IGF 2023 WS #165 Beyond universality: the meaningful connectivity imperative

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (00:45 UTC) - Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (02:15 UTC)
WS 3 – Annex Hall 2

Digital Divides & Inclusion
Affordable Access
Gender Digital Divide
Skills Building for Basic and Advanced Technologies (Meaningful Access)

Organizer 1: Martin Schaaper, ITU
Organizer 2: Geiger Thierry, International Telecommunication Union
Organizer 3: Esperanza Magpantay Magpantay, 🔒
Organizer 4: Deniz Susar, 🔒UN DESA

Speaker 1: Agne Vaiciukeviciute, Government, Eastern European Group
Speaker 2: Peter Mariën, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 3: Anir Chowdhury, Government, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Alexandre Barbosa, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Deniz Susar, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Online Moderator

Geiger Thierry, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Martin Schaaper, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Panel - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. How can governments and stakeholders ensure universal and meaningful digital connectivity for all citizens, particularly those in underserved and marginalized communities? B. How can policymakers establish robust measurement frameworks and indicators to accurately assess the progress, impact, and effectiveness of initiatives aimed at achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants and attendees of this session will learn how universal and meaningful connectivity is defined, how it can help reaching underserved communities, which are the targets and baseline indicators needed to assess where a country stands, and the importance of including the concept in national policy plans. Specific country examples will help bring the concept to life.


Over the past 30 years, the number of Internet users surged from a few million to 5.3 billion. Yet the potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains untapped: one-third of humanity remains offline, and many users only enjoy basic connectivity. Multiple digital divides persist across and within countries, between men and women, between youth and older persons, between cities and rural areas, between those who enjoy a fibre connection and those who struggle on a spotty 3G connection. Achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity —the possibility for everyone to enjoy a safe, satisfying, enriching, productive and affordable online experience— is key for enabling digital transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Connecting everyone is no longer enough. Universality without meaningful connectivity does not allow to harness the Internet to its full potential. Worse: the risk is that connectivity and technology in general deepen existing economic and social inequalities across and within countries, that they become dividers rather than equalizers. This session will discuss the importance of integrating Universal and Meaningful Connectivity into digital strategies. It will feature policymakers and practitioners who will share their experience in promoting universal and meaningful connectivity, their successes, and the challenges they face. The session will also highlight the importance -- and challenges – of measuring of measuring the enablers of meaningful connectivity.

Expected Outcomes

Expected outcomes are an increased awareness of universal and meaningful connectivity among policy makers, the importance of including it in policy plans as well as the need for a set of indicators to assess country progress in bridging digital divides and achieving universal and meaningful connectivity. The presented materials will be made available and a report of the session will be produced and published.

Hybrid Format: One person from the organisers (ITU) will be dedicated to facilitate the interaction between onsite and online. This person will relay questions that are posed online to the session moderator, and will also respond in the chat function of the online tool. At least one of the panellists will be online, who will be integrated seamlessly in the panel. ITU has a lot of experience with organising this kind of hybrid events, and this experience will be leveraged to the proposed workshop.