The concept of meaningful access has emerged in response to the growing body of evidence that even when people have connectivity, they might not have been fully benefiting from the Internet. How one gets connected to the Internet is an equally important challenge to the experience that person will have once they are online. While access to infrastructure is critical, without this access being inclusive, useful, sustainable and affordable, and linked to human capacity development and relevant content that can make it so, it will not achieve its positive potential. Many of the efforts on access, unfortunately, are only focusing on bringing connections to final users (=consumers), without taking into consideration the potential of the internet as a way to create, communicate and produce contents and services locally and in local languages (=citizens).
During its pilot year, the PNMA has been successful in building a "network of experts” - the Multistakeholder Working Group (MWG) - and in providing linkages with ongoing relevant discussions in other fora. Moreover, to achieve its desired impacts, in 2022 the policy network focused on formulating a work plan which connects with the future framework of the “new” IGF as it will be defined by the ongoing reform process.
Therefore, this session addresses discussions and good practices around the three overarching thematic workstreams: Connectivity (Infrastructure & Business Models), Digital Inclusion through citizen approach (accessibility & multilingualism: local services and contents in local languages based on local needs and resources) and Capacity Development (technical skills training), with attention to the highlighted goals and proposed outcomes.
Moderation onsite: Giacomo Mazzone - PNMA co-chair; Independent Moderation online: Sonia Jorge - PNMA co-chair; Founder and Executive Director, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership Video message: Vint Cerf - Chair, IGF Leadership Panel
PNMA focal point: Daphnee Iglesias - UN IGF Consultant for meaningful access and gender
- Onica Makwakwa - Head of Africa, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership
- Carlos Rey-Moreno - Co-lead Local Networks: Policy and Strategy - Association for Progressive Communications
- Chris Hajecki - Director, Ads for News
- Margaret Nyambura Ndung’u - Senior ICT Regulatory and Internet Governance Expert - PRIDA, AUC (Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa, African Union Commission)
- Poncelet O. Ileleji, Lead - Jokkolabs Banjul / The Gambia NRI
- Sofie Maddens - Head of the Regulatory and Market Environment Division, ITU BDT
- Tigist Kebede - CEO, Habeshaview Technology & Multimedia
1) Meaningful access is indispensable to comply with the Goal to give access to the Internet to all citizens of the world. The main obstacles to be solved are affordability, adaptability and security, all with an important gender dimension;
2) Public policies at the national, regional and global level are needed to incentive and implement the best practices that have been identified during the session and in the output report such as community networks, production of local contents, spectrum use for common good.
*Link to the output report will be added after its publication
IGF 2022 Policy Network on Meaningful Access
Main Session Report
Thursday, 1st December, 12:15 – 13:45 UTC
Room CR1, UNECA
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Onsite moderation: Giacomo Mazzone – PNMA co-chair; Independent
Online moderation online: Sonia Jorge – PNMA co-chair; Founder and Executive Director, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership
Video message: Vint Cerf – Chair, IGF Leadership Panel
PNMA focal point: Daphnee Iglesias – UN IGF Consultant for meaningful access and gender
Vint Cerf – Chair, IGF Leadership panel
Sofie Maddens – Head of the Regulatory and Market Environment Division, ITU BDT
Carlos Rey-Moreno - Co-lead Local Networks: Policy and Strategy, Association for Progressive Communications
Poncelet O. Ileleji, Lead - Jokkolabs Banjul / The Gambia NRI
Margaret Nyambura Ndung’u - Senior ICT Regulatory and Internet Governance Expert - PRIDA, AUC (Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa, African Union Commission)
Onica Makwakwa - Head of Africa, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership
Chris Hajecki - Director, Ads for News
Tigist Kebede - CEO, Habeshaview Technology & Multimedia
Interventions from the floor:
Laurent Ferrali, ICANN
Túlio César Mourthé de Alvim Andrade, Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Bertrand Mouillier, Narval Media
2. About the session / key policy questions
The concept of meaningful access has emerged in response to the growing body of evidence that even when people have connectivity, they might not have been fully benefiting from the Internet. How one gets connected to the Internet is an equally important challenge to the experience that person will have once they are online. While access to infrastructure is critical, without this access being inclusive, useful, sustainable and affordable, in addition to providing capacity development and relevant local content, it will not achieve its positive potential.
In 2022 the PNMA focused on formulating a work plan which connected its actions with the future framework of the “new” IGF and the GDC. Therefore, this main session addressed discussions and good practices around three overarching thematic workstreams:
Connectivity (Infrastructure & Business Models);
Digital Inclusion through citizen approach (accessibility & multilingualism: local services and contents in local languages based on local needs and resources);
Capacity Development (technical skills training), with attention to the highlighted goals and proposed outcomes.
3. Summary of issues discussed
The session started with a video message from Vint Cerf (Google / Chair of the IGF Leadership Panel). Both the recording and his interventions from the stage underlined that the key elements for a successful meaningful access are a) affordability; b) adaptability; c) inclusion, and d) reliability and security. Here are the reasons:
Affordability because the actual costs for accessing the internet are still out of reach of populations of many developing countries. Various solutions could be used to solve this obstacle, such as subsidies from the users or the ISP (e.g., richer areas paying higher tariffs than poorer ones), from the states, or encouraging the creation of community networks – for instance, integrating the internet networks with energy distribution networks.
Adaptability because currently there are more technological solutions available, which could provide answers to different needs: from 4G and 5G networks; to low orbit satellites networks; to frequency sharing between various kind of users.
Inclusion because all solutions need to integrate a mechanism to avoid the risk to leave behind the most vulnerable groups, such as the disabled or the illiterate – they represent nearly 1 billion in world population.
Reliability and security because the worst could happen for those just recently connected, to fall victims of attacks or cybercrime. In this sense, one of the preconditions for the future meaningful access will be a global consensus on what is criminal on the internet.
Sofie Maddens (ITU) explained the special contribution that INGOs such as ITU are providing to bring meaningful access to least developed countries (LDCs), strengthening the capacity of governments and regulators. As examples she cited the creation and distribution of tools like the “Last Mile Connectivity Toolkit”, or the “Spectrum Management Tool”; both serve to analyse Internet coverage in a given country or region, allowing investments to be directed or concentrated where they are really needed. “Access is really about creating the enabling environment in terms of governmental economic and technological environment for everyone and everything to connect.”, she complements. The 2022 PNMA output report features said examples and another case of good practice in connectivity.
Carlos Rey-Moreno (APC) mentioned that a simple commercial approach to the problem of access is not able to solve the problems and instead, can sometimes create new barriers. Hence, it is important to build accessibility from the bottom up: from communities, solutions such as community networks should take that into account and bypass the problem of language and affordability, while respecting local traditions and culture. “Taking communication into their own hands allows them to think about alternatives that they do not put their own ways of living at risk, while at the same time maximizing the benefit that communications infrastructure bring to us all.” is his remark. The 2022 PNMA output report discusses two APC intervention cases.
Poncelet O. Ileleji (Jokkolabs Banjul) refers the case of Gambia, where affordability remains the main problem. Despite all governmental efforts and agreements with telcos, 1 GB of data costs USD 5 – while the average income in rural areas is of USD 1/day. Possible solutions would involve an act on telcos’ taxation, to convince them to support local communities; and multistakeholder partnerships, providing affordable or even free bandwidth.
Margaret Nyambura Ndung’u (PRIDA, African Union Commission) strongly believes that the solution could be a close cooperation between international organisations, regional organisations, governments, and the private sector. As a best practice, she mentioned the project PRIDA (featured in the PNMA output report), that consists of transferring capacity building skills from the Global North to the Global South. Thanks to projects like PRIDA (supported by ITU, African Union, and European Union), the 55 African national governments are trained to deal with internet in a multistakeholder way, streamlining internet governance processes and improving skills and capacity across the continent.
Onica Makwakwa (Global Digital Inclusion Partnership) underlined the importance of embedding gender policies into ICT policies, as this lack of connection is one of the main reasons of the current digital gender gap. She mentioned the work took forward by her organisation in training policy makers of various African governments – the efforts brought results as the target rate imposed by the Digital Senegal Broadband Policies Plan, to reach at least 33% of e-commerce participation by women in rural areas. Benin and Ghana have followed the example in different ways, in the name of the principle “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
On the digital inclusion dimension of meaningful access, two successful cases were presented in the panel: Chris Hajecki (Internews project “Ads for News”) explained that one of the main consequences of digitalisation is the deep crisis of local media, which traditional resources are now drained by online advertising. As a consequence, this produces the desertification of local media in many regions of the world. The project he leads, in cooperation with WAN-IFRA, consists in connecting quality local media to digital ads spenders: in 2022, digital advertising collected over USD 560 billion across the world. Ads for News identifies the existing quality media in a given region or language, provides them with a quality label, and propose to international ads spenders to use those media as vehicles for their local or regional campaigns. The project is only 18 months old but is already present in 35 markets; they aim to be working in 60 markets by the end of 2023. Other details are included in the PNMA output report.
Tigist Kebede (Habeshaview Technology & Multimedia, Ethiopia) presented herself as an entrepreneur formed abroad that returned to her own country to launch an ambitious project: a company offering a streaming service of locally created content. Habeshaview offers to its subscribers movies and audiovisual products from many African countries to regional audiences in their original languages, mostly by using automatic translation “There is nothing wrong in importing international contents –affirmed Tigist – but it is really important to preserve the culture of our countries.” Vint Cerf complemented this view mentioning the example of Canada, which imposes limits to the internal circulation of non-Canadian content, with the same goal of preserving its own local culture: “this is a key way of making the Internet meaningful in local contexts” concluded Cerf.
4. Other initiatives addressing the session issues
From the floor, we welcomed the following interventions:
Túlio César Mourthé de Alvim Andrade (Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) underlined the positive results obtained in his country by community networks’ experiences, but currently face the challenges of limited local content and the lack of a proper data policy. He stressed the need for governments and regulators to conceive a policy for the use of data within the Global South.
Laurent Ferrali (ICANN) joined the conversation on behalf of Göran Marby. He announced to the session participants the project “Digital Africa”, launched by ICANN and various partners (including ITU) on that same day at IGF. The initiative focuses on technical capacity building of 10 African countries, using toolkits, best practices, and expertise to help governments to define their own strategy and path to digital governance.
5. Gender remarks
There was a 50/50 participation of men and women in the panel: out of 8 speakers, 4 were women. One of the two moderators was also a woman. The necessity of including a gender dimension within meaningful access strategies has been underlined by many of the participants.
6. Session outputs: key takeaways, policy recommendations, suggestions
Meaningful access is indispensable to comply with the goal of enabling access to the Internet to all citizens of the world. The main obstacles to be solved are affordability, adaptability and security, all with an important gender dimension (build and improve the gender dimension within meaningful access policies);
Improve cooperation between INGOs and national governments to reinforce the capacity of local governments to develop meaningful access policies;
Public policies at the national, regional, and global level are needed to stimulate and implement the best practices that have been identified during the main session and in the output report – e.g., community networks, production of local content, and spectrum use for common good;
Start to build said policies from the community dimension and for the communities (bottom-up approach), in their own languages, investing in not-for profit entities that have a long-term perspective in the region;
Put in place policies that help to preserve the culture of each country, even if through some restrictions to the invasion of global mass content. Temporary limitations could be envisaged if such move can support the growth of local services;
There are various solutions to the problem of the cost of devices for Internet access. Alternatives include a) drive cost by design; b) use a local manufacturer; or c) tweak the supply side of the chain, with some ISPs or telcos offering a device at no charge at all in exchange for the increase of use of their services – by welcoming new customers.