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IGF 2020 - Day 3 - DC Community Networks at Times of Crises and Pandemics

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the virtual Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), from 2 to 17 November 2020. 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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>> MR. LUCA BELLI:  So let's start this online meeting of the IGF Coalition, dedicated to Community Networks At Times Of Crisis And Pandemics.

    The theme of this year's session has been forcefully imposed on us by fate, but you know, when life gives lemon, try to do lemonade, as they say.  We have tried to use this as a good opportunity, actually, to be better heard by those stakeholders that maybe have not been considering Internet access meaningful connectivity, community networks as something not only useful but essential.

    And COVID-19 has harshly reminded to everyone that without the Internet connection, we cannot do anything almost in this moment.  And if we do not have an open Internet, if we do not have meaningful connectivity, if you do not think creatively about connectivity and if we do not explore alternative options, we are simply kept out of working opportunities, education, any kind of service, any kind of entertainment, any kind of communications, right?

    And actually, the great problem we have and that it is, still half of the world population almost that experiences this on a daily basis, not only during pandemics, the fact that if we do not have access, they are disconnected from the world.  But during their entire life because of lack of infrastructure, because of lack of appropriate policies, because of lack of these services in specific areas.

    The idea that we had with some co-conspirators at the beginning of this year was to collect a series of opinions, of ideas, description of concrete projects that can explain to the world why Internet openness is essential and particularly in times of crisis, of pandemics, this is something vital for everyone.  It is an option that must be considered by all policymakers. 

    I am very happy to see that over the last five years since the inception of the coalition, we started as a group of friends that had common interests and we managed to attract the attention of extremely high level policymakers that now are discussing community networks, now discussing frameworks from connectivity in rural areas and in other disadvantaged areas.  And now are considering Community Connectivity as a sustainable and true real option.

    Now, one of the key partners in the development of this project about the value of Internet openness in time of crisis, this year my friend Osama Manzar that has been one of the co-editors of this book we are launching together.  We are now also going to share the URL to freely download the book.  Of course, it is has creative licenses.

    Before I give you the floor, Osama, let me make a quick round of introductions.  We have the pleasure of having here also Sonia Jorge, who is associate Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet.  We have the pleasure of having Jane Coffin, the President of the Internet Society; pleasure of having Rolf Weber, the University of Zurich; pleasure of having Senka Hadzic at CyberBRICS; and pleasure of having Cynthia El Khoury, policy advisor for APC.

    Nicolas Echaniz, one of the co-conspiracy editors of any good community network fun in the world.  And last but not least we have Judy Hellerstein, who will be our excellent rapporteur for today's session.

    Without further ado I would like to ask Osama to provide introductory remarks and then the keynote remarks by Sonia Jorge.

    >> MR. OSAMA MANZAR:  I am very excited to be here in the cohort of known faces, known co-conspirators, so on and so forth, in a different time zone, different events.

    One thing is common that we have all been going through some kind of crisis in our lives, wherever we are.  And in this kind of crisis as a matter of introduction, I would like to say that never, ever in the last 20 to 30 years we realised how important it is to have an Internet, how important it is to have connectivity and how important it is to have democratically available to all.

    It is sad to say that after two decades we started talking digital divide world once again, we had forgotten talking about digital divide as an issue.  But it came up in this time of crisis where we did not only realise that half the world is not connected but even those who are connected are actually not connected, you know?  They are losing the meaning of connectivity.  They are losing the meaningful way of exercising their rights on the basis of connectivity and so on and so forth.

    And so all the activism and all the work that we have been doing that Internet should be open, this was the most highlighted time in our history that we better have realised.  Also because this time of COVID crisis also brought us the new way of looking at authoritarianism, control, Internet shutdown, nonavailability of connectivity, and so on and so forth.

    And I am delighted that I have been part of this compilation of this book that has brought various voices from various parts of the world, many of you are here and it is a delight to bring it together and it is a delight to bring it to be available with all of you.  And as a matter of something that we can relish, we can propagate, we can reuse, we can disseminate and but it is incomplete without having each and every voice from every part of the world, even though we have compiled it, it is not complete in a way.  But we hope to have more free of it and more openness of it.

    I am thankful that I am part of it, copublishing, coediting and putting it together, Luca, thank you very much for reaching out and bringing all of us together to make it happen.  You know, old habits die hard even though we think of releasing it virtually and but we never hesitated to say that the compilation should be in the form of a book, you know?  Which should look like in terms of a design of the look, the look and feel of a book.  We release as a PDF or eBook or read it on Kindle or on your screen, but yes, it is something like we all are human, but we also get converted into data, you know?  But so it is a humanisation of data.

    Thank you very much.  It is post midnight here.  Glad to be here.  And glad to be here also with two screens, which is watching what is going to happen in America and at the same time what are we going to do with connectivity to the world?  Thank you very much.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thank you very much, Osama, for your kind words and inspirational words, as usual.

    Now there is no better person to introduce this section and to also give a perspective of the journey we have been accomplishing over the past years than Sonia Jorge, a good friend, Director for the Alliance for Affordable Internet which is an incredible organisation doing a lot of very meaningful things besides working very hard for meaningful connectivity.

    Sonia, please, the floor is yours.

    >> MS. SONIA JORGE:  Thank you, Luca.  Thank you, all.  It is really a pleasure to be here with all of you.  It was really an honour to also be part of this collective for this book, as we still like to call it, Osama.

    So it is really wonderful.  I want to first start by acknowledging also my two colleagues that worked with me on our contribution, Danarash Takur and Teddy Woodhouse, who many of you know.

    We at the Alliance for Affordable Internet as you know have been working, I like to say not just hard but wisely on trying to make sure that all of the issues that both of you just raised are centre stage in policymakers' minds, in private sector decision makers.

    And most importantly also all of our colleagues in civil society that we care about issues, that we focus on them in a way that it is productive and that will help us really all together to move the needle in how we can move forward.

    Let me start by sharing with you a couple of things based on our contribution to the joint effort.  But also share with you some of the thinking that we have been doing recently around these issues.

    Obviously, there is no surprise.  You all know and you are all following the fact that this pandemic is not only severe but has affected our lives in ways unprecedented.

    For us what is most obvious and most concerning is that in a very short period of time this global phenomenon also showed us that every one is impacted differently.  So the pandemic not only does not affect everyone the same way, but in fact it impacts us in ways that can be quite detrimental and different depending on who you are, where you are, how you express yourself, how you identify yourself, if you are poor, if you are a rural person, if you are a woman or girl, et cetera.  It is very, very important for government, civil society, public sector, private sector all of us together to change the way we are approaching the issues and accelerate our efforts to achieve meaningful Internet access which we like to call it which I will tell you in a moment.

    We in the Alliance at the beginning of the COVID crisis shared a policy brief on COVID looking at issues of access and affordability but especially looking at what could government, again private sector, civil society, any partnership different of the players, what could we all do to change the picture that the pandemic clearly amplified.

    But one of the things that was really important for us from the outset was that for us we needed to start our thinking or shape our thinking and share our thinking from a position where internet access is not only an essential good but is a basic right.  That was critical from the very beginning, right? 

    So it made us push and advocate for the kinds of decisions and thinking that included things like free or subsidized access to public institutions to low income households, underserved groups of pop layings, especially women remote or rural populations, et cetera, but also thinking about new ways of providing services.  Especially focusing on smaller and medium sized companies as alternatives to enter the market and also alternative models like community networks.  I'm sure others will speak about that later on in the session.

    But all of these recommendations and ideas bundled together really were about making sure that people had increased access, but had better access.  After all, as you all know, we should put all that coverage that we constantly are hearing about to good use, right?

    We hear that populations are covered by these incredible mobile networks but in reality we know that people cannot afford, can't use and even when they use, they can not make good use, meaningful use of the Internet.

    So these existing inequalities that we faced and also the challenges in taking action was something that really concerned us.  And we actually started working on this project of coming up with a new definition of Internet access.

    More than a year ago, when COVID hit, it was kind of:  Aha, this is it.  This new definition of access that we call meaningful connectivity was not only important, but it really was something that we needed to focus to raise the bar on how we think about Internet access, right?

    When we talk about having Internet access meaning having a connection that allows people to use the Internet in ways that benefit them, in the ways that they define for themselves are creative, useful, productive, entertaining, however people want to use it.  Having the agency of making that decision with the connection that people have was very important.

    As well as with the kind of device that they can access and take full advantage of that connectivity.  That the device is portable, multifunctional, et cetera.

    For the most part, most of us on this call use Zoom with fast connections not only take for granted but are so used to it that we forget that most people around the world don't have.  As Osama and Luca pointed out not only don't they have but supposedly when they have some kind of connection, that connection is actually so poor it serves very little.

    So we at the Alliance, at A4AI, we propose these meaningful connectivity targets, these concepts in a way that is also based on four minimum technical thresholds that look at the combination of the quality of access but also the kind of device that people are using.  What is important is that meaningful connectivity means that people have at least 4G equivalent broad bad connection.  They have a minimum a smart device, smartphone, ideally more if it is possible.  A fixed wire to wireless connection at work, home, place of study.

    But also and most importantly that they can use the Internet every day, whenever they want.  Not just sporadically once a month, once a week or however little they can afford, but any time that they need.

    And so really pushing for this was an opportunity for us to then start conversations in a new way with policymakers, with decision-makers in private sector as well as our own colleagues in civil society and rethink the way that we can work with all of these groups to have targeted policies, targeted responses that can help not only reduce these inequalities an these divides that became even more exacerbated with the pandemic, but also so that we could address what became an emerging new digital divide, which was this divide between those who are poorly connected and those who are hyper connected, right?  Those of us who are here who are hyper connected and many that are counted as connected to the Internet but in fact are quite poorly connected, right?

    These binary way of thinking about the Internet access is really not sufficient for the kind of needs that we have as individuals, as digital citizens around the world.

    So the pandemic highlighted these new divides but also made sure that it was a way to challenge us to think about new ways to address this.

    One of the ways that we are thinking about meaningful connectivity and working through these concepts with policymakers is that we need to make sure that citizens can become better prepared for the future.  One important requirement to prepare digital citizens, right, to be better prepared for a future where pandemics, natural disasters an other emergencies are sadly not just once in a lifetime occurrences but are becoming far too frequent is that we need to think about digital development and meaningful connectivity in a way that guarantees access to the open Internet.

    I wanted to make that point because as Luca pointed out the motivation behind this project that you and Osama and others worked on so hard was really to challenge us about, to think about Internet access within the concept of the crisis, but also what does that mean to the open Internet?  What does that mean to access to the open Internet?

    And so for us it really is important to centre that understanding that meaningful connectivity having the data, the speed, the devices and the frequency of use also means that people are not restricted in their use, that they have access to the open Internet, that they are not only not restricted so that there is no artificial restrictions and that includes things like shutdowns, includes things like blocking different applications, et cetera, et cetera.

    Having that foundation in the thinking is very important because we want also to make sure that policymakers understand that foundational element of Internet access as a basic right and as a public good.  Right?

    So for us, these questions became very important.  We have been working on them, bringing them together.  We actually are going to share with all of you in the next couple of weeks not only a policy guide on how to activate and operationalise the concept of meaningful activity but also how do we go about measuring?  How do we go about making sure that the methodological approach to measuring meaningful activity around the world, regardless of where you are in the world, which country, which region, is one that is comparable, is consistent and really will add value to the wider effort of increasing not only better measurements, better data on Internet connectivity, but also data that is, for example, gender desegregated. 

    We want to make sure that as we are putting in practice these concepts and measure the progress towards them, that we do not contribute to furthering inequality also and further exclusion by not measuring correctly all of the different divides that already exist, including the increasing gender digital divide, the divides amongst rural and urban populations, and other kinds of divides that really have continued to increase not only inequality but frankly really created new forms of exclusion to many different marginalized populations.

    So we hope that by embracing these concepts, we invite you all to work with us on that, that you cannot only engage with it, use it, put it in practice, but then also demand from ourselves and our partners and policymakers and decision-makers that you work with in your countries, in your regions, in your organisations, these concepts and put it into practice.

    It should be clear, however, that our policy recommendations also start from this commitment that I mentioned earlier to the open Internet, right?  Having open access to the Internet is absolutely important.  It has to be the starting point without a doubt.  Otherwise we will simply be contributing to the existing divide and we don't want to be there.  We want to make sure that we close the divides, that we challenge ourselves and the sector to be better, do better so we can have affordable and meaningful connectivity and so that the different experiences between those that are currently poorly connected and the hyper-connected become minimized, become, are eliminated and we can in fact achieve a meaningful connectivity for all outcome that we are working towards.

    I'll stop there.  And again, thank you.  And I hope that you can all engage with us on this journey.  I will share some links for you as well in the chat.  Thank you, Luca.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thank you very much, Sonia, for this very interesting introductory remarks.  Really, it is interesting to see the work that you are dock and how also you are trying to provide a framework for assessment of meaningful connectivity.  So not only pushing for this very powerful notion, meaningful connectivity but also providing the tools to assess whether policies, infrastructure, technology is really compatible with this notion, which is this ideal that we have to strive for.  Or it is on the other hand creating digital divides.

    Actually, I would like to -- I always like to speak about digital divides in plural because there are many different forms of it.  Even the way in which we calculate how many people are connected in the world are not really considering the nuances of how people are de facto connected to the Internet, which kind of speed do they have, which kind of allowance do they have, do they really enjoy an open Internet which is taught logical.  We shouldn't be speaking about open Internet.  The Internet should be open by design and default, period.

    But as this is not the re-alley, we really need to have the tools to understand whether this is the practice or not.  This session today is really about that and also I would also like to invite all the Panelists to also join this session, the other partner with which this booklet has been designed.  These are also key elements, Internet openness is also a key element of the work of this coalition.  It is also moving towards an extended phase considering Internet openness not only as traffic management but also other elements of Internet openness that should be realised and tackled.

    I would like to ask now to Jane Coffin, who is our next speaker.  She is as mentioned before, senior Vice-President of the Internet Society.  If Nicolas is the co-conspirator of all community networks, Jane probably is the second partner in crime of all network initiatives globally.  Jane, thank you very much for being with us again this year.  The Internet Society is always very welcome to participate in our debates because you are connecting the dots in a wonderful way between all community networks, respecting them and trying to, helping them work to their potential.  Please, Jane, go ahead.  The floor is yours.  I'm sure we will have very interesting insights on news from ISOC.

    >> MS. JANE COFFIN:  Thank you, Luca, and it is a pleasure to be a partner in crime with you and Niko -- whoops, sorry.

    (Phone ringing.)

    >> MS. JANE COFFIN:  That was a fail.  I am in a common room in my apartment building, thus the mask.  I suppose it is apropos for this session but I am wearing the mask.

    So as Luca mentioned we are connecting the dots with partners.  The critical thing about the partnerships that we work to cultivate is that we never want to be a single point of failure in the partner in those partnerships.  We are always working to build a very strong base of the pyramid of partnerships.  It's very people, open and collaboratively in a common sense.  Coming together to try and move forward and build those human networks that build the technical networks that help sustain what we do and help deploy those networks, help advocate with governments, and policymakers as Sonia mentioned earlier.

    And really build change.

    COVID -- Sonia and I have, all of us have been at this awhile, but Sonia and I do remember way back when universal service, maybe not exactly when universal service funds were created but the implementation of what that looked like in the teleco space and all the rules that went along with it and the way things were funded and the way policies and regs were put together.

    I'm on a bit of a tear but one of my big missions this year annex is that we need to break this down.  The old rules do not follow that old open network way.  We are small medium and large size the area, we need funding mechanisms and need interconnection between those small and medium sized and large networks.

    The last panel that you so ably put together on the commons approach, it is very important we look at interoperability in that open sense an that community networks which we champion with many partners are seen as a way not a for.  People are doing things for us.  We are doing things for each other.  We are setting up the networks and enabling people.  Anyone can come to the table with the great information you are releasing today in this book or the books that have been released in the past that IGF, by APC and others and you and Luca have been brilliant and making sure there is something, experience, relationship building.  Most importantly sharing experience.  I go back to 2016 and Mexico where we had this amazing synergy, I called it the human chemical reaction in action.

    You could see people coming together and getting excited:  Yes, you are doing that there?  Yes, we can do this here.  We didn't think about that.  We can definitely do this to help you with this, spectrum sharing, changing funding mechanisms.  Expect.

    Changing the game together where we all have been coming together and working in different spaces, whether it is the G20 which for the first time this year recognised community networks.  The Ethiopian government recognised community networks thanks to Africa partners to take place in an open proceeding.  Look, you're putting in new rules for open governance in your country?  We want to be part of that.

    Partners are coming together and working with the same language to say that community networks are not strange.  We are not weird.  They are legitimate, not rogue networks, not illegitimate.  We heard this four years ago.  Now the tone has changed.

    And the thing I do want to leave with everyone is that COVID has, is keeping us responsible for the things we did not get done in the last 20 years.  We have a gap, as Sonia noted.  We weren't seeing digital divide in the last couple years.  We said let's figure out the positives of digital opportunity.  This pandemic showed us where the gaps are.  The Internet is a lifeline.  It is not acceptable that people don't have connectivity at all anymore.  We can't live like this anymore.

    COVID is giving us an opportunity, however, to take this momentum, work with partners, work with governments, work with each other to say we know how to do this.  We have options.  This is not just complementary in some ways.  Now it is alternative.  We often say complementary at the Internet Society but I'm beginning to believe there's more here where there's alternative models with communities networks in some places.

    But the community networks become part of the common language that we speak with respect to connectivity.  It is not an anomaly.  They aren't something that should be uniquely done only if, in a situation.  They need to be part of our menu of options now moving forward.

    I will say this.  And I'm not trying to speak for other community networks we know.  It is a community for the community by the community, I was told that they were able to use common online post boards, community bulletin boards, sorry, to put up data about COVID to keep people fresh on information, on track, not with fake news.  That network just kept people connected as a lifeline.  We know that New York City mesh in New York safely social distancing, traveling across the roof tops of New York City, connecting people and families for the first time.  Study, to learn, to communicate with each other and stay in contact.  We need to be in contact with each other because this is a difficult time.  But we also need to work, live, learn.

    So there are all of these things taking place right now in urban community networks, in rural community networks, from South Africa to New York City, to Greece, to Georgia where we are funding networks.

    People asked us, is it safe?  We said we are going to trust our partners to do the right thing on the ground.  From Niko in Argentina to folks in Colombia, and with others, this turned out to be a huge deal where community networks are agile and governments are looking at freeing up more spectrum, changing the old rules.  They are accountable.

    Their elections in the future are going to depend on connectivity.  Cities are going to be populated based on the fact that they have better connectivity or not, and towns.

    I am going to leach you all with that.  There is an exciting opportunity in front of us to take advantage together and to speak that common language to make this the next three to four years even a bigger deal for community networks.

    Thank you so much for the opportunity.  We are dedicated to our partnership with everyone.  If you need more, I can put you in touch with the two people who lead our team, Max and Juan.  Thank you.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thank you very much for this, Jane, very thought provoking remarks.

    Actually, with your last point, I think it is a key element that we also should consider in our future strategies, the fact that finally Internet access has become something that could make people win elections.  If you propose to have good Internet access, people now really care about it.  So it has become something that really has the value it deserves and it is something we should really consider also as a strategic point.

    Another point that I wanted to mention that you were very well mentoring the G20 and the government of Ethiopia.  I think it was one of the greatest successes.  I am going to share now on the chat the link to the website of the Brazilian telecom regulators that has used our book on the communication manual to provide the official website of the Brazilian regulator, linking to the book of this coalition to provide guidance on how to build Community Connectivities.

    I wasn't even dreaming about having this kind of impact in three years.  And this really shows how important, how relevant the work of those who are developing community networks is and also still how much work we have to do, how many dimensions have to be properly explored, tackled. 

    In this period I would like to ask our third speaker, Cynthia El Khoury, to take the floor.  Cynthia is the Coordinator of the Gender and Woman Engagement side of the Community Networks Project at APC.  It is an extremely important part of this debate.  The role that women have, still the gender divide that exists within not only community networks but within technology, access to technology in general.  It is not a coincidence that the first three speakers of this session are three powerful, strong women that deliver strong messages that inspire people.  It is a design choice.

    We need to make this happen more often and I would like to let Cynthia following up with her presentation because I'm sure that we will have a lot to learn from you, Cynthia.  Do you have any slides to share?

    >> MS. CYNTHIA EL KHOURY:  Yes, hi, Luca.  Give me a moment to share my presentation with you all.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  You should have presenter access.  We are seeing your sheer.

    >> MS. CYNTHIA EL KHOURY:  Is that clear to you, Luca?

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Yes, thanks very much.

    >> MS. CYNTHIA EL KHOURY:  Think, everyone.  I would like to thank Luca and the other organisers of the session, the analysts and all of the participants here today.

    I would also like to acknowledge all of the work that is being done by communities around the world and who are not present in this space at the moment.

    So as Luca mentioned my name is Cynthia.  I work with the Association for Progressive Communication as Gender and Women's Engagement Coordinator for Community Networks, a project that is also referred to as LockNet.

    We support the development of community networks from the Swedish international development cooperation agency.

    I will be sharing with you all today a glimpse of the article that we cowrote as the LockNet team which is the contribution to the collective work today.

    Lock knelt or connecting the unconnected, supporting community networks.  And other community-based connectivity initiatives, is a project being implemented by APC in partnership with Rhizomatica, which works as a bridge between the engineers and developers of these efforts to ensure that technology is deployed for appropriate use and APC is supporting people working for peace, human rights and the environment through telecommunication technologies.

    We are committed bold of activists who want to use the Internet to make the world a better place.

    I would like to note that the community networks mentioned in this article and in today's presentation work were contact the directly to solicit feedback on their rammed local response to COVID-19.  This happened in the early times of the pandemic.

    And I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of our community network partners who are mentioned in this article and many others on the ground who are working to connect our communities during these difficult times.

    First just to share a little bit about our own personal response as a lock theta team for COVID-19 has been in many folds.  And the earliest day of the lockdown we facilitated a series of conversations with population specialists who provided specific information to the group that we have been working with.

    And that came at a time where there was a lot of contradictory information and we also held space for people who are working in community networks to come together and share early responses an strategies based on their lived experiences in their localities.

    Because so much of what was found out there did not really speak to the communities and the realities and global health agencies were not providing contextual public health responses to the virus.

    And we have also been co-curating spaces of exchange between technologists and developers in the Global South and the North, especially those working on educational and communication platforms.

    And as stated earlier, I will highlight in the upcoming minutes a few stories that illustrate how being rooted in community and community networks have played a vital role in one connecting the communities information about the holistic health and how they've created opportunities for education, especially in the rural areas of the world; and how intersection for communication also have also served as antidote to the traumatic uncertainty of this particular point in time through creating these spaces of connection and creating opportunity for healing.

    And that is especially to counter and transform the aggravating effects of the pandemic on women and rural folks who may have been found to be mostly isolated or subjected to certain forms of violence.

    As mentioned earlier by Sonia, the pandemic that has been around with us for months now and for those in lockdown, it is becoming one of the most challenging times of our years, I'm afraid.

    COVID-19 is primarily a health crisis.  Community networks have responded to that in kind.  So I will share three stories from communities that relate to contextual public health issues.  One is that SAPIN, the union of cooperatives, based in the municipality of Puebla, Mexico, they launched an initiative, based on, as for a strong heart which was and still is a response to the pandemic but also addresses socioeconomic concerns of the communities.  Part of this campaign uses broadcast audio productions created by radio volunteers and a website to convey accurate and appropriate community related content.

    The second story comes from a rural area in India where milk formula companies have turned the pandemic into a marketing opportunity by spreading false news to advertise for their products.  Now, those of us who follow hot issues closely like myself know that breast feeding has been a major space for activism for women's rights to health in the public health discourse.

    And one of our colleagues in LockNet who has herself articulated community networks with -- that aim to support women's livelihood in rural areas of India responded rapidly and countered this information by using local networks to educate the women on what COVID-19 truly is and how to adapt healthy behavior during and post pregnancy.

    The third story comes from Kenya where Tunapand, a nonprofit, and the informal settlement of Kibera supported women's livelihoods in the early days of the lockdown by providing timely health promotion initiatives where the women of the community were coming together to imagine and sell protective face masks for their communities.

    Now, that does not only health promotion activity but one that also supported the economic livelihoods of the women at the time.  The group also worked to demystify what COVID-19 was by making information available in local languages and also by addressing the emotional and mental health impact of the pandemic on communities and they did that through the support of local volunteers.

    As these stories show, community networks have proven to be much-needed communication infrastructures.  And the space for self and collective care.

    These times of uncertainties as some people have been calling it and where the world economy is greatly and heavily affected by COVID-19, it has shed light on the vulnerability of all systems.  The agility of community networks as stated by Jane, to provide adequate and rapid response.  And also a response that cares.

    So during a moment when connectivity is more vital than ever for communities while extending livelihood and care for each other, now is the time for governments to quickly step in and put in place enabling environments and policy practices that grant communities the rights to set up and run their own communication infrastructure.

    That is all for me today.  Back to you, Luca.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thanks very much, Cynthia.  Excellent points and very interesting stories about how women directly contributed to these initiatives.  Of course, there is still a quite relevant gender gap, but there are very important stories that actually show how things can be done differently and they are already done differently.

    So very useful to have these examples.

    I would like now to open the floor for some initial remarks an debates and also provocative remarks, meaning it is very good -- we are not here, I wouldn't characterize our session, we are not only here to self-glorify our work, although we are, we are here to identify what are the challenges on which we have to work.

    We know perfectly well what are the things we are doing well.  But we are not always good at identifying what we are not doing well.  It is very good, I think, also to have this kind of debate today to see, to identify what are the challenges in which we can work, we should work, we may have good chances at producing something meaningful if we work.

    With this spirit in mind I would like to open the floor for a quick round of comments and questions or other remarks from the Panelists if any before we enter into the second segment.

    I see there is a raised from Niko.  Niko is already our Panelist.  He doesn't have to give you Panelist privileges.  You can go on the floor is yours.

    >> MR. NICHOLAS ECHANIZ:  I just want to mention, Luca, regarding the concept of meaningful connectivity.  While we have like now a bunch of these approaches, your networks of determination, our Internet co-creation concept, and now this meaningful connectivity.  One thing that we believe needs to be considered and we always try not to talk about access.  We try to talk about the co-creation of the Internet.  It is because usually we are accustomed to considering that what we need to do is provide access to everyone.  And this access is mostly what usually happens is that if you just provide access, it is access to some concentrated information silos.

    And we believe that we also need to deconcentrate the Internet and the community networks are an opportunity for that.  And I think that it is important to push this in policies also.  That local networks need to be meaningful, not just meaningful access.  The network needs to be meaningful.  The people in that network needs to be able to publish content, to create services, to exchange information in their local network.  And that network needs to be interconnected to the rest of the Internet, thus creating one little portion of the Internet.

    I see these concepts as usually forgotten.  This is the basic design of the Internet.  Although now we are forced to place CDNs because we have faster access to Netflix and YouTube and all the concentrated information.

    I think I just wanted to raise this point because I think that many of us are working policy.  And it makes sense to, well, to try to push for the best.

    I think that considering this point is important to set aside what we are saying from what, for example, a big teleco is saying, yes?  Because a big teleco may tell my government please subdies the demand so I can bring connectivity to these poor people.  They are not considering anything else.  Just bring some access to these people without losing money.

    And it is very important to distinguish that it is not just access.  We want to push for an open and diverse Internet that is not concentrated in a few powerful hands.

    Just that remark.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Excellent point, Niko, very good point.  And actually, I think perhaps Sonia will have some reaction on this.  My personal vision is that the two things are complementary.  All those who have been in policies and telecom policies for decades or for some time know that there is no one silver bullet that solves the problems.  You have a set of policies and a set of approaches.

    Our greatest merit is to, has been to spread the word in the standard community network is one approach.  It is not only big telecos.  It is also about initiatives that are bottom-up organised by people for the people, hosted by community networks.  But one needs not forget about the existence of these telecos an operators.  In that sense, the work of Sonia and the A4AI is meaningful.  It is important to understand the logic that drives community networks and apply it to our models in order to make them meaningful and useful for the people.

    And then I wanted to steal the words to Sonia or to give my personal interpretation of the work of A4AI.  So I will let her reply.

    Then we have two more people to speak.

    >> MS. SONIA JORGE:  Thank you, Luca.  I'll jump in quickly, but I will be quick so that others can also intervene.

    First of all, thank you, Niko, for that comment.  We couldn't agree more with what Luca and you also mentioned.  I think that the important thing here -- there are two points I wanted to raise in response to what you just said.  One is that in fact this idea of meaningful connectivity was cocreated precisely in that way.  It came about by doing the very in depth research with -- and various consultations with people around the world, but in depth researching for different countries.  But we asked people what is it for what you need to do?  What is it that you need to have?  So the concept was actually constructed.  And cocreated in that way as a response to what people want.  And how they want to be able to interact, to engage with technology and connectivity for any kind of purpose that they have.

    What I think is interesting to the point around community networks and any other kinds of really complementary providers and alternative business models, is that in really advocating for this concept and putting it into practice and activating it, we need those who are making the decisions about networks as you were mentioning to understand why we need the kind of network that we need.

    So we are not just saying we need a network because of XYZ, but we need a network bus we want to do meaningful things.  We want to be able to have access to the open Internet any time we want.  Women want to have access to health information or want to, you know, support their activism.  People want to have specific actions and engage in multiple ways in their own environments.

    But it is that kind of meaningful activity that will allow for that to take place.

    One of the things that you will see -- and I wish I could share with all of you now, but it is still in the process of actually being co-created and getting feedback from many of our partners at A4AI, is this these guides, this policy guide about how we can interact and engage with policymakers to transform and to go from the discussion on meaningful connectivity and create a path to get there.

   What are the right policy measures?  What are the writing centres, what are the right investments?  What are the kinds of investments that need to take place?  One of the things that you probably would have guessed and web actually working quite closely with many of our partners including Jane at the Internet Society and Luca and many others, is how to better create policy solutions that support and welcome community networks and other kinds of alternative providers to become not just alternatives but actually the default.  There is a lot of space in the market.  There's a lot of unmet demand that needs to be met by alternative providers.  And so by creating that space from a policy and regulatory perspective, we can go really much farther, but I'll stop there, Luca.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thank you very much for this reaction, Sonia.  We have two participants in line.  I think the first was Raquel and Amali.  I'm allowing you to talk, Raquel.

    >> RAQUEL RENNO NUNES:  Can you hear me?  I think because the meaningful connectivity concept, there is a reference that you mentioned briefly in terms of equipment that the smartphone will be like the ideal kind of equipment.

    Also because I think that in the research you had some information from women who felt safer using this kind of device because it was a device that allowed them to use it more privately.  In comparison to a computer or desktop that in a family or work environment you have to share with other people.  No?

    So how do you balance this information that is very relevant with this new demand that came with the COVID, kids and adults have to home schooling, remote work from home.  Of course, the smartphone is not ideal.

    So how do you add this kind of new information to the corpus of your research, of your analysis?  Thank you.

    >> MS. SONIA JORGE:  Luca, should I go for it or you want to take other questions?

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  You can please reply and then we have Amali and we can go with the second segment.

    >> MS. SONIA JORGE:  Thank you for that question, Raquel, very important.  All of the thresholds are minimum thresholds.  Think about it this way.  The way we see these, we need everyone in the world, no matter who they are, where they are, any time they need to have the same kind of connectivity.  There is no differentiation, no discrimination.  We need to raise everybody to the same bar, right?  It is a level playing field.  There is no accepting that a friend of mine in the Dominican Republic who lives in a rural area should have less connectivity than I in Boston, Massachusetts, or anyone in Delhi or in Rwanda, Angola, what have you.

    Everyone needs to have that basic access exactly.  And it is not, Maureen, it is not Utopia, it is so doable.  The exciting thing, it is so doable and there is no reason we can't be there in the next decade.  We published work about what it will take to do that.  I urge you to share but I will not go into that here not to digress.

    But first, Raquel, it is a minimum threshold.  That does not mean that that is all people need.  It means that at a minimum having a smart device, a device that has functionality that allows the possibility of people not only to learn but activate those ways of using technology and engaging with access in privacy, securely, et cetera, are created.

    Now, if every country, every group of the population will have different needs, different contexts, that we need to be aware of and also develop support systems that will allow them to be able to engage with technology without being restricted.

    If a woman like you are saying cannot use a device because the only device that is available is a computer, but by using the computer her privacy will be compromised, that is not acceptable.  This is why for us that individual access of a device like a smartphone is very important.

    Now, each country will be different.  Our colleagues in Latin America, for example, have been arguing very strongly -- actually, a report just came out this week from some folks in Latin America that I can try to share here with you.  What they argued was that while a smartphone is a good device as a starting point, in Latin America for the most part the markets and people and their demands for connectivity have changed to an extent that a smartphone is not enough.  It is not good enough.  You need to increase the threshold.

    So that threshold can change depending on the context of the country, the development state of the particular country or the sector, et cetera.

    I it really is contextual.  We want to have something, we want to have a concept that we could use to challenge, really push and change the way we are thinking about connectivity in the world and especially a way that minimizes the exclusion and inequality.

    But the specifics of each country, the specifics of each region will be dependent on that context in which they live.  Those who make decisions, all of us in civil society that are involved in these processes need to make sure that we bring those contexts to light so that the responses of policymakers and private sector and others are appropriate to those contexts.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thank you very much for this.  I ask Amali to give, try to give a quick comment or question.  And of course Amali is one of the coauthors of the booklet.  So it is a great pleasure to have you also here.  Amali, please, the floor is yours.

    >> AMALI De SILVA-MITCHELL:  Thank you.  This is Amali.  I'm the Coordinator for the Coalition on Data Driven Technology.  We are interested in connecting everybody to access to healthcare.

    What I wanted to say is really what was important in the old days when we started off with someone, you know, we used to call it eGovernment and the importance of the access of everyone to eGovernment services and that is an area we are especially interested in health.  It is not just only for information but the ability to send maybe test results, we know to have telemedicine and communication with doctors. 

    So in terms much these minimum requirements, we would also like if you would please consider adding kind of the size of the data files and the complexity to a certain extent that needs to be there at a minimum level to have very basic healthcare needs being taken care of through these eHealth government processes.

    So thank you, Luca, that's all I wanted to mention.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thank you very much, Amali, for this.  Now we enter the second session which has a presentation by Rolf Weber that has -- I mean, without -- Cynthia if you have a new word for saying -- besides the week before the IGF, the European Parliament would have announced that they were discussing a fundamental rights to Internet access, I don't know if you have these kind of powers or if it was a great coincidence, but your piece on Internet access as a human right was precisely discussed in what has now been sponsored by European institution at a really high level.

    Rolf, please, the floor is yours.

    >> MR. ROLF H. WEBER:  Thank you very much, Luca.  Indeed, I am not a prophet and I do not have a crystal ball, but I'm interested in this topic for quite some time and I also would like to raise it a little bit broader, not only limits to legal perspective which impression here to Internet access, but to access understood in a very general way as a human right but obviously the efforts of the European Union are helping me to take further into the respective issues, respective legal issues.

    Basically, my thoughts are, of course, of a more theoretical nature.  I can also liaise with the introductory keynote of Sonia and some other foundation of my thoughts is that openness is related to human rights and human rights constitutes the legal framework for society.  In particular, the right of access to information as stated in many international legal instruments and knowledge orientated.  This aspect is of particular importance in situations of pandemic environments such as COVID-19.

    What I'm saying is, by the way, not completely new or already in the context of the WSIS 2005 it was said that digital developments are empowering spaces for participation in public affairs and Internet access via meaningful devices should enable people to express themselves more directly in public arenas without having to go through the traditional media gatekeepers as well to apply new tools in the sense of human rights.

    In other words, if we take into the legal instruments, international instruments, we have to see for the possibilities how the traditional human rights can be made fruitful for the purposes of general access rights.  We have certain ways to interpret the respective legal instruments in a positive way.  On the one hand it would, of course, be important to more deeply elaborate on the freedom of information which is beyond the value in comparison with the freedom of expression, but is basically the back side of the medal, as we can see in many legal instruments.

    The restrictions imposed on the freedom of information would have to be questions in the special circumstances of pandemic situations and on the other hand, that is, of course, also relatively lengthy, this caution which we had among lawyers.  Traditional human rights are directed against states.  However, legal doctrine is of the opinion that human rights can have so-called horizontal or indirect effect.  This would mean that non-state actors would also be obliged to comply with human rights.

    If we look in particular at the very important international legal instrument, namely the international convention on economic, social and cultural rights, having been adopted in 1966 -- it is more than 50 years ago.  We can see that even in a nonbinding way but nevertheless at least as a moral commitment states are obliged to create an environment which enables civil society to make participative decisions and states should provide basic public services including infrastructure to support individuals in the realisation of their human rights.

    In other words, in addition to the principle of nondiscrimination being applicable in practically all international instruments, we have to see how we can more intensively refer to the respective provisions of this covenant, which is in addition supported by the rights to development as already contained in the respective UN Declaration of 1986, some 35 years ago, and the direction has been taken up by the UN sustainable development goals.

    In the UN report published half a year ago at the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, we do have shared responsibility and global solidarity.  And these objectives should be invested into the discussion related to the access rights to infrastructure.

    However, this is my second and shorter part of my short intervention.  We should not limit the efforts to the interconnectivity but also address access to data.  This is particularly important in a health crisis.  People rendering data to hospitals, to medical doctors, to other entities and organisations should have the right to have access to respective data even after this data has been processed by the data analytics and other methods.

    We do have such rights in most laws on data protection, but these laws usually contain restrictions.  And in addition we don't have such kind of access to data in the nonpersonal environment, the nonpersonal environment can be equally important if we are looking for general health data, et cetera.

    In other words, and in a nutshell, I am pleading for an extension of the freedom of information as a human right to a broader right of access, also having a constitutional value and I am pleading in addition to consider an extension of the general access discussions to specific access to data being of importance in times of crisis.  Thank you.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thanks very much for this, Rolf.  It is indeed a very timely proposal to have, the rights of Internet access as a constitutional provision, hotly debated especially in some regions.

    Now, to move to the more pragmatic discussion I would like to ask Senka who is here, she is also a research Fellow at Research Africa, APC, and from CyberBRICS, to share her presentation about spectrum management.

    We have been speaking a lot about spectrum matters and how it is managed not so efficiently usually.  Senka Hadzic is one of the contributions to the book with Allison and Pablo from Research ICT Africa.  So please, the floor is yours.

    >> MS. SENKA HADZIC:  Thank you, Luca.  Can everybody see my slides?  All right.

    So in this presentation I will unpack our contribution to the dynamic coalition annual outcome report, which my colleagues from research Africa.  So background, South Africa's failure to release high grade spectrum has been cited by experts as one of the -- operators had to reform their 3G spectrum and use it to deploy 4G.  That long overdue spectrum option was meant to happen in 2020, but yeah, then the COVID-19 crisis started and stopped the entire process that was happening at the regulators.

    But also as I think Paul participants today mentioned the crisis has really highlight the inequalities and the digital divide in South Africa, only half the population is online.

    Most people cannot afford even, you know, data for basic communications an not to mention home schooling or remote work and video conferencing, all these applications that require much more data capacity.

    But then with the pandemic outbreak, the state suddenly showed how agile it can actually be when there is the right, correct political will and that it can manage the crisis caused by the pandemic.  Soon after the South African government declared a natural disaster at the end of March this year, there was a ministerial Director to the South African regulator to release additional spectrum to deal with the increased demand for bandwidth caused by the lockdown period.

    And the call was issued within a week.  And both the Ministry and DECA, have emphasized how these arrangements are only temporary and the pre-COVID status will be reverted to after the disaster or November 30 at the latest.

    That has been pushed to next year and we expect the spectrum will be completed by then.

    And CASA received 40 applications for that temporary spectrum but only 17 of them actually complied with the provision of their investigation for temporary spectrum.  And experts agree that with the way how it is this application was structured in a very, very short time to respond, it really had the feel like it was designed to give the spectrum to incumbents.  Yeah, indeed it was the dominant players in the market who got these temporary spectrum assignments.

    And by doing so, CASA sort of missed the opportunity to widen the pool of operators and eventually bring some newcomers on board.  For example, community networks operator.  Because while it was the incumbents did get instant relief, for example via com stated that this temporary spectrum has really allowed them to reduce network congestion an increase quality while handling all the extra traffic.

    But for the end users there was no real benefit with this interests discussion.  There was no price reductions or also no benefits in terms of bringing more people online.

    Also ironically, 5G was launched within a few weeks after the award of the temporary spectrum.  And, well, I say ironically because, you know, this was meant to bring more people online and not for operators to test their 5G deployment because it is certainly not 5G that will solve the digital divide and connect the unconnected.

    But there are also some positive things to highlight here.  First it was great to see that if CASA can act swiftly when there is political will to do so.  It was great to see the TV white space going forward.

    That was the only nonincumbent spectrum that was covered in this call.  And the regulations for the TV white spaces have been published by the South African regulators years ago and now granting that to three new TV white space operators demonstrate nor progressive thinking about getting cheaper technologies and new services into the market.

    But the issue with TV white spaces, it is an old technology and it is indeed a real backward technology with lots of potential for African back regulars but does not reach the users' devices because then the white space deployment usually rely on using wifi for the last mile.  But then again wifi has its limitations.  Also in rural areas of South Africa many users do not even have wifi enabled phones.

    Essentially we cannot reach the large masses without the INT spectrum and in order to really serve the unserved we need to do things differently.  And doing things differently could mean, for example, adopting alternative business models to facilitate the entry of smaller operators and community networks.  Test the potential of some alternative licensing arrangements.  We also kneeled to do way more spectrum innovation and regulatory experimentation to move away from exclusive nationwide licenses because, you know, spectrum is usually given to regulators on a national level also and instead of being used in dense urban areas where there is a business contains and the rest of the country it remains unused.

    Spectrum sharing must be taken more seriously as well as building potentially incentives for operators to share their spectrum.  One example to look at would be OFCAM in the U.K. where low small local licenses are permitted whenever the spectrum is not being fully utilized.  Well, of course, there is the condition that the entry of a new local licensee does not interfere with an existing licensee.

    For example, such local licenses could be given to community networks, to meet local demands and complement existing services especially because I think that community networks go way beyond connectivity.  Apart from just providing access to the Internet, they also often design services which specifically serve local populations.

    For example, now in terms of the pandemic, there is -- in South Africa provided very localized content like COVID-19 related information which was translated into local languages.

    And some other communities across the country provided eLearning platforms or used their community networks for direct communications, communication between teachers and students and so on.  There are quite a few examples.

    But obviously maybe this crisis can even be used as an opportunity for course correction.  Because now that the political will is there, we should actually use it while it is there because it can -- very quickly.  Like Osama said in his opening remark, the digital divide is kind of back on the table.  And we should make use of that momentum now that everybody is realising the importance of ubiquitous access and maybe even the regulators would be more keen to doing things differently.

    So yeah, that's it for the summary of our contribution.  I'm happy to answer that question during Q&A.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Excellent.  Thank you very much, Senka, for providing some perspective from the South African situation.

    Before we open for a brief debate I would like to give the floor to Nicolas who has been so kind to wait until now and although Nicolas, unfortunately, does not have the time to contribute to the book we are releasing, he developed an incredibly interesting initiative, the communities network toolkit for COVID-19, which is an incredibly useful project, especially in these times of COVID-19.

    Nicolas, you are free to explain to us how this work or any other project that has happened together with your new beard style that I am very pleased to see.

    (Laughter.)

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Go ahead, Niko.

    >> MR. NICHOLAS ECHANIZ:  There is always some new style.

    Yeah.  Sorry we didn't have the time to collaborate there.  We have been very, very busy, but yes, we had been working for some years already with what we called the (Non-English phrase.)

    >> MR. NICHOLAS ECHANIZ:  I don't know how we translate but it is the bootstrapping of community networks, community networks boot strapping.  Those workshops were usually workshops where some of us, AlterMundi or partners would actually go to the communities and work with them through a process of two to three days of boot strapping the network in that area.  Which meant not just a community but usually a cluster of communities.  We try to invite people from different communes in the same region.  So they can learn together and even though the practical stuff is done in that spot where we are working, they all leave with the practice knowledge to their own communities.

    What we did with this protocol that Luca mentioned, it is published in our website and also in the APC website.  We designed this protocol that is designed for the communities to go through the workshop without the need to have people from our teams on the ground.  This has been working, I would say, really well.  We are now in the process of actually finishing the deployment of 15 community networks, new community networks here in Argentina.  This has been done during the past three or four months.  They are from ISOC, APC, and 48 percent.

    Actually, it was funded an average of $1,000 per community.  So I think it was quite cheap and very interesting.  Many of these communities it is baffling like how when they share their experience and they have deployed between three and five router nodes in each community and they are so happy that most of the community already has some wifi coverage.  We are very excited with this.  But for us this was not just the -- the important thing about this was not just designing this for the COVID time and pandemic time which we hope will end soon, but also to in some way demonstrate to our government that community networks are a viable alternative that we can actually deploy lots of community networks at the time we can have a just qualitative, quantitative impact on connectivity.

    The next thing that happened is that our government, the local regulator has passed some I would say quite novel policies where they started three different funds that are derived from the universal service centre and are basically for deploying network in -- one of them is in rural areas.  Another one is in slums and under privileged settlements.  And the other one is related to mostly the education, public education system in the communities around the public education system.

    And with these programmes there has been lots of new movement here until this year I was the only operator with a license, a community work license in Argentina, which actually created because we pushed for that to exist.

    But we were the only.  Now there are five new ones.  And there are like ten applying for this license.  So this is growing quite fast.  There is one operation that has applied.

    (Audio garbled.)

    That is only one project is a programme for using money of the universal service fund.  And we are the biggest.  Most of our projects are choosing to deploy the technology.  We've worked so hard to develop.  We are also working with local government agencies to try to bring the production of the local router to Argentina but not just to produce the router here but to create a model for local production of Liber router nodes, which is not just the router, the electronics, the plastics, the antenna, the cables, all that comprises a node for each home.

    And this is going quite well.  We hope during next year we will be able to start producing the routers because one of the things that we have identified and I have been talking a little bit about this with Jane and other people, is that the scale has changed like dramatically.  So we were producing hundreds of routers and now we will need to produce thousands of routers.  And all of this in a nonprofit model.  So we are also actually right now like looking for partners that wants to help out with the --

    (Audio garbled.)

    >> MR. NICHOLAS ECHANIZ:  The universal service funds will be able to pay for the routers, we need to pay for the production first.  So that this, I think it is just a financial problem that we will need to address.  And for me it is exciting times.  It is a change of scale that we have been actually striving for for many years.  I hope that what is happening here in Argentina now will also be an interesting case study for countries around the world, from the universal design that leads to the communities fund, community network deployment also and technology.

    If there are questions, I am happy to share.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Thank you, Niko.  It is interesting to see that the Libra match and the router are utilized and very successful.  It is also very good for me to hear that also Argentina is using universal access fund because from the study we did on commercial networks three years ago one of the main problems we highlighted is that the universal access fund are rarely used or even more rarely well used.

    So the fact that these kind of programmes that facilitate the disaggregation of the network, utilization of the networks and positive externalities, the creation of these new networks entails in terms of jobs, in terms of new services, in terms of new content, in terms of access beyond the limits that is excellent news.

    I think we should really try to document these also to use it not only as a case study but as a concrete evidence of the very good progress these can have from terrestrial thinking to implementation to scale to something very meaningful.

    Do we have a couple -- we can take a couple of very --

    >> MS. JUDITH HELLERSTEIN:  Luca, we have questions in the Q&A pod from Glenn McKnight.  Do you want me to ask them?

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Yes, please.

    >> MS. JUDITH HELLERSTEIN:  Glenn McKnight, he has a question on transparency international as an example of another group that has been using performance of the work, value, and proof of concept.  He mentions about that.

    And he gives an example of a water pump in South Africa that is using children to play on a merry go round.  That was an example of some kind of a impact that they were having.  I guess his question is:  Are there other examples that we can use and copy other institutions so that we can make this effort.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  If I understand, it is thinking out of the box to have very creative ways of doing things that could be useful for community networks.

    I don't know, I wouldn't know how to answer to this.  I don't know if there is anyone familiar with this from the participants?  Does anyone want to reply to this question?

    >> MR. OSAMA MANZAR:  Hi, Luca.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  You're still here!  Excellent!  I thought you were sleeping!

    (Laughter.)

    >> MR. OSAMA MANZAR:  No.  So I wanted to say that I don't think we have an independent organisation or agency having done that.  But one thing that I would say that in community networks, the entire approach of multi-stakeholders in most of the cases basic infrastructure being taken care of by most, in most of the cases -- I'm not saying all of the cases -- by grants and showing the sustainability may show that the cost per person may not be as the private sector would calculate what the call is to, return per user, something like that.

    But in this case the social return and the infrastructural input by participative, multi-stakeholder participation actually make the cost much lower.

    And the entire profit and loss can be, cannot be calculated the way it is calculated in the case of private sector or in the case of what you call ISPs or the telecos would calculate.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Yes, indeed.  I totally share your point.  Again, Argentina is a very good example of how they shared resources in this kind of multi-stakeholder principle.  Niko has been proving this for years also with their agreement with the University of, I think it was Rosario, for sharing the connectivity access, making good use of a resource that is already paid for, but that moment of the day is not utilized by everyone.  University students don't go to school in the evening.  People need connectivity at night.  The fact that you have already good access in one point and you can share it in two different communities, students during the day and households during evening and night makes excellent use of resources already there and were simply under utilized in evening and night while it is there for other people's use.

    There are a lot of examples of these kind of multi-stakeholder principles sharing resources to bring down the cost of what could be the deployment of infrastructure.

    I am very mindful that we are --

    >> MR. NICHOLAS ECHANIZ:  Luca, sorry, if I might add a little thing?  I think it has to do with what Glenn was asking and what you were commenting.

    Another thing that is happening here that I think at least to my knowledge is quite unique is that we are in the process of signing an agreement with the government of our province, our state, so that about 3 kilometers fiber that is ... not the national state but the province.

    But this has very little capillarity.

    The government has to, in many occasions when they need to provide connectivity to a school, to a public library, to a local government, et cetera, there is no possible to do it through their own infrastructure, though they have infrastructure, backbone infrastructure.

    So we now are in the process of signing an agreement with the state.

    (Apologies, the audio is garbled.)

    >> MR. NICHOLAS ECHANIZ:  -- to the area because the company has, but the government will buy the bandwidth in quantities and the community will do the rest, the last for them.

    For the infrastructure they have not been able to use in this agreement with the carrier so we can -- draft from one community network to the next one through the state fiber network.  And the State can provide a connectivity to the schools.

    All of this, I think, is it -- it is like nobody is losing anything.  We are just better utilising what is already there.

    I think this is also an interesting case to reply, to try to copy in other regions.

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  I notice there are a lot of other things that everyone would like to discuss and comment on.  Unfortunately we do not have any more time and I don't want to exploit the very kind technical support that has been provided for us.  I know that everyone has respect. 

    Thank you very much to everyone for your participation, for your very interesting presentations.  We have a mailing list that is open to anyone for sharing any further document, link, report, presentation, requests for partnership or anything else that you may have in your mind.  If you want to have a final group picture that we are able to share then with the IGF Secretariat, if you could switch on your cameras for just two seconds and smile, then we can take a good screen shot of everyone.

    Actually, Osama may be already sleeping.  Okay.  Have a good night, Osama.

    He's here again!

    (Laughter.)

    >> MR. LUCA BELLI:  Okay, excellent.  Everyone smiling.

    Excellent.  Thank you very much to everyone.  And have an excellent evening, afternoon or whatever the time of the day is in your time zone.  Thank you very much for separating to this session of the coalition and please let's keep in touch through the mailing list and let's organise more interesting events, projects, initiatives, anything you may have in your mind.  Goodbye.

 

Contact Information

United Nations
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