Joint Effort Required To Expand Local Online Content And Broadband Access 28/06/2017 by Elise De Geyter for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The lack of content on the internet in local languages and the lack of local digital skills, especially among women and girls, remain central challenges for the digital economy, speakers said during a panel discussion at the recent World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2017 (WSIS Forum 2017). Left to right:Virat Bhatia (AT&T), Melissa Sassi (Microsoft), Will Hudson (Google), Lourino Chemane (Adviser to the Minister of Science and Technology, Mozambique), Carlos Pallotti (undersecretary of Technology Services and Products for Ministry of Production of Argentina), Ryan Johnson (Access Partnership) A panel discussion on local content and broadband access was organised on 16 June during the WSIS Forum 2017, which took place from 12-16 June. The speakers discussed how industry and governments work together to expand local content online and broadband connection. Broadband Access The English-speaking population largely has access to the internet, whereas a substantial part of the non-English speaking population lives without any form of internet access, Virat Bhatia, president, external affairs, South Asia for AT&T. A member of the audience told the conference that he has to climb into a tree with an antenna to have access to the internet in his home village in Ghana. Google has made Wi-Fi connection available in 115 train stations in India, which covers 6 million users, according to Will Hudson, senior advisor for international policy at Google. This is only one step and many other challenges remain, such as access to the internet at home and in offices, he said. Melissa Sassi, program manager of the Affordable Access Initiatives at Microsoft, said that the connectivity to the internet can help to maintain family relationships. The internet can create for women the opportunity to be a mother for their children in case they do not stay at the same place, she said. Lourino Chemane, adviser to the Minister of Science and Technology of Mozambique, said that the government in Mozambique focuses on policies to make sure that people with a low income have the possibility to engage in the digital society. Chemane said that people can increase their participation in the country if they have access to relevant information. Local Content The ability to create, access and distribute content that is relevant to the local community and in local language “enhances the cultural diversity of the internet” and “benefits the society as a whole,” according to the organisers. Access to local content is “a key driver of internet adoption” and facilitate development, the organisers say on the website of the WSIS Forum. People should be able to find information that is relevant to their local community in a language they can understand, Hudson said. He said local content helps to preserve local culture. Sixty percent of the internet users in India indicated in a survey conducted by Google that the information they looked for and the services they wanted to rely on were not available in their local language, according to Hudson. A lot of non-English speakers are not connected to the internet and the non-English speakers who are connected are often exposed to many challenges while using the internet, Bhatia said. “Customers are innovating in a way that we cannot imagine,” he added. He gave as an example how Hindi speakers use letters of other alphabets to write their messages in Hindi. Google works on supporting Indian languages in their products, Hudson told the conference. A translation facilitated by artificial intelligence could help to improve the access to local content on the internet, he said. Bhatia predicted that in the future videos will dominate the internet. This may help to cover a lot of the content gap as videos are often available in local languages, Bhatia said. Local Digital Skills Carlos Pallotti, undersecretary for Technology Services and Products for the Ministry of Production of Argentina, explained to the conference how a large-scale project in Argentina aims at training young people for a job in the digital economy. The programme gives special attention to women because only 25 percent of the students of computer science in Argentina are female, he said. Special attention is also given to disabled people, he added. The profile of the training program is defined by the private sector in order to make sure that the students will be able to find a job in the private sector after the program, Pallotti said. Sassi underlined the importance of local partnerships. Microsoft established an app factory in Malawi which refugees run under the mentorship of Microsoft, Sassi said. She added that the expertise of Microsoft can help local entrepreneurs to accelerate their business. Google aims at increasing internet usage by women and introducing women to internet-related jobs, Hudson said. There is still a perception among women in rural areas that jobs in the internet sector are only for men. Many women believe that it is not safe to work online because of the risk of online harassment, according to Hudson. Google has tried to change that perception by exposing women to good internet practices, he said. Chemane said that a multi-stakeholder approach is required as no single group alone can provide a solution to local content and broadband access. Chemane told the conference that language issues cannot be ignored if the digital economy aims at including minorities. Elise De Geyter is an intern at Intellectual Property Watch and a candidate for the LLM Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the National University of Singapore (class 2017). Image Credits: Elise De Geyter Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Elise De Geyter may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Joint Effort Required To Expand Local Online Content And Broadband Access" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.