IGF 2023 WS #292 Revitalizing Universal Service Funds to Promote Inclusion

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (01:30 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (03:00 UTC)
WS 2 – Room A

Digital Divides & Inclusion
Affordable Access
Gender Digital Divide

Organizer 1: Senka Hadzic, 🔒
Organizer 2: Jane Roberts Coffin , 🔒Connect Humanity

Speaker 1: Nathalia Foditsch, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Risper Arose, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Soledad Luca de Tena, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 4: Teddy Woodhouse, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Konstantinos Komaitis, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 6: Ben Matranga, Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 7: Anoop Nagendra, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Jane Roberts Coffin , Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Senka Hadzic, Civil Society, African Group


Jane Roberts Coffin , Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. How to transform and unlock universal service funds through a multistakeholder model? B. Should universal service funds support community networks and complementary access models? C. How can universal service funds be part of a blended finance and impact investment model for digital inclusion and connectivity?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants will gain new knowledge about universal service funds, their current inefficiencies, and innovative ways that governments, private sector, civil society and UN agencies are working on revitalizing and transforming them. Participants will also gain an understanding of real life examples of collaborative multistakeholder models.


Over the years, many universal service funds (USFs) have not delivered on the promise of better connectivity, have not increased accountability of service providers to the public, nor updated their programs to include a new range of connectivity providers and Internet infrastructure that emerged over the last 10-15 years. Through examination of current funds and the landscape of alternative and complementary connectivity solutions, it is possible to create more agile USFs that reach the un- and underserved, are designed considering aspects of inclusion and gender, while promoting competition and resiliency through a more diverse operator/provider base. This session proposes ideas on how to restructure USFs to expand the pool of potential beneficiaries to complementary access solutions, including community and municipal networks. Some countries have already implemented changes and initiated special projects to accommodate USF applications from non-traditional operators, and our speakers will describe these initiatives, focus on how USF funding can be part of a “blended finance” and impact investment approach to connecting more people, and describe ways for stakeholders to work with local government entities to re-frame and improve USFs .

Expected Outcomes

The session will provide recommendations for revitalizing universal service funds. These recommendations will be summarized in a report that will inform a follow-up event, to take place in November in the form of a webinar.

Hybrid Format: 1. To facilitate interaction between onsite and online speakers and attendees, we will leverage a hybrid event platform that provides real-time communication channels. For the onsite attendees, we will project the virtual attendees and their questions/comments onto the screen to ensure that both groups can engage with each other. Additionally, we will use a moderated chat on Zoom for online participants to interact with onsite speakers and vice versa. 2. The session will be designed with both online and onsite participants in mind. The session will be structured with interactive segments to engage all attendees, such as Q&As and debates to cater both online and onsite participants. 3. To increase participation and interaction, we plan to use an online document to allow participants to contribute their thoughts in a shared digital space. We will also utilize social media platforms for pre-session and post-session engagement, such as Twitter for live updates.