IGF 2023 WS #420 Digital Divide, Education, and the State in the Global South

Organizer 1: Víctor Práxedes Saavedra Rionda, International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations - INCLO
Organizer 2: Olga Cronin, 🔒
Organizer 3: Maria Adelaida Ceballos Bedoya, Dejusticia
Organizer 4: Daniel Felipe Ospina Celis, Dejusticia

Speaker 1: Maria Adelaida Ceballos Bedoya, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Sherylle Dass, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Jamila Venturini, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Mavenjina Martin, Civil Society, African Group


Víctor Práxedes Saavedra Rionda, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Daniel Felipe Ospina Celis, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Daniel Felipe Ospina Celis, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

How can international human rights law be used to promote internet access in education in countries of the Global South?
How can internet access and digital education become universally shared in countries of the Global South where inequality indexes are high and there are vast territories with low-density populations?
How should the state promote the private sector’s participation in bridging the digital divide, especially in rural or distant areas?

What will participants gain from attending this session? In this workshop, participants and attendees will gain valuable information and insights from at least three perspectives. First, they will obtain empirical information on how digital divides are specifically configured in different countries of the Global South. In particular, this information will refer to the many ways in which digital divides differentially impact certain population groups within each context. Second, they will have a unique opportunity to participate in a live dialogue on possible comparisons between different countries of the Global South. And third, they will be able to share their own experiences on how free and accessible digital education is at the heart of multiple fundamental rights and will increasingly be so in the near future.


When digital tools and technologies began to flourish, it appeared that international state borders would become less and less important. Internet access, in particular, seemed to entail a powerful promise of globalization, universalization, and equalization. It did not matter who they were or where they lived, people could gain access to services, tools, and opportunities offered anywhere around the globe.
However, this promise has been largely unfulfilled, especially regarding educational resources in some countries of the Global South. For instance, in countries like Colombia and South Africa, access to digital educational resources is unevenly distributed among population groups. In particular, it is women, racial minorities, and lower-class citizens who face disproportionate barriers to accessing these resources. Moreover, digital educational resources are unevenly distributed across the territories of each state, with stark infrastructural differences between urban areas and rural (or peri-urban) areas. These disparities are worrying as they entail a violation not only of the right to basic education, but also of the rights to equality and non-discrimination, dignity, freedom of expression, and access to information.
With these disparities in mind, the workshop aims to discuss the essential role of the state in the debate about global digital divides. Diverse speakers from the Global South will thus reflect on how equitable access to the internet and digital educational resources can be highly dependent on the capacity and commitment of the state. And although some barriers to tackle the digital divide are globally shared, speakers will show that many other barriers are tied to the oppressive systems and the unequal distribution of rights specific to each state. In this regard, the workshop calls for a deeper inspection of the challenges that Global South contexts face vis-a-vis digital resources, as well as the duties of states and private companies in addressing these challenges.

Expected Outcomes

This workshop is part of a larger, ongoing conversation among INCLO members. As such, an initial outcome is to continue to strengthen INCLO's partnerships and provide a space to discuss future strategies on inclusion and digital divides. A second expected outcome is the occurrence of follow-up events between INCLO members and other stakeholders in order to discuss successful policy instruments or new research findings on this matter. Finally, a further purpose of all these meetings is to promote a more comprehensive comparative research on the human rights impacts of limited internet access in countries in the Global South that participate in the INCLO network, such as Colombia, India, and South Africa.

Hybrid Format: To ensure an engaging experience for all participants, organizers will adopt two main strategies. First, organizers will implement a system that ensures that participants' questions and answers form a strict queue, a strategy that aims to eliminate all distinctions between onsite or online participations. Second, the moderator will encourage the use of digital tools (such as chats or online polls) in all participants and attendees in order to promote meaningful and interconnected conversations. In terms of the roundtable discussion, we will propose three questions that initially aim to guide the presentations but that will subsequently guide the discussion among onsite and online participants and attendees. We would like the roundtable attendees to be as active as possible, therefore the presentations will last a maximum of 45 minutes, and the remaining 45 minutes will be dedicated to questions, answers, and comments from attendees.