Framing meaningful access for inclusive digital policy

8 Dec 2021 15:50h - 17:20h

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Event report

The session tried to look beyond the term of internet connectivity and raise awareness about the different levels of internet connectivity. Ms Sonia Jorge (Executive Director, Alliance for Affordable Internet – A4AI) opened the session introducing the Alliance for Affordable Internet research on meaningful connectivity and meaningful connection. The research will be public in January 2022. The concept of meaningful connectivity refers to the ability of people not only to connect to the internet, but to actually participate in a meaningful way. It is the ability to engage with technology the way they want to use it, but with full protection, safety and really good connectivity that allows them to make the choice they want.

Meaningful access should be affordable, taking into account the social environment, and with meaningful connectivity. Meaningful connectivity would include people with access to a smartphone and 4G mobile internet at home, school, or work – every day.

A4AI presented the research results on the number of internet users vs the population with meaningful connectivity. In many countries, even if the number of internet users is high, the estimated percentage of users with meaningful connectivity is significantly lower. A couple of examples include Colombia, with 68% of internet users but only 25% with meaningful connectivity, Indonesia with 50% vs 11%, South Africa, with 70% vs estimated 15% with meaningful connectivity, etc. The main bottlenecks for this are access to a smartphone, 4G mobile connectivity, and daily use. She also pointed out the significant difference between urban and rural areas in terms of meaningful connectivity. Data for the number of users is taken from ITU reports on connectivity, while estimates on meaningful connectivity are made through the A4AI research.

Mr Carlos Alberto Afonso (Director, Instituto Nupef) presented the history of the idea on universal connectivity in the major global digital policy forums. This issue has been presented as one of the most important ones for quite some time, he added. Meaningful connectivity today has to include access to the new multimedia internet and constant access to the fast internet.

The Bolivian experience with universal accessibility also indicates that this issue continues to be the most important thing to the digital society, said Mr Roberto Zambrana (E-Government and ICT Senior Advisor, Alcaldía de Cochabamba). We can see that it is the first thing on the UN Secretary-General’s roadmap for digital interconnectivity.

Ms Adriana Labardini (Public Interest ICT Lawyer, Mexico) talked about the efforts of governments to utilise the radio band spectrum to empower small and unconnected communities in Mexico. She also added several successful examples of the Latin American states helping the development of community networks and the possibility of different technical solutions for these types of networks. We need a creative policy approach and the sharing of good practice business models that work, and business models that can bring better connectivity for more people.

By Arvin Kamberi

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