This week, policymakers from across the globe will gather in Mexico for two major meetings: the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy and the 2016 Congreso Latinoamericano de Telecomunicaciones (CLT). Both events will offer participants the opportunity to explore how expanded connectivity can drive sustainable and inclusive growth, and what must be done to ensure that universal, affordable access becomes a reality in Latin America and around the globe.
While the regional and topical focus of each meeting will be different, we hope that outcomes from both meetings recognise the importance of accelerating and widening access to affordable Internet. Realising the full social, economic and developmental opportunities associated with broadband access will require concerted efforts to close the vast digital divide and bring the most marginalised online. To do this, countries must:
- Embrace a new “1 for 2” broadband affordability target. A4AI research has shown that when the price of broadband drops to 1GB for 2% or less of average monthly income, people from all incomes groups — even the lowest earners — can afford access.
- Commit to closing the gender gap in access, use, skills and affordability. Achieving universal access will be impossible so long as women remain up to 50% less likely than men to use the Internet. All policies (not just ICT policies) must take into consideration the unique economic and social challenges faced by women, and must work to overcome these barriers to access. Our recent Affordability Report includes a checklist for ensuring that your policy is gender-responsive.
- Increase government investment in public access solutions and digital skills training and education. Even when access prices are reduced, certain portions of the population will continue to be excluded from online access as a result of a continued inability to afford a connection, or because a lack of digital skills or understanding prevents them from using the Internet. Greater investment in free or subsidised public access and digital skills development will reap rewards well beyond the original investment.
- Improve data collection to measure progress effectively. As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Data around ICT uptake and use often is woefully outdated and is collected in a way that makes it difficult to understand use and impact on the ground. Data must be collected more regularly and should be gender-specific and gender-disaggregated.
A4AI will be represented at both meetings by Sonia Jorge, A4AI Executive Director, and Yacine Khelladi, A4AI Regional Coordinator for Latin America & the Caribbean. On Tuesday morning, Sonia joins the plenary panel at CLT, where she will present findings from our latest Affordability Report and will discuss how telecommunications investments can help to close the digital divide (CLT livestream). On Tuesday afternoon, she will join the OECD Trade Union Stakeholder Forum on the Digital Economy to look at how affordable Internet access can drive sustainable, inclusive growth. On Thursday, A4AI will host a policy roundtable on the sidelines of CLT to explore the innovative policy reforms needed to achieve the SDGs on universal and affordable access.
The Web Foundation will also attend the OECD meeting — Web We Want Global Campaign Manager Renata Avila will join a discussion of civil society organisations, which will then feed into the larger OECD meeting. Read what our Web Foundation colleagues hope to see come out of the OECD meeting here.