IGF 2023 WS #198 All hands on deck to connect the next billions

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (05:45 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (06:15 UTC)
WS 5 – Room B-2

Organizer 1: Timea Suto, 🔒International Chamber of Commerce
Organizer 2: Rose Payne, International Chamber of Commerce

Speaker 1: Barrionuevo Pablo, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Onica Makwakwa
Speaker 3: Atsuko Okuda, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 4: Motohisa Takashi, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Giacomo Persi Paoli
Speaker 6: Mwangi Michuki, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 7: Joe Welch



Timea Suto, Private Sector, Eastern European Group

Online Moderator

Rose Payne, Private Sector, Intergovernmental Organization


Meni ANASTASIADOU, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

How can a holistic ecosystem approach support universal meaningful connectivity and what is the role of the public and private sectors in that regard? How can investment in all types of technologies accelerate the delivery of universal meaningful connectivity and bridge the digital divide? What are the elements needed for the creation of an enabling environment that not only promotes, but effectively enables such investment?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants will gain an understanding of the various technical, economic and regulatory barriers to delivering universal meaningful connectivity and discuss innovative solutions to surmount these barriers. Through real-life case studies, participants will also be able to gain a good grip on the decision-making process behind public and private investments in connectivity projects and discuss policy solutions that enable such investment.


  1. Mr Pablo Barrionuevo, Public and Corporate Affairs Manager, Telefonica
  2. Ms Onica Makwakwa, Co-Executive Director, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP)
  3. Mr Takashi Motohisa, Private Sector, Manager, International Regulatory Affairs, Project Kuiper, Amazon
  4. Mr Michuki Mwangi, Distinguished Technologist, Internet Growth, Internet Society 
  5. Ms Atsuko Okuda, Regional Director, ITU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
  6. Mr Giacomo Persi Paoli, Head of the Security and Technology Programme, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR)
  7. Mr Joe Welch, Vice President Global Public Policy, Asia Pacific, The Walt Disney Company

Reference projects and documents


Meaningful connectivity is a formidable engine of innovation, competitiveness, and sustainable economic growth, charting a path towards a digital future that works for everyone, everywhere. While there are numerous private ventures, intergovernmental agreements and multistakeholder commitments to advance universal meaningful connectivity, 2.7 billion of the world’s population remains unconnected. The connectivity gap and its causes are not uniform. The unconnected are either ‘uncovered’ or ‘covered but not connected.’ Although there continue to be significant increases in Internet adoption, inequalities persist and will do, unless both the coverage and usage gaps are addressed. For this, dedicated and effective actions are needed across the entire ICT ecosystem of (i) accessible and affordable infrastructure and devices, (ii) relevant applications, services and content built upon the infrastructure, and (iii) user ability to understand and engage with these devices and services. To effectively bridge persisting gaps in connectivity, we need to look beyond traditional economic, technological and regulatory approaches and encourage innovation, cooperation and partnerships to find solutions flexible enough to respond to specific local circumstances and enable continued investments in connectivity. This workshop will bring together policy and technology experts that work on delivering universal connectivity through varied technologies, economic and business models as well as policy and regulatory approaches. The session aims to take stock of their experiences and discuss concrete approaches that can be transposed or scaled up to enable non-traditional and innovative solutions to ensure meaningful connectivity to everyone, everywhere. The session will also take stock of the policy environment required to enable investment and cross-sector partnerships, specifically between the private and public sectors while unlocking and harnessing the potential of all types of technologies.

Expected Outcomes

In line with the premise that the vision to bring meaningful connectivity to all depends on a multistakeholder collaboration model, alias on technological, financial and regulatory support, the session will demonstrate real-life case studies, and highlight how innovative technologies, regulatory frameworks, financial and investment approaches or business models can help address these barriers. In turn, the session will also identify concrete policy solutions that can be transposed or scaled up to empower relevant stakeholders to achieve universal meaningful connectivity and bridge the digital divide.

Hybrid Format: Prior to the session: to ensure speakers and attendees get the most out of the session, regardless of their chosen way of participation, organizers will make use of the session’s page on the IGF website and social media channels to share preparatory material and kick-start a dialogue. A preparation call will be organised for all speakers, moderators and co-organisers so that everyone has the chance to meet and prepare for the session. During the session: the moderators are experienced in animating multistakeholder discussions and will complement each other in merging onsite and online speakers and attendees to the optimum. Onsite participants will be encouraged to connect to the online platform to stay informed and engage with discussions in the chat. Following the session: moderators will encourage participants to make use of the IGF website and social media channels to share further comments and contribute to the session’s report.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)
The session underscored that connectivity holds immense transformative potential, yet it grapples with several impediments. These include the challenges of rural connectivity and the staggering negative impact of the digital gender gap. Technological and policy innovation is pivotal in closing the connectivity gap. Better metrics, realistic policy targets and collaborative, whole-of society approaches are essential to overcome the challenges.
Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)
Governments must invest in infrastructure, accommodate rising demand for connectivity, and prioritize skills development. Stakeholders should work together to address barriers and bridge the digital divide through a partnership-driven approach. Other stakeholders should continue innovating to expand connectivity and form partnerships. A collaborative, whole-of-society approach is essential to achieve and reap the benefits of global connectivity.
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Introduction and key takeaways

Meaningful connectivity fuels innovation, competitiveness, and sustainable growth for all, but despite numerous private ventures, intergovernmental agreements and multistakeholder commitments to advance universal meaningful connectivity, 2.6 billion of the world’s population remains unconnected. To bridge this gap, it is important to go beyond traditional approaches and encourage innovation, cooperation, and flexible solutions to connect the next billions.

The session brought together policy and technology experts to discuss concrete approaches to scale up innovative solutions for universal meaningful connectivity, while fostering investment and cross-sector partnerships to unlock the potential of ICTs and digital technologies.

Against this backdrop, the speakers addressed the multifaceted challenges that impede widespread connectivity, including the challenges of bringing remote rural areas online and addressing the digital gender gap, which if closed, is estimated to have the potential to add 3 trillion USD to global GDP annually. Furthermore, the discussions underscored the need for the development of more robust metrics for measuring inclusivity and the setting of realistic policy targets to connect underserved populations effectively. The crucial role of governments in enabling meaningful connectivity took centre stage, with a call for greater investment, readiness to meet the burgeoning demand for connectivity, and the imperative of nurturing the required skills.

The speakers delved deep into strategies aimed at dismantling the various barriers obstructing universal connectivity, with a particular emphasis on the role of the private sector in bridging the coverage and usage gaps through innovative approaches.

Overall, consensus emerged among the speakers, who highlighted the importance of a collaborative partnership approach in delivering universal, meaningful connectivity. It was emphasised that all stakeholders, including governments, private sector, civil society and academia, must come together to collectively address the challenge of connecting the next billions through a holistic whole-of-society, or ecosystem, approach. This unified effort is seen as the most effective means of ensuring that no one is left behind in the global digital transformation.

Call to action

Governments have a significant role to play by dedicating resources to develop essential infrastructure, catering to the rising demand for connectivity, and helping people to build digital skills. Collaboration among diverse stakeholders is vital to effectively bridge the digital divide, with a strong emphasis on fostering partnerships. Realising the benefits of global connectivity requires a comprehensive, whole-of-society approach. Moreover, it's imperative that all stakeholders can continue to innovate, which requires an enabling policy environment. When developing policy and regulatory frameworks, it is essential to recognise the value of the entire communication and digital services landscape. These frameworks should be unbiased, adaptable to different technologies, and supportive of innovative business models, diverse technologies, standards, and system architectures.

Further reading

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), White Paper on Delivering Universal Meaningful Connectivity

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Paper on Digitalisation for People, Planet and Prosperity