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Development 10 October 2014

Tackling the Digital Divide – Researching & Collaborating to Bring Everyone Online

By Mat FordTechnology Program Manager

The challenges we must overcome to bring the world’s offline population online should not be underestimated. A recent McKinsey report [“Offline and falling behind: Barriers to Internet adoption”] finds that, “More than 60 percent of the world’s population remains offline. Without removing crucial deterrents to Internet adoption, little will change—and more than 4 billion people may be left behind.”

To address some of these challenges, the networking research community are coalescing around a new research group in the Internet Research Task Force with the cute acronym GAIA — Global Access to the Internet for All. After its initial kickoff meeting at IETF 89 in London, the group is now hotly debating a charter for its work at present and the latest draft is available from its webpage. In addition to identifying challenges, building common understanding, raising awareness and fostering collaboration, the group have set themselves the ambitious goal of identifying ways to achieve a ten-fold reduction in Internet access costs especially in geographies and populations with low penetration.

Although still in formation, the group already have a couple of workshops planned, the first of which is later this month in Cambridge, England. On 20-21 October, the 2nd GAIA Meeting will focus on bringing together the research community, industry, and policy makers to discuss a 3-5 year research agenda. Discussions will focus on the challenges to GAIA as well as the different projects and deployments taking place and planned.

The Internet Society is proud to provide support for this workshop.

Arjuna Sathiaseelan, writing recently in the IETF Journal said, “The Internet has crossed new frontiers — access has gotten both faster and relatively cheaper, with novel applications and services being offered every day. As a result, today’s Internet represents a critical infrastructure enabling remote health care, education, employment, e-governance, digital economy, social networks, and more. As such, Internet access should be universal in terms of availability and ability to contribute to the wider community, thereby enabling true digital inclusion to all.” [“Researching Global Access to the Internet for All (GAIA)”, the IETF Journal, July 2014].

The second planned event is the 3rd GAIA Meeting, which will be co-located with the ACM DEV 5 conference on 4 December 2014. DEV 5 will be held at the Hilton San Jose hotel in San Jose, California.

If you have some research results or project plans to share or you’d just like to get involved in the discussion, the mailing list for GAIA is always open!

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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