Bridging the urban-rural digital gap – a commercial or community effort? – PL 01 2018

From EuroDIG Wiki
Revision as of 18:32, 4 December 2020 by Eurodigwiki-edit (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

5 June 2018 | 11:45-13:00 | GARDEN HALL | YouTube video
Consolidated programme 2018

Session teaser

Telecom infrastructure is mostly built commercially by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In unprofitable, usually un-served or underserved areas, a Community Network (CN) is a possible alternative solution. CNs are funded through donations – local, municipal of state funds or other grants. This funding disrupts markets. How does one develop strategy to effectively and efficiently allocate these funds? What should be short/long term goals? What should the criteria be to assess benefits and costs of non-profit interference? How does one develop strategy that provides a synergy between commercial ISPs and community efforts? How does one make decisions where to allocate public funds: subcontract ISPs, build governmental networks, support CN, generate demand though vouchers and education or anything else?


  • Internet Access
  • Community Networks
  • Telecom operators
  • ISPs
  • Demand generation
  • Vouchers
  • Education
  • Governmental networks
  • Broadband strategy
  • Synergy
  • Public funds
  • Regulation
  • Internet Exchange Points - IXP

Session description

The Scope of the session will be focused on four essential aspects (pillars) that have to be considered for successful rural connectivity national strategy or local project.

These are:

1) Financing and how to make projects sustainable

2) Competitive element / technology neutrality – how to ensure that

3) Policies, programs and regulations ( e.g. World bank program, Easter partnership, connectivity for All)

4) Ensuring demand

Obviously there are many other aspects related to the topic of the session that will be raised during the discussion.


The Session will start with a Lightning Talk about "Tusheti Community Networks Project". Tusheti is the most remote, mountainous,region in the north-eastern part of Georgia.

The talk will be delivered by Rati Kochlamazashvili, a representative of the local community.

The Lightning Talk will be followed by the moderated discussion among Key Participants within the scope of the session (find above). ( No formal presentations will be delivered - each Key Participation will be given an option to use one diagram or visual'')

Local and remote audiences (via Webex) will be able to actively participate in the discussion.

Further reading

Tusheti Project: [1]

Broadband Europe: [2]

Policy paper: Unleashing Community Networks: Innovative Licensing Approaches : [3]

'Anti-authority' tech rebels take on ISPs, connect NYC with cheap Wi-Fi [4]

IGF 2017- Community Networks: the Internet by the People for the People (DC on Community Connectivity) [5]


Focal Point

  • Sandro Karumidze, Internet Society - Georgia Chapter

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

  • Olivier Crépin Leblond (EURALO)

Organising Team (Org Team)

  • Claudio Lucena, Visiting Research Fellow, The Center for Cyber, Law and Policy, University of Haifa, Israel
  • Kristina Olausson, Policy Officer, ETNO
  • Melle Tiel Groenestege, Digital Policy Advisor, VEON
  • Mariam Sulaberidze, International Relations and Project Management Office, Georgian National Communications Commission
  • Giorgi Dapkviashvili, Head of ICT Development Division, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia
  • Maarit Palovirta, Senior Manager, Regional Affairs Europe, Internet Society
  • Rati Kochlamazashvili, Tusheti Development Fund
  • Nino Kubinidze, Director, Opennet


1) Raúl Echeberría, Vice President Global Engagement, Internet Society

Biography: Raúl Echeberría joined Internet Society in 2014 as Vice President of Global Engagement after completing his 6 years term on Internet Society’s Board of Trustees. Raúl was one of the founders of LACNIC (the Internet Address Registry for Latin America and the Caribbean). He served first as Chairman of the Board and after that as the CEO of LACNIC between 2002 and 2014. He was one of the members of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) created in 2004 by the United Nations Secretary General and played a relevant role in the negotiations that took place in relation to this issue at the 2005 Summit in Tunis. In 2006, he was again distinguished by the United Nations Secretary General, being chosen to be a part of the Internet Governance Forum's Multistakeholder Advisory Group, group in which he served until 2014. Raúl is well recognized for his participation in the Internet Community and also for his work on promoting the development of Internet both regionally and globally. Raúl is located in Uruguay.

2) Giorgi Cherkezishvili, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia

Biography: Mr. Giorgi Cherkezishvili is a Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia since March, 2017. One of the directions under his responsibilities is ICT & Innovations. Before joining, the Ministry Mr. Cherkezishvili worked in different high level positions at the JSC Partnership Fund, JSC Bank of Georgia, Chamber of Control of Georgia and at the Black Sea International University as an Invited lecturer. Mr. Cherkezishvili holds a Master degree in Business Administration, Specialization in Global Management from the Grenoble Graduate School of Business (France) and Caucasus Business School (Georgia) Dual MBA Program and Master/Bachelor degree in international Relations from the Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University.

3) Marta Capelo Gaspar, Director of Public Policy | ETNO

Biography: Marta Capelo is ETNO’s Director of Public Polic. She leads on core telecoms issues, including network access, spectrum and other core regulatory files. Marta also oversees engagement on 5G as well as connected and automated driving. Prior to joining ETNO, Marta worked as the Transport and Communications Counsellor for the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union. Before that, she was a Member of the Cabinet of the Portuguese Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications. Marta has extensive experience in telecoms regulation as well as intellectual property, data protection and e-Commerce services. In the early years of her career, she worked as a lawyer for leading Portuguese and international law firms in the technology, media & telecoms practice.

4) Melle Tiel Groenestege, Digital Policy Advisor, VEON

Biography: Melle Tiel Groenestege is Digital Policy Advisor at VEON and works on a range of topics related to the transformation of VEON into a digital communications provider with a large footprint in emerging markets. These topics include digital national strategies, the promotion of a stable investment climate, digital inclusion, digital financial services and data policies. He also manages engagements with key partners including the WEF, UN Broadband Commission, GSMA and official representatives to The Netherlands. Before joining VEON he started a consultancy that focused on advancing corporate interests with positive societal impact. Previously, Melle worked at International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on corporate strategy, focusing on advancing the UN SDG agenda through the use of ICTs. As the chairman of the Digital Agenda at one of the largest Dutch political youth organizations he was instrumental in developing a progressive digital policy strategy. Melle holds a MSc in Business Information Management from the Rotterdam School of Management, two BSc in International Business Administration and Political Science, and studied at the National University of Singapore.

5) Michal Boni, Member of European Parliament

Biography: Member of the European Parliament since 2014, Vice-Chair of Delegation to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee, Member of Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Committee on Constitutional Affairs and Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, Substitute Member to Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee. Michal Boni holds a PhD from the University of Warsaw where he lectured in the Department of Polish Culture for many years. Involved in the ‘Solidarity’ underground movement since 1980 and a member of the national authorities of ‘Solidarity’ since 1989, he became Chairman of the Mazowsze Region Management Board in 1990. He served as Minister of Labour and Social Policy in 1991 and from 1992 until 1993 as Secretary of State in the same ministry responsible for labour market policy. Between 1998 and 2001 he was the Chief Advisor to the Minister of Labour and Social Policy. From 2008 he served as Minister- Head of Strategic Advisors to the Prime Minister Donald Tusk and from 2011 until 2013 as Minister of Administration and Digitisation of Poland. In 2016 Michal Boni was awarded a MEP award in the category: research and innovation.


  • Mariam Sulaberidze, Head, International Relations and Project Management Office, Georgian National Communications Commission

Biography: Mariam Sulaberidze is head of international relations and project management office of Georgian National Communications Commission. Her main responsibilities cover managing of the GNCC international relations and projects (international, as well as other projects) including coordination of fulfillment of obligations under international agreements of Georgia in the field of electronic communications and media. Prior to joining the GNCC Mariam worked for one of the biggest telecom operators JSC “Silknet”, where she was managing processes at the Carriers Department. She has an extensive experience in Project management and over 10 years’ experience in telecom business.

  • Natalia Saginashvili, Researcher, Small and Medium Telecom Operators Association of Georgia

Biography: Natalie Saginashvili is a researcher at Small and Medium Telecom Operators Association of Georgia. The mission of the organization is to improve the business environment in the telecommunications sector and help the process of the harmonization local rules to the EU legislation. Previously Natalie has worked at In-depth Reporting and Economic Analysis Center.

Remote Moderator

  • Aamir Ullah Khan, YouthDIG


  • Ilona Stadnik, Geneva Internet Platform

Current discussion, conference calls, schedules and minutes

See the discussion tab on the upper left side of this page. Please use this page to publish:

  • dates for virtual meetings or coordination calls
  • short summary of calls or email exchange

Please be as open and transparent as possible in order to allow others to get involved and contact you. Use the wiki not only as the place to publish results but also to summarize the discussion process.


  • It is the co-responsibility of governments to promote the demand for Internet access with other stakeholders in remote areas with a lower population.
  • Digital literacy has a high priority for the youth and elderly. It is important to teach people basic digital skills to enable them to be competitive in a constantly developing digital world.
  • The community’s experience and its direct involvement are important when investing in infrastructural projects. Regulatory and legal frameworks should be catalyst, not obstacles for the development of Internet infrastructure and community networks and their funding by investors. A lot can be achieved to increase Internet access by addressing the ‘basics’ such as spectrum policies, competition policies, network sharing regulations etc. This is not only relevant for community networks but for Internet access overall.
  • Community networks and commercial networks can be complementary to each other, but it all depends on the underserved rural area and development project in question.
  • Technologies must feed the needs of the population. It is not enough to just provide access.

Find an independent report of the session from the Geneva Internet Platform Digital Watch Observatory at

Video record


Provided by: Caption First, Inc. P.O Box 3066. Monument, CO 80132, Phone: +001-877-825-5234, +001-719-481-9835,

This text is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: So with this very impressive keynote speeches let me introduce myself, my name is Mariam Sulaberidze, independent regulatory authority that regulates electronic communities. I will be moderating today a very important session with the name of Bridging the Urban-Rural Digital Gap - Community or Commercial Efforts. I would also like to introduce my co-Moderator, Natalia Saginashvili who is the researcher from Small and Medium Telecom Operators Association of Georgia. So this session is very important and we have very distinguished panelists here. And with this word let me introduce our Distinguished Guests. Mr. Giorgi Cherkezishvili, Deputy Minister, Minister of Economy and Sustainability Development of Georgia.


>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Mr. Michal Boni, member of European Parliament, former Minister of digitization of Poland. Mr. Raul Echeberria, vice-president of global engagement, Internet Society. Ms. Marta Capelo Gaspar, director of public policy of ETNO. And last but not least Melle Tiel Groenestege, sorry. So the digital policy advisor of VEON.

Our Distinguished Guests will share their experience with broadband development in rural areas. And we will move to the audience with their questions. Now Mr. Deputy Minister, the floor is yours.

>> GIORGI CHERKEZISHVILI: Thank you very much. We expect that you will enjoy the time in Tbilisi. When we are talking about this perspective of the Government, how it should be involved in the broadband development, there are different aspects. The first is like in the country, within the country to divide this distance between the digital rural areas and to connect the different places within the country. And it is important to play a key role of the country and to promote the country and to connect their different regions in the world. So this is two major directions what the Government of Georgia is working and what we are doing in this respect.

As was mentioned we started in 2016, we started the development of broadband infrastructure in the country and we established a dedicated agency and the company made it possible for the development of the infrastructure in the rural areas, especially we are -- it is not commercially viable and there is no private sector interest to spend money. The population is more than 200 persons. And moreover all this social part, what we talked about today on the beginning of this panel, in the rural areas, in the high mountains we have populations less than 200 inhabitants. It is very important Government to support, Government to promote and to create a demand. Because without this it is impossible to develop the economy and spread development of the economy and to give a chance to all members of the society.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: The European institutions are proper supporting development of the broadband very much. Can you share your experience?

>> MICHAL BONI: I can share my two kinds of experiences. Firstly when I was a Minister of Digitization and we had decided some years ago to prepare digital Poland, very comprehensive programme focused on building the infrastructure. But on the other hand, focus on building the new digital literacy because I think it is very important when we are talking about overcoming those digital gaps, I think that we need to start with broad activity on the digital literacy. It is important for the young generation because young children are very often focused on entertainment, not ready to take digital skills and go to the workplace. And on the other hand, to the older generation it is very important. With the perspective of 2025 I think that 90% of jobs will be touched by digital issues. So if you want to have labor market very modern and adjusted to the challenges, we need to work on this digital literacy area.

Secondly, you have question of demand. I think that when we are talking especially about rural areas, it is important to put the question if it is possible to establish the demand. To show to the people that new digital public services and the new possibilities for the future health care area, for example, and the new possibilities for SME development related to using ICT tools can create the good background for the new demand. Because it will be the good pressure for investments. And the third point is related to investment of the proper environment for investment. I think the need to consider how to incentivize investments. It is important for the European Union but it is important in every place all over the world. How to make it. We need to be much more open for giving the certainty for the business, to make the long-term investments. It is crucial. Because when we are looking at the rural areas, for example, it is not so easy to say okay, are we going to invest in the prospective of five years and channel the investments. So it is -- if it need be, if it should be the long-term investments, I think that we need to join the perspective of digital literacy, the perspective of creating the demand and the perspective of environment, proper environment, open environment for business investment.

And the last point in many rural areas I think that we need to involve communities. The question is if the contribution of the communities to some investment is some kind of donation or if it should also be based on the business rules. So I think that it is a very important topic for our discussion.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Thank you. As we move to the community network Mr. Raul Echeberria, could you share your experience?

>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: Well -- it is working. Thank you for the opportunity of participating in this panel. I think that's building over what the other Distinguished Colleagues have said before. What we are seeing now in the world there is a huge gap of opportunities between the people that is already connected and the people that is not connected yet. And the world is working under the assumption that everyone is connected. All the things that we do every day that are very normal for us, buying a ticket for a concert or paying a bill or checking our bank account or sending messages to our relatives is something that is only available for half of the global population.

And so it is urgent to connect the people that is not connected. I think that everyone understands and everyone on the importance of connecting the people that's not connected. I think that's what sometimes we don't agree -- we don't fully agree in the sense of urgency. And this is the basis of our establishing. Because we continue supporting and promoting in every environments for developing the markets and the growing of markets around the world, especially in Developing Countries but what we are doing so far is not enough. So we need to find complimentary strategies for connecting the people that's not connected yet. And we need in a few words to think out of the box on this. The community network approach is just one of those things that we can do, innovative things that we can do and the presentation from Mr. Rati about the Tusheti project was impressive. So I don't need to say very much.

And we are learning from these kind of experiences. At least I could say three things. One thing is that the knowledge is for connecting the unconnected or existing, the unavailable. He has spoke about that. Second thing is he also mentioned that the community scheme. It is not just building wires to the villages or towns. It is working with the communities and empowering the communities. Working with them to find together what -- how -- what are the ways in which they can take advantage of the knowledge for improving the lives. That this is the ultimate objective. And the third thing is that the regulatory framework and legal framework should be a catalyzer, not an obstacle for access. And we are very happy to partner with the Georgian government here because it makes things much easier. When the Government and the regulator and all the authorities understand the importance of connecting the people.

So the machine, the technology, innovation, we will see in the near future if people are not able to access the things that already exist now, how they will take advantage of all the innovation we will see in the coming years. So it is urgent. So for doing this, for achieving really this we need to align all the different policies and different components of the strategy. We have to continue working for labor markets and keeping the market to grow, bringing investment from private companies but also align this with the broadband strategies, the international organizations, strategies for investment like our colleague from the World Bank presented, and also universal access funds, we have a lot of tools available. And we need to align all of them in order to escalate this. Because we at the Internet Society are very proud of the work that we do. But we will not connect 3 billion people just deploying community networks by ourselves.

Even the fact that our community around the world like here in Georgia is great but connecting 3 billion is very much. So we need to escalate this and to escalate this, we need to turn these kind of initiatives in public policies, aligning all the components of the strategy. So this is our call to the community. Think out of the box and embrace innovative approaches with connectivity. We are showing one of this that is involving the community and empowering the community is key for really connecting the people that's not connected. Thank you.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Now I would move to the private sector.

>> MARTA CAPELO GASPAR: Okay. Good morning. Thank you, Georgia. Thank you to EuroDIG to bring this topic to the discussion. We couldn't agree more. Access is what really empowers people. The life of people really dramatically changes. So and I totally agree we work on the assumption and discuss many matters on the assumption that everyone is connected and that's not true. There is a lot to be done. And if you go back to the title of our session bridging the urban-rural digital gap, it is both. We know that the resources are scarce. In 2016 the European Commission issued a communication that identified there would be a need for 5 billion Euros to actually achieve the new gigabit society goals. And it also said that if we continue to invest at the same pace that we are doing now, we are going to miss at least 155 billion. And we are not going to meet these targets.

Also according to the same text, 95% of this investment is coming from traditional telecom operators. So we need to see that the revenues of these companies because of the increasing competition is, of course, a good thing. But then also because a lot of regulations have been decreasing year to year. Their capacity to invest has gone down. And the resources of public states are also not unlimited. So we really need to see how we need to actually increase the reach of the traditional investors as well.

So there are three main hurdles that we see here and to actually boost the investment of operators. One is the technology neutrality. The other one is promoting all investment models and the reduction of administrative costs for all.

When we are talking about technologies and then I go back to the point also made by Raul we have the mobile technology and we have the satellite and several fixed technologies and all of these should be taken in to account. Of course, we do not want to create citizens of first category that have the best speeds and citizens of a second category but we cannot just invest on the top networks. Otherwise we will not reach all the regions. We need to do this on a phased basis and this is important. Same applies to investment models. There are countries where you have individual investments and other countries you have commercial operators together. You have joined projects like Portugal and France and other countries like Sweden that have municipalities that take the lead in the regions. So the investment from the -- all these traditional players is also essential to make sure that we -- that we arrive to better connectivity for all. In any case there will be all these regions where we need specific targeted solutions. And there is public investment and solution like community networks come in to place in targeted areas, to meet specific community needs with this engagement of the community. We see this is very interesting solution.

Thirdly, again on the talking about the barriers. We need to look in to the administrative hurdles. We have public authorities taking too long to grant permits. Many of these permits is very costly. And we need faster and best of procedures to help the private sector, the communities, to actually bring connectivity to people. We understand that there are administrative constraints and, of course, there are public interests to be safeguarded but this can always be tackled. So we can do more if we improve this -- all these issues, but there will always be regions that require the specific and targeted solutions. So I would stop here.

>> MELLE TIEL GROENESTEGE: Yes. Okay. Thanks. So let me -- it is a great pleasure to be speaking here for VEON. So we are a global telecommunications provider with 240 million customers globally. We have the large operations in Italy and Ukraine. We operate the telecommunications here in Georgia. How I would like to start is to say that we don't really do enough. We could do more. But I think we face especially with the smaller type of pilot projects we face the issue of how to do that within our global operations or continue operations. I think this is an issue that we face also on the international community level that we have great pilot projects but how do we scale them to a sustainable level. So I think on the connectivity part, we invest a lot. So in -- and we have great coverage with regard to 4G. Here in Georgia actually we went from 2G to 4G. We now cover -- have a coverage of 90%. In Italy we will invest 6 billion over the next five years to improve connectivity. We have 4G coverage of 95%. By the end of this year that will be 98%. So that's -- we are almost at 100 but not really there at yet. In Ukraine we invested 133 million in licenses. We are continuing the process of getting people connected.

Now that remains a lot of people who are still unconnected. And we see that across our footprint. And I would like to go over a bit of a case study that we have in Italy where we see kind of a great combination of different team players coming together to create connectivity in rural areas. So in Italy the Government has launched a national broadband, universal broadband plan to achieve the European targets of 100% coverage of 30 mb per second.

Now the Italian Government has split the country in to four different types of segments. And the fourth segment that's the most interesting part because that's covering 9 million people who are in at 15% of the country which will not be able to get connected to the private sector means. So to connect those people in rural areas to give you kind of the numbers wise it would cost about 70 Euros a month to make these people connected to the Internet which is very unsustainable because if we look at our revenue, revenue per customer it is 27 Euros. It is a huge gap to cover for people to get online. There is a very innovative approach in Italy and that's the open fiber network. Together with the Vodafone have partnered with NL. So it is the energy provider using the electricity infrastructure that's already there to put fiber infrastructure. And that can be fiber to the home but also the fiber backhaul so that we in the end can reach the people through 4G.

I think this is important because it is not only connecting the people in these rural areas but actually meaningfully connecting these people because we have seen in Ukraine people are still on the Internet using 2G but I don't think this is what we want for the future.

So to connect the people to the existing infrastructure it would reduce the cost actually to a bit under 30 Euros. So actually brings it much closer to what we could achieve as a private sector. So how it works is that it is an open fiber network where telecom operators have a wholesale pricing to provide in the end the end customers with connectivity. I think this shows how in very unconventional ways not only driven by the telecommunication sector but looking more broadly to fill the pieces together. This is something that we will be looking at this model to implement in the Ukraine as well. And it is important to mention this is not only private sector funded but it was reverse auction by the Italian Government supported by the European Commission. I will leave it at that.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Thank you very much. Thank you for sharing this very interesting experience. So before moving to the audience with their questions just let me ask one question related to the title of our -- today's session, community or commercial networks. Marta, you mentioned that they are -- they are both community and commercial, but in some cases community networks are perceived to be competitors from the commercial networks. From your point of view are they competitive or do they compliment each other?

>> MARTA CAPELO GASPAR: So I don't think there is a single answer to that question. It really depends on the concrete case.

Community networks, if you have really projects driven by community targeted to certain communities, to specific areas they do not necessarily need to be competitor to -- to be a threat to the commercial telecom operators. It really depends on the situation. Of course, we also face all this technology neutrality, administrative burdens. And if you have a double standard in an area that could be commercially viable if these hurdles are not there, then maybe this is not really a community network. It is something else. So what we -- we cannot say it is not black and white. There are many shades, but the point is really that we see community networks as a creative solution driven by communities to fill in the gaps but the issue is how we define this gap.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Okay. Thank you. So I would like also to mention we have also remote participants. If any questions just let us know. Okay. So I would like to open the floor to the audience for their questions.


>> Thank you. I am a member of the board of trustees of the Internet Society. So I also take this opportunity to say as the board we are really delighted with the Tusheti project and feel that this is in line with the vision of ISOC of providing -- helping make the Internet for everyone.

One point I would like to raise, and this is open to everyone here, is that the fact that the Internet itself is not as -- is built on a multi-stakeholder approach. So there are many different elements, many different players. Governments are one. And they are a more dominate one but there is now an increasing need to bring in more of the private sector in Developing Countries, not only in Europe but across the board. And I see this as an opportunity to bring in more international collaboration between projects such as Tusheti and other projects around the world with that need. And some parts of it can be done through the private sector and with, of course, connecting with the community. So how do you think this could model well in bringing it as an example through cross collaboration with different parts of the world?

>> Thank you very much for the question because this is a very crucial point for countries like Georgia because of the geographical region. We have the high mountain regions. The question, the communities or the commercial part, which would be -- it should be both. Whether -- the community areas would be developed economically, then commercially, commercial interest can be more there. But without these networks it would be impossible to develop. And this is crucial for the Government type because we need to duplicate but to use this like a model for other regions as well and this is very important for us.


>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: I think that collaboration across different actors is crucial for us. We can deploy community networks but we need somebody to provide connectivity. We need the Government to provide the conditions that are appropriate for the ISPs to develop their services, to deploy their services. We need innovative ways to access, to frequencies, to build community networks. So we need everyone in the world. We need the regulator. We need the Government. We need the community. We need the private companies. Without the participation of everyone we cannot achieve the goals. And this is why answering the previous question that you made I don't see this as a competition between community-based projects and private organizations. I think it is a perfect opportunity within an opportunity. In fact, we have plans for deploying community networks in some countries where we canceled those plans because the private companies started to provide services in those areas. Meaningful services, of course, because what the colleague has pointed out is very important. It is not just bringing access. It is bringing meaningful access.

So if the private sector is providing meaningful access to those communities there is no means to deploy to. This is coming back to my previous point, we need to align all the strategies and policies that are in place in order to achieve the goal of connecting urban. So collaboration is essential.

>> In my opinion it should be complimentary because when we are looking at two separate stages the face of investment, it is clear that communities can invest, but after that I think that during the process of using the Internet access to many new services I think that it is better to have some kind of partnership. So common goal and partnership between community and business which is ready to lead the business and to look at some requirements. So complimentary but partnership I think is the best solution.


>> MELLE TIEL GROENESTEGE: That's exactly a great point because even if we look at the use item, I mean it is a whole different discussion, but to highlight this part, even though we have that 95% 4G connectivity availability in Italy, only 66% is using the Internet. There is a huge gap of 30% where we need to enable the people to see the value of the Internet and that's something we need to do together with the community. That's for sure. But on the connectivity part itself, also I think there is still -- the Government can still do a lot. Tech neutrality that you mentioned, we are still locked in Ukraine to upgrade 2G to 4G. And network sharing in some countries that's a great opportunity to reduce cost and also working with different types of partners that we don't think of because the low hanging fruit is to know where are the rural communities that are easily accessible to look at the map overlaying that with satellite imaginary of where are the communities that are currently not covered but that could actually be easily covered. Because currently we are depending on census data of Governments to identify the communities to connect.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Thank you very much. I have one more question. So Mr. Michal Boni, you mentioned the importance of awareness in broadband development and also social responsibility. So my question is to the Deputy Minister what are the social responsibilities or the initiatives of Government to stimulate the demand side in Georgia?

>> GIORGI CHERKEZISHVILI: This is also another very important topic when we are talking about the communities. When we say the communities they are not geographical communities. In some part of the people within the -- that are living together with us, they need different types of the services for support. Like here this project of the visually impaired people's project in Georgia where we Minister of Economy with the cooperation of the Government we provide this service to the people and we have the final -- ask colleagues if it is possible to give some -- to show this -- some very brief video about this community, how they live. At this moment we have around 25,000 beneficiaries in this centre. And this is very important to have access to these people, for these people to use these modern technologies and this digital part as well. So this is crucial and we need to spread this in other parts of the countries as well.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Okay. Thank you. From your experience, from the Polish experience what are the other possibilities to simulate and increase the demand? There are some examples there.

>> MICHAL BONI: When we are going in the direction of e-governance, which is very important for citizens to -- supporting the democracy development, because, for example, all consultation could be transparent with participation of citizens. So if the Government is coming in this direction, so I think it is step by step creating the new model of citizens' activities. And this is a demand. When we are trying to change the health care of our system, and probably in five years we will change the paradigm of health care system, using all those new technologies, making the possibilities to measure the state of health in the realtime and send information to our doctors, it is very, very important. So each creates the new attitude. People as patients, consumers as patients.

So I think there are many, many instruments to create this new demand. But it requires I think that comprehensive and wholistic view, what does it mean in the second wave of digital revolution. This is not only communication. There are many, many new possibilities, services oriented as citizens. And if the Government and local Governments will go in this direction, so I think it will be clear that the demand will grow. And we need to get also especially the digital literacy but especially to the elderly people because in Poland we have had big projects addressed to elderly people with participation of young volunteers, teaching elderly people in small villages and small cities how to use the Internet. And it was -- because those people were much more open, elderly people and I think we need to give them the possibility.

Now unfortunately we have in the European Union just about 60 million people not using the Internet just between 16 and 74. So much more of them are over 60s. So I think this is also the challenge. It is important when we go in the direction of changing the health care area because it will touch elderly people much more than younger generation. So this is a challenge for Government to join and to have digital strategy for citizens.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Thank you. I still have questions.

>> What are the benefits (inaudible) compared to the public network in case of access and coverage? Public network compared to community network, what are the benefits of the community network?

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Oh. The public networks, difference between public networks and the community networks. What's the difference between these two? Maybe Raul.

>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: I think that's -- networks are networks. So what is important is to connect the people. So in some countries the state has a more important role than others depending on different views of the Government and society. So we can see in some countries that the Government run their own services. In other countries they have an absolute open view and they prefer to create the best conditions for the private sector to invest and to deploy their services. Are different flavors. Something I have learned in my life there is not one single solution for this. And I love one -- the talk that I have seen many times that the speaker says no matter that one thing is true, probably the opposite is also true. So the thing -- the importance is connecting people. But I feel again with what Mr. Boni said with regard to the people need to understand how to -- how they -- the technologies can feed their needs. And so -- and connectivity infrastructure is just one of the drivers of the availability of infrastructure, I should say is one of the drivers of connectivity.

The other driver is that people want -- want to be -- need to -- want to be connected. And for that they need to understand how they can use technologies. We have seen a lot of examples, for example, in rural areas in India where people are using now Internet access for deploying the business, local businesses, for providing services to the neighbors, to access e-governance services. EGovernment is one of the very meaningful contents that people can access. Tusheti is a good example of how they can promote their tourism based businesses. So this is how the people will see the benefits are being connected. Sustainable Development Goals provides us a good basis for understanding this.

And so we need to go to the policymakers to talk about connectivity. We can talk to them about how we -- we have to bring education to the -- in to everyone everywhere. How to bring telemedicine services to everyone everywhere. How to promote the creation of new jobs and empowering the Government in different places. And just my last comment is that this is not only about rural areas. One of the -- one of our projects in community networks is in Kibera. It is in the Nairobi in the capital of Kenya. So this is not only for rural areas. It is last -- last point, one thing that has been floating here is affordability. Not only the capacity of bringing services connectivity to people but it should be affordable. People have to understand how they can use the technologies for the benefit but also the access should be affordable. Coming back to the question, I don't distinguish between public and community networks. They are just networks.


>> Thank you. From the English chapter of the Internet Society but I will be speaking in my own name. I will be a little controversial. Not necessarily the things that I think about but two questions really. The first one is to do with the community networks and the number of community networks that are out there. In the early days of the Internet we saw quite a few community networks being put together and those being replaced by commercial undertaking. Now we don't have that many community networks out there. And I wondered whether, why this was the case. Whether it is something about regulation that doesn't allow community networks, is it the technical problem. Is it a problem of funding or demand. If there is no demand for this, we have 3G and 4G and we are so well served out there we are not wasting time with community networks. This is meant to be provacative.


>> MELLE TIEL GROENESTEGE: So I think kind of the main answer there is I think the community networks are great when the markets are totally failing. And I think there especially in the early days when we saw Internet was very expensive, now if you look in let's say here in Georgia but also in Ukraine you pay around two Euros a month for a Big Data bundle that you can live by. Especially in rural areas it is very valuable. Otherwise I think the private sector is pretty good at serving the needs of the customers. Also because the community networks, a lot of people have to take an active role themselves and maybe you would rather outsource that out to somebody else. I do see a trend. Maybe it is a little bit different track but in Australia and in Rwanda and Mexico kind of the Government also networks were allowed. Maybe you see kind of maybe not from community decentralized but back centralized to Government initiative. So I think that's kind of dynamic that we see to your question.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Would you like to offer something?

>> MARTA CAPELO GASPAR: Yes. We believe that the market should be able to fulfill the needs of the many. There may be a few that for geographic reasons, for the availability that would be always like at the margins, can be left out and there can be a role. Again what I said before we need to refine where that gap is and make sure that there is fair competition in amongst the market players and also -- funding is not distorting competition. But again I would just -- economics of the issues, I would like to underline the Tusheti presentation, we saw that the cost of the connection would be equivalent to a tourist per night. They are creating their own economics and demand. And maybe in a few years we will have more users and more people are going to be there and then you can have a more commercial-based operation. There is a role to square it up and then things getting to the traditional services track maybe.

>> MICHAL BONI: If I understood the presentation of the Tusheti experience with the fantastic example of cooperation and partnership, all partners were involved and they took the responsibility for some issues. And probably it created the possibility to invest in the proper way, to give to the people the access to the network. But on the other hand, to make it affordable. So with prices which will be -- which were -- which were open and accessible that created accessibility to the people. The model of partnership is one of the key issues and there is no one model. Because we are talking about the lack and the deficit of accessibility in rural areas just about 20 years.

My question is if we would go with the direction of 5G how to invest, how to organize partnership, how to be open for coinvestment model which are discussing now to give to the people in their rural areas the new possibility, because if you lost the fight for full accessibility to all people, also to people from rural areas, from rural residence, when we will go with the direction of 5G, it will be the collapse because their opportunity of 5G is to give the same, the equal accessibility to network, the accessibility to all services to all people.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Thank you very much. Okay.

>> RATI KOCHLAMAZASHVILI: Community network, let me answer that question which was a very good question actually. We are thinking, of course, about the commercialization and why we stepped in. To say -- I mean the economist we can say there is a market failure. Then we step in. This is a case why we can influence. For example, about 15 years ago the mobile coverage and mobile -- was deployed in to Tusheti. But since that there is no investment. For example, we are left without any Internet coverage and without any connection. So for this 15 years and we do not see any development for the private sector. Of course, in the future we have to cooperate with the private sector as we did with many stakeholders right now. But the development has come this year. So e-commerce, e-education, e-services are needed. That's why we stepped in, but it does not mean that we prevent any cooperation with the private sector. So we look forward, maybe private sector was a little bit sees this project as a risky project, but in the future we are thinking that we have to push them, that this is sustainable and we need to cooperate again in order to connect the unconnected in this digital world. Thank you.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Thank you for your very interesting intervention. So I think now it is time to close the stage and go to our reporters because -- okay.

>> So I am going to read the messages right now.


>> Read the messages.

>> So we are reading messages from our first Plenary. I will just read them out. And if there is no objection, it will be posted to the EuroDIG Wiki site as the wrap-up of the session. Multi-stakeholder prevents for running the infrastructural projects in remote areas to provide Internet access. So is it okay with the audience? No objections? Okay.

The second, the rural areas have less population but it is the Government's responsibility to support and promote the demand for Internet connection. No objections? Okay.

Digital literacy is a high priority for the youngsters --

>> Just a second. There is an objection.

>> There is an objection.

>> The idea is to agree on the statement or read from the list. So if you completely object we -- we are in your words.

>> This is a very, very strong statement. I know you want to make it quick but it is not the core responsibility of the Government to make it happen in rural areas. Because it indicates its first statement. So leave it at that.

>> The idea was to inspire the demand. Yes? No?

>> MELLE TIEL GROENESTEGE: I don't know about the other panelists but it would be the coresponsibility of the Government to support rural areas. Coresponsibility, okay. Yeah.

>> So we can just remove this if it makes --


>> Okay. Okay. Just a second.

>> That should be the second. Digital literacy is a hard priority for youngsters and older generations. So it is important to take advantage of basic digital skills to be competitive in a cost of development of the digital world. Any objections?

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Let me give the floor to Raul.

>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: I think that's -- the second bullet besides the fact that I agree with the comments of my colleagues but also I think that's one thing that's -- that is important and it has been clear in this debate is that empowering the community is very important for creating the demand. So it is not the responsibility of the Government to create the demand. We have to work together consistently with the first bullet and empowering the community for increasing the demand or defining the needs. Of course, the Government has a responsibility, too, as one of the stakeholders.


>> MICHAL BONI: I want to add something to the digital literacy because I think it depends on the perspective. In the current perspective we can say basic digital skills. But when we are looking in the future, so I think it should be rather broad digital skills, yes, because it is a perspective five, ten years it will be completely different, much more requirements. And when we are looking at people who are starting education now, so they will go to the labor market, for example, in the perspective of 12 years. In the perspective of 12 years I think that basic digital skills have not been sufficient.

>> Okay.


>> I think the second point on the role of the Government -- the Government's coresponsibility is extremely important because if we take away that point, it completely defeats the purpose because the Government comes in when there is market failure. The Government needs to support the private sector. So I suggest that we put that point back and make the correction to have it as coresponsibility of the government.


>> If I am right to understand we should put back the second point regarding the role of Governments. Okay. I will fix it.

>> Put it back and add the coresponsibility.

>> The coresponsability. Okay. And we have the final, not final but several ones. The community experience and its direct involvement are important to organize investments in the infrastructural projects. We should disperse the experience of connecting the unconnected and help adjust the working models. Any comments? No. No objections, yeah?


>> Okay. Regulatory and legal framework should be a catalyzer and not an obstacle for investors to contribute to the projects. Okay.

>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: This bullet should be a catalyzer and not an obstacle for promoting access. We are not only talking about investments here.

>> To include the access. Okay.

>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: Regulatory should be a catalyzer and not -- that's covered investment and private sector but not only that. For example, in community-based approach the most important is access to frequency or these kind of things.

>> MICHAL BONI: I'm sorry, I am a little concerned because I think that we need to express that if we want to have long-term investment, we need to create a friendly environment for business and for investment. So if we can add yes to that also, it is -- it requires the friendly environment for investors.

>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: Okay. What about be a catalyzer and not an obstacle for access and build a friendly environment for the --

(Talking at the same time).


>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: We are negotiating here.

>> And two final. Community networks and commercial networks are rather complimentary to each other and depends on the rural area.

>> MELLE TIEL GROENESTEGE: Change are to can be.

>> Can be.


>> The final.

>> RAUL ECHEBERRIA: Because we are not talking only about Georgia. We are talking -- because we have the Tusheti project in mind but I would say underserved areas and not only rural. Underserved areas instead of rural areas. As I say, for example, there are other places where --

>> Not rural but certain areas. Underserved. Underserved. Underserved.

>> And the final, technologies must meet the needs of the population. It is not enough just to provide an access. Okay.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: No objection.

>> Thank you for your contribution.

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Thank you very much. Before -- before closing this session, so I would like to say that there is some exhibition of the Tusheti project in the corner. So you can enjoy it. And before the closing we will have the video which Mr. Deputy Minister mentioned. So...

(Video) (speaking in a non-English language).

>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: Okay. This was a very impressive video.


>> MARIAM SULABERIDZE: So with this very impressive video let me thank our distinguished panelists, our audience and close this session. Thank you very much.


(Session concluded at 1304 p.m. GET)

This text is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.