IGF 2023 WS #392 Offline-first: Community centered services for added value

Organizer 1: Nils Brock, 🔒
Organizer 2: Debora Prado, 🔒APC

Speaker 1: Kemly Camacho, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Eric Nitschke, Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 3: Mike Jensen, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Sarbani Belur, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


Nils Brock, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Debora Prado, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Sarbani Belur, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

ow do national and international laws, policies, and agreements facilitate community networks and local access initiatives, as a precondition for local value-added services?
What are legal obstacles to extending public e-government, e-health and e-agriculture services to offline communities?
What role can local and national governments play to contribute to an enabling environment for meaningful connectivity on the local level that directly benefits the livelihood of communities?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants of the workshop will benefit from a general introduction to the crucial topic of digital value-added services for the Global Majority. Persons with a higher technical skill level and previous experiences will also benefit from the more detailed discussions on network infrastructure and customizable best practices. All persons attending the session will be able to learn and critically engage with the principles of “offline-first” and federated connectivity models. They will further obtain an overview of categorized local value-added services based on fieldwork and dialogues with local communities. In addition, the workshop group will become familiar with specific open hardware and software solutions that are used and explored as building blocks for value-added services run on local networks. The session will also contribute to establish new contacts and share visions for future networking and multi-stakeholder projects.


The growth of global access is slowing and many individuals and local communities still do not connect. The reasons are manifold: predominantly English content, safety concerns, lacking digital skills and services irrelevant to local needs. What becomes apparent is that traditional top-down approaches to delivering access do not work for the global majority. Meaningful connectivity has to be designed with the purposeful participation of communities beyond core services and contribute to a re-signification of value-added services (VAS) that respond to priorities and visions of the local population.
Our workshop will shed light on concepts, practices and innovations, offering a hands-on experience on open innovations that contribute to such a paradigmatic change in three ways: (1) Based on participatory research and dialogues with local communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, together with the participants we will discuss principles for “offline-first”, and “decentralized” local VAS, arguing that local, off-grid, or autonomous, networks permit a safer and more suitable environment to build digital skills and co-design further usages based on collective decision making. (2) To illustrate the fruitfulness of community-built or curated VAS, we will hear testimonies and host Q&A rounds with community leaders that have successfully piloted projects in the fields of agriculture, education, health and content creation. The audience will experience how real benefits for the community can be engendered if space and time for co-creation is provided. (3) To maintain and sustain such services open innovations are key. Our roundtable participants have the chance to test open hardware, firmware and software (ex. LokalLR, Nimble, Colmena, Okama Suei) used and adapted to meet connectivity needs and set up VAS that strengthen communities to make their choices when it comes to expand their outreach (ex. access to e-governance services, micro-payments, etc.) and to network with new peers (ex. regional food networks).

Expected Outcomes

The outcome of the session will be manifest on 3 levels. First, more awareness for the topic of value-added services for inclusive and meaningful connectivity will be raised among national policy makers, local governments, technology providers, community leaders and other stakeholders. Second, the session will strengthen and expand the networking efforts between local initiatives in a cross-regional perspective. This applies especially to vibrant and emerging communities of practice where technological innovators, community representatives and civil society organizations bring forward pilot projects with the potential for up-scaling. Third, we seek to spark new collaborations for co-creation of technologies, designed with and for local communities. In terms of specific outputs, the workshop will contribute to at least three open-access publications (made available by the organizing parties) and two academic papers. The results of the workshop will also contribute as empirical input for the upcoming 4-year program (2024-20227) of the global Locnet initiative.

Hybrid Format: Our session is seeking broad participation on-site and online, reflected both on the level of speakers and target audiences. Therefore we plan to accompany the on-site moderation with active online moderation, to make sure questions and contributions shared online will be constantly encouraged and available for the debate. In regards to the speakers we plan to hold the session with two speakers on-site and two further online participants (gender balanced). This will permit the participation of all crucial stakeholders and experts and also set the basis for a vivid hybrid dialogue. All speakers will engage in preparatory meetings, to coordinate contributions and structure the workshop. This includes the preparation of a slide show with key information, stats and graphic material to ensure a broad comprehension of discussed topics. We will use a tailor-made video conference platform (based on BBB) for online interactions.