IGF 2019 WS #337 Transparency and Internet Infrastructure

Organizer 1: Stephen Song, Network Startup Resource Center
Organizer 2: Jochai Ben-Avie, Mozilla
Organizer 3: Nicolás Andrés Pace, APC

Speaker 1: Alison Gillwald, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Verena Weber, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Stephen Song, Technical Community, African Group

Policy Question(s): 

The key policy issue to be addressed in this session is transparency regarding the availability, ownership, and use of digital communication infrastructure. Many governments around the world have embraced Open Data as a policy to improve transparency in government and to increase civic participation in governance issues but Open Data policies are largely absent from the telecom and internet sector when it comes to infrastructure such as fibre optic networks, towers, and spectrum assignments.

Relevance to Theme: As the value of being connected to communication infrastructure grows, those without access are increasingly left behind. In order to ensure everyone has affordable access to communication, more transparency in the telecommunications sector is required to better understand who is unconnected and what opportunities exist to solve connectivity challenges.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Internet governance debates have tended to focus on digital issues without taking into account the physical infrastructure that underpins the internet. Increasing the ownership, accessibility, and extent of this infrastructure are factors that shape an open and inclusive internet for all. Adopting Open Data policies and approaches in the telecommunications sector will enable a more informed and constructive debate on affordable access for all among civil society organisations, government, and industry.


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Description: The session will begin with Research ICT Africa and ARTICLE19 Eastern Africa relating their recent work in attempting to gain public access to telecommunications infrastructure data in their respective regions. This will be followed by the Alliance for Affordable Internet Access presenting their experience of transparency through the multi-stakeholder dialogues they support. The merits of various approaches including surveys, interviews, and freedom of access to information requests will be discussed. This will be followed by a representative from the OECD providing an overview of transparency in member countries. Finally examples of good practice in transparency in the sector from around the world will be presented. This should take up 60 minutes of the session with the remaining 30 minutes devoted to participant engagement.

Expected Outcomes: We expect this session to elicit more examples from participants about how the availability or lack of availability of data on telecommunications infrastructure has enabled or limited debates on affordable access to internet. We further expect the session to enroll more people in the global community of activists pursuing more transparency in the sector and to inspire others to follow the examples of Research ICT Africa and ARTICLE19 in requesting public access to telecommunications infrastructure data in their countries.

Onsite Moderator: 

Stephen Song, Technical Community, African Group

Online Moderator: 

Jochai Ben-Avie, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Nicolás Andrés Pace, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Discussion Facilitation: 

Transparency in the telecom sector as a development issue is still fairly new yet there are many examples of good practice around the world. We will begin by hearing the stories of two organisations attempts to reveal more data about the infrastructure in their regions. This will be followed by a discussion of the relevance of this data along with more examples. Speakers will be encouraged to reflect on the content and presentations of their fellow speakers in order to deepen the dialogue. Participants will be encouraged to share experience of their own countries and what they know about access or lack of access to data about internet infrastructure. Formal presentations will be limited to a maximum of two thirds of the available session time.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

Proposed Additional Tools: We will encourage comments via twitter using the hashtag #opentelecomdata along with the IGF 2019 event hashtag.


GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities