and how do we make sure that we don't include gadgets but individuals in our surveys, in the methodology we make a point so we can collect data from individuals and not gadgets because that brings the numbers up. We make a point to measure individuals connecting to using meaningful connectivity.
>> SONIA JORGE: And the economic.
>> ANNA: Yeah, there is always the economic dimension embedded in the meaningful connectivity. We measure and we have different datasets that measure that economic dimension. We measure in several countries. We need to understand how affordable is the data in all of the countries.
And also we recognize an important barrier to meaningful connectivity are devices so we also have a dataset measuring the cost of the devices around the world. This year we have one covering most of the countries in the world.
>> SONIA JORGE: And just to follow up on that and then answer the last question.
We haven't published yet but we hopefully will do that sometime soon if our team manages to get there. But we collect information and actually have really interesting analysis about, you know, affordability across income quintiles. We don't just look at the aggregate numbers.
You were asking about Tanzania, and we look at how affordable connections are in Tanzania not just for the aggregate average person, that often is not really the average person but across the five key income quintiles of the population.
A good example that I like to use is, for example, South Africa country that on paper in the aggregate appears to have achieved affordability as it is measured. But for us, we don't just look at the aggregate. We say okay, so let's look a little deeper and is it affordable to every south African? And clearly it is not.
Even though it appears that they reach the target, the fact is 64% can't afford the internet. 60% have much lower incomes that than the top 40% of south Africans have. That is how we look at the analysis and we are encouraging and helping many country partners to do that analysis.
Laura, please tell me to stop. There is one last question that I didn't answer which is what next and what to do.
In fact, here in the room my colleague Eleanor is also present and leads our policy and engagement work in Latin America and Africa and Asia and through our work on the process around meaningful connectivity and access in general, we have developed not only a meaningful connectivity guide to help policy makers and regulators understand as well as civil society and private sector understand what kind of actions can they take to change the picture and to really move in the right direction.
And we also work with selected number of countries to put the actions in practice. And if there is time we can have my colleague share some of those or you can ask her directly.
I'm conscious of the time. I want to get back to Laura to manage the rest of the session with the panel. Laura, back to you. I think I covered everything.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. Carlos, would you like to comment on the questions, too, or should we move forward? Carlos?
>> CARLOS ALBERTO AFONSO: Probably I missed the question. Would you repeat it, please?
>> MODERATOR: It was four questions. And I think we could move on with the sharing the experience and then you comment by the end, okay?
>> CARLOS ALBERTO AFONSO: Okay.
>> MODERATOR: So would you like to share with us your experience.
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop, and the panel on meaningful connectivity that we just witnessed was really magnificent.
I have been involved in regulation of public policy. ICT world, telecoms and broadcasting and ICT for many years. I was a commissioner at the Mexican regulatory agency, IFT and have worked on the issue of access.
Access to infrastructure, to services, to justice, to equality. And now collaborating with and founded an NGO for -- that is fighting for gender equality in the ICT ecosystem.
And so for me the past years have been a wonderful look and working bottom up on all these concepts that I'm so glad are being revisited, reframed by AI and the whole community.
And when we get into the communities in the rural areas, we can see and feel and touch what this meaningful mess would look like at the local level. And in that sense I agree, we also have to listen to what meaningful connectivity would be for the community. And it might be very different in Brazil and Mexico. Someone's voice, other one's internet. Other ones, of course, mobile broadband. Others need and want a broadcast radio. And some of them want all.
And they want to produce content. And their stories, their language, and use this technology to preserve and also to access. And we have worked in Brazil and Mexico supporting community networks as a good to market failures where the state or market have not been able to provide affordable meaningful and I would say sustainable connectivity because we also see sometimes the cemeteries of satellite dishes, powers that were -- that could not keep operating even with state (break in audio) and large operators leaving them with the very important methodology of respecting the autonomy of every community and has been working with them, but they lead.
To see first what they dream of and want and services and structures and content. Then we map. So that is where you can sense okay, if we want this meaningful use, what meaningful inputs do we need? What do we have in the area? Some kind of back haul? Some kind of fiber? Would wi-fi work here? How are we going to get backfill of 400-kilometers across the river in the Amazonian, et cetera.
In the case of Mexico because it has also led a very disruptive and revolutionary support for community networks, the people of Oaxaca were able to become a licensee of a mobile network. Initially a 2G network so they have like 21 sites, base stations connecting 64 villages across the mountains of Oaxaca. And they have applied now -- they got spectrum in the 800 megahertz band. It is not enough. They only got like five so now any are applying for so they can pass forward.
That is what triggered the possibility of local villages with very low incomes to deploy their own infrastructures. The technology is there. More affordable prices when we have both a license spectrum or not, of course, these nonprofit networks need access to spectrum.
Meaningful access with no charge for that spectrum. Because they are already doing the job either of marketing of the State so there is no way any State should charge for that use. But we have seen there is tons of spectrum that is not used that was licensed for 20 years but never deployed because it is not profitable in those areas.
So we more and more for meaningful access should provide for spectrum sharing or the right regulator authorizing the use of spectrum in rural areas on a secondary basis even when there is a licensee. But commercial licensees do not own the spectrum. It is probably good and should not be left without use.
In other regions, really remote regions, where Somatica is supporting other technologies where internet is really a longshot like the -- like the high frequencies radios, that is an efficient technology allowing to send voice and messages and the community networks are developing also hardware. They are developing their devices.
In Argentina, another really good practice has developed the open source router. So we see when there is funding for -- (break in audio).
>> SONIA JORGE: We are losing you. I just want you to know --
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: Commercial -- oh, okay. Thank you.
>> SONIA JORGE: I think your connection is getting a little --
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: We also have to look bottom up. Okay. I shut down my camera hoping that will help.
>> SONIA JORGE: That should help a little.
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: Can you hear me now?
>> SONIA JORGE: Yes, go ahead.
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: You see, we don't always have -- even if the big cities we don't have a really robust connectivity sometimes.
>> SONIA JORGE: You don't have meaningful connectivity you mean.
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: so whether it is -- yes, we don't, not on a continued basis.
>> SONIA JORGE: Absolutely.
>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: High latency and low speeds. So it is important that we start mapping at the local level what meaningful inputs we need. (break in audio) to be able to have some backflow funding for capacity building devices.
And that a local project which, of course, entails skills and the purpose of the connectivity. We do want to see connectivity used to have a well-being of the communities.
Not only have full day, full-time connectivity to become digital addict. We want sustainable development goals achieved at the local level but with a respecting the culture of each peoples of the Indigenous cultures and see how the tools, the ICT tools can help them defend their land, their language, their culture, and access fundamental rights like education and healthcare.
And so it's proven that this mobile network in Oaxaca and the mesh networks in Argentina and the HF radios in Amazonian are proving sustainable. They could use, of course, help in many ways in backhaul, in easy licensing in access to spectrum in Brazil. And they could use some money from the USF that are hardly -- remain unused.
So that is another paradigm we need to change that USFs are destined only for the big operators, but they are the ones who left these communities behind. We have new stakeholders and new access models and new -- and a lot of knowledge in the communities. We want them to be able to share that knowledge through the ICT tools. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. I would like to invite Roberto Zambrana to share his experience and thoughts with us. Roberto, please.
>> ROBERTO ZAMBRANA: I would like to comment the work that we did in Bolivia from 2017. I started and still the coordinator of our local IGF in Bolivia.
From 2017 until now we just recently have our IGF, the fourth IGF back in November. The main issue and it was continuing and continuing to be faced is universal access.
And that's why when in 2020 I was appointed to be a MAG member and now I'm in my second year. We found a common agenda with several colleagues coming from particular countries in the global south. And we found that universal access was something that we needed to face immediately.
So we started to work in a proposal of a BPF, Carlos Alberto Afonso mentioned something about it and we started to look for different documents we wanted to research because we needed to actually justify the new proposed BPF. And we had three important documents that we went through.
One was the report of the ITU which it was the 2019 report about connectivity. And that was -- there was a shocking information there. And you may know about it, perhaps you don't.
But most of the territory we are talking about maybe 90% is already covered with at least 3 or 4G mobile infrastructure.
So it is shocking to know and analyze why we are only connecting half of the population. And, of course, one of the main thing is because of the price, because of the affordability of the service. And Sonia and Ana already mentioned that.
The second document, and I mention it, Sonia, because the other document was a report that Alliance for Affordable Internet published those days and again confirming those kind of figures and confirming the situation in the region.
Another thing which is important to understand is despite all of the statistics that we had, many of the countries have, is usually are presented by the private sector and operators showing an interesting figure and interesting situation saying that mobile internet penetration is over 60-70%.
We all know that the reality is totally different. And it is different because one thing is to have the possibility to be connected and it is another thing to be actually connected.
Because to be actually connected we need money. That's the main problem. In order to be able to pay the packages that we have in a very old fashioned business model. And well, the end of the document because we review several documents. But the other important document that we needed to review was -- well, all of this sustainable development goals.
And one particular as you all know, goal, is number nine, this is build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
And particularly, the target 9C, that says significantly increase access to information and communication technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the internet in least developing country by 2020. Of course, we all know back then 2020 we failed to arrive to that -- we all know we failed to arrive to that target.
And that was that again confirmed that we were to the right track. Remember that I'm talking in a time before the pandemic.
So when we finally agreed to present it and we decided to do a main session on last IGF, et cetera, we realized that it was important because the Secretary General as you all know also in parallel convened the high level panel, they presented on 2019 the report.
And 2020 we received as you all know the road map for digital cooperation, and it is not a coincidence that the very first thing is about global connectivity.
Continues to be the most important for all of humanity and the document mentioned it as one important subject. So I think mobile sector as you -- as you know right now is presenting us the new revolution of mobile services by generation. Mobile services, but in some of the countries, most of our countries we didn't have -- we didn't took the total advantage of 4G yet.
And again, it is not because of lack of infrastructure but because of the current business models and that is one the good things and efforts in the side of mobile providers could be a very good thing to contribute to this goal hopefully as well as some other actors in government to maybe reduce access and maybe reduce the right use of license and frequencies, et cetera, et cetera.
I mean everyone need to do a role in order to finally have this goal achieved soon. So I think I am going to stay there and hopefully listen to some questions.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Roberto. I want to jump in the conversation, too, and share with you my experience.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to install a local network in an Indigenous village, it was in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. There is no connection at all even with satellites.
The closest city was five hours boat ride. And all Indigenous people had cell phones. Why do they have cell phones with no connection?
They used to buy memory cards with movies or music and exchange the memory cards between them. So the devices were multimedia player. What we have done in that community, we installed a VOIP app called Elastic and they finally could use their phones for the first time to receive a call.
And why do they need to receive a call? Sometimes they were in the middle of the village, and they need to go to the riverbank just to call someone to tell, oh, the food is ready, or the meeting is starting. And now with that local network they could call them by the phone.
From this experience, what I learned is meaningful access is that devices are not enough, are not enough for meaningful access.
I also had another experience of installing a network in the that I considered it my most challenging and at the same time the most successful experience. It was challenging because it was in the middle of the forest again.
But in that compass we have mountains that is difficult for internet structure. And in this case there was a satellite connection and we taught them how to set up a network. I consider it my most successful experience because we were able to put fire on that people, I mean they extend the network. In this case, meaningful access was knowledge to be autonomous.
And I have a third example that is my favorite example that. It is a grassroots organization, a very poor neighborhood in a big city in Sao Paolo. They had place without access to the internet by option. They did not want access to the internet. Why does they not want access to the internet? Everyone wants access to the internet.
In their words, we do not want to create more Facebook users. Imagine you the situation.
You have a network that covers a public hospital and sites, and you are in the line in the hospital waiting eight hours for an appointment. You have a phone. But you have no money to buy a data pack. What do you do? Oh, let me check, if I'm lucky and if I find an open network. And you find that local network.
And in that local network there are local videos. And other produced by that. Eight hours. What will you watch that videos?
Then from this experience as Adriana said, I learned that meaningful access is to have the opportunity to share local content, too.
For moderator I have got some words. I would like to give the word to Sonia to wrap up the session and ask if someone have comments in the room and give us your inputs. Sonia?
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you, Laura. There were a few questions that I think we still need to answer. I think there was one more question I don't know if there is more than one online so I will try to answer. One from Joseph.
My team was trying to WhatsApp me so I could see. I think one was about so maybe it was a comment. I believe that we need specific regulations for leave no one behind. Any costs not too high, we need to look at alternative solutions. Tell me if there is anything else online.
So on that, and Joseph is here in the room in the back of the room, so you don't see him, Laura.
So absolutely I mean one of the things that -- one of the reasons why I invited also our colleagues earlier in the main session and I invite you here and those online to check the meaningful connectivity guide that our team developed, my colleague Natalia is here also online.
Very much worked very hard on that with the rest of the team. And one of the reasons why we prepared that guide is we wanted to not just have the data and to create more evidence to show the reality but also say okay, what next actions that can be done?
And so the guide gives you a bit of an initial road map of policy and regulatory actions that can be taken to address the four dimensions of meaningful connectivity that Ana went through and described earlier. Most importantly, too, and this is very much part of the Alliance for Affordable Internet philosophy is that we cannot leave everything to the market, right?
We have to accept that markets and market competition, not only is not a silver bullet, it is no bullet at all and in fact it is not the only solution. It is a solution up to a certain point.
But we have to understand it where is that point in every single country, in every single community so that we can fill those gaps with the whole gamut of public access solutions just as Adriana was mentioning in Mexico and as was done in Kenya and Brazil. Countries being more innovative about filling the gaps.
And in some countries because of incomes and economic development conditions it may be that you need that kind of balanced approach to reach 50% of the population. In some it would be 10%. On average, a very kind of top level average, on average, 10 to 20% of populations in many countries cannot afford the internet even if you bring it to a point that we call it affordable.
And so for that percentage of the population in many countries we need to have alternative solutions and those alternative solutions to the point that you were making I think in that comment they have to be either free or almost free of cost.
Most importantly in many countries, it is a lot more than 20%. In many countries where incomes are very low it could be as high as 30% or as low as just 5%. You don't know. Either way, we need to make sure that everyone regardless of the affordability threshold can have access to what we call meaningful connectivity through alternative ways.
I see the colleague that was speaking earlier shaking his head. And I'm thinking well, actually, here in this region of the world and in many parts of the world including what was mentioned in Mexico, many communities are finding alternative ways of providing connectivity and providing connectivity either very low cost or free in some cases.
And there is a reason for public interest and public policy to address those. So I just want to say for us, it is really important to find that balance of where the market can go. How far the market can go. Allow and incentivize the market to go as far as can go.
But then government, civil society and private sector absolutely have to take the responsibility of filling that gap. And if we don't, then we are not contributing to inclusion and equality. We, in fact, are contributing to further inequality and further exclusion.
So I hope that makes sense. I see that Joseph stood up so maybe he has another comment. But Laura, I just wanted to make sure that you and colleagues online if you have any other questions or if that makes sense and maybe Adriana and Roberto want to add more to the question.
>> AUDIENCE: I just had a comment on the business model and wanted to share what we achieved in Kenya which is really the game changer.
We got SafariCom in Kenya to deliver us sim cards with five megabits per second without the cap for $58 per month for connecting schools. And that to my mind is really the first time that we got the telecom operator to change the business model to help us in connecting the 45 schools which we connected in the last two months.
And I really believe that that -- these models, we need to make them public. Because, as you say, Sonia, the market only reacts if the market gets the pressure and the result. And what Safari.com has done, I'm thankful.
This is the kind of light we see through the tunnel, and it is these kind of experiences that we need to share in the policy network of meaningful access. It is important to know about the experiences to get together with all of the stakeholders in the countries to share them this kind of experiences and hopefully to make them understand that this room, a big room of actions and strategic actions that we can do. So fantastic news.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you, Roberto. If there is no other questions. Ana, would you like to add a couple of more points based on the discussion?
>> SONIA JORGE: I don't see them, I'm sorry. So Laura, you have to help me online. Carlos, maybe you are the first one. Go for it, please.
>> CARLOS ALBERTO AFONSO: Okay. I want just to make a point which I think is very, very important. Spectrum is not a ghost, one of those horror films but spectrum, the electromagnetic waves that connect us, it is important that we follow the regulation of spectrum which may or may not allow universalization and democratization of spectrum.
There are few initiatives. Some countries we share are positive and others not quite so. This is fundamental that the local communities can use spectrum creatively with the new technologies.
Secondary use of spectrum, software defined radios, whatever for their local communication. And Rhizomatica is one of organizations in our group that is very specialized and has very good experiences in that. And other organizations as well in Africa and so on.
So we should really organize ourselves to follow very close the policy regarding democratization of spectrum because this is crucial for meaningful access. Thank you.
>> SONIA JORGE: Good point. I think Adriana and then Juliano has his hand up. Adriana and then Juliano.
>> ADRIANA LAARDINI: It is important to keep emphasizing what are the legal and regulatory barriers that are hindering the democratic use of spectrum but universal access in general.
There are a lot of opportunities to reduce barriers so that other models and even the market-based models can flourish.
An important policy would be, for instance, like in Brazil to promote small operators with much less regulatory burden. You don't want to regulate small providers as if they had market power. You put the heavy regulation in those that have market power.
And there is also a huge need, and this goes also in Africa, in this continent and everywhere for more effective competition. We don't want a world of one mobile operator at the national level and not even two because they can coordinate and collude.
So much more work on effective competition is lowering barriers for small operators, both commercial and not for profit. And keep -- we all have to keep an eye of the innovation in spectrum management with all of the technologies and models available and making sure that the dynamic databases that make it possible to share like, for instance, in the white spaces but that they are affordable because this dynamic spectrum sharing could be very expense. Thank you.
>> SONIA JORGE: Really good points. Juliano, I think it is your turn.
>> JULIANO CAPPI: I tried to step back and say if internet is opening vulnerable groups to improve their lives.
There are enough research to support the existence of -- the existence of what we could call collateral damage of internet access especially within vulnerable groups.
We have also research to support internet plays role in witnessing public institution all around the world and even throughout the democracy.
This is a result among other causes that derives from the deep imbalance and political disputes in society most exercised within are from the internet and some are using the internet to explore other weaker groups.
In the sense the internet is the tool of the stronger to achieve their political goals regardless boundaries, regulation and even the governance and social construct we built so far.
And, of course, I'm looking through a negative lenses. In this case, shouldn't we question the extent that the concept of meaningful connectivity is increasing the reach and the power of the strong? We have to go beyond meaningful connectivity.
We have to go beyond connectivity. We have to understand and agree over what are the key elements of internet access which could help urgently the vulnerable or weaker social groups to gain autonomy and capacity to act in order to achieve their political and personal goals.
I think the concept of meaningful access should encompass these elements, and I think that we should start to guide public policy to address connectivity considering these elements to help internet improve society. This is my comment.
>> SONIA JORGE: I think someone might want to respond to you. Not -- you wanted to say something? Okay. Why don't you go to the mic. Sorry.
>> AUDIENCE: Maybe something about also the framework, the legal framework.
By our constitution, meaningful access to the internet is a human right. I think it is a beginning of a story. Where is our colleagues from different countries?
We have European -- we don't care actually about the radio frequencies because it is free. I'm talking about 2.5 and 5. But we have not this bottlenecks but don't talk about the business models and sustainability of the community networks.
It is very important to understand how can we cover operational costs because it is existing challenge for every network. That's my small expression about it.
>> SONIA JORGE: Thank you. Adriana, I don't know if you want to address that. Remind me of what you said in the past about the sustainability of community networks and related to the solutions around not just reducing in many cases eliminating costs associated with spectrum but facilitating a completely different framework for connectivity that is for social purpose, for rural areas and for low income communities, et cetera.
We are running out of time, and I'm supposed to as Laura just reminded me earlier to have a quick summary. And we have exactly two minutes and 26 seconds to do that.
First of all, thank you to those of you participated in the session today. Thank you to Ana and Roberto here in person and Laura and Carlos, Juliano and Luiza and my colleague Natalia. Thank you, Adriana, for joining from Mexico. I hope it was useful.
We invite you to look at a lot of the information that is being published and that many of the organizations you heard here speak are also sharing. Maybe my team also shared on the chat.
Reach out to us any time. I wanted to say as a closing remark, some of your questions and having spoken to so many here at IGF, I'm pleased to have had the opportunity and thank Roberto and Kareem and Carlos and others for bringing me to the policy network.
I'm pleased we are thinking about this new way. I'm also very pleased that we are using this momentum in a way that is unique. For many years, as Carlos pointed out and you made me feel very old, Carlos, so you know. Kept looking at the history and all of the discussions on universal access started.
And to me it is like well, that means I have been doing this for close to 30 years. That's not a good sign because that means we didn't make as much progress as we thought in 30 years. We did make some progress. Technology and innovation have evolved in completely new ways, right?
I was telling my team just about 25 years ago I was timing my ability to go change -- I mean transfer files at night at midnight on a dialup connection to send my work back to the office to my colleagues and this was just 25 years ago.
We live in a different world and that comes with different responsibilities and duties. What I like to remind myself and others is that as digital citizens and citizens of a digital society and we have rights, and we must demand better and for the right quality of connectivity.
But we also have a duty as citizens. That duty is in terms of how do we use? How do we share? Can we be safe? Do we know how to use the privacy, and do we have the skills to be really strong digital citizens? And if we don't, we need to work at that and help the next person next to us to do the same.
I think the collective responsibility of not only making sure that we can bring better and more connectivity to the world also comes with the personal and collective responsibility is really important.
So I want to leave you with that. Meaningful connectivity and meaningful action in general comes with the collective responsibility as we have a role to play. The Alliance for Affordable Internet and the MAG at IGF and all of you present here have a role to play.
Private sector, civil society, governments, foundations, do it. If you don't know what to do, there are many that have good ideas for you. Take a look and ask if you want to know more. Ask anyone from the team. There is many of us here. Thank you again. Thank you to the colleagues for organizing and pulling it all together.
Laura, Luiza and Juliano, thank you. From Katowice, we say goodbye to you and thank you for everything. Bye bye.
>> Thank you all.