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The moderator Ms Marilyn Cade, CEO at ICT Strategies, opened the session by introducing the panellists and pointing out that the meeting was possible thanks to the collaboration of different National and Regional Initiatives on Internet Governance (NRIs). She stressed that during the past two years the NRIs had grown and currently are very active, going from 50 in 2015 to more than 100 this year.
The first panellist was Mr Omar Mansoor Assari, IGF Afghanistan (IGFA) Coordinator and President of TechNation, who explained why access had been chosen as the theme of the session. He pointed out that a survey had been carried out among the NRIs in order to know which topics they were interested in, in such a way that they could meet and share experiences, good practices and try to solve common problems. He also said that the first IGF in Afghanistan took place this year, and one of the most important issues was access, as Afghanistan still has many connectivity problems and the Internet connection is very expensive.
The next panellist was Mr Maheeshwara Kirindigoda, IGF Sri Lanka Coordinator, who also spoke about the importance of access in his country and how governance discussions had attracted public attention. The lack of infrastructure, private investment and the high cost of the Internet were some of the barriers that Kirindigoda identified as causes for Sri Lanka not to continue advancing in terms of access.
The next intervention was from Ms Mary Uduma, IGF West Africa (WAIGF) Coordinator, who indicated that her region also has many technical problems but also policy issues, especially implemented by governments. She pointed out that governments are leading the development of access, but their efforts suffer from several problems, such as not including other actors or encouraging the investment of private actors. Other problems such as shutdowns were also mentioned as a cause of restricted access in West African countries.
The next panellist was Mr Julián G Casasbuenas, IGF Colnodo Colombia Director, who underlined that in Colombia the ‘Mesa Colombiana de Gobernanza’ has been the space from which issues related to Internet governance are being discussed. Although Colombia has made great strides in digital development issues, access is still a problem, especially in the digital divide.
Finally, Mr Kevon Swift, Head Strategic Relations and Integration LACIGF, pointed out that in the Latin American region, one of the problems related to access is the lack of local content. So, for instance, 7% of all articles on Wikipedia are in Spanish, versus 30% in English and it is important to note that we have a large Spanish-speaking component in Latin America and the Caribbean, he said.
After these interventions, the moderator began a round of questions in order to identify common points and broaden the perspective of the panellists. Some of the topics mentioned were the strengthening of co-operation among stakeholders, the creation of capacities and the use of community networks. The idea of continuing the discussion in the regional forums was also raised, in order to better address the connectivity challenges.
Before the end of the session, there was a brief round of questions from the attendees, which focused on how they could get involved with the NRIs and what best practices existed to improve the level of access. After this, the moderator closed the session.
By Carlos Guerrero