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The session shared the findings of the Dynamic Coalition from the synthesis of one hundred-plus case studies, with control trials in Rwanda, Vanuatu and Nepal, using the lessons learned to make interventions which can lead to better development outcomes, and also advance discussion on the mechanics of ICT-based interventions for development in terms of health, education, agriculture, and gender empowerment.
The moderator, Mr Christopher S. Yoo, University of Pennsylvania, shared the work done so far by the Dynamic Coalition on innovative approaches to connecting the unconnected, and how the coalition is working to catalogue all the innovative approaches used in connecting people, finding out what works, and what does not, to help in better decision-making processes. He said that over the years, the Coalition has generated over one hundred case studies and is using this learning to address policy level issues. He also talked about the control trials currently underway in Rwanda, Nepal, and Vanuatu on different domains and their role in measuring the impact of connectivity. Yoo spoke on the importance of cost analysis models in helping decision-making, about connecting more people to the Internet in a country, and in discovering critical success factors. As a next step, Yoo plans to make continent and domain breakout reports on education, healthcare and agriculture, and to continue doing fieldwork and dissemination of information.
Mr Michael Kende, Chief Economist, Internet Society (ISOC), shared his appreciation of the project, that looks not only at feasibility but profitability and sustainability aspects. He spoke of two studies done by Internet service providers (ISPs) on content, which indicated that local hosting of content is critical as it will decrease the cost of ISPs, and reduce latency.
Ms Cheryl Miller, Director, International Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Verizon, spoke about Verizon’s innovative learning programme, which has been helping children with limited resources by providing free technology, free Internet access, and hands-on learning. She also spoke about the importance of local content, keeping languages alive, and making content more relevant.
Dr Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, Chairman, Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), shared examples from Afghanistan, and how universal service funds are being used to connect communities. Azizi highlighted challenges on the demand side, such as access costs being high due to the landlocked nature of the country; the need to promote the use of data by telecom providers; the need to improve the enabling environment; and the necessity of regulators being independent of government. On the supply side there is a need to build digital literacy and promote digital services among the people of Afghanistan.
Ms Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, Deputy-Minister, Telecommunications and Postal Services, South Africa, made an intervention about the work being done by the South African government to bridge the digital divide, including providing skills training to people, and incentivising them to use the Internet.
A participant from Argentina reflected on the work done by ISOC's special interest group on a community network, to connect unconnected areas. He also highlighted the work being done to encourage consumers to also be producers of content.
As a next step, the moderator mentioned that the coalition will continue to work on access and innovative approaches, take part in discussions about the results of the study, and encourage community members to share case studies.
Report by Amrita Choudhury