From commitment to action: breaking barriers to connectivity

10 Dec 2021 12:45h - 13:45h

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Not being connected in today’s society is a serious issue, and as societies become more and more digitalised, we all need to become connected. There remain many obstacles to achieving the objective of connectivity across the world. Why are we still far from reaching the ideal of universal connectivity? Successful connectivity depends on technological, financial, and regulatory support.

How are the barriers to connectivity being tackled using technology innovations, financial tools, and regulation?

Ms Ana Valero Huete (Latin America Regulatory Director, Telefonica), highlighted that despite the fact governments and companies have long been working on closing the connectivity divide, the reality shows rather different results in terms of extending connectivity to all citizens. According to Huete, the traditional approaches followed have not worked as expected, and a need for new approaches emerged. She explained that the new model would underpin three main ideas: first, we need innovation – not only from technical but also financial and commercial perspective; second, we need cooperation among different stakeholders from both the private and public sector; third, we need new, sustainable projects, not just from the financial point of view but also in view of their contribution to the development of the communities where they provide service. In Peru, the project ‘Internet Para Todos’ is based on the above-mentioned innovative and sustainable principles. In two years they have been able to deploy more 1,600 4G sites, providing mobile services for more than 12,000 rural communities in Peru. The project is based on a single mobile network which provides services in rural and remote areas.

Ms Sophie Maddens (Head of the Regulatory and Market Environment, ITU) considers the regulatory frameworks as the only effective way to move forward in responding to the challenges of the digital transformation process we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has proven that meaningful connectivity is the key. She explained how the digital transformation has changed the regulatory approaches – besides the public-private cooperation, cooperation across a variety of sectors exists. When it comes to the core elements of collaborative regulation, she stressed that ‘we need the space for digital experimentation, pro-competition frameworks, and regulatory incentives.’ During the pandemic, we have witnessed many of the stakeholders stepping up to facilitate rather than gate keep. Maddens added that ‘we also need those robust and enforceable mechanisms for consumer protection, regulatory impact assessments, and agile data driven monitoring systems, based on standards for the intra-operability of data systems.’

Ms Lidia Stepinska-Utasiak (Deputy Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Office of Electronic Communications, Poland) elaborated on the possibility of national regulators supporting connectivity. She explained that, when it comes to regulatory approach, there are two areas of activities. First, the infrastructure, strategically important for investors and service providers and communication companies which have access to reliable information on quality and accessibility of networks, and potential areas for investments. In Poland, one single informational point with telecommunication data was created and it aggregates data from many different sources, as well as from the central office of geography and general statistics office, providing precise and accurate information on wide gaps and areas for investments.  It also presents a tool for consumers which they can use to check availability of their communication services, as well as parameters of the service itself. She pointed out that ‘Poland is ready to share with other countries thanks to collaboration with the ITU and to help other countries, particularly developing countries from the Africa region and also from east.’ The second area relates to skills, and the perspective for investment (entrepreneurs must know that there will be demand for telecommunications services).

Ms Christine Arida (Strategic Planning Sector Head, National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Egypt) reflected on the connectivity dimension of Egypt’s recent national initiative. The initiative is called ‘Decent Life Initiative’, and it is not focusing only on connectivity – it is a national mega-project which spans across different dimensions, therefore addressing the need for intragovernmental cooperation. The initiative has received the highest political support because it touches upon the deprived communities (starting with those where the poverty rate is 70% or higher). She explained that the idea is to set up household fibre-connectivity, which is an infrastructure not generally available everywhere in Egypt. Second, looking into how the regulations can help set up the infrastructure. Third, authorities are looking into stimulating demand.  

By Kristina Hojstricova

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