Defining universal and meaningful access: What are the key elements that constitute universal and meaningful Internet access? How can it be measured? How is the concept evolving in time and what does this evolution mean for policy?
Barriers to universal and meaningful access: What are the main challenges that people face in obtaining and making full use of Internet access? To what extent are these the result of social, economic and cultural factors, and to what extent do they result from aspects of the digital environment? How can we use the responses to these questions to better understand the intersection between digital policies and other policy areas? Can this understanding help us to develop and implement more realistic Internet-related policy goals?
Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the crucial role the digital environment plays in our everyday lives and further accelerated the digital transformation. As a result, the need for an inclusive connectivity, i.e. ubiquitous access to affordable high-quality broadband services has become even more critical. The pandemic furthermore demonstrated an urgent need to establish enabling and equitable conditions for all, especially for vulnerable groups such as children, so that they can exercise their rights and engage with the digital environment in a safe and beneficial manner.
This Open Forum seeks to reflect on these pressing issues by reporting on two key legal instruments recently adopted by the OECD: (i) the Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity and (ii) the Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment:
The OECD Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity responds to the need to develop a holistic set of policies and regulation to ensure that citizens and organisations are connected well and that connectivity is expanded to areas that are lacking adequate levels of Internet access. The Recommendation provides a reference for policy makers and regulatory authorities within and outside of the OECD. Using the goals of the Recommendation as a “roadmap”, countries may be better able to unleash the full potential of connectivity for the digital transformation and to ensure equal access to connectivity for citizens and companies.
The OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment recognizes that the digital environment is a fundamental part of children’s daily lives and interactions, and responds to the urgent need for governments to set coherent policy and legal frameworks around which children can be supported and protected online. It seeks to address the delicate trade-off between enabling the opportunities that the digital environment can bring to children and protecting them from its risks.
This Open Forum will reflect on these two Recommendations by engaging representatives from government, business, and civil society with an aim to address the issues (i) around access to connectivity as well as (ii) the safe and beneficial use of digital environment for children.
In particular, this session aims to address two main questions: • How can governments and regulators unleash the full potential of connectivity for the digital transformation and ensure equal access to connectivity for all? • How can governments establish more enabling and equitable conditions for children to ensure that they can realise the benefits of the digital environment and protect them from its risks?
This Open Forum has two main parts: 1. The first panel of high-level experts discusses the OECD Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity: a. The moderator gives a short introduction and sets the scene for the interventions of the panellists (1.5 minutes). b. The three high-level panellists present their views on the opportunities of and challenges to the provision of ubiquitous coverage and high-quality Internet access (15 minutes). c. Questions and answers (11 minutes) - The moderator opens the floor for questions and answers between the audience and the panellists.
2. The second panel will discuss the OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment: a. The moderator gives a short introduction and sets the scene for the interventions of the panellists (1.5 minutes). b. The four high-level panellists present their views on establishing a safe and beneficial digital environment for children (16 minutes). c. Questions and answers (10 minutes) - The moderator opens the floor for a section of questions and answers between the audience and panellists.
• The event will be held online. The OECD will advertise the event in the community of the Committee on Digital Economy Policy, the Working Party on Communication Infrastructure and Services Policy, as well as the Working Party on Data Governance and the Privacy in the Digital Economy Policy. In addition, the OECD will advertise the event through its network and informal groups of experts which are expected to reach audiences beyond OECD member-countries.
- Bengt Molleryd, Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) and Chair of OECD’s Working Party on Communication Infrastructure and Services Policy
- Guilherme Roschke, Counsel for International Consumer Protection at the United States Federal Trade Commission and Vice Chair of the OECD Working Party on Data Governance and Privacy in the Digital Economy
- Audrey Plonk, Head of Division, Digital Economy Policy
- Maximilian Reisch, OECD
- Andras Molnar, OECD
- Hokuto Nakagawa, OECD
Part 1 - Akihiko Sasaki, Director, Multilateral Economic Affairs Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan - Daniel Cavalcanti, Coordinator, Telecommunications Policy, Ministry of Communications, Brazil - Zeimm Auladin-Suhootoorah, Manager, BDO IT Consulting
Part 2 - Elettra Ronchi, Senior Policy Analyst, Head of the Data Governance and Privacy Unit in the Division for Digital Economy Policy, OECD - Brian O’Neill, Director or Research, Enterprise & Innovation Services, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland - Alexandre Barbosa, Head of the Center of Studies for Information and Communications Technologies (CETIC.br), Brazil - Amelia Vance, Director of Youth and Education Privacy, Future of Privacy Forum, United States
Bengt Molleryd (Part I), Guilherme Roschke (Part II), Audrey Plonk
Andras Molnar, Maximilian Reisch
3. Good Health and Well-Being
4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
13. Climate Action
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals
Targets: SDG Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages): o The OECD Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity promotes the elimination of digital divides and access to connectivity for all, including all locations, genders, abilities, and socio-economic circumstances. The Recommendation explicitly mentions the promotion of programmes for low-income and other non-adopting households. o In addition, the OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment also refers to the digital environment as a fundamental part of children’s lives in a number of contexts, including in formal and informal health services. It also calls upon Actors (i.e. all public and private organisations who play an active role in setting policies and practices or providing services for children in the digital environment) to make children, as well as their parents, guardians, and carers, aware of legal, psychosocial, or therapeutic services available. SDG Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all): o Access to high-quality connectivity becomes increasingly indispensable to ensure equal access to education. The OECD Recommendation on Broadband connectivity promotes the elimination of digital divides. It promotes access for all and fostering the adoption and effective use of advanced broadband services at affordable prices, accessible for everyone, including all locations, genders, abilities, and socio-economic circumstances. o The OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment also highlights the importance of education for children, specifically calls for the support of teachers, and promotes digital literacy as an essential tool for meeting the needs of children in the digital environment. SDG Goal 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls): o The OECD Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity explicitly promotes access to connectivity and effective use of advanced broadband services at affordable prices, accessible for everyone, including all genders. o The OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment has specific parts which recognise that there are specific groups of children who may require specific attention because of their age, maturity and circumstances – including gender. The needs of girls, or other children who might suffer increased exposure to risk, or who may suffer bias and discrimination purely because of who they are is also captured in the Recommendation. SDG Goal 9 (Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation): o Target 9c of the SDGs called to “significantly increase access to ICT and strive to provide universal and affordable access to Internet in LDCs by 2020”. The OECD Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity provides a roadmap for ubiquitous connectivity, promoting resilient, reliable, secure, and high-capacity networks, access to connectivity for all, and measures to foster innovation in broadband development, among others. It furthermore promotes the minimisation of environmental impacts of communication networks. SDG Goal 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries): o The Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity recognises the importance of connectivity for the promotion of equal opportunities for all and the need for policies supporting access to ubiquitous deployment and use of broadband infrastructure and services. It furthermore contains several provisions to eliminate digital divides and promotes access for all, including all locations, genders, abilities, and socio-economic circumstances. o The Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment seeks to ensure that no child is more vulnerable to risk because of their particular social or economic circumstances and that no child is at risk of being excluded or discriminated against, or likely to suffer a future bias, because of: (i) a lack of digital access or digital literacy; (ii) inappropriate digital access or digital literacy; or (iii) the way in which services are designed SDG Goal 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts): o The Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity recognises the positive and negative impact of communication networks and services on the environment. It furthermore promotes the minimisation of negative environmental impacts of communication networks. SDG Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels): o Access to high-quality connectivity increasingly becomes a prerequisite for an inclusive society. The OECD Recommendation on Broadband connectivity promotes the elimination of digital divides. It promotes access for all and fostering the adoption and effective use of advanced broadband services at affordable prices, accessible for everyone, including all locations, genders, abilities, and socio-economic circumstances. o The Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment has a specific section on “Appropriateness and Inclusion”, which states that Actors should (i) account for the different needs of different children, taking into consideration their age and maturity and (ii) seek to ensure that no child is more vulnerable to risk because of their particular social or economic circumstances. The instrument also recommends that Adherents demonstrate leadership and commitment taking into account the best interests of the child by (i) adopting clear policy objectives at the highest level of government; (ii) articulating a whole-of-government approach, through a national strategy where appropriate, that is flexible, technology neutral, and coherent with other strategies for fostering a sustainable and inclusive digital economy; and (iii) consider establishing oversight bodies. SDG Goal 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development): o The OECD Recommendation on Broadband connectivity promotes the elimination of digital divides. It promotes access for all and fostering the adoption and effective use of advanced broadband services at affordable prices, accessible for everyone, including all locations, genders, abilities, and socio-economic circumstances. In addition, it promotes the minimisation of negative environmental impacts of communication networks.
• Ubiquitous access to affordable high-quality broadband services has become even more critical with the Covid-19 pandemic. The health crisis furthermore demonstrated an urgent need to establish enabling and equitable conditions for vulnerable groups such as children, so that they can exercise their rights and engage with the digital environment in a safe and beneficial manner.
Foster the full potential of high-quality connectivity and ensure equal access and a safe and beneficial digital environment for all, including children.
This Open Forum reflected on the OECD Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity (part I) and the OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment (part II) by engaging representatives from government, business, and civil society.
The three participants to the panel in the first part agreed that the OECD Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity presents a key reference for policy makers and regulatory authorities to unleash the full potential of connectivity.
Akihiko Sasaki from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications indicated that the key to success is to keep modernising regulations for communication services so that the government is able to foster investment and innovation. Such regulations may include simplified entry procedures, open access to essential facilities, and fair competition for service while safeguarding consumer’s rights.
He furthermore mentioned that where market-based approaches are not sufficient, the government could support deploying ICT infrastructure and use cases through national development plans. As local governments play a major role in broadband deployment, leadership and understanding of local decision makers is important to implement the plans.
Daniel Cavalcanti from the Brazilian Ministry of Communications added that policy and regulation play a key role in addressing the challenges of expanding coverage and providing high-quality broadband access, while promoting competition and investment.
He pointed at the importance of open and neutral Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). Furthermore, mobile connectivity, while not a substitute for fibre, is necessarily part of the solution to provide affordable access for all.
Mr Cavalcanti moreover mentioned the crucial role of fibre infrastructure for robust and resilient broadband networks. New mobile 5G networks will require the use of fibre backhaul, presenting an opportunity to promote sustainable fibre network expansion.
Finally, Zeimm Auladin-Suhootoorah from BDO IT Consulting pointed at the security risks that are growing every day, especially since the pandemic. She added that it is essential that adequate resources are allocated to promote the improvement of digital skills for all users of the internet.
She furthermore highlighted the importance of a coordinated approach towards monitoring networks and that we need to have policies in place to ensure that network service providers provide transparent reporting so that end-users can make better choices.
Monitoring of data through internet exchange gateways can be very useful in securing the internet. The use of Artificial Intelligence can make securing public networks proactive rather than reactive. However, we have to be careful on the limits of monitoring information on the internet and have a multistakeholder and transparent approach so that the data is not used for repression by some governments.
The second part of the panel focused on the OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment. Elettra Ronchi from the OECD Secretariat started this part of the panel by providing an overview of the Recommendation.
Ms Ronchi higlighted that the the OECD Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment, which was adopted in May 2021 at the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, aims to help countries to find a balance between protecting children from online risks, and promoting the opportunities and benefits that the digital world provides. The Recommendation sets out principles for promoting a safe and beneficial digital environment for children, recommendations on overarching policy frameworks, and highlights the importance of international co-operation.
Ms Ronchi higlighted that alongside the Recommendation, the OECD developed the Guidelines for Digital Service Providers, in recognition of the essential role they play in providing a safe and beneficial digital environment. The Guidelines aim to support digital service providers in taking actions that may directly or indirectly affect children in the digital environment. Ms Ronchi concluded her presentation by noting that the Guidelines are intended to complement the Recommendation, and to be read in conjunction with it.
Following Ms Ronchi’s presentation, Brian O’Neill took the floor and focused on key findings from Ireland’s National Advisory Council for Online Safety report. Many of the findings arising out of this research reflect the key conclusions of the OECD’s substantial analytical work which underpinned the Recommendation. In particular, Mr O’Neill highlighted that most children feel safe in the digital environment, they are positive about it and recognise that it provides them a wide array of opportunities. In spite of these benefits, as underlined by the OECD’s own revised Typology of Risks, there are significant concerns for children in the digital environment including content, contact, and conduct risks among others. These risks were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Mr O’Neill’s presentation, Alexandre Barbosa provided an overview from the angle of measurement. Although there are advances in connectivity, Mr Barbosa’s research from Brazil clearly showed that there is still work to be done to address the digital divide for children. In this regard, providing conditions to ensure physical access to the Internet are essential, but are not sufficient. It is also essential that children can access digital devices that are appropriate for their intended use. For instance, mobile devices with low functionality may limit their usability for children when they are using them to undertake complex tasks, such as writing or doing homework. It is also crucial that children are equipped with the necessary digital literacy skills.
Lastly, Amelia Vance provided a perspective on the unintended consequences of laws and regulations and outlined possible solutions on how we stakeholders can mitigate these concerns. These include being specific about which risks the policy is intended to address or bringing marginalized groups into policymaking.
Finally, Ms Audrey Plonk from the OECD provided concluding remarks and thanked the moderators, speakers and participants of the panel.