Community networks: How the unconnected connect themselves

Association for Progressive Communications / Internet Society

session 143 organizer(s) logo

Session 143

09:00–10:45, 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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Moving forward every year

Half of the world’s population does not have access to the internet. Limitations on existing business models to provide affordable services in low-income areas, combined with innovations in low-cost communication technology, have resulted in new possibilities for the development of affordable, locally owned and managed networks, commonly known as Community Networks.

Community Networks don’t just provide affordable access; they have broader development implications. In the first part of this workshop, representatives from 5 different Community Networks worldwide will present their infrastructure and approaches to show the links between their work and the Sustainable Development Goals. Presentations will focus on the progress made by each of the initiatives during the last year, as progress is taking place in the field constantly.

In the second part of the workshop a panel discussion will take place among the presenters to discuss what lies ahead, including opportunities and challenges they face to expand their infrastructure.

After each presentation, there will be time for interaction with the audience. Similarly, active participation of the audience during the panel discussion will be encouraged.

Despite being a space currently dominated by men, Community Network organizers are deeply engaged in promoting gender equality. Thus, despite being unable to travel, two women engaged in community networks will pre-record their presentations and be available online for the panel discussion.


Ms. Jane Coffin (ISOC)


Dr. Sarbani Banerjee Belur, Senior Project Research Scientist, Gram Marg, India
Ms. María Florencia López Pezé, Communication and Documentation team, Altermundi, Argentina

Ms. Sol Luca de Tena, Director, Zenzeleni Networks, South Africa

Mr. Ramon Roca, Board and Co-Founder,, Spain

Dr. Panayotis Antoniadis, Nethood /

Dr. Carlos Rey-Moreno, Project Manager, the Association for Progressive Communications

Georgian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (invited)

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 stand as real world examples of increasing access to ICTs and providing affordable and equitable access to achieve the WSIS vision of the people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this sense they like directly with WSIS Action Line C2 as they directly contribute to “Information and Communication Infrastructure”. Given the local nature of a Community Network, they vary from country to country and from  implementation to implementation, according to local values and practices. Therefore 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 a broader “Access to information and knowledge”, i.e., WSIS Action line C3. To gain full advantage from this potential, an enabling environment is required (C6). For this enabling environment to empower communities to develop their own networks, it is important to build local capacity (C4) in order to do so.  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 bridging 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 provide support for 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 decent work supported by better connectivity (Goal 8), and building resilient infrastructure and fostering innovation by providing local options for 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 reduce inequality within countries (Goal 10).


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