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IGF 2018 Main Session: 
 Accessibility and Digital Inclusion

1. Title, Date, Time, Format and Venue, Facilitators

Title: Accessibility and Digital Inclusion

Date: 14 November 2018

Time: 11:30am - 12:50pm (80 minutes)

Format: Panel Discussion

Venue: UNESCO HQ / room Salle 1 

Organisers / Facilitators:

●   Wisdom Donkor, MAG Member

●   Zeina BOUHARB, MAG Member

●   Paul Rowney, MAG Member

2. Brief Description/Objective

Whilst the world slowly closes the access gap with 50% of the world's population now connected the challenge associated with connecting and enabling the remaining 50% has not diminished.  Having taken over 20 years to get this far, the question remains how long will it take to connect the next billion and indeed the remaining 50%. Whilst the world has recognized the benefit of connected communities and now  understands how connected communities support development and meeting the UN SDGs, governments are still failing to enable conducive regulatory and legislative frameworks that support last mile and rural connectivity. This is often  compounded by inadequate core infrastructure such as rural power, tower infrastructure and backhaul, with a commercial operator focus lucrative urban rather than rural connectivity.

Since the inception of the Internet Governance Forum, the world has witnessed the digitalisation of knowledge based societies and digital economies. Underpinning this change have been the proliferation of devices, increased sophistication of computers, and more widely available internet access. The number of internet users had more than tripled in recent times but there remains  much to do to connect the unconnected.

In the past years governments have focused largely on global interconnection with submarine cables and fibre landing points and have succeeded in many cases in lowering the cost of access. However as is the case in much of the developing world universal and affordable access remains scarce, with high-cost, low-bandwidth, and often poor quality of service being the norn. Whilst the cost of access continues to fall, and with over 70% of the world’s population living within range of a mobile networks, the cost to connect still remains out of reach for a majority of the disconnected. .

ICT’s and internet are now a norm of our daily lives, we live in an information age, where the digital divide affects all sectors of development; employment, education, health, agriculture, and  trade.  In some cases a connected citizen has substantial advantage over a disconnected citizen perpetuating societal divisions. For individuals with disabilities, this division is often wider when access to internet and ICTs is denied regardless of accessibility or affordability and where many internet based applications and tools are not designed to satisfy the needs of those with disability.

Digital inclusion is more than just building literacy, it's not just about deploying computers into  community and teaching people how to login, navigate the operating system, browse the internet and produce documents and spreadsheets, it's about leveraging the power of the internet to bring social and economic change to the community. Digital inclusion contributes to the socioeconomic development of the society as a whole, it helps to reduce the division between the rural and urban populus.

There remain barriers that need to be addressed, such as infrastructure, network coverage, affordability, digital skills, education, awareness, content, and an enabling environment,By simply focusing on expanding access to broadband in itself, will not address the access and digital inclusion gap.

As such, this main session seeks to discuss, debate, and interrogate existing, new, and innovative ways of meeting the access and digital inclusion challenges of today. To dispel the myths, argue the facts, and present ideas, challenges and concrete proposals in an attempt to address the evolution, adoption of both society and technological drivers. Our focus in the session will be on public engagements and their needs, to identify the issues and to determine how to overcome the barriers to effective use of the ICT and the internet for an inclusive society.

3.  Agenda

This session will serve as a focal point for coordinated and constructive discussions about the different but interrelated aspects of Internet governance as described above. The session will benefit from the inclusion of all stakeholder groups, who shall be able to share in the knowledge and experience of key insight on the accessibility and digital inclusion that is necessary for the Internet to entrench human rights for and well-being of all. The outline chosen to serve that purpose comprises the gathering of specialists to initiate a panel conversation as well as a traditional open mic in order to incorporate the broader views of the audience. The session will be structured around three core segments, with each segment organized around specific policy questions that examine the respective topic, plus a concluding 7-minute and a wrap-up session:

●   Session introduction [10 min]

●   Segment 1 [20 min]: Digital Accessibility (at all level of development)

●   Segment 2 [20 min]:Digital Inclusion (at all level of development) 

●   Segment 3 [20 min] Audience Contributions, observation, comments, Q&A

●    Feed-in: BPF CENB, Gender and Access, NRIS [6 min]:

●   Conclusion and wrap-up [5 min]:

The session introduction will include host country remarks and an explanation of the flow of the session by the moderator.

The initial two segments will follow the same discussion structure: (a) Digital Accessibility (b) Digital Inclusion. Speakers of the two segments will be invited on a panel with 4 minutes each to response to relevant policy question, followed by 20 minutes of questions from online and in situ participants. To speed up the engagement with participants and remote participants, a unique approach will be used to gather questions in writing /text from both in the room and remote participants, to speed the ability to address the questions. The questions will be read out alongside Q&A for the speakers to respond to the questions.

4.  Policy Questions

Inclusive systems and societies can only be realised if stakeholders are aware of the nature of the problem and are committed to solving it. Improved data systems are needed, together with appropriate legal frameworks that are in line with relevant international conventions and recommendations that support the understanding of inclusiveness and accessibility as a rights issue.

Policy Question 1: Digital Accessibility.

Q1:   What are the social and economic benefits of inclusion and how would you convince policy makers to prioritize inclusion in national budgets for what are often scarce or no-existent resources.

Q2:   What recommendations would you make that would expedite the digital promise for connecting the next billion. Further what changes would need  to be implement to ensure that language and disability are no longer barriers to access.

Q3:   What steps need to be taken to ensure that developing countries benefit from the 4th digital (industrial) revolution on an equal footing to that of developed nations.

Q4: One main pillar to increase Connectivity includes deployment of infrastructure. What measures can be adopted to cut cost of deployment and what policies are needed to promote affordability.     

Policy Question 2: Digital Inclusion.

Q1:   Should regulators enable a pro-rural pro-poor regulatory framework that supports licensed exempt spectrum for technologies such as TV White Space and further should regulators      implement dynamic spectrum re-allocation of un-used or under used spectrum.

Q2:   What are your thoughts on 5G, will 5G bridge or widen the access gap. 

Q3:  Trust in the internet may have diminished in recent years with more regular data protection breaches, how do we protect the newly connected, in particular those from  marginalized and disadvantaged communities.

Q4:   Increase of usage requires development of relevant content and enabling users to benefit from internet. How can policies encourage digital skills and literacy for inclusion           

●   Conclusions and recommendations – Connecting the unconnected: multistakeholder,                    global, and international cooperation:  

Regarding the issues of access and digital inclusion, how can international organisations adapt to the ever-changing policy environment while working on improving accessibility and inclusion of all whilst entrenching human rights, with a particular focus on the developing countries? How can these efforts for capacity development improve strategies, planning, outreach, and effectiveness in these areas?

5.  Chair [To be provided by the Host Country]

6.  Moderator: Eldrid Jordaan, CEO, GOVCHAT, South Africa and ​Marilyn Cade, President /   
CEO, ICT Strategies, mCADE LLC / Former MAG Member

7.  Remote Moderator: Paul Rowney, IGF MAG Member      

8. Rapporteurs: Ines Hfaiedh, ICANN NCUC Africa Representative / and Africa Representative in          ISOC's Advisory Council Steering Committee.

9. Panelists/Speakers

The format will allow the session to host up to 5 individual interventions (4 per each of the 2 initial segments, 1 keynote speaker for the conclusion and 2 for the introduction and conclusion of the session). This number is enough to accommodate individuals from all geographical regions and all stakeholder groups, with a view of having a 50/50 gender ratio among the invitees. It is also enough to gather individuals who have convergent and divergent economic, political and social perspectives on the policy questions suggested above. Invited speakers are listed below.

Speakers: Digital Accessibility

  • Bunmi Durowoju, Snr.  Business Development Manager, Emerging Markets  AI and Intelligent Cloud Airband Initiative, Microsoft
  • Nilmini Rubin, Vice president, IEEE (Tetra Tech)
  • Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, Chairman, Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA)
  • Ms. Nathalie Vuaillat, Director, Legal Counsel, eBay
  • Dr. Carlos Rey-Moreno,  APC, South Africa

Speakers:  Digital Inclusion

  • Mr Charles Shaban, Executive Director, Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property, Jordan
  • Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy at Facebook
  • Ms. Nathalie Vuaillat, Director, Legal Counsel, eBay
  • Mr. Adil Sulieman, African Union

10.       Plan for in-room participant engagement/interaction?

An open mic session for contribution, comments and Q&A will follow the two segment of the session to enable the audience and remote participants join the conversation and make their contributions, opinions, suggestions, etc. Audience willing to make contributions, comments or ask questions will queue at assigned mics, and rotate, with online participants having their own equal queue.

11.  Remote moderator/Plan for online interaction?

Remote moderator: There will be a remote moderator to assist with the online conversation, and one or more in situ moderators.

To broaden participation, online interaction will rely on the WebEx platform. Twitter and Facebook will also be employed by the on-line moderators who will be in charge of browsing social media using some hashtags (to be defined). We will try to have an online moderator who speaks English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

12. Connections with other workshops sessions

Representatives of related workshops may be invited to contribute to the main session from the audience. This would provide a smooth and tighter integration of those threads into the IGF 2018 mainstream discussions. Examples of such activities are given below:

●  Workshops:

●   Best Practice Forums: CENB, Gender and Access, NRIs

13. Desired results/outputs? Possible next steps?

●  An overarching map of regional policy initiatives that impact the global Internet   environment in relation to digital inclusion and accessibility at all levels

●  Documentation of expert knowledge from panelists of different geographical stakeholder groups in relation to the areas under discussion;

●  Multistakeholder dialogue on the impacts that some policy initiatives may have on the global Internet environment as well as the developmental issues that are still to be solved on that behalf;

●  Recommendations and conclusions which will show the way forward to outreach and networking to develop ideas generated during this session;

●  Summary of the discussions and the creation of a common and unified space for the discussion of those issues in a coordinated manner through intersessional activities carried out by the IGF community.

SDG linkages:
Sdg 3, 4, 5,7, 8, 10, 11 16 and 17


Session Time: 
Wednesday, 14 November, 2018 - 11:30 to 12:50
Salle I (Main)

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678