Digital inclusivity in DLDCs: user connectivity vs content

8 Dec 2021 10:15h - 11:45h

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Focused on unlocking the digital potential in developing and least developed countries (DLDCs), primarily on Africa, this session is a follow up from previous IGF sessions that dealt with digital inclusivity. It was organised by AfiCTA, a private sector organisation whose main goal is ICT development in Africa. With its main theme that of user connectivity versus content, the emphasis has been placed on the idea that for a connection to be meaningful, the content accessed must also be meaningful to the person using it. While the session looked at barriers to universal and meaningful access in DLDCs, its priority was to consider and discuss practical, locally driven policy solutions.

The entire session was driven by two specific policy questions.

First, in consideration of barriers to universal and meaningful access, what causes them? What are the main challenges and to what extent are these challenges the result of social, economic, and cultural factors?

Mr Jalo Isa Ibrahim (AfICTA) said that internet access in Africa is still very expensive due the lack of fibre connectivity to most of the population; hence, most access still goes through mobile operators. He added that the content has to be of interest to the local population, providing information that they need and that is useful to them.

Adding to this, Ms Melissa Sassi (IBM) pointed out that if connective solutions do not enable people to make meaningful use of the internet, then we are talking about nothing more than building technology for the sake of technology. According to her, focus should be on enabling young people, as well as individuals of all ages, to build digital skills–not just to be a consumer of technology, but also a creator, a maker and doer empowered by technology.

Ms Mary Uduma (Technical Community, African Group) addressed the question of local content and the issue of trust, proposing that the only way to inform local people that the internet is good is through education and digital skills training, in addition to having content in the indigenous peoples’ languages that addresses their needs.

Ms Kulesza Joanna (Civil Society, Eastern European Group) emphasised the need for regional capacity development and for keeping networks safe.

The second policy question concerned practical policy solutions, in particular, the relevant practices implemented by local actors, such as local governments, civil society, and local providers and entrepreneurs to advance universal and meaningful access in the region. 

Concerning the issue of infrastructure, Mr Kossi Amessinou (Government, African Group) said that when talking about access it is difficult to say that people in areas without electricity need the internet.

However, according to Ms Mary Uduma, a synergy between the government, civil society, and local communities should be encouraged, whether in regard to capacity development or intervention on infrastructure or trust or cybersecurity. Digital cooperation at the local level is vital.

By Andjelija Mijatovic

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