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7 November 2016

Beyond Access: Partnering for a Win-Win

By Olga CavalliFormer Member, Internet Society Board of Trustees
Joyce DogniezGuest AuthorVice President, Empowerment and Outreach, Internet Society Foundation

Los Nevados, one of the most remote areas in Venezuela, at 2700 meters above sea level right in the Sierra Nevada National Park. Beautiful and remote.

Agriculture is its main export, and while it’s a passage for tourists looking to climb Pico Bolivar, this is a land of tradition and history.

Earlier this year Paola Pérez decided that it was time to expand the opportunities for the people of Los Nevados, and she decided that something that could build economic growth, more efficient agriculture, better access to education.

As she put it, she wanted to put her town on the world’s map.

So She partnered with Fundación Ymago and, through the Internet Society’s Venezuela Chapter, applied for a grant through our Beyond The Net community grants programme. She wanted to connect Los Nevados to the Internet so its people could use it to build their dreams.

From one day to another (ok, it took a little longer than just one day) things started to change.

  • Farmers gained access to the weather forecast and could ensure better crop harvest.
  • Children in the school could look up information online and could even participate in online courses that they would never have had access to before.
  • Families could communicate through things like Skype or Facetime.
  • Guides could put up websites for tourists showing the tourists
  • The local woodcarver could sell his handicraft online

The opportunities for the people in Los Nevados were, and are, endless.

At the Internet Society, we would like these opportunities to be available to everyone, everywhere.

But for that to happen people around the world need access to an open, secure Internet that we all trust.

Why Am I Saying This?

The Internet has transformed our lives.

It reflects who we are as humans.

It helps us build businesses from the spark of an idea, to innovate without having to ask anyone.

We use it to drive social and human development.

It brings hope. It drives discovery, creation, education, exploration, and celebration.

It opens a world of opportunity.

But there are many of us who still aren’t online.

  • Some of us can’t afford the Internet.
  • Some of us live where some technology just can’t go.
  • Some of us live in the places the world has forgotten about.
  • Some of us choose not to go online because there’s nothing online in the language we speak or there’s nothing that answers to our needs.

This is just about 4 billion of us.

That’s just about half of the global population.

Now 4 billion is a number that can feel overwhelming.

Four billion of us not only need access to the Internet but need to know how to make the most of it.

Can we do this? I think we can.

As long as we all can commit to one thing: To connect 4 billion people, we need to build partnerships.

Let’s Start At The Regional Internet Development Dialogues.

The Internet community is founded in collaboration, coordination, and cooperation. These concepts are deeply rooted in who we are.

And we need more of it. That’s why we are launching the Regional Internet & Development Dialogues around the world. These meetings will be to bring together International Development and Aid agencies, governments, businesses, and people. Together, come up with concrete plans on what we can do to help connect the next billion and how we can work together to help those plans succeed. You can join one in Latin America now.

Because it is not just about the technology anymore, it is about what we do with it.

The Internet community will need to form new and different partnerships that will bring us outside of our traditional expertise. Likewise, the International Development and Aid agencies can benefit from the deep expertise we hold in Internet policy, development, and technology.

All of us will need to work with governments and policy makers to make sure we create an environment where access can happen, meaningful access. Easily and effectively.

Partnerships that will help answer the question of what happens next.

Because it’s not just about a connection. It’s about how all of us can use it to make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of our friends, families, and communities.

We see this kind of change every day.

  • Young people were able to speak to world leaders on global Internet policy at the 2016 UN’s World Summit on the Information Society Forum. This is thanks to the coordination and action taken by the Internet Society Youth Observatory – a project funded by Beyond the Net and started here in Latin America.

This can only happen if all stakeholders, all parties cooperate, collaborate and coordinate.

Everyone can play a part in connecting someone, but we also need to think about what happens next.

But it’s going to take all of us.

Join us at the Regional Internet Development Dialogues in Latin America and throughout the world in the coming year.

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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