Keeping Access a Priority Post-COVID-19

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A Conversation with Larry Irving

COVID-19 has not broken the Internet, as some had predicted. Months into the global pandemic, we have seen that the Internet is resilient enough to withstand the increased traffic running across the network of networks. What we have seen is a different type of failure: the failure to make “last mile” broadband connectivity widely accessible and affordable.

About half of the world is connected to the Internet. COVID-19 is amplifying these divides around the world, and current responses to the pandemic (i.e. working/learning remotely from home, telemedicine etc) highlight challenges for under-served and un-served communities. 

We have witnessed that rules can be changed: governments have changed policies and regulations overnight. With countries starting to lift lock-down restrictions, what can we do to ensure that “the changes we need to see” are top of mind going forward? How do we keep the momentum going?

Larry Irving produced the first empirical study proving the existence of the “Digital Divide.” This groundbreaking research sparked global efforts to begin bridging the divide and continues to be widely cited today by those studying Internet access around the world. His work ultimately ignited global concern about the Digital Divide phenomenon, leading to international regulatory and legislative reforms and programs to promote Internet growth. Larry is the president and CEO of the Irving Group. Prior to that, he served for almost seven years as assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). He was a 2019 Inductee to the Internet Hall of Fame.

Jane Coffin is responsible for the Internet Society’s Internet Growth project teams. The Internet Growth project teams are focused on Community Networks, Internet exchange points (IXPs) & interconnection, peering, and community development, and a new critical project on measuring the health of the Internet. Her work also focuses on access and development strategy, where she and other Internet Society colleagues and partners focus on coordination of collaborative strategies for expanding Internet infrastructure, access, and related capacities in emerging economies with partners.

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Date and Time

14:30 – 15:15 UTC

Thursday 25 June 2020