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IGF 2019 Pre-Event #53 Electricity, Community Networks and Digital Inclusion: The case of the undeserved communities

Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation


There is no simple answer to the remaining challenges of connecting those who are not connected, or who are under connected – e.g limited access, lack of digital skills, lack of useful content, lack of affordable power sources. But, some lights on the horizon can bode well, if silo approaches by regulators and Ministries in healthcare, agriculture, education, finance and economic development can be rapidly changed, and new technologies and innovations can be applied to formerly highly intractable challenges. It is a multi-faceted approach of changing how electricity can be more broadly distributed, how community networks can augment and co-exist with existing comms/ISPs providers, and building skills through partnerships with NGOs and others to help to bring the rest of world into the digital age, regardless of whether they are in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, MENA, SIDS or in an indigenous community that needs unique support to engage in the digitized world. The concept of community networks dates back to the start of wide spread use of the Internet in the US and Europe, when groups of people set. up ways to share resources or Internet connections across local networks. At heart, community networks rely on the active participation of individuals and local communities, are owned by the community, and operated in a democratic fashion. Community networks are operationalised through a whole variety of local stakeholders, NGOs, private sector entities, and or public administrations, who are involved in the designing, developing, implementing, maintaining and governing community networks. While 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 it will take to connect the next billions, to fully include the remaining 50%. While many reports and studies note the benefit of connected communities to support development and meeting the UN SDGs; yet there remain significant gaps in national level governmental public policies, especially in regulatory and legislative frameworks that support last mile and rural connectivity. This is often compounded by inadequate core infrastructure such as rural power sources, tower infrastructure and back-haul, with a commercial operators’ focus on the more lucrative urban rather than rural connectivity. But, Internet access is not feasible without affordable, reliable and sustainable energy sources.

Expected outcomes:

The session will start the discussions on creating a road map process to better understand what needs to be done in the short and long terms. There are several expected outcomes:

  1. Identify opportunities and lessons learned that would support the developing countries alignment of clean energy sources that support both urban and rural and remote users
  2. Identify the most critical gaps hindering the adoption and deployment of community networks in the developing countries.
  3. Identify opportunities for governments to align national broadband and connectivity priorities programs with key community network infrastructure
  4. Identify key issues on funding, resources and capacity at the national level.
  5. Identify key data gaps hindering the penetration of Internet to the underserved communities in the developing countries

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) 229 173 411