IGF 2019 WS #395 Filling the Gaps: Universal Service and the Other 50%

Organizer 1: Dudley Stephen Wyber, IFLA
Organizer 2: Stuart Hamilton, EIFL

Speaker 1: Teddy Woodhouse, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Nico Pace, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Melissa Sassi, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Paul Kiage, Government, African Group

Policy Question(s): 

What is the current state of practice around the world in focusing Universal Service and Access Funds to support public access, as a proven means of increasing both connectivity, and the ability of all to benefit from the internet?

What examples can be shared (both from the government and beneficiary side) of good practice in supporting inclusive, meaningful access?

Relevance to Theme: Groups working on public access have long placed an emphasis on the positive social and civic outcomes of getting more people online. Libraries, for example, have long served a democratising function, giving everyone the chance to read and learn. This is as much the case as ever in the digital age, where information is abundant, and people need the skills and confidence to access and use it effectively, in order to support development. Of course public access solutions often require financial support from government, either to set up or for their ongoing operation. Universal Service and Access funds can provide a crucial means of providing this, if used effectively. This session will explore how this can be (and is being) done.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Universal Service Funds are one of the key tools available for delivering public interest objectives in the operation of the internet. They are needed both because of market failures (lack of return on investment), or simply because some people will never be of interest to profit-making companies. Building a shared conception of how these can work most efficiently and effectively to deliver consensual objectives (connected and empowered populations - notably through public access solutions) is therefore a key element in the way we think about how the internet is governed.


Birds of a Feather - Auditorium - 90 Min

Description: The goal of this session would be to explore how – and where – Universal Service Funds are supporting innovative means of getting people connected. With public access – through community anchor institutions, community networks and offline-internet solutions – offering a promising means of returning to a more positive trend path on connectivity, what can USAFs do to help? What have we learnt in the past few years about making them work, and what positive examples can we set for others? And how can everyone’s voice be heard in decision-making processes regarding the allocation of USAFs?

The session will share positive examples and draw out the key characteristics of successful schemes in order to inform and inspire change elsewhere. It will also inform ongoing work by the Partnership for Public Access on model policies which can be incorporated into digital connectivity and inclusion strategies.

The workshop will hear from representatives of government who have used USF to support libraries, from libraries themselves about the impact that this has made (and their inclusion in the strategy design process), and from the technical community who have facilitated links and offered guidance.

Each speaker will have five minutes to present their own case and the lessons learned, before inviting views from participants about both good - and bad - practices in USF design when it comes to supporting public access.

Expected Outcomes: The goal of the workshop is both to gather positive examples of using USF to support public access, as an example to others, and to highlight open questions and issues where more discussion may be necessary. It will feed into a planned policy statement by the Partnership for Public Access, as well as ongoing work on a model policy for public access.

Onsite Moderator: 

Stuart Hamilton, Civil Society, Eastern European Group

Online Moderator: 

Dudley Stephen Wyber, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Dudley Stephen Wyber, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

We want to avoid just having presentations, so will encourage speakers to keep to five minutes, before entering into a conversation with the moderator, as well as with speakers from other sectors. The moderator will work to get a focus on what seems to make for good practice, as well as identifying barriers overcome. In each case, this should open up into talk about whether this is the case elsewhere.

Online Participation: 

We will plan for key discussion questions beforehand and share these in order to give people time to reflect. We will also release draft documents before the event about use of USF to support public access. When the session takes place, this, we hope, will offer a greater possibility for active participation, including presentation of good practices by remote participants.

Proposed Additional Tools: Social media, through use of hashtags.


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