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The session, which was moderated by Mr Ryan Johnson (Senior Manager at Access Partnership), dealt with the ways in which industry and governments can work together to develop local content and broaden broadband access.
Mr Carlos Pallotti (Sub-secretary of the Technological and Productive Services of the Ministry of Production, Argentina) stressed the importance of knowledge-based industry as one of the biggest income sources in Argentina. In order to expand and strengthen the industry, Pallotti described how the government initiated special programmes aimed at training 111 000 people in various positions within the field of technology, targeting weakened societal sectors such as working class individuals, women, and people with disabilities.
Mr Lourino Chemane (Adviser to the Minister of Science and Technology, Mozambique) listed the various difficulties and challenges his country is facing as a developing country. He highlighted the importance of creating local and relevant content and of getting young people involved in projects creating such content. Only if people have access to such content, he claimed, will they be able to take part in political processes. Furthermore, he argued, such projects should be created in bottom-up processes, involving all relevant stakeholders. Chemane demonstrated his arguments by referring to one such project, a community radio operated by civil society organisations which provides advice in agriculture to farmers in rural areas.
Mr Will Hudson (Senior Advisor for International Policy, Google) stressed the importance of creating useful and accessible information to local communities. He demonstrated his arguments by describing some of the work Google has been doing in India. For example, combining the Indian language in Google products and services, creating technological educational programmes for women in rural areas, and bringing connectivity to over 100 train stations around the country.
Ms Melissa Sassi (Program Manager, Affordable Access Initiatives at Microsoft) described the guiding principles of Microsoft in working with local communities in bottom-up processes. She demonstrated this attitude by referring to projects such as TV white spaces, connectivity for refugees, and Microsoft's grants programme for young entrepreneurs. All these projects aim to connect communities and to overcome the obstacles to digital literacy by changing the status of people from consumers and users to creators and producers.
Mr Virat Bhatia (President of South East Asia in AT&T) presented figures describing the gaps between population size in Africa and Asia and the Internet penetration rate in these places. As derived from the data, the gap exists especially within communities who do not speak English. Thus, argues Bhatia, there is a challenge in bringing these communities online. One of the ways to do so is by making sure that local content, including video content, will be online as well. Furthermore, since weakened societal sectors often rely on the Internet in order to get governmental benefits, it is up to the government to provide Internet to these sectors and not to rely only on private companies.
by Efrat Daskal