Innovative Connectivity Solutions – Regulatory Opportunities and Challenges

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Nearly half of the world still lacks connectivity, but innovative access solutions are proving to be successful in addressing this issue.

The increased reliance on the Internet during periods of lockdown and confinement resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need to ensure that everyone can use the Internet. The Middle East and North African (MENA) region have experienced impressive growth in the availability and adoption of the Internet in recent years, with a number of the Gulf States at the global forefront of new fiber broadband networks and 5G mobile networks along with near universal adoption of the Internet.

However, other countries in the region are lagging further behind. As a result, as of 2019, average Internet adoption in the region was at 55%. While this is slightly ahead of the global average, a significant challenge is that the growth rate is steadily falling.

To tackle these issues, on 15 December 2021, the Internet Society participated at the Arab Forum on Digital Cooperation and Development (AFDCD 2021) and contributed to cutting-edge discussions on innovative connectivity solutions in the Middle East and North Africa. This high-level meeting aimed to highlight the need for innovative ways for connectivity in Middle East and North Africa and the beneficial policies that can create an enabling environment for them.

Session 1:

Setting the scene: shedding light on examples for popular innovative connectivity models; case study from another region. Introducing Community Networks and how they could be developed; What Challenges do community networks face:
a) Technical Challenges
b) Policy and Regulatory Challenges

  • Opening remarks: ESCWA and Internet Society
  • Keynote speaker: Dr Walid Mathlouthi, Head of Future Network and Spectrum Management Division, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
    Topic: Shedding light on examples for popular innovative connectivity models
  • Panel: Complementary Access Solutions, Opportunities, and Challenges (Technical, Policies and Regulatory challenges)
    Moderator – Michael Kende, Senior Advisor, Analysys Mason; Digital Development Specialist, IFC
    Panelists:
    • Juan Peirano, Senior Policy Advisor, Internet Society
    • Marwa Azelmat, Women’s rights policy advocacy coordinator, APC
    • Sharaf Azzain, Entrepreneur and Founder of Ultimate STC; President of Internet Society Yemen chapter

Session 2:

Issues Related to Lack of Access to Spectrum& Infrastructure:
a) How to enable the regulatory environment to sustain a Community Network.
b) Financial and Sustainability Challenges
c) Country case study from the region

  • Opening Remarks: Arab League
  • Keynote speaker: Martha Suarez, President, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) (by Video Recording)
    Topic: Issues Related to Lack of Access to Spectrum and Infrastructure Sharing
  • Panel: Enabling Community Networks regulatory environment, Financial and Sustainability Challenges
    Moderator: Hanna Kreitem, Senior Advisor, Internet Technology and Development, MENA, Internet Society
    Panelists:
    • Carlo Maria Rossotto, Principal Investment Officer, Global Head, Upstream Telecom Media and Technology (TMT), Infrastructure, IFC
    • Guillaume Lebrun, Global Connectivity Policy, Facebook
    • ITU (TBC)
  • Q&A and Closing

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Date and Time

08:30 – 15:30

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Location

Online

Speakers and Panelists

Guillaume Lebrun

Global Connectivity Policy, Facebook

Dr Guillaume LEBRUN has been an active member of the spectrum community for more than 15 years, working for Orange, Qualcomm, Airbus and now Facebook. Guillaume contributed to key international… Read more

Hanna Kreitem

Senior Advisor, Internet Technology and Development - MENA

I joined the Internet Society in 2020 to work with the Internet community in the Middle East and North Africa following a long journey of active promotion of the Internet… Read more

Juan Peirano

Senior Policy Advisor

I work as Senior Policy Advisor at the Internet Society, focusing on policy issues related to interconnection infrastructure, innovative access solutions, and sustainable connectivity models. I aspire to help connect… Read more

Martha Liliana Suarez Peñaloza

President, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA)

Martha Suarez was born in Bucaramanga, Colombia. She received her degree as Electronics Engineer from the Universidad Industrial de Santander in 2004. During her undergraduate studies she participated in an… Read more

Marwa Azelmat

Women’s rights policy advocacy coordinator, APC

Marwa offers extensive experience in policy advocacy work related to cyber policy issues, gendered policy making and good governance. Marwa’s journey has been captured in the UN-AU Commemorative Book on… Read more

Michael Kende

Senior Advisor at Analysys Mason; Digital Development Specialist, IFC

Michael Kende is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Trade and Economic Integration and Visiting Lecturer at the Graduate Institute of Geneva, teaching a course on Internet Economics and… Read more

Nermine El Saadany

Regional Vice President - Middle East

I joined the Internet Society in August 2018 and now serve as Regional Vice President for the Middle East. Prior to that, I worked for the Government of Egypt where… Read more

Sharaf Azzain

Entrepreneur and Founder of Ultimate STC; President of Internet Society Yemen chapter

Project Management Consultant and Trainer Read more

Walid Mathlouthi

Head of Future Network and Spectrum Management Division, International Telecommunication Union

Dr. Walid Mathlouthi received a PhD in Optics, Photonics and Lasers. He spent his early career at Optical Research Laboratories in France, Italy, Canada and the US with Intel Corp… Read more