IGF 2017 – Dynamic coalition on connecting the unconnected

7 Dec 2016 17:30h - 19:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The session was organised with the aim of presenting the project 1worldconnected.org and its findings. The session organisers gave an intro on the current status of the initiative, as well as challenges faced, and next steps. At the moment there are 750 initiatives on the data base. However over the years a number of existing challenges have been identified, such as: lack of funding, lack of infrastructure, sustainability, lack of community support, terrain, change in political leadership, and language barriers.

The next steps which have been identified are: policy development and conceptual frameworks for sustainable connectivity projects, analyses of cost effectiveness and sustainability, conductof controlled trials to measure impact of connectivity on development goals, and sharing findings with development banks and/or impact investors.

Mr Michael Kende, Senior Advisor, Analysys Mason, stated that 1 World Connected has experience in developing best practice to promote investment, competition in first fixed, and then mobile connectivity. He thinks that bringing people together for information sharing on these and similar matters that affect many communities is an unambiguous benefit of the IGF.

Ms Subi Chaturvedi, Adjunct Faculty, Indian Institute of technology, said that in India thereare over a billion people with mobile connectivity, but when it comes to access to the Internet and data only 28% of people are online. This means that India is second to China. The audience were encouraged to think about how the IGF can became more relevant in creating intercessional work from one meeting to another and go beyond workshops. She stated that it is important to translate narratives into best practices in order to bring those back to national and regional levels, and also saidthat access to connectivity has been shaping, changing, and saving lives.

Ms Claudia Selli, European Government Affairs Director at AT&T Mobility, talked about the success of the project across Latin America where they are switching more than 8 6000 schools, and teachers and children are trained in different locations such as Ecuador, Argentina, and Mexico. They also offer grants foraround 2 000 US Dollars to film students. So far they have received 1 300 short films from 8 different universities. In order to combine technology with content, they have partnered with Disney, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic, among others, in order to both teach young people to reflect on realities, and transform them in different ways. The project is working in rural remote areas, and goes to war zones, as well as trying to integrate people who are in jail in order to, ‘give them a second opportunity’. Teachers have travelled around 70000 km to reach different locations in order to bring knowledge and engage local communities.

When it comes to the Greek perspective the community network is established as a common communication infrastructure providing open Internet access connectivity to all. The project had impact on immigrants especially who are now able to communicate

with their families on a daily basis. Today, there are 14 villages benefiting from this network, which is almost 3 500 inhabitants.

Ms Josephine Miliza, Network Engineer, Tunapanda Institute, Kenya said that they’ve started the initiative in order to turn young people from 19 to 25 years old, towards technology design and business.  With the programme in place, they are marking cases where a person went from earning 4 US Dollars per month to earning 400 USD by working in customer service in the local telco company. The project has partnered with schools and facilities that have computers and are giving classes on digital literacy.

In India due to the project’s activities some villages that were completely unconnected are now connected. The challenge currently is the wait for the licences from the regulators. Currently, a population of approximately 25 000 people is being served, which is roughly 1 100 per village. The plan is to make the network completely self-sufficient.

Some of the main conclusions from the session was that:

  • What connects everyone in the unconnected world is that technology empowers people in the 21st century digital economy.
  • Digital literacy and connectivity help people in their daily lives.
  • It is important to work with local government and make them understand needs, and how technology advances communities.
  • Having prescriptive regulation may hinder innovation and impede reaching some areas.
  • The cultural impact of technology has a strong impact on domestic realities.
  • One of the biggest impacts of the lack of access to connectivity and digital literacy is on women in the unconnected areas.

By Aida Mahmutovic