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IGF 2019 – Day 1 – Estrel Saal C – NRIs Collaborative Session On Access - RAW

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> MODERATOR: We have an interesting panel of speakers. Three are here with us today in the room, and two which will, hopefully, we'll be able to bring on remotely. The idea behind this session is to look at the digital inclusion conclusions from these national and regional Internet Governance Forum initiatives. With that, I think we should invite the speakers to give a brief reaction, ideally, about five minutes on this topic and the inclusion of their initiative.

Without any further ado, you would like to welcome Julián Casabuenas G. Perhaps you could provide information about your personal role in the process.

>> JULIÁN CASABUENAS G.: I will be talking on behalf of the Colombia IGF where we have been discussing some issues, including access. It is recognized that Internet access in rural areas is difficult and new disruptive models are required to connect these areas in a sustainable and efficient way, identifying the needs of the communities and strengthening the processes incorporating information on communication technologies and processes, bringing high speed and quality connective and technology, connected to fiber optics in your municipalities and strategies in helping keeping young people living in rural areas as they're relocating due to lack of opportunities.

It must include renewable energy, the use of free software that allow its deployments, the design and construction of local services that are designed and implemented by the communities. The construction of community networks is considered as an alternative to bring quality connection to rural areas and also incorporating solar telephone networks operated by the communities.

Investments in these rural connective projects cannot be measured in economic return to make them sustainable, but, instead, government funds must consider the social investment returns relevant in these areas.

In Colombia, there are initiatives in different places that have been borne and maintained over time, allowing access to the Internet to communities that previously had to move to urban areas to achieve connectivity and can now access educational content, online government services, and other benefits.

In addition to connectivity, community networks allow communities to empower themselves and prepare new technologies, build their own path of participation in the digital world, adapt technology tools to solve local needs, and, particularly, the marginalized population strengthens and establish their own sustainability models that allow lower cost for services and the investment of resources in their own territory.

So during the last Colombia IGF that was held at the beginning of this month during the panel, actions in Internet governance, it was discussed the actions necessary to efficiently connect. I would like to share with you later. Thank you.

>> Thanks very much, Julián. I think it was particularly interesting, consider the idea of social investment returns because this is something not often considered in a commercial environment.

I would like to bring on one of our remote presenters. Do we have the Haiti IGF online?

Do we have Bram Fudzulani?

None of them have been able to make it online?

>> No.

>> Perhaps we should go to our next speaker here, Roberto, who is going to talk to us about another Latin America context.

>> Roberto: Thank you. I am from Bolivia. I'm the coordinator for the local IGF there. We had a couple of years in a row our IGFs. This last August, we also hosted the Latin America IGF there. So access is one of the most important as an enabler for all the different aspects that are related to Internet.

In Bolivia, we are increasingly aware of its parallel space anymore. In this, we access services to entertainment, to different kind of functionalities which are important. And if we don't have the possibilities and also if we don't have the service with affordability, it's hard to get inside.

Statistics show we have about near 50% of penetration, but somehow it's tricky because one thing is to have the potential to be connected to Internet, but a different thing is actually to be connected to the Internet every time. That's how all the efforts we should do regarding improvement of infrastructure should be taken into account. What we feel is that the price and models of Internet mobile operators is one of the things we should improve in the near future. Right now, we still receive the services, and we are charged in megabyte bases. So we have this small package we have to afford and pay for each day or weekly or monthly plans. I think we need a different pricing model which should be more affordable, which should have a flat fee, for instance, in order to access all the time to this important service. That's one of the things we were discussing about access and relating particular in mobile services. So that's where I would like to start so far.

>> MODERATOR: Roberto, thank you very much for that. I think you've zeroed in on affordability. We hear that many population in the world are not able to use the resources as fully as it might be used.

Coordinator, do we have anyone online ready to speak?

>> COORDINATOR: The name is not here, but I think she can hear us. No?

>> MODERATOR: Maybe we can ask them to introduce themselves. Thank you.

>> Hello? Can you hear me.

>> COORDINATOR: She's speaking, but ‑‑

>> Hello?

>> COORDINATOR: She's speaking.

>> MODERATOR: Sorry about that, everyone. We seem to have technical difficulties. While we're sorting those out, I will invite Ana with the Portugal IGF.

>> ANA NEVES: Hello. Good morning. Thank you very much. Our last National IGF, the Portuguese one, was held on the 13th of November, last week. The point here is that all the ministries that were involved in that organization are the ministries involved in a plan and program that we have in Portugal that's called intel.2030. It's all about competencies, and the PR1 is about digital inclusion and literacy ‑‑ digital literacy.

I don't know if we're going to explain more about our experiences or if I stop there, and we will continue.

>> MODERATOR: I think our speakers have been so brief at this point, that perhaps I can invite you to give your particular experiences. It would be very interesting. Thank you.

>> ANA NEVES: Okay. So we have a problem in Portugal, so I'm going to talk a little bit more about Europe and Portugal in Europe and Portugal in world. So we have about one‑fourth of the people in Portugal that have never used the Internet. It's a huge number. It makes no sense. Plus, we have a very good coverage of Internet all over the country.

The point here is really that we have a problem with the people living with disabilities, aging people, and other vulnerable people. So what did we thought at the ministry level? That it could be a very good idea to launch a program. So it was launched two years ago, in 2017 April. It was launched with five pillars. These pillars are extremely important to cover all the society and to try to make a point in a top‑down approach to make it bottom‑up as well.

And so, of course, a lot of other initiatives were taken in Portugal the years before. Now we decided that having this holistic view, it's very interesting. As I said, we have these five pillars, the first one is digital inclusion and digital literacy. The second one is about education. The third one is about qualification, real qualification and upscaling, and the fourth one is about specialization. So it's for the graduation to think about the specialization on ICTs and it's about new knowledge and future emerge technologies.

Everything is very connected. Everything is linked. We have to think about artificial intelligence, and we have to think about digital inclusion. The novelty here is we have so many ministers. The ministries, they have to be part of it. We're talking about budget from the portfolio to engage. There's an action plan to 2030. We're working together with a lot of different actions and measures. Together, with other stakeholders, we're building up these kinds of initiatives that is making people from other parts ‑‑ and I mean in a bottom‑up approach ‑‑ they want to be part of this movement. The thing is to make these things move and make it a good thing that exists in Portugal. It has budget. It's like that. You have to be part of it. Otherwise, you will never exist in a digital age.

What happens is we do a lot of things together. Besides these action lines and measures that we're putting in place, we organize our Portuguese IGF. It was in this casual manner that we choose the best things that we thought the Portuguese society was asking and was needing.

The main line is really digital and is digital inclusion and digital literacy. They are tremendously important for our daily lives and transformation.

If you want, I can elaborate more on other things.

>> MODERATOR: I think it's interesting to note the focus on capacity building. It's very easy to focus on the hard pieces of the infrastructure and policy‑making regulation, but, in fact, those areas are probably easier to solve than the human capacity building. I think that's worthy of note.

Yes, I think, again, we're hearing this idea of the ecosystem approach coming up more frequently.

Do we have any online participation that's working at all yet?

>> COORDINATOR: I think we have a technical problem, so we can hear her. Maybe she can try again to speak to see if she's working.

>> MODERATOR: Okay. Let's give it a quick go.

>> Hello.

>> MODERATOR: Please go ahead.

>> Hi. So I represent the Lebanon IGF. Basically, I heard in this session mentions of issues of the literacy, economic barriers, technical barriers. And, also this year and in our Internet Governance Forum, we're also focusing on accessibility for people with special needs. So we're in Lebanon, basically. This is still a very initial stage. While many other dealing countries, there are more regulations and standards in place to make sure that Internet access is available for the biggest portion of the public.

So, basically, there are efforts now and collaborations and initiatives and actions between academia, the government sector, and the industry leaders to start implementing mechanisms and regulations and standards that would ensure Internet accessibility for the public, mainly people with special needs.

>> MODERATOR: Thanks. That was the Lebanon IGF. Again, I think it's worthy of note that there's an increasing focus on inclusion for vulnerable groups and people with disabilities and other marginalized people left behind.

Do we have any other remote speakers at this point?

I believe there was Haiti IGF that was planning.

Perhaps I could invite Julián to do some follow‑up comments to elaborate on the conclusions from the Colombia IGF.

>> JULIÁN CASABUENAS G.: Thank you. Hello? Okay.

During the session of access and Internet governance in Columbia IGF, there were several comments on the panel to identify which are the facilitating aspects that can increase or can in some way benefit the possibility of connected. From the point of view of civil society organizations, we present some considerations about community networks based on our experiences but also experiences from other countries like Mexico or Haiti and South Africa, and Catalonia. So in areas where there are no connectivity at all and the exemption from costly licenses in these areas could be a positive facilitating aspect.

Also, the secondary use of the spectrum so that others can use it where it is not being used and licenses to non‑social initiatives.

Access to funds in Colombia, we have the operators giving financial resources to the communication funds. So that can be used to bring connectivity to communities that are not connected. We believe that finances to other models such as community networks could also help to reduce this digital divide. Investing resources in capacity building, new technologies and community networks.

Also, in Colombia, we have large coverage of fiberoptic in municipalities. The connectivity to that, the infrastructure is still very little. So it's important to facilitate access to these infrastructures and to guarantee the interconnections with other networks. We identify, also, the importance to have a legal definition for community networks because there is no description on their Colombian laws so these initiatives are difficult.

Regarding access to spectrum, it's difficult for licensing and authorization and also in implementing a spectrum‑sharing mechanisms and also lower tax charges toward equipment for the deployment of community networks and more flexible regulation for community operators talking about taxes, charges, and so on.

One facilitating aspect was identified as well as they use a free and open‑source software. Also, there were other facilitating access raised by other stakeholders, which is the importance of spectrum allocation by establishing mechanisms in the locations for unconnected rural areas to maximize social benefit.

In Colombia, they are called obligations to do ‑‑ ( non‑English language ) ‑‑ the obligations to communication fund undertake to expand coverage in this way.

Also, recognize there are more options to reach the unconnected population, as indicated of community networks and small operators. The use of different technologies as TV‑wide spaces to improve coverage, especially in rural areas. Also, emerging technologies and different alternatives for the supply of electricity, that's the challenges in these areas.

Regulatory sandbox that promotes the use of new technology to promote connectivity within legal framework to promote flexible. Implementing spectrum sharing again and also from the academy, it was stated that it must be defined as "access." It is a definition that ensures communities are well connected. Access today is a necessity to exercise the rights of citizens.

Infrastructure and access deployments would be combined with strategies of preparation to technology of communities and Internet governance models as well. Provide access to local governments, which in some cases is very low. And, finally, facilitate access to the financial resources of the communications fund was stressed again.

>> MODERATOR: Thanks, Julián. I'm happy that you've raised the issue of spectrum because that's becoming increasingly seen as an issue for connectivity in remote and rural areas, especially in developing countries where, in many cases, even though the spectrum has been allocated at a national level, it remains unused in the remote and rural areas. This is a key mechanism in inclusion and more are focusing on the capacity‑building side rather than laying out new infrastructure.

Would you like to give a few brief comments before I open it up to the floor?

>> ROBERTO: Sure. Thank you. Well, in order produce some tangible outcomes regarding access, we think to involve most of the actors in our communities. We particularly need to involve the civil society. There are several actors, but I think there are quite few very active ones. And, of course, part of civil society includes, also, universities. Universities place an important role in providing the technical view, also, for solving these access issues that we usually have in our countries.

The other important sector, of course, is the private one. The operators need to understand that different pricing models, new pricing models, need to expand their infrastructure. It's also important, as you said before, particularly in the country areas, in rural areas, where we really have a lack of infrastructure.

Then, of course, the government is the one that plays a key role in order to provide incentives to the private sector. One is incentive, of course. The other is to put pressure that if we include more people in all integral systems, it's also going to be good for them because they're going increase their business model.

>> MODERATOR: Thanks, very much there, Roberto. I think it's important to raise this issue, being inclusive of all the different stakeholders and try to leverage each of the roles that each stakeholders can play.

At this point, can we open up the floor to see if there are any observations, questions, or comments?

Yes, especially from other IGF initiatives.

I think you just need to come up to one of the freestanding mics in the aisle there to speak so we can all hear you. Please stand up. Thank you.

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. Good morning. I'm from Kenya. I represent the Kenya IGF and also the African Youth IGF. In terms of where I come from, and what we're doing to promote access in Nairobi. We're building communication hubs where it's like a last‑mile program led by the government to ensure that the local actors and those marginalized have access to connectivity. It's free of charge. The government is pushing connectivity in schools and public institutions, hospitals, just to ensure we have access to the Internet where most of governments have been pushed online.

The other aspect is USF. There's funds where the regulator of telecommunications is providing part of the funds to support the building of infrastructure in place where is it's not economically viable for telecommunications to set up infrastructure. And, also, it's now a law that telecommunications are supposed to share infrastructure. In that sense, the cost of set‑up, that is transferred to the consumer. It's cut and reduced down to all of us.

However, having said that, from the panels there's been a lot of interesting comments and observations. My interest is how do we build synergies and learn from each other and learn from the best practices that each country is doing and see how we can incorporate each other, especially developing countries really need to build synergy and see how we can work together and borrow some best practices. Thank you.

>> MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Kenya. Thank you for highlighting the role of public access innovation hubs and infrastructure sharing, which is an issue dear to my heart. Thanks for that.

Are there any other questions? I will allow responses from the panel to a couple of questions, just to aid in efficiency.

I don't see any. Maybe we can have a response from the panel. I'm sure there are perhaps many others in addition to sharing technologies.

Do you have any observations, Ana?

>> ANA NEVES: I was thinking, well, we have these messages from the Portuguese Internet. I was reading a part of it that was the first panel that we had that was about what kind of Internet do we want and the cooperation and public policies that's national and on global levels.

Synergies are always very difficult, even if they are at the national level, European level, or at the global level. But I'm not going to react with the discussion about infrastructure because infrastructure, I think it's something that a lot of people is very engaged and aware, and the need for it to do much more on this part.

I would like to read three paragraphs from our National IGF. I think it could be, well, food for thought about these kinds of synergies and the new ecosystem that I think we are living in.

The point here, the main point that I'm going to make and I want to do by reading these three paragraphs, it's to make people aware that maybe this is not the right response to synergies that we need. It's much broader, that we're living in a different ecosystem now, and the several actors, they have a different role as well.

Why? Because we're all users and the Internet, all the public policies must bear in mind that they're for the user, because we are users. Everybody is a user.

So in a single panel that was the very first one, the one that I was talking about, the title was What Kind of Internet Do We Want?

We were rich with existing ideas which eventually came together. It is generally agreed that the user comes first. In order to provide the best response faster, making it clear that this operation between companies, governments, and consumers is only artificial. The discussion about regulation is unanimous regarding the duty of its existence. It brings transparency and trust in the use of the Internet for the user.

The first regulation must include, however difficult it may be, technical changes. The concept of the ecosystem used is encompass all users is a way to act as a wall. It arises opinions that it can mean anarchy where the strongest come out victorious and the viability of injustice is a fact. This arose a very interesting discussion because the ecosystem is not where the most stronger is the one that wins.

We have to stop that from happening. So it's about to have all people together and not to make this kind of silos, like governments, you know, and applies companies and civil society applies. Well, it's very artificial. After 10 years of being and covering this kind of theme, I really think that we are in a different stage, and we cannot continue to work ‑‑ like I'm a stakeholder from this group. In a multistakeholder approach, it's wrong. It develops in a different way.

The final paragraph I would like to share with you is advantagely, the Internet provides the use we are the idea that they can be in two places at the same time and offers a vast network of contacts and information. However, the user of the Internet improves once the user understands how it works, and there should be a clear commitment toward education of what the Internet is and how it works. Because one day users will also be the ones responsible for regulation.

So it's all a thing to make people like‑minded and see what they want in this world where Internet and the Web are doing their path, and it is where we live. My comments.

>> MODERATOR: Ana, thanks. Really, that was very interesting. I think this is echoing quite a bit of themes I've already heard at the IGF. We cannot continue to think in terms of the old models and that we really need to take new approaches to dealing with these new problems. I thank you, also, for highlighting the issue of trust. Without trust and ethics, we can't continue to operate as a cohesive society.

Julián, do you have any final remarks as we head into the last three minutes?

>> JULIÁN CASABUENAS G.: Yes. Perhaps highlighting this year there were international workshops of the regulator in Colombia. We had the opportunity to be invited as civil society organizations coming from the different countries where we present these kinds of initiatives of community networks. It was interesting to see regulators from all over the world recognizing that these are innovative alternatives to facilitate communications to people who are not yet connected and taking into account the regulatory processes for initiatives. For us, it was important to see regulators are considering opening access to spectrum and other regulations that will facilitate the deployment of these initiatives.

And, also, during a global community network meeting that we had, some of the cases that were mentioned is initiatives that have been implemented to connect schools nationwide and, in some cases, to favor access to community at times after school classes and also universities that are providing their infrastructure, their connectivity during the weekends. Classes are facilitating those communities that don't have access nearby, running by community networks that can use those connectivities.

>> MODERATOR: It's an infrastructure sharing of existing resources to broaden the availability to surrounding communities in terms of the educational systems. Thank you for that.

Roberto, do you have any actions to final comments?

>> Roberto: Yes, answering our friend from Kenya, I think we need to increase our coordination and communication channels. It was shocking to know yesterday we had a panel ‑‑ I attended to a panel where the people in the panel mentioned that even here in Germany, they have problems regarding connectivity. They're not reaching all the places in rural areas. Imagine if in a developed country we have this kind of issue, what is going on in our developing countries. It's the same situation in South Africa as well as South America.

I think we have a lot to exchange between us in terms of lessons learned and, of course, how we solve it, particularly problems or issues.

I actually want to talk about one that is related to the creation of our local IXP Internet exchange point back in 2016. As you know, this kind of infrastructure is very important to reduce prices and also to get a better connection. The problem in our case was that they only included the big ISPs, the ones that had international connections. We're talking about four or five ISPs. And there were several smaller ISPs that wanted to be connected, but because of some regulatory approach, they couldn't do it.

That is one of the important aspects of having an NRI. I support what Ana was saying before. It's really important to get all of them together. We managed to have a panel in which we had the vice minister of telecommunications, we had the regulator, one of the smaller representatives of the ISP and the director of the IXP, the Internet Exchange Point. We raised the problem. Four or five months later, we asked to have a meeting with the vice minister. Again we got together all of the actors.

Finally, six months later, we managed to convince them to adjust their regulation. Right now, they're working inside the IXP. That's how important and now nice is the potential that this kind of debate, discussion plays that the local IGFs can provide.

>> MODERATOR: Thanks, Roberto. Thank you for highlighting the importance in particular that's glossed over and, indeed, how to bring all the big and small players together in the same space is difficult.

We're slightly out of time. I would live to give time to our remote presenter to see if she has any final remarks before we close the session.

>> Can you hear me?

>> MODERATOR: Please go ahead.

>> Basically, just tying back to that point of creating synergy and capacity building, what we're trying to do initially in Lebanon ‑‑ because I know our experience is very similar to similar countries. What we are doing is trying to channel as much as possible through the governmental bodies and through the syndicates and coming up with a national plan that we can follow on a national level, using, as I said, national entities, such as professional syndicates along with academic budgets. That's it. Thank you.

>> MODERATOR: Thanks very much. I'm glad you raised the issue of building up special interest groups, or user groups, which can be a powerful force for lobbying and vocalizing particular positions that need to be taken into consideration and, also, the importance of developing a national plan.

So with that, I don't want to keep you from any of your next sessions. I thank you very much for attending this one. Please give a round of applause to the panelists. Thanks a lot.

 

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