From the Last to First Mile - Community Networks

Internet Society (ISOC) and Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

Session 114

14:30–16:15, Monday, 19 March 2018 Room H1, ITU Montbrillant Thematic Workshop Speakers/Panellists  Link to WSIS Action Lines  Link to SDGs  Related Links 

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Creating an Enabling Environment to Support Them from the Village Out

With half of the world’s population unconnected to the Internet, creative models to develop infrastructure, cheaper and more agile equipment, regulatory/policy innovation, and local community drive have led to the development of affordable, locally owned, built, and managed local access networks.  These networks are commonly known as “community networks”.  They often are enabled by communities through partnerships with supporting organizations, governments, development agencies, and other like-minded entities.  Hundreds exist around the world and an ever-growing number of local communities are creating access “from the village out”.

Critical to the success of community networks are new ways of thinking about connectivity, new partnerships to develop networks, and connecting to bigger access pipes in partnership with new and traditional networks (mobile, fixed, Wi-Fi).  Changes to old rules - universal service funds, licensing, and access to spectrum -- will help connect the unconnected.  Community networks provide affordable access and empower communities, have broader development implications.  By empowering communities and building local capacity, new technical communities are built, and a foundation for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are created “from the village out”.  The last mile becomes a first mile for innovation, health care, education, trade, and connectivity.  

This workshop will focus on steps that governments, community networks, organizations, and development agencies are taking to partner for regulatory and policy action, changes, and innovative ways to promote new access networks.  This workshop will build on the lessons-learned from the field in the morning CN workshop.

After each presentation, there will be time for interaction with the audience and with on-line participants. Active participation of the audience during the panel discussion will be encouraged.


Steve Song (APC/Mozilla Fellow)


-Dr. Carlos Rey-Moreno, APC

-Ramon Roca,

-Paul Cunningham, IEEE

-Alison Gillwald, RIA

-Alex Wong, WEF

-Jane Coffin, Internet Society

Session's link to WSIS Action Lines

  • AL C1 logo C1. The role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development
  • AL C2 logo C2. Information and communication infrastructure
  • AL C3 logo C3. Access to information and knowledge
  • AL C4 logo C4. Capacity building
  • AL C6 logo C6. Enabling environment
  • AL C8 logo C8. Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content
  • AL C11 logo C11. International and regional cooperation

Community networks are real-world examples of ways to increase access infrastructure and access to and development of ICTs, providing affordable and equitable access to achieve the WSIS vision (of a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Community Networks link directly to C2 as they contribute to “Information and Communication Infrastructure”. Given their local nature, they vary from country to country and from implementation to implementation, according to local infrastructure, needs, values, and practices.  

In addition, they are directly linked to C8 “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content”. There is evidence that the deployment, operation and maintenance of ICT infrastructure, governed according to local practices, leads to broader “Access to information and knowledge”, i.e., WSIS Action line C3. An enabling environment, catalyzes community networks and is required to strategically deploy them (C6).  To empower communities to build, deploy, and sustain community networks, it is important to build local capacity (C4).   Finally, both “International and regional cooperation” (C11) as well as “public governance authorities and all stakeholders” (C1) have an important role to play in creating this enabling environment that will contribute to bridge the digital divide.

Session's link to Sustainable Development Process

  • Goal 1: No poverty logo Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 4: Quality education logo Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5: Gender equality logo Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth logo Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure logo Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities logo Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Local connectivity and community-based network solutions support the SDGs in a variety of ways, including offering improved potential for achieving improved education, gender equality and empowering women and girls through use of ICTs (Goals 4 & 5), promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and better employment supported by better connectivity (Goal 8), and building resilient infrastructure and fostering innovation by providing local options for the provision of connectivity (Goal 9). The combination of these is expected to contribute to ending poverty, especially by addressing rural poverty, where connectivity is lowest (Goal 1), which in turn contributes to reduced inequality within countries (Goal10)


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