European policy options for digital access and inclusion – WS 09 2015

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5 June 2015 | 14:30-16:00
Programme overview 2015

This session is a European oriented version of the UN IGF initiative "Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion".

Session teaser

The Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) invited all national and regional initiatives to contribute to the horizontal global inter-sessional theme for this year: "Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion", by incorporating this theme into their programmes in order to provide their input into the discussion and related documents.

Input from IGF initiatives could include bullet points addressing the following questions:

  1. Definition of the issue “Connecting the Next Billion”
  2. Was the policy a government policy, industry policy (either collective best practice or corporate policy), civil society collaboration, or technical policy?
  3. Regional or national specificities observed regarding connectivity (e.g. Internet industry development)
  4. Existing policy measures, and private sector or civil society initiatives addressing connectivity
  5. What worked well in the development of the policy, and what impediments were encountered, what was the experience with implementation
  6. Unintended consequences of policy developments/interventions, good and bad
  7. Unresolved issues where further multistakeholder cooperation is needed
  8. Insights gained as a result of the experience
  9. Proposed steps for further multistakeholder dialogue/actions

Further details are available here.

Session description

Europe is one of the most connected regions in the world: according to the International Telecommunication Union, by the end of 2015, the Internet penetration rate will be at 77.6% of the population, and the number of Internet users will reach 487 million. However, we also have to face our internal digital divide: between countries in the North and in the South, and in the West and the East, between urban and rural areas, between the digitally literate and those who lack the necessary skills to benefit from the Internet and, last but not least, the gap between those who can afford to connect and those who cannot. To tackle these problems, a wide range of policies and strategies are developed and implemented both at a national and at a regional level. As building networks and providing access to physical infrastructure is not enough, such policies also need to be focused on issues like affordability of services, cultural barriers and digital illiteracy.

Within this context, the session will be focused on four categories of issues:

  1. Relevance and current situation: Why is Internet access important? What is the state of Internet access and use in Europe?
  2. Policy options for improving access: What is the adequate environment to encourage investment in and roll-out of (broadband) networks? What are the policy options for creating such an environment? What are the best practices in this regard? And what are the roles of the different players (governments, intergovernmental organisations, the private sector, etc.)?
  3. Policy options for closing the gaps: If the physical infrastructure is in place, what are the next steps for bringing people online? How do we move from access to actual use? What are the policy options for dealing with the other dimensions of the digital divide (improving digital literacy, empowering the un-empowered, etc.)
  4. Europe and beyond – international connectivity: What does Europe do beyond Europe to contribute to connecting the next billion?


access, inclusion, policies, digital divide, literacy



Further reading


  • Focal Point: Lee Hibbard, Council of Europe
  • Org team: Cristina Monti, European Commission; Sorina Teleanu, Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of Romania
  • Key participants|Panelists:
    • Mark Carvell, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, United Kingdom Government
    • Frédéric Donck, Regional Bureau for Europe, Internet Society (ISOC)
    • Jānis Kārkliņš, Ambassador of Latvia, Chair of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group
    • Desiree Miloshevic, Afilias
    • Megan Richards, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology, European Commission
  • Moderator: Lee Hibbard, Council of Europe
  • Reporter: Cristina Monti, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology, European Commission
  • Remote moderator: Sorina Teleanu, Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of Romania

Current discussion

See the discussion tab on the upper left side of this page

Mailing list

Video record

Video record

Final report

European experiences in the area of policies for digital access and inclusion

  • There are still large distinctions in access in Europe: North, South, East, West, old, young, rich, poor, people with disabilities, urban and rural areas; such differences are slowly disappearing with newer generations.
  • The differences do not only relate to physical infrastructure, but also to the other layers involved in Internet governance, including the logical layer (DNS, protocols) and the content layer (digital literacy and skills).
  • Different actors (public, private and the technical community) operate in the different layers of the Internet to create the right environment conducive to digital access and inclusion. All need to function well in order to bring the benefits of access.
  • Different challenges require different solutions:
    • In the physical infrastructure layer, aspects like geography (island countries), demography (rural areas, aging population) play a role. Solutions include: public policies to stimulate investments for broadband rollout and to provide funds where private investments are not enough; development of PPPs (public-private partnerships).
    • In the logical layer, the development of IXPs and the deployment of IPv6 and IDNs are examples of technical aspects playing a crucial role in the enhancement of access.
    • In the content layer, stimulating the creation of local content in local languages play an important role. In order to increase the demand at local level, content has to be accessible, cheap and interesting for users.
  • European Union best practices include the establishment of broadband targets in the Digital Agenda for growth and jobs, the creation of different funds to promote investments, actions to stimulate the sharing of the infrastructure; actions to promote up-take by users (for digital skills and literacy); actions to promote IPv6, DNSSEC, etc.

European policy options for digital access and inclusion. Full report

Session twitter hashtag

Hashtag: #eurodigws9