Lightning talk 01 2018

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5 June 2018 | 11:30-11:45 | GARDEN HALL | YouTube video
Consolidated programme 2018

Lightning talk – Tusheti project and the welcoming speech from the World Bank representative

Lightning talk will cover Community Networks project implemented in Tusheti, one of the most remote regions of Georgia.

Project was funded by Internet Society and supported by many Georgian organisations - Small and Medium Operators Association, Ministry of Economy of Georgia, telecom regulator - GNCC, Georgian Innovation Agency, World Bank, Tusheti Development Fund and other organisations and individuals.

During the talk, the representative of Tushi community Rati Kochlamazashvili will talk about what challenges his team faced and what lessons were learned there. He will also pay attention on the unique collaboration experience among many stakeholders, including donors, public and private institutions and local population.

Biography: Since establishment of TDF in 2015, Mr. Kochlamazashvili has been responsible on the fund-rising, communication, strategic planning and implementation of the projects. He does these works pro-bono, because it is his good will to support the sustainable development of Tusheti - his original region. As a main job, Mr. Kochlamazashvili works as the Deputy Head of the Agricultural Policy Research Center at ISET Policy Institute. Mr. Kochlamazashvili serves as an expert on Agriculture and Rural Development Policy. He is an experienced lecturer, trainer and presenter who worked with various types of stakeholders. Prior to joining ISET Policy Institute in 2014, Mr. Kochlamazashvili was a junior scientist at the University of Minnesota (USA) during 2012-2013. Mr. Kochlamazashvili holds a Master’s Degree in Macroeconomics from Tbilisi State University (2011). He had exchange semester at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) during his master studies. After graduation, he was studying in the field of applied and agricultural economics at the University of Minnesota in USA (2012-2013). He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Tbilisi State University (2009).

Welcoming speech from the World Bank representative

  • Ms. Mercy Tembon, Regional Director for the South Caucasus, Europe and Central Asia, The World Bank

Biography: Ms. Tembon, a Cameroonian national, joined the Bank in 2000 as an Education Specialist in the Human Development Department in the Africa Region. She brings a wealth of experience from working across regions for the human development network as well as technical and managerial positions in the Africa region. Ms. Tembon has significant experience working with clients on country strategies and programs, managing country offices and developing fruitful partnerships with stakeholders and other development partners. She has held various positions including an extended acting Country Director post for Tanzania and her most recent assignment being Country Manager for Burkina Faso


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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.

>> Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for coming for our session. So we are starting this session. Let me introduce Mr. Rati Kochlamazashvili from Tusheti Development Fund. The floor is yours.

  >> RATI KOCHLAMAZASHVILI: Thank you. So hello, everyone. As being said my name is Rati from Tusheti Development Fund. We have been building together with huge supporters. So let me go through the presentation and give you a brief introduction about the project and the lessons learned during this one-year period when we built this network and also the future plans all together.

So if you do not know Tusheti, this is one of the remote regions of Georgia and also a beautiful region at the same time. The full territory is covered under the three types of the protected areas which makes this region very unique.

It is a home for the highest settlement in Europe and the protected area is the largest in Europe. So this makes the place unique and that was the driver why this region became so touristic. And last year we counted more than 14,000 visitors, which is quite a big number considering the territory, and the road which drives to Tusheti is considered as one of the dangerous in the world.

So the region was without Internet. And how it came, so to give you some pictures from Tusheti, this is what I'm talking about. The beauty of it, even during that winter. So the only way to get there during the winter this is a helicopter. For seven, eight months there is no road for locals living there. So the Internet was really key to have a connection for those people from outside the world.

So here the question comes how to do this. So then, of course, financial support is needed and here the ISOC, Internet Society came around the table and said together with the partners that let's make this remote region -- let's have a broadband for this great region. And also Ministry of Economy with its GETA innovation agency put also additional money, additional money to make this happen and have Internet for Tusheti. Of course, there is some financing from World Bank also, from the Geneva project and later people are going to talk about it.

So implementation came from the small and medium telecommunication association and with its member ETNO operating in Tusheti and also some IT specialists who helped us to build this system. And also the locals, of course, Tusheti Development Fund which is a community-based organization to promote development of the region.

And, of course, a great supporter for the whole process is Georgian National Communication Commission which is supporting the -- throughout the process of this project. And that Tusheti community were helping us in different directions to make this community network alive and sustainable for a long run. And the beneficiaries are, of course, the people from these remote areas in a remote region.

So indeed great stakeholder engagement in this process.

So before broadband Internet Tusheti had a mobile coverage but only one-third of the regions are covered with mobile and the rest of the villages are left behind without any connection. Building the system we made possibilities for the many villages and farms and they are now having Internet and having benefits of it. Of course, this is a system. We built 503 transmitters to cover the remote villages and population living there. Of course, with the landscape it was not easy to build a system. We use horses, sometimes carts but it was worth it. When we got the Internet it is the highest peak, more than 3,000 meters. This was really joyful.

So here the impact comes. I mentioned already that this is a broadband Internet and before that it was only -- and there is also the mobile Internet but very low quality and also the price is high as you know. And it is not comparable with the broadband Internet. So more than 10 villages we connected to the rest of the world. So this is real opportunities for the people living there to develop guest houses or even for the farmers to promote their life and just simply to connect to their families every day. And they do not need to come to different villages to travel kilometers to just call the families and ask how they are.

So, of course, I'm not going to talk about the huge opportunities and sources the Internet is bringing around the world. But for Tusheti as a new touristic spot and also very famous with the sheep breeding and sheep farms. And this is a new opportunity to promote their products and promote the region and to boost tourism. Again especially in those areas we are -- there was no connection. So it was almost impossible to book any hotel in the far -- the gorgeous and now there is a possibility. There is access to e-commerce. And better promotion to make tourists to come and give more economic opportunities for the people living there, the locals.

So it is important that -- the biggest question is the community network as you know is the sustainability. Right? Together with our partners we built and are still building a sustainable model, of course, which is based on the fees we are collecting which is very tiny and very reasonable. Just to give you an idea this is 10 Euros per month and for guest houses this is 17 Euros. And if you want to stay in Tusheti this is about one night per person. So it is not really a burden for the people. The guest houses are working only four, maximum five months a year and the rest of the time when the road is closed people can post the Internet and do not pay anything.

How we work, it requires a lot of contribution to make this system working and to keep the sustainability and we as locals do a lot of pro bono work to promote our region and, of course, to keep the Internet running there.

Only cost we have, this is a technical -- technical person who is all the time there to respond to all the challenges we face and to help the users if there is any small problem to solve and so on. So this is the finest from the fees we collect and the tiny amount goes to the reserve fund for repairing or replacing if any damages.

And last winter we made a decision that people who stay there during the winter we gave the Internet for free from the money we collect and from the reserve fund we have. This was really the impact for the people who stay there during the seven, eight months without any connection.

So what lessons we have learned? This is a very high mountainous region and with the high snow and very low temperature and we expected, of course, some lessons to learn during the process because this was very, very pilot in this area, not only in Tusheti but in the area. We are looking and still looking with a big loop to find any tiny challenge to learn what lessons we can improve in the replication of the project in different areas or even expanding the existing one in Tusheti.

So last winter showed that there is a -- sometimes not sufficient energy because of the, of course, there is solar panels, but when there is a winter and no -- not sunny days, the energy was not enough. That's one of the issues we faced. And another one was the big snow. Even though we install the panels at six meters from the ground, we still face the snow damaged it slightly, the antenna. It is a peak of the Abanu pass. So yeah, transportation is a challenge. But still in order to respond timely any challenges we face, transportation is really key because most of the -- most of the time to reach the antennas and transmitters we need a horse. Car, you have to bring all the equipment and this is also a small challenge that we faced.

With our partners we have been building the capacity inside the community to respond to the challenges we faced during the time and it is increasing. And there are some people who are very skilled to respond to any challenges that we face. And, of course, we are expanding the Internet access. There is also electricity needed, because there is no central electricity in Tusheti. And this is only the solar panels which are the source of the electricity in Tusheti. And, of course, community involvement is really key. We are using every people and every opportunity, every organization working in the area starting from the protected areas or the representatives of the local Government to help us and really, really helpful in this process.

So I mentioned the small damage we faced. It is six meters. It was really in the -- just to give you some information and the last but not least for the ongoing and future plans, of course, we are going to replace the batteries which we face, there is some problems. And the problem was during the night when there is not enough I mean power. This is -- and one good thing is that the -- we are working with the Tusheti protected landscape, which is going to have the electronic data collection with this Internet which is really a step ahead.

So -- and, of course, we are promoting the region in general which is a big, big impact also. So thank you very much. And we really appreciate every stakeholder involved in this process. Thank you.



>> Thank you, Rati. Thank you, Rati. Now let me give the floor to Ms. Mercy, the World Bank director. Please, the floor is yours.

  >> MERCY TEMBON: Good morning, everybody. It is such a pleasure to be here today. And I really want to thank the organizers for giving me the opportunity to speak. I would like to congratulate the Government of Georgia and the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development for hosting this very exciting event. I have been sitting here all morning and listening to all the contributions and I can tell you that it is very fascinating.

And it is even more fascinating because this is the third time in a decade that this event has been hosted by a non-EU Member State. So for that reason I would like to congratulate Georgia and I hope that all the attendees will enjoy Tbilisi and Georgia. And particularly its welcoming and welcoming culture and traditions.

This EuroDIG will discuss many topics that have direct relevance to the World Bank Group's work in Georgia. And recently released our country partnership framework for 2018 to 2022 where we recognize the importance of improving access to the Internet for all. This will help Georgia to maintain growth and boost activity in an inclusive and sustainable way and support investments in people. This dialogue will help us and our partners in the development community and the Government and Civil Society to think of how Georgia's economic development could be accelerated in this increasingly digital era.

We just heard about Tusheti. And I really want to confirm that Georgia has done very well in connecting many of its citizens to the basic Internet. 60% of the population above the age of 6 uses the Internet and 80% of users connect with mobile devices. Prices are related and affordable for many people. It is possible for many people to connect basic internet territory, as did the Tusheti example showed. And broadband prices have dropped by half since 2012.

And Georgia has seen widespread increases in advanced wireless broadband services through 4G networks, increasing coverage of fiber internet and indeed some companies are considering testing out the cutting edge 5G wireless network. So which will deliver ultrafast broadband to many people.

All of this will also help to boost adoption of e-commerce services, digital financial services and eGovernment among the population. It will also create the foundations for the future digital and innovation economy. I really want to share at this point share with you an exciting experience I had when I went to the remote village of Georgia called Baghdati. In this village the Government has actually implanted an innovation centre and this innovation centre has access to everyone, from the children to the adults to the old people who are learning how the Internet works. I was fascinated by what I saw of a nine-year-old boy called Saba. He comes from the data centre and he has never failed to go there. He would rather be absent himself from school than absent himself from going to the innovation centre. And when he goes there he plays with all kinds of Legos toys and designs some things. I was standing there when Saba actually designed the Legos from the truck and bring it. The first time he did it did not work. And so he picked it up and tried it again. And it didn't work. So three of his friends gathered around him and he changed the whole thing and looked for where the problem was and put it down and made it work. And they went -- he had little a remote and it went and picked up what they had to pick up and bring it back. And I stood there and I said wow. Nine-year-old Saba and his team are working on this truck and the fact that they were working in a team, they were looking for the problem. And they were trying to find the solution and they found it. This is the digital era.

And I'm so happy to see so many young people today taking it on because the future actually lies in the hands of the young people. And I'm so so proud of you and so proud of what is to come because you don't know how the world is going to look like in the next ten years.

So I want to say that a lot of progress has been made but there is still more to be done. The Tusheti example shows you that there is still more to be done, to increase affordability and usage and the impact of the mobile network in Georgia. Internet access remains a challenge for rural households. A service and -- service quality is also an issue for enterprises in rural areas. 82% of open households of the Internet while only 56 of rural households are connected. Georgia is still -- Georgia's efforts to boost trade and attract more and direct investment are currently undermined by key gaps in digital infrastructure which have intra and international connectivity. And it is possible to attract money from the private sector in to the deployment of networks to enable more competitive markets and for the public sector to support strategic programmes where the commercial business case is available.

Looking forward, we in the World Bank Group are very proud to be partnering with the Government of Georgia, with the private sector, with Civil Society in supporting the expansion of broadband Internet. We are doing this in three key ways. First we are supporting the Government and defining a new national broadband development strategy to define ambitious but achievable targets and create an enabling environment to create a competitive market that delivers wider coverage of first broadband and more affordable prices to more Georgians.

Secondly, we are financing through the Georgia national innovation ecosystem, the GNIE project for broadband and development programme which will compliment and build on the examples like what you have said about Tusheti, connecting households and small businesses in rural Georgia to the Internet and its economic opportunities.

And thirdly, we are building potential partnerships which catalyze private investments through the support of the international finance cooperation and to explore the options of leveraging its global digital infrastructure initiatives to support investments and modernization of programmes, of telecom operators, broadband expansion and strengthening and promoting the emergence and independent operators of shared infrastructure, for example, data centres and telecom towers. The target we have set through our counter country partnership strategy is that rural households with access to the Internet should increase. Through the GNIE project we aim that new households and the MSME broadband subscription catalyzed by larger programmes will reach about 33,000.

So we -- there is a lot to look forward and a lot to discuss on the digital agenda. And I just want -- we have so many things to talk about but I don't want to belabor you -- suggestions that we have. And I really just want to thank you again for the chance to speak in this event. And wish the dialogue -- wish you successful discussions during the dialogue. And please call on us any time you need more information about the programmes that we are running in Georgia and a successful EuroDIG. Thank you.



>> Thank you very much. So thank you. So we are waiting for a small video from the --

(Video) (speaking in non-English language)


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.