IGF 2021 Open Forum #9 Commonwealth Hard Talk for Action

Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (14:00 UTC) - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (15:00 UTC)
Ballroom C

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?
Leveraging infrastructure and technology innovation and development: How can the significant expansion of mobile infrastructure around the world, as well as other existing and emerging technologies such as satellite, fibre, and wireless networks, be used to expand affordable access?

Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min


The Commonwealth Hard Talk for Action session seeks to discuss fostering meaningful connectivity for Digital Transformation. The session, through hard conversation will cut through the platitudes and excuses for the subject matter to come up with practical solutions for the issue at hand. The session will discuss the key elements for universal and meaningful access. The need for political will be addressed as a crucial factor in achieving digital transformation. Ensuring that all people everywhere have meaningful and sustainable access to the Internet is a priority. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a devastating impact on the life and livelihoods of many around the world especially the most vulnerable. This has in turn set back the path to achieving 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The circumstances have changed drastically and there is a greater need for information and communication technologies (ICT) to accelerate connectivity and foster digital transformation.

We plan the session to be hybrid as per IGF guidelines. We will encourage interactions by having a panel discussion with opportunity for questions and answer. We design the session to ensure participants have a chance to discuss the issues presented by the panelists. We will have both online and offsite moderators. In addition to the IGF online tools we will look into the possibilities of complementary online tools for the session.


Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation

  1. Ms. Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General, Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation 
  2. Prof. Tim Unwin, UNESCO Chair ICT for Development, Royal Holloway, University of London - Provocateur/Moderator
  3. Hon. Hassel Bacchus, Minister of Digital Transformation, Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago - Engendering Political Will for Digital Transformation
  4. Mr. Peter Goodwin, CEO & Founder Circle Gx Nevada MD Inc - 5G Technology for Meaningful Connectivity
  5. Prof. Avinash Persaud, Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Barbados - Building the Economy - a Digital Approach
  6. Mr. Neil Masterson, Chief Executive Officer - New Satellite Technology for Meaningful Connectivity



Onsite Moderator

Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation

Online Moderator

Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation


Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation



Targets: The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization recognises the negative impact of COVID-19 on the achievement of 2030 Agenda in least developed and developing countries and small islands which form a big part of the Commonwealth family. It therefore calls for strengthening of cooperation among partners since global response to pandemics require unity and solidarity. The Commonwealth Hard Talk for Action with the theme of Fostering meaningful connectivity for Digital Transformation directly links to the SDG 1.4, 19.1, 17.7 as described below:

1.4 By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.

9.1 Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

17.7 Promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Technology has been democratised and this presents an opportunity to create new business models, and dynamic ecosystems that leverage the technology.

Benefitting from the technical revolution requires an environment that invests in and supports those falling behind and empowers them to help themselves.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Long-term developmental plans that transcend the politics of the day are essential for keeping the momentum on digital transformation.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The session started well on time with welcome remarks from the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO). She opened the session with a quick update on CTO’s work noting that CTO has restructured operations to support members in digital transformation. She reiterated that meaningful connectivity encompasses affordable and availability of appropriate content to advance citizens lives.

The provocateur introduced speakers who discussed the topic of the day with a focus on the underlying issues of policy implementation as opposed to formulation only. It was clear that many governments have previously talked about lofty plans for ICT adoption but ultimately there has been no action.  Hence the session tried to expose platitudes and find substance of cogent thought that could lead to action that fosters meaningful connectivity for digital transformation. The session was attended by 36 participants of which 33.3% were women.

Key points of discussion included:

  1. Long-term developmental plans that transcend the politics of the day are essential for keeping the momentum on digital transformation.
  2. Benefitting from the technical revolution requires an environment that invests in and supports those falling behind and empowers them to help themselves.
  3. Digital government is an important step for fostering access and connectivity and empowering citizens.
  4. Universal connectivity depends on partnerships.
  5. Technology has been democratised and this presents an opportunity to  create new business  models, and dynamic ecosystems  that leverage the technology.
  6. In digital transformations there are winners and losers and it is crucial to invest in the losers in order for them to benefit from the new economy brought about by the emerging technology.
  7. Committed support from key influencers in government to support the digital transformation such as Heads of governments is very crucial. This can be limited by the barriers to political will such as ignorance and cultural differences.


  1. There is a need to cultivate mindsets that encourages the creation and ownership of technology.
  2. Challenging status quo breaks the political barriers.
  3. Appropriate legislation for digital environment is key to fostering digital literacy.
  4. Digital connectivity tends to increase inequality if it’s not affordable.