Asia-Pacific Regional Community Networks Summit 2021

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Innovating policymaking to connect the unconnected

Home to over 4 billion people and covering more than 50 countries and territories, the Asia-Pacific is the largest and most diverse region of the globe. The region is home to countries like China, India, Indonesia, and Japan, which account for more than half of the world’s mobile subscriber base (GSMA). However, a significant part of the population remains unconnected in the region, particularly those living in rural areas.

The global pandemic currently being experienced has brought into starker highlight the role digital technologies play in the modern world, and the urgent need to provide connectivity for all.

Connecting the unconnected remains one of the major challenges for both governments and industry. The coalescence of connectivity and socio-economic inclusiveness, particularly for the last two billion, underlines the need for transformative Internet access through integrative policies, user-driven tools, and innovative solutions that can be rapidly deployed and appropriated by under and un-served communities across the world.

In recent years, Community Networks (CN) have emerged as a complementary way to connect people and to allow for low-cost community-driven solutions to be developed to connect people in underserved locations.

A number of CNs have emerged around the Asia-Pacific region as low cost – and typically self-managed networks – providing Internet access where commercial networks generally do not find it economically viable to operate. These networks are also supplementing ‘universal access’ goals and providing digital opportunities for rural communities to empower themselves.

However, these community-led solutions do face a number of challenges that require policymakers and regulators consideration so that they may flourish. These local networks can be used to improve delivery of Internet services and inspire creation of local content, as well other digital services – including online education and access to government services.

In 2019, ESCAP and the Internet Society jointly held the very successful Asia-Pacific Regional Community Networks Summit. In the shadow of the continuing global pandemic – and the heavy reliance on digital technologies that has created for all sectors – we reconvened to host the 2021 edition in support of the implementation of pillar 1 (Connectivity) of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) initiative.

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Date and Time

Wednesday 18 August 2021

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