You are here

IGF 2020 - Day 6 - WS 37 Community Network, Electricity and Digital Inclusion

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. 

***

 

 

   >> MODERATOR: Good morning.  It is 7:40 and welcome to the Internet Governance Forum Workshop Number 37.  And this is a workshop on Community Networks, Electricity, and Digital Inclusion.  One of our main or the main objectives on this workshop, talking beyond our COVID-19 context in which we have been affected, but also concentrating on community networks and moving the unconnected through community initiatives and also not forgetting electricity has been an important part of connecting persons who are not connected and also digital inclusion to be able to bring everybody together.

     My name is Kwaku and I will be moderating the session.  I am working with Lily.  I don't know if Lily Edinam Botsyoe is here with me.  She will be my emcee.  Good morning once again and welcome.  Thank you for joining us.

     On the panel today, we have a cross-section of very seasoned personalities who have been working with us.  And in the meantime, I would like to acknowledge my co-organizers, Wisdom Donkor, Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro, Zeina Bou Harb, Lily Edinam Botsyoe. And we have a set of very seasoned persons as I was talking about and it would be good to have a brief introduction since they are here.  What I would like to do is I will call on you and you introduce yourself, and your organization and the great role you are playing in our world.

     Without much ado, and I can see – Gisa, can you hear me?  Can you introduce yourself and your organization?  Can you hear me?  I see you are on, but you need to unmute.  Gisa?  Hello?

     >> GISA FUATAI PURCELL: Okay, so can you hear me now?

     >> MODERATOR:  Yes, loud and clear, please go ahead.

     >> GISA FUATAI PURCELL:  Okay. My name is Gisa Fuatai Purcell, and I'm the CEO for the Office of the Regulator in Samoa.               

     >> MODERATOR:  Thank you for joining us, Gisa, thank you so much.  Without much ado, I’ll go to Michuki Mwangi for Internet Society.  Can you introduce yourself and your institution?

     >> MICHUKI MWANGI: Thank you, Kwaku.  Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, depending on where you are.  My name is Michuki Mwangi.  I work for the Internet Society as a Senior Director, Internet Technology and Development, and I’m based out of Nairobi, Kenya. I have been working on internet development areas specifically on access looking after community networks in Africa and the development of community networks.  And also internet exchange points and related issues.  Thank you very much.  I'm happy to be here this morning.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much.  I see Stephanie on the line.  Stephanie, can you please introduce yourself?

     >> STEPHANIE PERRIN: Yes, hello, Stephanie Perrin.  I'm from Canada.  And I'm the past chair of the noncommercial stakeholders group at ICANN where I worked largely on policy retired issues in the domain system.  I'm a retired public servant from Canada and I worked for many years in the telecommunications department the industry Canada.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Stephanie.  Stanley, can you go ahead and introduce yourself.

     >> STANLEY KWAKYE DANKYIRA: Good morning.  Hi, can you hear me?

     >> MODERATOR: Yes, please go ahead.

     >> STANLEY KWAKYE DANKYIRA: My name is Stanley Kwakye Dankyira.  I'm the Director of Maxim Nyansa where we assist the communities with computer accessories and make sure that they can connect to the world. Yeah.

     >> MODERATOR: For the last 20 years, we have been talking about the internet and connectivity.  And one of the most important aspect has been able to connect persons who are in remote and unconnected communities.  One of the biggest concept which has come up has been community networks which is -- in which persons who are in rural communities are able to connect themselves.  It is important that we are able to bring stakeholders together to talk on the points and policy questions which -- (break in audio).

     >> He will come back soon.  So we will we be continuing soon.  Thank you.  Thank you so much. 

     >> MODERATOR: I was giving the brief introduction about the community networks, electricity and being able to include persons on the networks.  Before we start, I would like to introduce and bring back again Gisa for a keynote address and I give the floor to Gisa.  Please go ahead, Gisa, if you can hear me.

     >> GISA FUATAI PURCELL: Can you hear me? 

     >> MODERATOR:  Yes, please.

     >> GISA FUATAI PURCELL:  Thank you very much, Mr. Moderator.

     My name is Gisa, that is how you pronounce it, Nee-sah.  And I'm the former Acting Secretary General and the Director of ICT development at the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization.  And prior to that, I was the head of ICT development for the ITU, focusing on small and developing states and landlocked states and developing countries. 

Let me start.  Honorable ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my utmost pleasure to be your keynote speaker tonight or this morning, wherever you are attending from.

     During these trying times of COVID-19 we and the whole world have seen the importance of the internet and therefore the critical role of the Internet Governance Forum.

     Now, let me cast our eyes back to the road that leads to today's IGF because it is important that we look back in order to go forward.  On 21st of December 2001, the UN General Assembly endorsed by Resolution 56183, the holding of the world summit of the information society, and appointed the ITU the managerial role to organize the event with other UN bodies with the first summit in Geneva 2003, and the second summit in Tunis 2005.  During the first summit in 2003, the working group on the internet governance presented its report.  And the second summit in Tunis where over 19,000 participants from 174 countries endorsed the establishment of the Internet Governance Forum.

     This is a multi-stakeholder governance group.  The UN General Assembly approved funding and approved the establishment in March 2006 and recruited fellows and interns to help the Executive Director establish the office and set up the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group.  And furthermore, to plan the first IGF that was held in Athens, Greece in 2006.  And I'm pleased to say that some more participated throughout the whole process that led to the establishment of the IGF.

     I was the first fellow recruited along with other interns for this job, hence my utmost pleasure to address you tonight, or this morning, wherever you are participating from.

     And remember, it took 50 years for the telephone to reach the four corners of the world.  And it took only five years for the internet.  And while the internet was a new phenomenon then, much was needed to be done in order to understand the modalities of the internet, especially the benefits and challenges.

     Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a truly digital era during this fourth industrial revolution.  The IGF therefore is an excellent platform for us to come together and continue to show progress of the multi-stakeholder group of diverse and unifying approach from government, private sector, and society.

     And therefore, we must continue to develop strategic goals and review the role of IGF and its achievements that can help our countries achieve the sustainable development goals of 2030.  Now, ladies and gentlemen, there are three issues that I will touch briefly on and then I will let the workshop, this session continue.

     I wish to address these issues which are very important for Samoa and other small island developing States.  And these are electricity, connectivity, and legal frameworks.

     As we all know, electricity is vital and plays a major role for the digital transformation and it is crucial for nations to ensure that electricity is affordable with an optimal coverage.  It is impossible for digital technology equipment to work without electricity.

     When we come to connectivity, it is true that while hundred percent coverage is important, and it is the goal that every country and every government would like to achieve, it is also equally important that the quality of service must be provided by all service providers.

     There is an -- there is an idea of community of networks that must be conceded in due course.  When we come to legal frameworks, as we all know, ICTs and telecommunications is in the fast pace.  It's so -- it is changing so quickly, and therefore we must focus on the need to amend our acts and make sure that they are suitable to the current time and the current situation in each of our countries.

     And incorporating these three key challenges we must also consider capacity building, capacity building is very important in each of our countries, especially the developing countries.  We need our people to understand every single aspect of ICT development, especially of internet governance and that covers the cyber security.  That covers cooperation and deliberations among partners.  This is important that we work together instead of working in silos.  There is so much to be learned by everyone pooling their fingers and sharing their knowledge of what went well, what didn't go well, and the lessons learned from all those.

     Ladies and gentlemen, I wish everybody an excellent time during this session.  And I wish you well when we finish and look forward to an excellent list of outcomes.

     For Samoa, we shall provide any voluntary assistance that we can come up with as requested as part of this session.  I thank you very much, and God bless.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Gisa.  Thank you for the charge, and also we will have fruitful deliberations looking at the panel and the question session.  Thank you so much. 

So for the workshop for the first segment I will begin shortly, it is about electricity and digital inclusion and the second part would be about the regulatory frameworks and how we are able to cross create the spectrum management that would enable networks to be able to connect.

     So Michuki, from the Internet Society, we know you have been doing a lot of work on expanding and developing the internet.  What do you have to say about development of the internet in terms of community networks and expanded and development?

     >> MICHUKI MWANGI: It is a pleasure once again to be here.

So I would like to talk about two key things.  First and foremost, with respect to community networks, for those who are not aware this community owned and developed telecommunications infrastructure that is established mostly by the communities in the areas that they live in, rural areas.  It has a unique model in that it is built in own appreciation by the community, for the community and to serve that specific community.  In many cases, it is a non-profit approach. 

One of the challenges that the community networks do have is access to back infrastructure.  If you look at a couple of studies that have been done in the region, at least 50% or more than 50% of the population in Africa lives within 25-kilometers to a fiber node as is done by the Huntington Group. And this could be both a private or public.  And often the way the fiber is built, it is built towards the edge of the commercial viability boundaries.  And that means that it is not possible to extend it beyond this point through the current commercial models that are used to put down the fiber.

     And therefore to extend the fiber beyond this point, we need to sort of integrate alternative and complementary approaches that have been demonstrated by community networks so this infrastructure can reach those communities that live beyond this commercial viability boundaries.

     And this actually requires working through collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders that exists.  It could be the managers of the national backbone fiber project or other institutions and policy makers and so on that are responsible or have an interest or in the way community networks are developed as an alternative way of connecting.

     The second thing I wanted to talk about is public funding for community network deployments.  This will certainly need to start from recognizing community networks as serving a special purpose.  This will be key from policy makers and regulators to do so because after they are able to recognize them is when they can become institutions that can apply for special type of funding from public authorities or public institutions or regulators that manage universal fiber lines, et cetera. So it will be one of those important conversations that we need to have with respect to public funding for community networks, and we hope that through the conversations that will take place maybe here and in other forums we will find a framework that can actually be adopted globally for supporting community networks to deploy around the world.  I would like to stop there. And thank you very much.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for putting that in context for us in terms of the community itself and also the backbone infrastructure. 

I would like to move on to Andre.  You have a vast experience across various industries and also across various institutions.  In terms of looking at technology and -- in terms of looking at technology and electricity we were talking about and I will ask you specifically to agriculture, what do you see as being an enabler or helping us to be able to achieve the kind of things we want to see happening in our agricultural center as a case in point to be able to elaborate?  Andre, I will go to you.

     >> ANDRE LAPERRIERE: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening depending where you are.  For those less familiar with GODAN, we are Global Open Data Initiative for Agriculture and Nutrition.  The goal is to stimulate production in the agri-food structure and the main tool that we use to do that is data so hence the internet and importance of reaching farmers in particular up to the last mile and to have the full digital inclusion in that process.

     So what I would like to share with you this morning is, one, a general overview what is the landscape in terms of access to data.  And second, I would like to just briefly speak about obstacles or things that prevent vulnerable groups of having their full access to these resources that are available now.

     Yet, it is not all bad news.  There is some driving forces that are really helping propel the internet in particular.  And finally, I have just a few recommendations.

     First, on the landscape.  There is a lot of statistics going on these days about internet access and so on.  But some need to be a little bit clarified.  For instance, we are seeing now that about 50% of the world's population does not have internet access.  So if you read it the other way around, 50% does have internet access.  That is what the statistics say. And the same is true in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, if you look at it in even closer detail, you will find that even though 50% of the population technically have some -- have the possibility to access the internet, less than one-third of that does in fact connect to the internet.  That means that for two people out of three where the availability is there, they don't prevail themselves from it because of cost, content and other reasons.

     One other interesting statistic is smartphones.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, 39% of the phones are smartphones which means that 60% are not.  So we are still dealing with older technology, 2G and 3G in particular which one of the constraints that we have now.  One thing positive is that between 2014 and 2017 the number of people with accounts, mostly mobile banking accounts, has doubled. So now it reaches a little less than 25% of people with accounts.  Yet, there is a long way to do ways to make that. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 400 million people that could and should have access to actual financial tools available through the internet don't.  So 400 million.  So there is a lot of space there.

     And more specifically, the gender gap.  Worldwide, the gender gap there is a difference between male access to internet versus female access to internet.  Worldwide, it is 10% the gap.  So men have 10% more access to the internet than women do.  However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, contrary to the world, that unfortunate trend has increased over the last decade or so.  Now they estimate that 37% -- we estimate that 37% a gender gap in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Said in other ways, it means that if you are a man you are twice as likely to have access to internet than if you are a woman.

     So that is some of the elements of the bigger picture.  Now, obstacles.  How can we make sure those in the last mile and remote villages and women gain better access to the internet and the environment its tools and data provides?

     There are three categories of obstacles.  First, there are social obstacles.  We know that in many, most countries women are concentrated in low wage jobs, for instance, and because of this they lack real household power in making decisions in access and use of technology and tools.  And women in particular have competing demands for the women's time to take care of the kids and the house and do different things, which tend to fall on their shoulders. For cultural and other reasons also, there is often a reduced mobility of opportunities for women.  They just can't just leave and go get a better job somewhere else as easily as men do. And finally, there is a lower digital literacy among women.  That is a general social difficulty challenges.

     On the supply side, we find that a lot of people don't access the internet because they don't find themselves in it.  They don't find the content relevant to their specific situation.  So that is, this content part is very important and it is a known constraint that we have.  And the third one is legal and regulatory environment, which is not necessarily always conducive to the expansion of the internet and access to it.

     For example, there are barriers to obtain formal identification.  Many people still don't have IDs or there is no uniform ID system, especially across the region.  Similarly, there is a lack of intra-operability and even in mobile banking between the different operators.  So these are some examples of the legal and regulatory situation which can also help but right now is oftentimes a problem.

     Forces that are driving the internet and progression of access to the internet are many.  One of them is the emergence of 4G and soon 5G, but the percentage of mobile phones that can access 4G in Sub-Saharan Africa has been very rapidly increasing.  When the demand for better services like 4G over 3 or 2G, when that increases it motivates the internet providers to beef up the capacity to improve the service and improve the capacity to have data for the network.  So 4G is very much a driving force and not just a consequence of the internet.

     Second, mobile banking.  Mobile banking is exploding right now.  It is extremely popular. And, in fact, 10 countries, now 10 countries in the world now that have more where the population has more virtual accounts than physical accounts in the bank. So, there are 10 countries in the world.  And it so happens that all 10 of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Just to show the benefits of that, when Kenya embarked in the mobile banking in a very short time we estimate that a little less than 200,000 women found jobs in business and retail as a result of them having access to these financial tools for the first time.

     Another driving force is the cost of technology falling rapidly nowadays so it is making internet access gradually -- slowly but gradually more accessible. At the metro level, the economic integration efforts in Africa in particular are also driving interoperability and data integration and therefore access to data.

     Five recommendations.  How should we focus on tackling these problems?  Recommendation one is something simple that governments can do is to implement mobile banking standards across operators.  Because nowadays, a lot of mobile banking is not necessarily compatible between one operator and another. That means if your operator is different from mine, I can't send you money or receive money from you so that needs to be corrected.

     Second, expand unique digital ID.  In many places, there is still a large segment of the population that has no official ID.  So which prevents minorities, women in particular, women tend to be more vulnerable and have less access to digital ID so therefore excludes them from participating in the internet.

     Third, we need our governments to create enabling policies and regulatory framework that will help stimulate demand for the internet.  Just one example, I was saying that only 39% of the mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa are smartphones and we need to increase the percentage.  Increasing content will again stimulate demand and infrastructure investments.  Among the things that governments can do, for instance, is they can reduce taxes on smartphones.  Again, to help make them more affordable.  And find other instances.

     I know some company like Safara-Com, for example, has a program in which subscribers can benefit from a smartphone against a very small only symbolic daily fee.  So that is the kind of initiatives that will help.

     Four, we need countries to do a proper digital readiness assessment.  Now that we are working on implementing these different measures it is important to know if they are making a difference or not.  So a constant monitoring of the digital readiness of the countries is necessary.  And finally, especially for women, we need countries to perform more gender-specific research to better understand what are the constraints that generate this digital divide between genders and ways to overcome them.  So these are my five recommendations for now.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Andre.  We will move to Stanley.  Stanley, the floor is yours, speak as appropriate.

     >> STANLEY KWAKYE DANKYIRA: Thank you.  And good morning, everyone.  Yes, can you hear me?

     >> MODERATOR: Loud and clear.

     >> STANLEY KWAKYE DANKYIRA: My comments is all about inclusion in terms of the digital divide.  What we realize over the years, if you realize that first here especially in Ghana access to the technology improvements itself is key in order for people to know exactly what we are talking about, yes.  Because when you mention each phase in terms of what are you talking about, the person is talking about the rest of the items, you realize that the access to the equipment in terms of the technology and just talking about mobile devices where we have a lot of people in Ghana having a lot of people using two or three mobile phones.  But the question was with the technology itself regarding the app in terms of 3G or 4G.

     A few from the point of view in terms of Andre’s slides.  We made mention of talking about the GSM and all that, but one of the things that I realized or came across in terms of that is the ability to use things like your own GSM phone and solar systems in the sector.  I don't know maybe later Andre will talk about that for us to see.

     But one of the key things, for example, my organization decided to do in terms of bridging the digital divide is to first try to let people have access to the technology itself in terms of the computers right in terms of the schooling aspect.  We decided to have much computers across the country.

     And we are doing this with the government together to assist in this aspect to send computers to deprived communities.  And we wish to get out in the community itself.  Talking about not just going to communities to just take computers there for them to say we have computers or we have ICT equipment.

     But in the ability for them to be able to have it and be able to know how to use the system.  Even though there are certain areas where there is no internet connection.  One of the key things that we are doing here is affordability.  We realize that whether there is internet there are not, what we are talking about is affordability.  One of the key things here is to make internet affordable to the various communities.

     Apart from that, I believe that this infrastructure in terms of electricity and something that the government is still doing in the area there are few place where it is no electric -- there are a few places we have been where there is no electricity at all.  With public-private partnerships some organizations will have systems in the areas even though it is quite expensive.  So maybe it is expense to have -- is the affordable of the solar equipment in the various communities.

     It is easier for us to be able to send these ICT equipment to the areas and also reach these technology.  This is my comments.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much.  And thank you so much to our panelists.  So I would just like to point out that I will highlight a few points. 

Mwangi was speaking from the Internet Society aspect in which he highlighted one of the key ingredients being in the capacity.  Andre has also talked about the special the gender gaps in terms of the data.  And Stanley was also talking about how we also apart from being inclusive, we are thinking about infrastructure itself in terms of the managing levels and how to mix in our energy.  And I know that in most small island and developing countries, the energy payment and the cost of energy also can be a factor because if you have to look at your household income and get it on to the internet and the electricity, there is a fine balancing act that has to kind of be assessed to be able to do it.  It is important that we are thinking on the broad spectrum of things.  And one central in the conversation the skills itself.

     We know that, for example, the Internet Society also helps in terms of the community networks and capacity building. One thing that I think Andre has highlighted in terms of our aspect is the case in point of agriculture.  You know, and in terms of having access to data.  A lot of data and understanding what is going on will not be able to really capture and seek to help the persons or where the real issues are.

     At this point in time, I don't know if some of our discussants in the room would like to comment.  I would like to acknowledge Professor Allison.  I see her in the attendees.  Hello.  And particularly Carlos, are there any points you want to make before we go to the next session?  Carlos is our discussant.  Carlos Rey-Moreno, can you hear me?

     >> CARLOS REY-MORENO: Yeah, I do.  Thanks, Kwaku.  Some interesting points were in relation to I think something that Stanley mentioned and also Andre.  I mean it was all connected, right? 

Like mobile connectivity as a driving force to connect the unconnected in a way.  The issue of devices and extension of ability and also affordability as Stanley was mentioning, and Michuki mentioned at the beginning that traditional models have the asset to extend the spectrum yet they are not doing so for different reasons.  Among them, they are not able to find a profitable connectivity there.  Yet we are not being to find ways for that spectrum that they have with the national footprint to be used by other actors in rural areas that might be able to extend the connectivity affordably, right, as community networks in different would parts of the world have proven.

     So I wonder if that is going to be part of the discussion going forward. But there is an interesting tension about how much we need mobile connectivity and how much of a driving force it is, but also how little those are doing those who have the asset now at spectrum to those deprived communities that we were talking about, and how much they were doing for blocking others like ISPs and community networks.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Carlos.  So I would like to move to the other section so we can have a transition.  Is the Honorable Judge from Ghana's parliament with us?  If not, I would like to start with Stephanie on the spectrum session so that we can merge with that session as we have a fluid conversation.  Stephanie, can you hear me?

     >> STEPHANIE PERRIN: Yes, I do.  Would you like me to start now?

     >> MODERATOR: Yes, please go ahead.

     >> STEPHANIE PERRIN: I just wanted to give you folks a few statistics from Canada.  Canada, as you probably know, is a pretty big country and we have very good internet availability statistically, apparently.  But in reality, it is expensive in some of the hard to reach areas.  And by hard to reach areas, may I say that personally I'm working with a community group to try to get better speed 45 minutes outside the nation's capital.  That's how soon you get from the -- into this kind of digital divide between the urban centers, which are very well served, and the rural centers, farming communities and in particular Indigenous communities, the First Nations who tend to be further up north where accessibility is really a problem. Even satellite does not work as well up north.

     So here are a few of the statistics.  And in the absence of slides, let me just say that if you are interested in the Canadian stats, the Canadian Radio Television Commission has very good internet surveys based on data that was gathered 2017-2018 they participated with Statistics Canada.  RCRTC, that’s our telecom regulator, set the goal for internet speeds at 50 mgs per second down and 10 up back in 2016.  That is just a dream for most of rural Canada still.

     So this survey in 2018 checked on where we were.  And there is a fund, the Telecom Regulatory Fund that the CRTC has established to try to promote improvement in the services.  I would say that it is not working well, but there have been significant improvements.  To aid in this lowering of the cost, they also came up with the decision recently to lower the wholesale prices that the telecom providers are required to charge for the smaller internet service providers. So that assisted in bringing some of the rates down. 

So the statistics I'm citing for you here are availability.  Please note that.  That is not necessarily usage because of cost. So there was an improvement in broadband availability that went from about 65% to 72% for 25 megabits, and 39 to 43 for 55 -- 50 rather.  That was in rural areas. So that is only 43% having access to the goal.  That is access, not usage.  Urban, however, 97.7% of Canadians that are living in urban communities have access to 50 mgs or better.  The stat for the rural areas is only 40.  First Nations, only 31.3.

     So what this means, in fact, is, of course, that businesses operating in rural areas.  So we’re talking mining and in particular farming, farming has become very modern now.  And farmers need access to the internet not just used to be for weather, Canadians love to talk about weather.  I will try to resist.

     But it is now the manual for your tractor is going to be online and online only.  Farmers have shifted to robotic cattle milking.  So if you are running a dairy farm, you are going to need access to the internet for a lot more than just basic information. So these are factors that are pushing fiber out to rural areas.

     Now in Canada, fiber delivery to rural areas means basically digging a trench along the road and burying a fiber cable.  That can be problematic in areas where that is going to interfere with the snow removal.  In urban centers they are going underground through larger cable channels.

     So in terms of tracking what is -- so in terms of tracking what is happening in consumer advocacy, the Public Interest Advocacy Center is running a blog that follows this problem in the availability and pricing.  So if you are interested in finding partners in Canada, I would recommend the Public Interest Advocacy Center. 

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, so CIRA, the folks who bring you the dot-ca domain publish following the broadband issue, and publish the Canadian internet fact book for 2020 which will give a good picture of all of these stats.  CIRA also runs a line speed testing service for Canadians so people across the nation can log in and check the line speed so they have compiled statistics on this.  There is some discussion and argument among the advocates around how the actual line speed availabilities are calculated with the Public Interest Advocacy critical of the methods that are used that are showing great improvement.  So CIRA I think has a more accurate test.

     I know when I'm on my rural property I frequently go, you know, this shaking hands phenomenon of low speed and lines dropping, I have looked up my speed on the CIRA service.  Always very handy.

     In terms of post-COVID, at the moment 54% of the Canadians according to the CIRA survey are working at home because we are self-isolating as a result of the COVID lockdown.  And, of course, we are moving towards a Canadian winter and expecting to be in something approaching a lockdown all winter possibly into the spring because rates in Canada are going up and we are all moving indoors. So we expect them to go up even further if we don't increase the self-isolation.  That, of course, is driving a whole lot of services and business.

Restaurants are closed in many areas and only doing takeout food delivery.  That is a service that is facilitated by the internet.  So I won't go on and on about how much more we are using the services.  I don't think I have seen a really good stat for how much the broadband usage has gone up due to the fact that more people are working from home and therefore not getting out.  But it is bound to be much more significant.  We probably will have good stats after Christmas in January on that use, possibly earlier.  So I hope that is helpful.

     And I would be happy to try to facilitate linkages to Canadian consumer advocates to the extent that I can.  I'm not actually myself very active in that particular activity right now, but I certainly know who is.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Stephanie, for giving us the Canadian point of view.  Thank you so much.

Wisdom, are you here with us?  Thanks for joining.  Hello.  It is great to see you.  You are going to be going in a few. 

There is a question and answer session and there is a question and answer text.  I have seen that some of you have asked questions.  It is a bit late on the floor for our panelists to be able to talk.

Allison, your text didn't come through so if you can send the question again.  Meantime as we talk about the aspects we can see that the issues about connectivity is good at least to talk because our countries and noting rural communities and we need to be able to give incentives in terms of connectivity and skills development for people to be able to connect.  I mean COVID-19 has taught us that these initiatives and especially the Internet Governance Forum that we always have is an avenue for us to be able to push people to be able to come together and achieve a common purpose.  When the lockdowns ensued, it was only through connectivity that we were able to actually get work going even to be able to get in contact with our families. So I think it is important that we recognize that our initiatives and conversations have to move forward beyond what we are talking about.

     A little breather.  I mean as the conversations have gone on, we can see that there is so much work to do.  And a good example is from the grassroots approach and also the internet approach and joining forces with the big people.

     I don't know, Wisdom, you just joined us, are there any points you would like to highlight before we go to Onica for her session?

     >> WISDOM DONKOR: I apologize for coming in late.  I had to attend an important meeting so I'm here.  So just --

     >> MODERATOR: All right.

     >> WISDOM DONKOR: So just continue the program.

     >> MODERATOR: Before I go, Peter.  And also recognized as our emcee moving forward, our Rapporteur, thank you so much.

     Is there any youth perspective to point out to us before we go on.

     >> LILY EDINAM BOTSYOE: So sorry.  Not entirely, but I agree with what has been discussed so far.  I came in for Andre's point and what he submitted the five recommendations and I thought that was really encompassing for youth, too. And listened to Mr. Stanley, and I'm impressed with the work he has been doing with inclusion and access to technologies.  It has been helpful.  I see that the trend continues.

     We are talking about inclusion like he said, one part that we miss out aside having data literacy and access online is technologies.  You have access to online but the things that enable you to connect.  That is the point that I think aside advocating for affordability in our part of the world, how about think through innovation and creativity.  Where we are able to have young people and we work on staff that can help us build devices maybe at cheaper prices.  Probably are -- and that is why it is expensive.  And see if the youth unit for creativity and innovation.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Lily Edinam.  Onica Nonhlanhla Makwakwa, are you ready?  Onica, can you hear me?

     >> ONICA NONHLANHLA MAKWAKWA: Yes, I can.

     >> MODERATOR: Great. Great for you to join us.  Onica will have the floor.  I believe you had one of the plans going on.  And one of the main arguments now is affordability aspect, and we know you do have lot of work on that from organization.  And also you have been involved in some aspects of internet community networks on which front.  So can you please have the floor, thank you.

     >> ONICA NONHLANHLA MAKWAKWA: Thank you so much.  And good morning, good afternoon, and evening to everyone.

     It is truly great to be here with everyone and it is really great to hear everyone speak earlier this morning.  Especially Andre's points that really hone in to give us a really good way forward in terms of what we now need to focus on and invest in to be able to get us to that point of going beyond digital service for everyone, especially in this region.

     So you know, my thinking around community networks so far is that we had some really great pilots of community networks.  I think that the initiative that Carlos supported in the Eastern Cape in South Africa remains a really great example of how using community networks begins to bring in the kind of affordability and access that we are looking for in communities where private sectors deemed as not viable to fully invest in.  And their the frustration in the sense that while we agree the reason why the areas continue to be unconnected may largely be because of the commercial nonviability of them. It is also quite frustrating that there also seems to not have been I'm going to call it political will at this point to enable the creation of community network and the support of community network as an alternative to making sure that these communities are able to remain connected in a way that is also affordable and meaningful.

     However, I want to believe that the experience that we have all just gone through with COVID-19 has really articulated how connecting everyone is no longer a choice, a luxury, but an absolute necessity.

     What I would like to see going forward, and I'm not going to go through the affordability statistics.  But I think we all know it is pretty damn expensive to connect to the internet especially here in this region.  And even if countries that met the affordability target, it is affordable for people at the top income quantiles for the most part, but at the lower and middle quantile are still paying more than they should be for it to be available in a way that we would really say it is meeting the affordability test.

     For me, think that there is a real opportunity here or perhaps a fight also for us to really work on policy and regulation reform that begins to pave the way for community networks to be in -- an option that is considered similarly when we, you know, deploy electricity, for example, to the rural and far away communities that we also immediately think of other ways of being able to make sure that they are also connected to the internet through -- and how to enable community networks in those communities.

     So that requires really looking at, you know, our laws, our legislation, the national ICT policies and digital strategies to make sure that they incorporate this alternative way of connecting those communities. Because as long as community networks are kind of seen as the pilot, the child, the thing you do out there in this remote place and that one, I feel like we will not get to the point where they automatically become an option in communities where it may not be viable to bring in the big networks.

     But also, I mean I really question also this notion that community networks can only be successful in those communities only.  The issues around quality of service in some of the urban communities that already have connectivity are quite real.

     This seems to be comfort in our operators to service what they call business centers very well, charge poor communities around the business centers the same amount that they charge in the business center but not give them the similar quality.  And so for me, you know, we need a disruption in just also how we have looked at this from an economy point of view to empower communities so that they are able to take lead in that connectivity.  But also the issue around funding.  I mean I just really don't think we will get our way out of poverty in every corner of the continent.

     I think that it is a point as we talk about policy and regulation that begins to mainstream community networks as a viable operation, we need to really talk about public funding for community networks.  If we agree that connecting every citizen is for public good.  A basic right that even governments depend on people being connected to manage a pandemic they are dealing with right now.  So why are we not able to advocate for special allocation, you know, adjustment of some of the right-of-way policies to enable community networks to be able to reach where we are not reaching or where even universal were supposed to close the gap.

     But that gap continues to exist even with the universal service and access funds.  So how do we begin to shift radically to really prioritize connecting everyone and change the, you know, the economy view that we have had in terms of everyone being connected and in terms of mainstreaming our community networks for those communities where private sector has not been able to get to. So that we actually not just pay lip service to these gaps, but really demonstrating that we can bring connectivity to everyone, indeed. 

And I'm really curious to hear about even this notion of, you know, I don't see community networks as synonymous with rural areas only.  Because if we look at operations such as the public wi-fi, for example, in New York City that is major metropolitan where a community has come together and created a network to make sure that everyone is connected.  I think we sort of need that radical thinking.  But that is a good example of success of community networks that can go beyond just connecting individuals.  I mean if you look at the Eastern Cape project alone, you not only just have connectivity, but you also are creating jobs and slowing down migration in an area where the only option for the people used to be to move to the next big town.

     And so, you know, how are we beginning to take a look at that in a way that you know, merits the kind of public funding that should be acquired by everyone working in that area.  And just to wrap up a little bit, Andre also mentioned the issue around content.  We need to really begin to invest on the demand side issues in order to continuously justify why everyone needs to be online.

     And so the issue of content, not just content, but local content, how are we supporting entrepreneurs in the region to provide that local content that is relevant?  But also that goes beyond the language of image so that we truly also are looking at community networks as well as this expansion of connectivity as a space that we can also begin to have information so that people are able to create content, consume content, and benefit from content that goes just beyond the usual content that they with find watching the international channels on television.

     Thank you very much. I think that is all the comments I have.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much to our panelist and Onica.  This is a very fluid conversation and there is a lot of interesting going on.

     I would like to recognize the questions on -- I don't know if you would want to ask your question again so we can -- Alison, I don't can know if you want to ask your question again so we can put it out there.  Are you able to hear?  Please go ahead.

     >> ALISON GILLWALD: I don't want to take you back at all.  I have eventually posted my long comment.  I was just to build on what Onica was saying and the people before her, I was pointing out as I think is my absolute duty to point out that we just simply don't have the information we require to make proper analysis of what we are facing and for the policy interventions that are required.

     But I think what COVID-19 has revealed is the compounding effect of digital inequality on the structural inequality that we always knew digital inequality represented.  And a small number of peoples, a small tiny elite in Africa that move the school and working online and digitally supplement the effects of COVID.

    So the figures that have often been quoted, aggregated figures at the continental level or even a national level mask the extreme inequalities that we have in our economies and societies. And really the kind of interventions that you need in certain areas around about digital inequality are around actual connectivity.  But in fact what we see from COVID-19 is that your digital inequality, this paradox that as we connect more people we actually get increased inequality between people. And now not only between those who are connected and not connected as we had with the digital divide and with voice services, but actually the differences between those people just passively connected consuming small bits of data at the high costs spoken about and those who are actually productively able to even create businesses and work online and bank online and reduce the costs.

     As we have been able to see 2018 surveys done only across 10 African countries this time, sadly, that there is no future funding for to try and get an understanding of the demand side limitations highlighted in Andre and other people's spoke about the stimulation needed from a content point of view and security and privacy point of view and frameworks and et cetera.  And then really creating opportunities that Carlos spoke about with temporary spectrum that has been granted with new spectrum that has been granted.  5G spectrum linking that to making available other spectrum that other people can use.

     Moving away from effectively, you know, licensing systems and supply side commercial valuation of licenses and business models that have not delivered the kind of, you know, connectivity that we need in Africa.  Africans by and large simply cannot afford the current licensing and models that we have.  We have to create complementary opportunities for more people to get into these networks and microbusinesses and community networks, dynamic spectrum and operators that can use a much lower cost in a rural spectrum that’s underutilized in rural areas. We need a new digital deal for Africa.

     We have to look back and say these things aren't working and we have to have alternative ways of connecting the people of Africa for the next pandemic and also for the social and economic reconstruction that is essential now from a government point of view but also from industry and private point of view as well.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Alison.  So I will go to the questions and taking it from the last, the immediate one.  So what I’m just going to do is pose to our panel. 

So Ibrahim Cisse is asking about community networks appearing as a threat to traditional ISP business.  I think that is a good question there from Ibrahim.  And I will go to the other two or three questions and do it in wrap-up. 

And Jabhera Matogoro is asking if ISOC and APC has been the forefront to push for community network’s complimentary approach around the world.  What are the recommendations on sustainable models? Okay. So he is looking more at sustainable models in a cooperative society. 

     And the last but one is from Herman Ramos.  He is asking what are the best and most used models that have successfully met the needs of community areas, the long-term community sustainability consents? And the last one is an example given from Chrysov Vasileios in the community network in Greece which have signed an MOU with an a local university who provide us with the back haul capacity.  Are there any similar initiatives elsewhere?  How could we see this practice being standardized across many different countries?

     I would like to pass this to the panel, as appropriate. And anyone can take any of these questions.  Please go ahead.

     >> CARLOS REY-MORENO: Again, trying to bring all our comments together to the questions from Ibrahim around a threat to existing operators.  Where Michuki was advocating for political will and Gisa was asking for finding ways to enable community networks, and Onica as well was talking about political will and maybe we need to consider what is the point of the regulators and policy makers?  Are they there to protect the private sector against the threat or policy makers and regulators are there to actually enact affordable access for everyone, right?

     So if they are seen as a threat by the private sector or some actors in the private sector, well, that is part of the discussion but it is also part of the role of the policy makers, right?  If the sector is not working well, if the sector is not providing the goal or is not achieving the goal that it should be achieving because of the actors within that sector not being able to do so, maybe there is something to doing that sector that is not giving more money and giving more resources to those that are not able to achieve that goal but maybe to enable complementary models that might be able to do so.

     And community networks even in a pilot phase, although I'll not sure I agree with the pilot concept when some of them have been in operation and sustainable for more seven or eight years and scaling and reaching other communities.

     I think that they are proving to be so.  I think the problem is even from that concept is maybe the comfort zone that someone was talking about before and how the communications sector was seen as a sector where very few actors with only national footprint were able to deploy services affordably, or not even affordably but just to provide communications services. And as Michuki was saying with the granularity of the fiber, how fiber is becoming more and more pervasive, how the cost of telecommunication equipment is going down and going down, there are many more actors that could do so and the regulatory frameworks and the policy frameworks are not allowing those actors to actually engage in the sector because there is no political will, as Onica was saying. 

So more actors, the only thing that are going to do is to enrich the sector, is complementing where the sector is not able to attain its goal. And it is beneficial for everyone because there is more wholesale agreements.  If the demand goes up, everyone benefits because there are intersection agreements and traffic and network effects and maybe things that they will favor everyone.  Blocking as it is happening and having the political will not to enable all of the actors just because they are seen as a threat to the private sector seems to me a weak argument not to enable actors like in this case community network or microenterprises or competitors that could have an important net effect into the sector, into the society and to those communities that are severely deprived from many other things as Alison was talking about.  I think that entry point might not be the right one, but more thinking about how can we make the telecoms operator ecosystem richer.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Carlos.  So my question has always been what is the incentive?  I know that due to the industry standards and operations and how things flow we tend to be in silos and work in our open kind of little space.

     But looking at the work of the sphere and ecosystem with which we work with the internet we are supposed to be more inclusive.  I know Andre, you have been working with a number of entities creating more of a convergent idea in bringing people onboard.  I would like to start from Andre to the rest of the panel members really to be able to highlight the inclusivity in about let's say a minute or so.  And then we have some closing argument from the rest of the panel members before we see if we have any more questions to answer.

     >> ANDRE LAPERRIERE: Thank you very much, Kwaku.  As I mentioned earlier, as far as GODAN is concerned, one of our targets is SDG number two, combatting hunger.  So hence the importance of anything that deals with the process, production, and distribution of food. But I was going to say that the -- in agriculture in general, between 70 and 90% of all of the jobs related to food are held by women.  Over 70%.

     So that is one more reason to go for inclusivity.  Not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because of the industry.  Most of the workers in that industry tend to be women.  Because of the digital divide, they tend to be less equipped to deal with the industry as they could be because of available technology.

     So that is one reason why we are pushing very much to include women and emphasize the role of women in that industry.  And then in the eliminating eventually the digital divide.

     One last point.  We should not think of connectivity in a binary way like whether you are connected or you are not.  Because there is different levels in there.  As I mentioned earlier, 50% -- in theory, 50% of people in Africa can have access to internet but less than one-third of them do because it is too expensive or they don't know how it works.  There is all kinds of restrictions that I will not repeat here.

     But there is also the quality of access.  Even for the one-third of 50%, the 15% that really do connect to the internet when it is available, a lot of those that connect don't have what they call a meaningful internet connection which means it’s so slow or the quality so poor even though they are connected they make very little use of the full potential that could be there if the quality would improve.  These are some efforts that hamper our efforts in terms of increasing absorption and penetration of internet.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you, Andre. Stanley?

     >> STANLEY KWAKYE DANKYIRA: Thank you very much.  Alright, I will touch on one particular talking about an aspect especially SDG4. The key to every step of the way not afford us to work on this, especially the community involved.  Information every step of the way we are part of it.

     I realize in certain cities we do some of the things in isolation.  What I realize is what about what you are doing in terms of making sure that you are appreciating -- if you isolate or just go in and dump it on them or just try to do it, they don't see exactly what you are doing.  You need to get the stakeholders involved.  As part of our work that we do in the bridging the digital divide and getting the people involved, we make sure that the people are involved right from the infrastructure even if they haven't any in the money we make sure they are part of it.  Even if they are not bringing in the money.

     You look at it in framework that aspect and you can tackle it.  Even though we cannot understand and one may not understand what is happening in terms of technology, they wish to be part of it.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: All right.  We can go to -- let's go to Michuki.

     >> MICHUKI MWANGI: Thank you.  I will talk about something to do with the sustainability of community networks.  This has been brought up as a question, but I would like to just draw your attention to something which has happened but is never criticized as much or looked at in the way that community networks are looked at with respect to sustainability.

     I have seen mobile operators investments in licensing in hundreds of millions of dollars, but it fails. Are there questions like oh, how sustainable is a mobile network operator?  No, in fact, there are more auctions going up for spectrum and licensing but there is no question about sustainability.  So why is it that traditional business models for telecoms are not questioned on their sustainability?  Yet alternatives that are trying to cover areas that are not well covered by the traditional operators are actually being questioned about sustainability?

     Or maybe just to build on that, the fact that we have not invested in these areas.  We have not developed the markets in these areas for there to be a business case is one of the underlying factors of why we see community networks as not a potential for sustainability, they don't have the potential for being sustainable.

     I would argue that if we make the same investment we do with commercial areas where mobile operators and other networks, the traditional operators go to, if we make the same type of investment and development in these underserved areas, the market is there.  It will not be the same way we invest and develop commercial viable areas.  It is a different way.  And that is why only community networks can actually do that.  Because they live there, they will do their market assessment and analysis and understand where the gaps are and what the content issues are, you know, what solutions they should be provided.  It will be a very different approach, but that is the only way they can develop.  When I see the question around how sustainable are community networks, then they are actually very sustainable but we have not had the opportunity to develop them to be sustainable.  And that is what is needed.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you all.  So Stephanie and Onica, and then we will have Carlos.

     >> ONICA NONHLANHLA MAKWAKWA: Totally I agree with everything that has been said.  We have seen the success of community networks.  And I think that what we now need to focus on is how do we develop the kind of policies and regulations that can continue to enable this type of development.  Because it works.  You know, in a way that we did for mobile operators without necessarily testing how well they were at delivering their services.  We have a product that works very well at connecting the unconnected and providing services to those who are not easily reachable.

     So how do we support them with the right policies and regulations in order for them -- I don't think an issue of whether they are sustainable or not. An issue of how to have the government for them to be recognized for the gap that they are filling.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you.  Stephanie?

     >> STEPHANIE PERRIN: Yes, hi, it’s Stephanie. I may be being nostalgic, but Canada connected all of its schools back in roughly the year 2000. That was quite a task because some of them are remote and had to be connected on islands and remote areas. But that took a major incentive of the cost to promote community networks and it was a coalition with money.

     And my sense is with the broadband deployment that is what is missing.  I'm glad to see smaller funds of money such as CIRA made available.  But I'm very worried that the large funds that we need to actually bring deployment to the north, for instance, and to the rural areas, which are many, many miles from urban centers, it requires government support which is going to be in short supply because of the financial crisis that most countries are going through and certainly Canada will be as a result of COVID.

     So we don't seem to have the infrastructure knitting together our communities to work together to push the government, if you see what I mean. And I think that that would definitely help.  Sorry, that is not really a community networking response.  It is more of a push the government response.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Stephanie.  Carlos.  I see the arguments and conversations have been going back and forth and one important aspect has been the missing point we should have had a government person.  I think in the aftermath, I think one aspect we see very important is putting -- it is important to bring people to the table to talk.

     Regulation, policy making, institutions and other works, how do we -- what is the charge?  I mean what are your closing points?

     >> CARLOS REY-MORENO: Thanks, Kwaku, and thank you, everyone.  I want to close with two points, right.

     The first one is related to what everyone has been saying in the closing remarks that especially Stephanie now in relation to public funding, right? It is true that providing services in remote areas require public expenditure in any other public service.  The thing is that communications has been left to the private sector or to the big private sector. And at the moment and despite the big private sector have been among the top most profitable companies in any stock market that you look at for any investor and without -- you are not using those fundings for their own profit, now there is a constant trend during this year and because of COVID to say well, if you give us more money, we will do it, right?

     Again, public money for big private sector that could have saved and could have done something different in the sector was looked at as a public service delivery sector rather than as a pure commercial profitable sector.

     Something we will see happening in the next couple of years, I would say, is a big public fight to expend the money in the rural areas whether it goes for private interest or public interest?  Do we want to expand the service provision that it is not affordable and it is not of quality as Onica was saying and saying in remote rural areas? Do we want to put public money in to that for them not having affordable services for them to be subsidized and going again to entrench private sector interest?  Or be bold and support other alternatives that may have and do have another public service delivery in mind. 

Talking about the local content and affordability and rural development and other things that definitely the traditional private sector do not have into account.  That would be one thing. 

The other side of the coin or the positive side of the coin, and that is probably what I want to end my contribution is in relation to some changes that we are already seeing.  We see a lot of development in Latin America around how these complementary access models can be enabled and more and more governments are looking into that, more public consultations around spectrum sharing and looking at the right reform for the operator licensing and so on and so forth.  And we are starting to see in Africa, right?

     We saw last year the African European Commission being requested with by the members to promote community networks in the continent and other recommendation from the Member States. And we see Uganda taking on the declaration and creating a community network license.  We know that Ethiopia is going to do something similar soon and other countries are looking into that and we are providing direct technical assistance to them to so.  There are changes and trends and needs to be more bold, I don't know if within the audience and elsewhere, more bold public service, public servants and government officials and regulators that look at the sector as a public service sector and not as a private service sector that has been in the last 20 or 30 years.  That is my concluding remarks and all of the panelists talked on the different points that could make this happen.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for those important points. Thank you for the panelists and for our participants.  It has been a very fulfilling discussion on this IGF workshop Number 37 on Community Networks, Electricity and Digital Inclusion.  I hope that we can keep the conversations going on and with some critical policy recommendations from other sectors.  I want to thank all for your participation.

     And if we missed any questions, please consider it as part of the conversations that we have been having, but I believe that in the context of our framework we are working it has been a very fluid and active discussion in which we needed to keep the conversations going on.  It has been our pleasure to serve you, and I hope that we can keep all of these momentum and the activities going forward in each sector of our series of life as we push internet governance forward.

     Thank you so much and have a good Internet Governance Forum 2020.  Bye for now.

 

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411