[NRIs] What do we do to achieve universal connectivity in the short term?

About this Session
This is a collaborative session organized in a bottom-up, consultative manner by several NRIs. The session is focused on the area of access and connectivity, as explained further below.


Description of the Session
To update governance arrangements to achieve universal access to the Internet by 2030 as a basic human right is among the priorities for the United Nations Secretary-General[1]. Indeed, the value of access has never been illustrated more vividly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been the time when people’s lives, economic survival and overall mental well-being were enabled only by digital technologies. Overall, digital technologies have made life easier. For example, they enabled people to work from any part of the world at any time, search and find almost every information; but also plan and respond to an emergency or disaster much quicker by deploying Hastily Formed Networks (HFN) to provide communications and information sharing to humanitarian works and affected communities.

And while many were that fortunate, many were not. The digital divide is our reality, and it must be closed once and for good. Potentials and resources exist, but they are unevenly distributed. For example, it is reported that around 70-98 % of physical access to the Internet pertains to developed countries, while significantly less is in developing countries counting to around 40-42 %[2]. The problem is far more complex than just mere numbers, as even those that are physically connected are not equipped with reliable devices and skills to use the Internet. For example, it is reported that despite having the vast majority of the 1 billion people who live in the least developed countries that are covered by a mobile broadband signal, only 25% are online[3].  In some cases, even where there are resources, there is a lack of management to utilize them efficiently.

While progress has been made in connecting the unconnected, the digital divide continues to still exist between rural and urban communities, developing and developed countries, and amongst marginalized and vulnerable groups including around gender and age. Empowering all communities to access and use digital technologies is important for the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Since the beginning of the global, regional, national and local Internet Governance Forums (IGFs), the topic of access has been discussed extensively, raising innovative proposals and actions to connect the unconnected; focusing on connecting rural parts; fostering digital inclusion and deploying the Internet-based services and tools to reduce poverty and prompt development etc. A strong message on the need for capacity development and introducing digital education was sent by the NRIs many times. Yet, the problem remains.

Through the practices of multistakeholder communities gathered around national, regional and youth IGFs, this session will explore local realities related to the following aspects:

  • What are local priorities the collective global action should address to achieve universal and meaningful access to the Internet for all?
  • Are there any creative and less expensive alternatives to the standard deployment of costly infrastructure and standard ISP services? Do we have good local practices in using advanced international mobile telecommunications (IMT-Advanced)? Could community networks be a solution for connecting rural and remote areas? What’s the experience with solar energy use? Can new and emerging technologies help to improve digital inclusion?
  • Who should do what? Do member states have a positive obligation to deliver on universal access or the poll of responsible parties is much broader?
  • Developing capacity and fostering digital literacy is a recognized imperative. However, we lack action. What do we do and how?

Relation to SDGs        

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Access to the Internet is a long-standing recognized accelerator of the sustainable development and achieving the SDGs. However, it is of utmost importance to ensure everyone is connected to the Internet and equipped with skills and resources to meaningfully use it.

NRIs organizing team
The following NRIs are engaged in the organization of the session: Albania IGF, Bangladesh IGF, Benin IGF, Bolivia IGF, Cabo Verde IGF, China IGF, Colombian IGF, Côte d'Ivoire IGF, East Africa IGF, France IGF, Georgia IGF, Ghana IGF, Haiti IGF, Kenya IGF, Malawi IGF, Mozambique IGF, Southern African IGF, Tanzania IGF, The Gambia IGF, Uganda IGF, Uganda Youth IGF, West African IGF


Speakers
The speakers are being delegated by the multistakeholder organizing committees of the following NRIs:

  • Albania IGF, TBC
  • Bangladesh IGF, TBC
  • Bolivia IGF, TBC
  • Côte d'Ivoire IGF, TBC
  • Georgia IGF, TBC
  • Ghana IGF, Mr. Francis Acquah Amaning
  • Kenya IGF, Mr. Barrack Otieno
  • Malawi IGF, TBC
  • Nigeria IGF, TBC
  • Southern African IGF, TBC
  • Tanzania IGF, Mr. Nazar Nicholas
  • The Gambia IGF, Poncelet Ileleji 
  • Uganda IGF and Uganda Youth IGF
  • West African Youth IGF, TBC


Onsite Moderator
To be confirmed.

Rapporteur
Haiti IGF, Mr. Sindy Obed
Benin IGF, Mr. Nazaire HOUNGNIHIN

Session Format
60 Min Round Table or U-shape

Session Interaction and Participation in a Hybrid Meeting
A dedicated online moderator will be placed next to the onsite moderator. All participants will be using the online speaking queue to be treated equally in their requests for interventions. All input presentations will be made available on the IGF website and links will be shared via the online tool. The Zoom and in-room video will be inter-projected to foster a sense of community despite being in different locations.  


[1] Our Common Agenda https://www.un.org/en/un75/common-agenda
[2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/209096/share-of-internet-users-in-the-total-world-population-since-2006/#:~:text=In%202021%2C%20it%20was%20estimated,of%20internet%20access%20in%202021.
[3] https://www.itu.int/itu-d/reports/statistics/connectivity-in-the-least-developed-countries-status-report-2021/