Access: The Digital Divide in Asia”
REAL TIME TRANSCRIPT: Access: The Digital Divide in Asia
16:00-17:30, Tuesday 15 June 2010
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>> : This session is about digital divide in Asia.
May I now invade Mr Edmon Chung, Chief Executive
Officer of DotAsia Organisation, to start the session
and introduce the panel speakers for us.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you.
As was mentioned, this session will talk about
access and delve more into the things that the community
and the governments are doing about addressing the
digital divide in the region.
Just now, in the session, I was reminded by some
colleagues that in the IGF, we should really have a more
balanced discussion to include the governments.
I’m glad to say that we have a few of the government
representatives on my panel, from governments from
Hong Kong, from Malaysia, from Singapore and then also
from NGO, from ISOC from Hong Kong councils social
services and then business representatives, as well as
I’m quite proud of my very full panel today, with
a multi-stakeholder approach.
Instead of going through everyone, introducing,
we’ll jump right into it and let us begin with Tony,
give us a presentation on the situation in Hong Kong.
>> Tony Wong: Thank you, Edmon.
Good afternoon even and good to be the first speaker
after coffee break, so I hope the coffee will keep you
awake for at least 10 minutes, to help my finish my
As Edmon mentioned, I’m coming from the Hong Kong
Government. My office mainly deals with a couple of
things, one important aspect of my office work is on the
digital inclusion area, so I’m the head of the digital
inclusion division of my office and today I would like
to take some time to introduce some latest initiatives
in Hong Kong in these areas.
To start with, I would like to give you a little bit
background about the work focus of Hong Kong in terms of
digital inclusion in recent years.
I will start with one of the five key action areas
in the 2008 Digital 21 Strategy, which is Hong Kong’s IP
grouping, mentioning about we want to build Hong Kong
into an inclusive knowledge based society.
This being one of the five key action areas, among
other things, we have been doing this by means of
getting input from different stakeholders in the
community to give us advice and input on how can we take
forward these action areas.
Our office has established a digital inclusion task
force with representatives from both within and outside
the government and with their input and advice, our key
focus in recent years, in terms of digital inclusion, is
to bring the benefits of ICT to in particular the
underprivileged groups of the community.
In terms of underprivileged groups, we understand
that different groups also have their different
priorities and also different needs.
Meeting their needs, need resource and from
government and community. So the task force also give
us advice on some of the current prior to groups that we
need to focus on in recent years.
Elderly people with disabilities and children of low
income families are the three major priorities at the
Along these priorities and divided by the task force
and our stakeholders, we have been initiating a number
of initiatives, both within the government and also in
partnership with our NGO sectors, in helping to solve
the digital divide among these three priority groups.
Today I would like to highlight one of the key
initiatives targeting children of low income families,
which is an internet learning initiatives for students
The background or the drive for having this
initiative, it’s very simple.
We understand that children are our future,
education is one of the very important means to help
bridging not only the digital divide, in fact, it’s the
gap, the social divide between the have and have not.
We start with the idea of internet and electronic
tools being increasingly used in all sorts of learning
activities, both within the schools and also outside the
So our Chief Executive in October last year, in his
policy address, made a commitment of saying that we need
to provide convenient and suitable internet learning
opportunities for all the students in need through
a tripartite collaboration between the communities, the
business sector and the government, because in
Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Government is always having the
belief that we need collaboration, not only within the
government, but also with our business sector and the
communities at large, in order to deal with those
communities problems or issues.
We start with a very in depth survey and study on
what is the internet learning needs or issues or areas
among those childrens in need or those low income
Our survey reveal that it is in fact Hong Kong is
not really that bad in terms of internet access.
Even within the low income families, with children,
we have more than — we have about 87 per cent of these
family already have internet access at home.
As compared to only about 30 per cent of those low
income families without children.
That gives us a very key indicator on one hand is
that we have a very difficult problem here, because the
last mile or the last 10 per cent or so is the most
difficult problem that we need to bridge.
At the same time, we understand that the key driver
for parents or for those families to getting their
family on-line is because of their children.
Education is the primary motive for these families
to get on line, through our survey we find that.
At the same time, we also ask those which it’s quite
difficult to get those not getting on-line, but through
this survey, we get all of these families and then we
ask them what is the problem or what is the concern of
not getting on-line?
Cost, of course, is one of the considerations, but
of course as compared to the 87 per cent of those with
the same income level, which is yet they are low income
family, but 87 per cent have their children or have
their families connected to internet.
So we think that cost is only one of the issues.
Probably because of the value of the other side of
the equation is the concern, is more of the concern of
whether the parents understand the value of getting
Of course, the reason they give us is that the
possible downside of having their children access to the
internet, all the securities issues that in the morning
we talked about, the virus, the internet addiction and
things like that.
Also, the lack of knowledge of the parents in terms
of the values of the internet and the usage of internet
and also the lack of technical support.
Because within this about 124 to 13 per cent not
getting on line at the moment, in fact, in the past
three years, they have once had their computer access to
But after their computer broke down, they either
don’t have the money or don’t have the knowledge to fix
that computer, so they end up having their computer
getting off line.
Technical support is another issue that we need to
We try to think of a holistic approach in terms of
how to help these needy students.
In February this year, our financial — we have
successfully convened our Financial Secretary to include
these major initiative in his budget speech and of
course, when we talk about his budget speech, that means
he committed to have some money to put into this
What we think of is a two prong approach to support
these families. On one hand, we give them direct cash
subsidies and on the other hand, we want to develop
a five year facilitation programme and 500 million was
earmarked as a start-up capital for these two measures.
I will elaborate a little more on how the money is
used and what’s the details about this two prong
In terms of cash subsidy, which is quite simple and
direct, because the family getting — this is low income
families, they are competing with all sorts of daily
household needs, in terms of both the family and
Starting from this school year, the government is
committed to give direct cash subsidies to family with
school childrens, primary and secondary school
childrens, in order to reduce directly their financial
burdens in getting their children on line for learning
The subsidies this year was set to 1,300 each year,
which is coming from he our latest market research.
Of course, each year we will be reviewing the latest
market price of internet access and we will adjust the
subsidies accordingly (1,300.
The five-year facilitation programme, basically is
to help addressing the other concern or other issues of
First, we hope that by means of some minimum
intervention into the internet service provider market,
we hope that a more economical and affordable internet
access service could be made available to these target
families, plus some suitable computer hardware and
software for these students to gain access to internet
for learning, for learning at home.
Also, we hope that this programme will be able to
provide tailor-made education and technical support to
the students and their parents on both the basic
technical issues and also more importantly, the safe and
healthy use of the internet.
Again, as I mention, we want to implement this
initiative as also with many of other digital inclusion
institute, with a tripartite collaborations with the
commercial and also the community sectors.
We target to implement this facilitation programme
through a non-profit making organisation, with funding
support from the government, based on an agreed and
annual reviewed business plan.
Now in fact we are at the moment of openly inviting
proposal from the whole community and those interested
organisation to give us proposal and give us suggestion
on how this facilitation programme could be implemented.
This is the screen cap of our request proposal
website, which is in our office website. It’s quite
easy. You can remember the office website at
www.OGCIO.GOV.HK and then you can go through the tender
notice, expression of interest and sponsorship session.
If you’re interested to have a look at this document,
you are welcome to get it.
Also, we have a Facebook page to facilitate
discussions and also exchange of views and questions on
this exercise. The website is a bit long, but it is
quite easy for you to go on to Facebook and search for
RFP for internet learning support programme and probably
you will be able to get this.
I welcome all your views and input on this
The benefit, I will talk a little bit about why we
want to engage a non-profit making organisation to do
First of all, as I mentioned, we want to have
a minimum intervention to the internet access and
computer supply market, with a targeted group in mind,
which is the low income families with children.
We want this to be operated as a business entity
with maximum flexibility.
I don’t need to emphasise as a government, it’s the
last flexible entity in the world.
So if the government is going to do that, probably
the only way we can do that is do bulk tenders or do an
open tender and get what we regard as all the major
vendors will come up with their proposals and probably
will not be the most cost effective way of using the
Of course, having a non-profit making organisation
will have the ability to engage private sponsorships and
also professional support to strengthen the ability of
the programmes in delivering the policy objectives.
Also, the NGO probably is more knowledgeable and
understanding on the needs of the target groups, which
is the families and which is their clients, in terms of
We also need the business view from the commercial
sectors, in terms of developing those low cost,
affordable internet access service and also the
affordable and suitable computer hardware and software
for learning needs of the children.
Of course, if it is operated as a business entity,
they have the ability and flexibilities to work with
portfolios of ISPs and also IT suppliers, in order to
develop the best products and services for the groups.
Also, NGO will be able to leverage the partnership
network with the community organisation in delivering
the service, penetrating through the communities in
reaching these low income families, these targeted
families and children.
In terms of the target beneficiaries, our analysis
showing that it’s currently in Hong Kong is about
300,000 families, what we classify as low income family,
which either is receiving, eligible for receiving
comprehensive social security assistance schemes or from
our student finance assistance agency, they also got the
financial assistance scheme under this agency to support
the school related financial assistance to those low
It’s around currently, slightly over 400,000, that
kind of students, from 300,000 families in current
We estimate an additional about 112,000 students
from 82,000 families in the following four years.
When we say the five-year facilitation programmes,
in fact, we are having the sustainabilities in mind. We
hope that this nonprofit making organisations working
like a business entity would be able to deliver or
develop a sustainable model of operations in the
But, of course, we understand that the internet and
the technologies and even the learning environment or
education environment has been changing very rapidly and
no one knows even in the coming, the next two or three
years, what kind of internet access or computer
equipment will be needed for the students in terms of
We sort of planning for a five-year programme and
then we have a mid-term review and then during our
mid-term review, we will be able to plan the way forward
beyond these five years.
I am happy to report that in last month, when we go
to our Legislative Council, finance committees, to seek
for this funding support, we have the sort of
hundred per cent support.
I don’t remember there’s any government policy that
can be able to get all our politics full support in
terms of going through the Legislative Council.
Those colleagues never forget to add a remark saying
that our parties have been fighting for years and
convincing the government is listening to us in terms of
add ing these terms to their portfolios.
In terms of the distribution of the moneys or the
500 million commitment, we estimate based on our direct
cash subsidies to the families, we estimate about
280 million this year will be distributed through our
cash subsidies directly to the families.
Another 220 million will be the seed money for the
implementation of this five-year facilitation programme.
Also, I want to add that one some of the comments we
receive during our consultation period is saying why not
giving — why don’t you give the service free of charge
to the families directly, instead of giving the cash to
them, but without any accountability, they probably can
use the moneys for other purpose instead of giving the
internet access to their students.
But when we decided this two prong approach, we
tried to think of a balance between the freedom of
choice of the families because on one hand we understand
that close to 90 per cent of these families already, one
way or the other, getting their service from the market.
If we are going to give free service to them, but at
the same time, removing the choice of them from picking
whatever service they like in the market, that way,
probably the family may not be very welcome about this
kind of schemes.
At the same time, we hope that through this
facilitation programmes and also by means of developing
a new stream of business by this nonprofit making
organisation, we will be able to shape a little bit
about the market and give more choice to the families in
terms of picking the right service and the right
equipment for their children, with the amount of money
that they got from the direct cash subsidies part.
In terms of rollout schedule, the direct cash
subsidy with the funding support from the Legislative
Council, our education bureau colleagues will be able to
issue the subsidies right away from starting from this
By late August 2010 onwards, every year, eligible
families will receive cash subsidies directly through
the various financial schemes from the government.
Then for the facilitation programmes, now we are
inviting proposal from interested organisation, business
partners and communities to give us proposals and
business plan on how to develop this five-year
We hope to conclude the funding and operation
agreement by end of this year or before with our
selected organisations or selected partners and then as
soon as possible, to roll out the service by early next
If not, no later than the beginning of 2011 school
This will match with the annual cash subsidy part of
the schemes, in terms of providing additional options
and additional choice for the families, starting next
As I mentioned, we will be conducting annual review
and form business plan with these organisations and also
a major mid-term review, probably two and a half to
three years of the programme, to review their
effectiveness and also in terms of the latest — taking
into account the latest technological development and
education needs or learning needs of the students, in
order to design the way forward of this programme beyond
the five years.
If I may, I also like to introduce some of the key
initiatives that we target to the other major
underprivileged group identified by our digital
inclusion task force.
One is the digital cyber centre that we partner with
NGOs across the 18 districts of Hong Kong, to help them
operating their computer centre more effectively, in
terms of delivering support on ICD training and internet
access to the different groups in the districts.
If you are interested, you can go and access to
their website to learn more about the schemes.
The Be Net Wise Campaign that Ken Ngai for the
Federation of Youth Groups talk about in the earlier
session, which is the one-year education programme
targeting to promote the safe and healthy use of
internet among young students and their parents and
teachers. This is the website of the campaign.
Last but not least, we have just launched I think,
just last Sunday, a new initiative with partnership with
another elderly organisation, targeting to provide an
elderly friendly, easy to use, one stop entry portal for
the elderly to encourage elders to integrate into
society and also lead an active and healthy life and
also two help them eliminate intergenerational digital
If you are interested, I also invite you to take
a look and also give suggestions and input on how to
shape this website, to better serve the elderly
community of Hong Kong.
With that, I complete my introductions.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you, Tony, for a very comprehensive
overview of the stuff that is happening in Hong Kong
from the government and the Hong Kong’s five-year plan
for our digital divide, addressing, especially with
Next up would be Dato Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, as we
get his slides up.
Sharil will be wearing two hats today for us.
Unfortunately, they were unable to join us. I don’t
think anyone from ITU was able to join us — that slip
was not a very good one. They were willing, they were
just unable to come at this particular time. Sharil
will be shadowing and also from the Malaysian government
standpoint as well.
>> Dato Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi: Thanks, Edmon.
This is a bit of a challenge. I got the slides
literally 24 hours ago and I found I had 76 slides to
present from the ITU.
But I won’t bore you to death.
Other than to declare, right now, I’m speaking as on
behalf of Dr Unju Kim, who unfortunate is at
a ministerial meeting in south Pacific, somewhere in the
Pacific islands, but she would like very much for us to
share with you what ITU is doing, particularly the
sector office here in Asian Pacific, in Asia.
Very quickly, everyone I guess around the room knows
who ITU is. They are the telecoms body under the UN
system. They have four regional offices, seven area
offices, the office here for this region is actually in
They have a secondary office in Jakarta.
They have four sectors, which is the development
sector, radio, standardisation and then the Secretary
In terms of access, ITU looks at access largely from
an infrastructure level.
Many of you here who are internet practitioners or
engineers don’t look at the base infrastructure level,
because someone else has taken care of it and that
largely is where ITU plays its role.
I’m going to, in the interests of time, move along
the slides and use them where I can.
They recognise, for example, that the broadband
penetration or subscription globally has actually been
increasing tremendously, which is why more and more of
the ITU’s work is moving into broadband as opposed to
We can see from this chart, telephone mobile
subscription has been the one that’s picked up the
highest, whereas fixed line is declining, but with the
mobile subscriptions increasing, broadband subscription
is also picking up at the same time.
I think this is a trend many other developing
countries in the region will also show.
They are doing some studies on comparing prices,
because affordability is a challenge.
They themselves are not able to do anything about
this, because they are just a coordinating body in this
Ignore the skype.
But information such as this is useful for
governments to actually then put in the right policies
to try and help competition pro live rate, so that
prices will come down.
As you can see, they have been doing a couple of
studies where in some developing countries, particularly
in Africa and some developing countries in this region,
access to broadband or access to the internet is still
very, very expensive.
I think if I can use this point here to illustrate
this point, it’s nice to talk about what we want to do.
It’s nice to talk like in the morning just now about
botnets and all sorts of security issues. The basic
point here in this region is if you don’t have the basic
infrastructure, you can’t put any applications on board.
If you don’t have electricity, for example, you
can’t power your Outlook.
I know someone from the back will start yelling, no,
we have gensets.
Moving on, ITU Asian Pacific office covers these
countries, so if you don’t know, I suggest you also
check with your representatives back home which ministry
or which agency works with the ITU.
They categorise these countries into LDCs, SIDS, low
income developing states and the rest.
Many of us at this table, I guess, is in the rest
category. Does that mean we are resting or we are just
They serve 37 member states in this region.
They have sector members. I won’t bore you with the
But this is something useful to note.
They have a couple of developmental programmes where
as developing countries, we should take notice of.
The programmes are essentially in regulatory reform,
which is very important. We spoke about earlier having
the right framework to allow industry to flourish.
ICT development, E strategies, economics, finance,
human capacity building and special programmes for LDCs.
Then they have very special initiatives, you can see
at the bottom left-hand at the slide, which is targeted
at gender, programme, special programmes for children
I mentioned earlier in my presentation this morning
about child on-line protection. That’s one of the
This is actually channelled through workshops,
country actions, fellowships and trainings and also
deployment of infrastructure.
I would just invite you to read this when I leave
the slides with the organisers, about the regional
initiatives they have around here.
And the specific ones that’s happening in the next
two years are really, again, if you look at the
programmes, you will realise that they are very base
level infrastructure type training, because I think
access to infrastructure and broadband is still
a challenge. Maybe not in Hong Kong, not in Singapore,
but even in Malaysia, for example, it is still
These are some of the calendar events. I don’t know
whether these meetings are open.
I guess you’ll have to check with the organisers.
But a few examples which are useful from what
I notice is this.
They have done some work with industry to help have
trial sites in rural villages.
They have also partnerships in Butan with the OLPC
scheme, in the Philippines connecting schools and
And also gender programmes such as those relating to
persons with disabilities and those living in rural and
They have a special tool kit which you can have
a look at.
They have been working with the forum.
They have also been doing some work on NGN. And
also they have published a couple of case studies which
may be useful to some of you. It’s available on the
They do various study groups which actually look at
various issues relating to access, primarily, as well as
I have spoken about the child on-line protection
initiative and the global on-line security agenda and
they have a partnership with impact, so I won’t repeat
I think what is worth mentioning here is in the
Asian Pacific, they have regional platform for
cooperation through the APT preparatory meetings, which
I think some private sector members are also involved,
I know Paul Wilson has been involved in some of these.
They have also been involved in doing some capacity
building with various centres of the excellence.
Again, if you look at the subjects that they are
looking at, it is very much infrastructure based access
issues that we are talking about.
This is the training calendar for the training
courses in 2010.
This last point I just wanted to make on their
behalf is the development programmes and the regional
initiatives that they have for the region.
As I mentioned earlier, they have about five
programmes in their work plan going forward.
There are areas of common interest here in relation
to information infrastructure, creating, enabling
environment, capacity building.
In terms of in this region specifically, these are
the five focus areas that they are involved with.
So, again, maybe not so much an issue in Hong Kong,
not so much an issue in Singapore, some issue in
Malaysia, but I think a lot of other countries in the
region would probably be looking at some of these
With that, thank you very much from the ITU.
Can I switch hats? I’m messed up, a convergence of
Anyway, this is Sharil, again, from Malaysia,
speaking as the regulator. That’s the agency that pays
me to come here and do this job.
I’m speaking about one particular aspect of the
digital divide here only and that’s the government’s
initiative or proposal to actually increase broadband
penetration for Malaysia.
Quick snapshot of Malaysia, 28 million people, only
3 million broadband subscribers, which represents
36 per cent.
14 million computer users, but only 3.2 million
households have computers.
Pretty low numbers.
16 million internet users, 36 per cent household
We have a kind of a funny contrast between people
who actually have the physical infrastructure for them
to access the internet, as opposed to those who don’t
have, but probably use it through other means.
We are one of the three ASEAN countries that have
hit beyond a hundred per cent, in terms of mobile
penetration, so mobile seems to be interesting. I think
the only other countries in ASEAN are Singapore,
Thailand and Malaysia. I think Hong Kong has hit
something like 170 per cent.
The internet of things might well happen in
Hong Kong, I guess.
Everyone has two phones.
But we have this happening in Malaysia.
More than all these internet users in Malaysia have
been using community access centres to access the
So despite the fact that the household ownership or
penetration of internet is very low, we have 5,000
clinics and hospitals all with broadband access, 10,000
schools, 2,000 WiFi hot spots, all the universities, the
enterprises, the libraries, telecentres and government
offices either have free WiFi or you can log on.
Probably that’s part of the problem that’s not
encouraging people to subscribe at home. Why bother
subscribing at home when you can get it free from some
telecentre or some other community centre.
When we approached — we have a target that we hope
to hit by the end of this year, which is to move from
36 per cent broadband penetration up to 50 per cent
We are taking that challenge up from both the supply
side and the demand side.
What this means essentially is that government and
private sector is pushing supply and viability of
broadband to as many areas that we can access, whether
it is economic or otherwise, so basically the idea is
that anyone who wants access to broadband should have
access to broad bard.
But what we are finding also is that there’s a lot
that we need to do from the regulatory standpoint to
actually improve awareness, attractiveness and
affordability of accessing broadband.
This is not because Malaysia is a relatively still
developing country, middle income compared to, say,
Hong Kong or Singapore.
So people still don’t have broadband or internet as
very high up on their list of wants or needs.
If they can get satellite TV, that’s probably higher
on the list compared to broadband.
But what the government is doing is that more than
600 million Ringgit is being spent on basic telephony.
That’s I guess it’s approximately US$250 million.
More than a billion Ringgit on community broadband
centres. That works out to be about US$350 million.
Another US$400 million to put up communications
The government and the industry is spending a lot of
money to try and get the infrastructure out as best as
We also — I get as a regulator, quite difficult
questions from people who will continually ask me why is
broadband in Hong Kong and Singapore faster and cheaper
than what we get in Malaysia?
That’s a problem I have to deal with.
It’s got to do with economics and the fact that
I think Singapore and Hong Kong have liberalised and
opened up much, much earlier, compared to Malaysia.
On the promotion and awareness, we have also put
some money out for content development. We think
preservation and development of local content, local
culture is very important and there are various agencies
and ministries involved in this initiative.
As for the tax people, we have been successful
working with the tax people and the finance ministry to
try and remove duties and taxes on not just user
equipment, but also equipment for service providers. So
if you’re bringing in a base station for Wimax?, for
example, or LTE, you get a tax break on those things,
because we don’t manufacture them locally in Malaysia.
In terms of how we as a regulator map the country,
what you see on the left side is the peninsula and the
right side is the two Malaysian states on the island or
That is not two scale. That is dog’s head is called
Sabah and the dog’s body is Sarawak. The state of
Sarawak is as big as the peninsula, but it’s only got
3.5 million people in it.
What we have done is we have mapped out, for
example, in the main cities and areas, having broadband
access or more than 10 megabits, but the rest we are
pushing it up to 4 megabits in all those ADSL exchanges,
which is highlighted by the orange dots.
We also rolling out 3G because we have a high — we
have been doing that for the last couple of years.
I think Malaysia also was one of the first countries in
the world to actually introduce Wimax on a nationwide
basis, so we have that running as well.
Any form of technology that works, that’s cheap
enough and sustainable to deploy, we will use, as
a regulator, we take a very technology agnostic approach
and a very open licensing regime.
What’s interesting also, despite that low broadband
penetration, it seems that we don’t have to spend that
much time educating Malaysians on what to do on the
These are not our figures, these came from internet
world statistics and all these other sources.
Seems Malaysia are big on Yahoo, big on Friendster
and big on blogger.
In fact, I found out that two months ago, a Malaysia
company actually bought Friendster, so.
Compared to, say, other countries, I guess in terms
of awareness, we’re OK, in terms of subscription, we are
Initiatives as I mentioned, briefly, we are busy
doing all sorts of campaigns with all sorts of groups
whether it is NGOs, other government groups and even the
local community to set up tell centres, setting up
facilitator programmes in schools, developing showcases,
friends and family programmes for broadband and so on,
the idea being that the government believes that the
broadband access is something that will help us go to
the next level of economic development.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you for acting on both capacities.
Now we go on to Eugene to give us an update from
>> Eugene Chen: Thank you. A very good afternoon to
everyone here today. I’m Eugene from the Infocom
Development Authority of Singapore. We are the
government agency in Singapore tasked with regulating
the telecommunications sector and developing the Infocom
industry in Singapore.
Part of our responsibilities also include raising
ICT adoption levels in Singapore.
In this regard, I will share some of our initiatives
and programmes that we hope will help to narrow the
digital divide in Singapore.
I’m sure all of us here recognise that Infocom is
increasingly an enabler of economic and social growth
today. As such, it is critical that no one is left
PC and internet penetration rates in Singapore is
relatively high, at about 80 per cent in 2009.
However, even as prices have fallen for computers
and broadband access, they do remain out of reach for
some pockets of society.
In view of this, the Singapore government has
introduced several social initiatives under our 10 year
Infocom master plan, in that bridging the digital divide
One of our plans, which we term the new PC plus
programme, was introduced in 1999 to provide less
privileged families with computers, software and
To date, the new PC programme has benefited more
than 28,000 needy households.
This initiative basically offers subsidised PCs
which comes together with broadband internet access for
about S$200 to 300, to low income families with school
going children or disabled members.
Families are offered a choice between a desktop and
a laptop. Software such as Microsoft windows, Microsoft
Office and security software are also included in this
Together with three years of unlimited broadband
But we also recognise that some families may not be
able to afford this amount of money. As such, we have
arranged for additional assistance schemes to further
reduce or even eliminate the cost entirely.
For instance, there is a scheme whereby applicants
can actually earn free computers by rendering community
School children can volunteer to teach elderly folks
how to use computers at community centres. In addition,
there are tie-ups with other charitable organisations to
reduce or eliminate the cost of the PCs.
The long-term vision of this new PC initiative is to
ensure that there is 100 per cent computer ownership in
homes with school going children by 2015.
For households which already own a PC but cannot
afford to pay for internet access, we also have
a package to offer subsidised broadband subscription to
This is pegged at about the rate of $1.50 per month
for one megabit per second unlimited broadband access to
Alternatively, for those that do not require
internet access in their homes or prefer not to do so,
we have rolled out free 1 megabit per second WiFi
service in public areas in Singapore, which we have
termed Wireless at SG.
The aim was to extend broadband usage beyond homes,
schools and offices to public areas in Singapore.
At the same time, it offers an alternative to users
who do not wish to sign up or pay for a fixed broadband
subscription in their homes.
Response from the public has been quite strong and
there are about 1.5 million subscribers as
of December 2009.
Singapore has a population of about 5 million. So
this is relatively good ratio.
The usage per user has also been high with users
clocking an average of, a monthly average of 6.7 hours
in December 2009.
As for our elderly population, we have rolled out
the Silver Infocom Initiative, which provides IT
training to elderly and customised to individual needs
Training to the elderly is conducted in senior
citizen corners or community centres and customised to
different dialects and at a slower pace to ensure that
the elderly can keep up with the pace of learning.
They are taught how to use new technologies, such as
mobile phones, voice over IP and instand messaging to
communicate. They are also exposed to different on-line
services, such as Bill payment, E shopping and even
social networking through Facebook, which hopefully will
enhance their quality of life.
There are also events organised with the industry
and community to enrich the learning experience of
senior citizens through talks, exhibitions and hands-on
Finally, we are setting up 100 hot spots island wide
to provide free access to computers and internet
services for senior citizens.
With this initiative in place, we hope to better
meet the challenges of the digital divide in Singapore
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you, Eugene.
Just a quick note on time, I was told that I can
overrun for about 15, 20 minutes, so please be aware of
the time, but please no need to rush at this point.
Next up we have Christine, now moving away from
government, now into the NGO area.
>> Christine Runnegar: Thank you.
Dear internet colleagues, again, let me thank
everyone for inviting the Internet Society to contribute
to this discussion on access in the digital divide in
Asia and the Pacific.
One of the Internet Society’s central missions is to
ensure that the internet is for everyone. We see
a future in which people everywhere can use the internet
to prove quality of life. When standards, technologies,
applications, business practices and government policies
sustain and open and universally accessible platform for
innovation, creativity and economic opportunity.
Emerging economies are the key to the future of the
With access in developed countries near 80 per cent,
the next frontier for internet growth lies substantially
in emerging markets.
The next slide is intended to illustrate the
differences in internet access and usage among countries
According to public data made available by the ITU,
the percentage of internet users of the world population
was 23.9 per cent in 2008.
The percentage was already much higher than the
world average in parts of Asia, for example, the
Republic of Korea, 75.8 per cent, Japan 75.2 per cent,
Singapore 69.6 per cent, Hong Kong 67 per cent and so
However, a number of countries in Asia and the
Pacific were and still remain well below the world
But internet access is not just about numbers.
It’s about people.
If we take internet access in mainland China as an
example, as at 30 June 2009, 25.5 per cent of the
population were internet users. However, certain
demographic segments of the community had higher rates
of access than others.
Just over 50 per cent of internet users were
teenagers and more than 70 per cent of internet users
were urban based.
It is also interesting to note that 80 per cent of
internet users access the internet from their home.
Why people use the internet will vary from country
to country and from person to person.
In mainland China, as at 30 June 2009, the top three
categories of reported use were entertainment,
information and communication.
As I said at the outset of this presentation,
emerging economies are the next frontier of sustained
They are also the next frontier for the ongoing
development and evolution of the internet.
As the internet is a network of networks, those that
connect to it will have the ability to shape, influence
and define it.
How these emerging economies approach, adopt and use
the internet will have a significant impact on the
Priority must be given to creating the conditions
for internet growth and access for all, technical and
policy capacity building, policy and regulatory
frameworks, internet freedom.
The role of the internet as a global platform for
innovation, economic development and social progress is
threat earned when governments or institutions place
excessive restrictions on the evolution and use of
Countries that wish to participate and wish to
benefit from the internet in the global and participate
in the global information economy must ensure that their
citizens have access to information and content.
Open, unencumbered beneficial use of the internet is
a fundamental principle of the Internet Society.
The internet is not a TV. It’s a place for active
participation, creativity, innovation and sharing.
Internet access means much more than physically
connecting someone to the internet. Understanding what
internet access means for each segment of a community
and why some people have access and others do not is the
first step towards developing internet policies that
will encourage and foster increased and enhanced
The second step is to recognise the
interrelationship between different features of internet
For example, internet exchange points allow locals
to communicate more cheaply and efficiently with each
other on the internet, which in turn encourages
increased local content on the internet.
Increased local content on the internet encourages
more locals to access the internet.
The third step is then to identify the physical,
economic, cultural and social impediments to internet
access at all levels, local, regional and national.
And to investigate policies which might remove or
ameliorate these impediments.
For example, language and illiteracy are major
impediments for some internet users and without
a multilingual, multicultural internet there is no
internet for all.
To realise the full potential that the internet
access offers, it is important that all dimensions have
linguistic diversity, not just contents.
Steps which go some way to closing this digital
divide include internationalised domain names, encoding
of scripts in unicode standard, keyboard standards,
software search engines and other applications in local
languages, translation services including speech to
text, technical capacity building for local content
development, sharing experience and best practices in
multilingual programmes and activities and of course
local content, locally produced and locally hosted,
text, photos, pictures, sound and video.
The fourth step then is to ensure that these
policies, especially regulatory policies, are
proportionate to the issues they are seeking to address.
Overly regulated technology applications and
services stifle innovation and discourage use.
The fifth step is to take advantage of the synergies
offered by a collaborative multi-stakeholder approach to
resolving internet access and impediments and closing
the digital divide.
We are seeing the potential benefits of this today
in the context of our discussions on internet
The internet leaders of the future will come from
the next generation of internet users and the internet
of the future will come from the next generation of
Internet access is about giving the current and the
next generation of internet users the access, the
knowledge and the capacity to use the internet, to
participate in shaping its development and evolution and
to contribute to the internet’s success.
The Internet Society believes that openness is the
overarching principle that has ensured the success and
growth of the internet to date.
Openness underpins the key enablers user access
choice and transparency.
If we are committed to ensuring that the internet is
for everyone, then we must do our part to increase and
enhance internet access.
Here are some examples of some projects from within
the internet community within the Internet Society’s
community, targeting these issues.
For example, the first one, in the first one, we
have kits for digital inclusion in Spanish and Qichua,
which was a project undertaken by our chapter in
It provides a guide for the first internet
experience in both languages.
It’s also important to emphasise technical capacity
building and some good places to look for technical
capacity building are SANOG, PACNOG and APRICOT which
the Internet Society also supports.
Finally, there is great diversity in the region and
each subregion has, apart from cross cutting issues,
unique issues and challenges that need to be looked into
This should come from a bottom up community driven
So get involved, start creating local networks of
interested individuals, be inclusive, seek diverse
skills and experience, have an open discussion of issues
at the national and local level and encourage policy
makers to engage with all stakeholders and develop
solutions for the local content.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you, Christine.
John, I sort of recommend you pick up the mic and
speak, because the stand keeps dropping.
John will talk a little bit about very exciting
initiative in Hong Kong.
>> John Fung: The only thing is I need to.
Perhaps someone can flip the slides for me.
I would like to start by introducing myself and the
organisation I’m coming from.
I’m from the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.
We are registered in 1947. We are the biggest
association of NGOs in Hong Kong, almost all social
service NGOs, nonprofits, are our members.
373 member organisations providing more than
90 per cent of all social services in Hong Kong and
while the government is doing a small part of social
services in the territory, we have about 3,000 points,
service delivery points in the community.
We are a co-ordinator, an enabler and also
a facilitator in the promotion of social justice and so
We also represent NGOs to work with the government
in agenda setting, policy formulation, et cetera.
I’m from a subsidiary incorporated in —
a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service
incorporated in 2004.
We are called Information Technology Resource
We basically do two things. We act as a total
solution ICT solution provider, total solution provider,
for on in profits in Hong Kong.
At the same time, we represent the Hong Kong Council
of Social Service to work on social issues in
Digital divide is one of them. We also work on
internet addiction, child protection on-line and we have
a range of different programmes to achieve that.
Today, we are only looking at digital divide.
We try to approach digital divide from a social
justice angle. It’s not only from a charity angle. We
look at digital divide as a new form of social solution
in Hong Kong.
I don’t need to convince anyone in this room that
ICT development is marginalising disadvantaged
population and if appropriate actions are not taken
immediately, these people will lose out in education,
employment, healthcare, life chances in general.
Luckily, there seems to be a consensus in Hong Kong
now that something needs to be done urgently to close
the digital gap.
Transformation of Hong Kong into a knowledge economy
would not be possible without helping the most needy and
e-government and other E initiatives would be widening
the gap if we don’t have a pro-poor and pro-disadvantage
element in those policies and programmes.
We have very high PC penetration, but like all other
modern societies, as age goes up, the penetration comes
We also have a digital divide by income, household
income. While the richer families have almost attained
a hundred per cent penetration in the household, in
terms of using internet and PC, the poorest family in
Hong Kong, the poorest group of families in Hong Kong,
about 30 something per cent.
How big is the digital gap? I’m quoting
a comprehensive measurement of digital divide, of
various types of disadvantaged groups. It’s from
research sponsored by the Hong Kong Government.
We used the situation of non-disadvantaged
individuals as the measurement yardstick and the rating
So the further away from 1, the worse.
As you can see from the slide, older people and
people with disabilities are the two most severe groups,
in terms of digital marginalisation.
This is a conceptual framework we use when we plan
our programmes and conduct our research.
I think I’ll skip that one.
I’m now going to cite some examples in tackling the
digital divide. I would like to look at it from four
The first dimension I call it accessibility divide.
What Tony talked about and our previous speakers had
mentioned mostly belong to this type.
That is to provide home based or outside home
access. The infrastructure. The telecentres
initiatives, the one laptop per child as an example,
computer recycling initiatives and all kinds of
subsidies or donation in terms of band width, hardware,
software, they all belong to this type, that is to
provide infrastructure, to provide the accessibility.
We conducted some computer recycling, recycled
about, refurbish about 10,000 computers this one year.
Some NGOs are still doing that.
Mainly, done by volunteers and through voluntary
Merely providing the access is not good enough,
The second type or second dimension of digital
divide is what I call the knowledge and skill died.
A lot of initiatives including telecentres and
training programmes, awareness building, training of all
levels and also the training of disadvantaged groups to
look after their own computers, a bit of technical
support and maintenance provision of those support and
maintenance services belong to this type.
Capacity building, skill building, knowledge
So this is the second type.
The third type I call it design divide.
Conceptually, you can look at it also as originating
from a knowledge deficit, but this deficit is on the
side of designers, ICT professionals and web designers
and so on.
To tackle that divide, we need to enforce policies
regarding universal access, standards in terms of
software and web designs.
We conduct programmes to educate and train NGOs,
SME, ICD professionals in terms of how to make and
create accessible products.
There are also a range of activities to acknowledge
best practice in universal and accessible design.
Believe it or not, there are still a large group of
ICT professionals who have never thought about how blind
people can access computers and surf the internet.
One example about the importance of the divide, of
course, is the use of ATMs and some of them, most of
them in Hong Kong are not accessible to wheelchairs or
the blind and visually impaired.
They couldn’t even reach the ATM machines.
By a simple adjustment, they would be able to do
that, so I’m just using that example to illustrate how
important design is.
Finally, the fourth dimension, the fourth type of
digital divide I call it application and content divide.
It is about relevance. It is about the relevance of
ICT to disadvantaged groups.
It is about developing relevant content to suit the
It is about developing specially designed
applications to the sustainable interests and therefore
utilisation of ICT.
I’m going to show a video about 2 minutes long.
It’s an award winning application.
It’s called chicken soup for the brain, for old
It’s all very well to point out that there are ways
to close the digital gap and build a digitally more
inclusive society, but we have problems.
The first problem is digital divide is not easy to
articulate for most.
The second problem related to the first one is that
there is a range of social agenda, for example, poverty,
discrimination, human rights, protection of environment,
et cetera, competing for protection. So it’s not easy
to find funders to fund those community programmes,
resulting in extreme difficulties in financing of those
community programmes, despite the fact that those
competing agendas, so to speak, are somehow, if you
notice, related to digital gap, especially in Hong Kong.
What should we do?
Therefore, we established a digital solidarity fund.
We have two objectives, first is to secure financial
support for digital inclusion programmes in Hong Kong.
The second one is to engage different stakeholders in
designing, implementing digital inclusion strategies as
We have to give some credit to the Hong Kong
Government this time for their staying away from
exerting direct control on the fund. They are a major
funder, but they are not making the fund a government
fund, which is very important.
Instead, the government has entrusted the committee
to manage the fund and by doing so, avoiding a lot of
red tape within the bue rocky and increasing flexibility
of fund utilisation, releasing a lot of energy and
creativity from the community.
The government does not assume chairmanship even of
the fund management committee. The Fund Management
Committee is chaired by independent person. The
Hong Kong couple of social service, we, run the
secretariat office. We don’t make decision about the
fund, the usage of the fund.
The government, like all other donor, serves in the
DSF committee and take part in the management as
It’s a manifestation of multi-stakeholderism, so to
Over the years, we have developed a — these are the
Scope of beneficiaries, including the digitally
disadvantaged from senior persons to people with
disabilities, low income families, new arrivals to
Hong Kong, women and so on and so forth.
Over the years, we have developed quite
a sophisticated workflow in managing the fund and
identifying, selecting, supporting and monitoring
digital inclusion projects in the community.
These are the types of programmes that we will fund
to provide, enhance the ICT access, improving skills and
integration of ICT disadvantaged groups into the
Information Society and so on.
Mainly, related to the four types of digital divide
that I have just mentioned.
Here are the criteria for project selection.
As you can see, we give a lot of importance to
impact, social impact and cost effectiveness and also we
had a process to look at the track record of the
applicants of the NGOs involved and see if they have the
capacity to deliver such projects.
What we have done so far, total number of projects
Total number of beneficiaries is nearly 200,000.
Total sum of grant made so far is US$1.2 million.
Not a terribly huge fund, but it is strategically
very important, because of the multi-stakeholderism.
We totally receive 239 projects, so most of them we
have not been able to fund.
The total sum of fund requested has reached
5.3 million. That means we have been catering for only
18 per cent of all the requests.
Here are some project examples.
This is a project done by the Hong Kong family
welfare society, mainly to outreach to women in shopping
malls directly inside the mall and through the use of
Providing IT skills training, awearness building
mostly, such as blogging and use of digital camera.
Engaged nearly 6,000 targeted women. We engaged
nearly 600 volunteers in the programme.
We trained groups of women as volunteers as well.
We also develop a curriculum specially designed for
The next one is called digital angel, mainly
training senior citizens as digital angels and trainers
to other senior citizens in digital lifestyles such as E
banking, e-government services, et cetera, reading
newspapers and so on.
These are some of the results.
The next one is quite interesting. We provide funds
to the Blind Union, who will team of blind persons,
visually impaired persons, to check 30 most popular
website of Hong Kong and see if they comply with
They are not doing it just by using software, they
are doing it from really user experience, so they are
doing it by real persons.
The next one is also very interesting. It is done
by the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service, an NGO in
They are trying to transform the traditional voice
interactive telephone hotline into 3G calls, because the
interactive voice telephone hotline traditionally, they
were not accessible by hearing impaired, so the kind
that if you check for weather from the Hong Kong
Observatory, whatever you push 1, whatever you push 2,
these are not accessible to deaf people, so they are
trying to transform that into 3G video call, by using
a specially designed software.
That’s been very successful and welcomed by a range
of hearing impaired persons. We give them funds to
Right now, they are trying to link up the system
with the booking of clinics for the deaf people, which
is very meaningful.
I would like to add some special features of the
digital solidarity fund. By you can see the digital
solidarity fund is not a programme, it’s a initiative to
support a range of different programmes of different
nature in the community.
We have very transparent assessment and grant making
process. We have a high level of flexibility, but
appropriate accountability measures. We have
quantifiable deliverables. We are very specific APIs
and we only release the funds upon completion of
projects, but usually for smaller NGOs, upon their
request, we can give them 50 per cent of all the funds
requested first, upfront.
Then the rest would be deliverable, will be granted
to them after they have completed the programme.
The DSF committee members will visit funded projects
every now and then two monitor the progress themselves.
Whereby we try to use that platform to educate our
enterprise partners to digital inclusion programmes in
the community as well.
We also say that we will start funding if
a programme fails to progress satisfactorily. We have
never done that yet (stop funding.
Some new changes ahead. We are trying to change our
annual grant cycle to half yearly grant making cycle, so
that we can respond better to the community needs.
We are going to have a more robust fundraising
programme. We are going to have enhanced communication
with digital solidarity partners who are the funders.
We also establishing an E platform for knowledge sharing
on digital inclusion programmes.
We have specific grants for assisted technology for
disabled people and the aged and we also are trying to
push for more integration with other digital inclusive
initiatives, such as the one that just mentioned by Tony
before, the digital cyber centre alliance and so on and
I need to talk to you about DSF Induction Programme,
because Edmon asked me to.
It’s sponsored by Internet Society and also DotAsia.
Because right now we have developed, as I said,
quite a sophisticated grant making platform and web
process, we would like to introduce the DSF model to
different countries in the Asian Pacific region.
We have we do the briefing, we have often work out
a DSF induction resource kit.
That would include the in and outs of Digital
Solidarity Fund, from fundraising to fund management,
the annual work plan, how we select projects and how we
identify them, how we monitor them and so on.
We have started our induction programme, we only
have funds to do three inductions, so the first one is
currently on the way. We are doing it for Internet
Society China and we still receiving interested parties
application, if you like.
So if you are interested in knowing more about DSF
programme, you may well be our second candidate in this
DSF Induction Programme.
Please talk to Edmon or myself afterwards if you are
Somehow, it’s also, it’s only limited to Asian
Edmon is a very open minded person.
Finally, I would like to conclude by sharing with
you the voices of some disadvantaged friends. They
always remind me of what we are doing and why we are
doing it for.
First case is Kim. Kim is a visually impaired —
totally blind person and he said if I were computer
illiterate, I wouldn’t have obtained employment.
He is now managing a charity trust.
Mr Chan, 70 plus, said:
“I don’t want to be left alone by society. I’m
still useful. I can use computer to do lots of things.”
Ah Mei is a single parent. In a few years time, my
daughter will be turning 15. I want to learn more
computer skills so that I could get a job, because after
15, Ah Mei’s entitlement to social security as a single
parent would stop.
On that, I will finish my presentation. For those
who are interested in knowing more about the fund, we
have a case book including some of our programmes funded
by DSF. I have 30 copies. So if you are interested,
please collect them from out there somewhere.
Thank you very much.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you, John. Now with move on to, we
are running out of time, but we will overrun for about
25 minutes. That’s OK.
If people are willing to stay, of course.
I think it has been interesting discussion.
Going on to panellists, judgment probably some
comments and feedback on some of the issues and
introduce yourself as well as we go along, but before
you go, Pindar, we also have a person on-line, Rafik,
are you on line with us?
>> Edmon Chung: Rafik Dammak is also joining us only panel
through on-line, but Pindar.
>> Pindar Wong: Welcome everyone. In the interests of time,
I would just like to in a sense begin with John left
off, his last slide I think was very important, because
it asks the question why.
That’s really the question I would like to ask the
panel, which is why are we so interested in this gap?
More importantly, where are we going? The reason why
I ask this question is because having been involved with
the internet since about 17 years ago, there has always
been a gap between what I have and what you have and
when it’s characterised in terms of a gap, in terms of
either an age gap or whether or not internet previously
was nice to have, it’s now a must have, when we measure
the gap and when we characterise the gap in terms of
certain metric, whether or not they have on like access
and the numbers of PCs and stuff like that, it’s quite
natural for us to find solutions to narrow that gap and
the point I would like to try and make is I’m an
optimist and I see that over time, we will, as an
optimist, close those gaps, those gaps between where
things are, perceived to be unfair.
The more important gap that I see is the gap in
So as we talk about access, who are the ones who
benefit by more Asian Pacific people coming on line?
Well, obviously, the providers, the people more
going to sell you the equipment, the people who are
going to provide the bandwidth, the people who are in
the business of providing these services, so the next
big thing will be internationalised domain names, which
will create a great market, a monopoly market, perhaps
a perpetual monopoly market, in an area that will in
some sense, not tax, but everyone will be encouraged to
contribute to that, as Asian Pacific comes on-line.
So my question, for those economies who don’t make
PCs or mobile phones or in the business of providing
these telecommunication services, what is going to be
your benefit of moving to the knowledge economy?
In Hong Kong, we are trying to answer this in a very
interesting way, insofar as a service economy, we will
not make ourselves rich by opening doors for one
another, we will not make ourselvess rich by massaging
each other’s fight feet. We will contribute by what we
hope to create is the knowledge economy and what
I actually think is more accurate to be calling it the
Which is why, in addition to all the wonderful
programmes you have heard about access and providing
access to disadvantaged or people who are not able to
afford commitment, et cetera, we are also retooling the
whole education system. Right now, there is a new
compulsory subject introduced last year which is liberal
studies, which is trying to teach our senior secondary
students in some sense how to think, to look at on the
one hand, on the other, why is that important? Because
on the internet, you don’t know what’s true.
But more importantly, as we move towards the
knowledge economy or the creative economy, we have two
interesting things. One, we have introduced a new
copyright system here called creative comments which is
from somewhere else. We also have, no surprises here,
a whole new government department called Create
Hong Kong, which is supposed to foster creativity.
We all can see the computers, et cetera, which are
designed in America, but manufactured in Asia.
When we move to the market where we are actually
contributing our intellectual property, our ideas, is
where I believe we will close what I perceive as being
the more important gap, not the gap of access, the gap
of production and productive capacity.
Because everything I’ve heard today is in some sense
a cost. I would like to know if you’re not a provider,
where the revenue is going to come from.
>> Paul Fung: I’m Paul from iProA, where our association
really did take part in some of the governments
projects, like the E inclusion project, if you still
remember like Tony just said, there are many digital
cyber centres which provide computers to poor and
elderly people to learn computer in different districts.
One point I really want to point out, because I can
see that I got a lot of international participants over
here, is the characteristics of the Chinese society on
playing internet, as an interactive tool.
The natural barrier that we have is the input method
It creates kind of barriers that the elderly and the
youngsters are not so interactive as per the
participation that we can have in the Latin American
character systems, that you can naturally just use your
computer keyboard to input everything you think and
But in Chinese, we are using double bite character,
the square bits of things that cannot be easily input
via the keyboard provide and come with the PC we have.
So everybody want to take part on the internet
culture and everything that plays on-line, has to learn
how to input and how to present themselves on internet.
That is quite a barrier that we found when we are
carrying out different kind of e-inclusion project and
like the Web Care Campaign that we are trying and try to
make the people aware of the usage of internet.
The second point I want to bring out here is the
change of business method today did widen what we
specified on digital divide.
If we still can remember 10 years before, everybody
coming back to the office, we got a lot of paperwork.
But today, when you come back to your office, do you
still have a pile of paper laying on your desk, waiting
for you to process it or do it? No. What you are doing
is turn on your computer, get the email, get all the
electronic document and replay and that is actually most
of the work with most of the time we spend with our
Once we don’t have paper, people don’t know how to
use computers, did fall into the gap that Pindar just
That is the things that we really want to address in
our campaign, like John and other people is doing, in
the society, and trying to bring the productivity of
people back by teaching them computer.
That is what I want to address the two major things
that I really want to take care and want to have our
international participants understand what we are facing
in Hong Kong about digital divide.
A little add on on what the previous speaker said.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you.
>> Michael Gurstein: My name is Michael Gurstein and I’m
with something called the Centre for Community
Infomatics Research, Development and Training.
I’m actually from Vancouver, which is very much an
Asian Pacific city.
I have had over the last year, I guess, the
opportunity to visit, research and work in about eight
countries in the Asian Pacific region. I was just
counting them and I came up with eight.
What I would like to do is I would like to comment
first on the extremely interesting presentation from our
colleagues from Hong Kong and then try to put that in
a broader context, based on what I have seen elsewhere
in the Asian Pacific region.
I find what our Hong Kong colleagues are doing in
responding to the issues of the digital divide extremely
interesting, because what they’re doing based on
a internet penetration rate, which is somewhere between
60 and 80 per cent, is to target specific applications
at specific uses, particular areas of interest and what
I call effective uses relating to specific population
I think that’s really interesting that the public
sector and the NGO sector in Hong Kong in fact has
chosen that as a strategy.
I say that because if one steps back a bit and looks
at the broader area of access and approach to access,
generally, the issue of access is only defined in terms
of passive access, simply the making the availability of
internet or making internet available in some form
without really being concerned with how it is being
What’s really interesting in Hong Kong is that
having reached the level of 80 per cent, if 80 per cent
penetration, they recognise that in order to go beyond
that, to achieve 100 per cent penetration, they really
have to find the areas where internet access will be
useful and interesting and effective in particular areas
for the population.
I think that’s interesting, because I think the real
question, forgive me, people from Hong Kong, but the
real issue with respect to the internet is not how to
move from 80 per cent to 100 per cent, in the region,
but really to how to move from 5 per cent in Bangladesh
internet penetration to 25 per cent or 50 per cent.
Because that is the more general, I think, issue in
the developing world, with respect to the internet and
making available the opportunities that the internet
presents for development.
Because the internet does provide not simply means
for dealing with social issues, but also probably more
importantly, it provides issues, means for dealing with
the fundamental problems of a developing society, how to
in fact achieve economic broad based and social
I think that if one looks at Hong Kong, and
Hong Kong’s approach to the digital divide, then I think
the issue for the IGF and for other country, developing
countries in the region, really is not simply the
provision of access, but the provision of means by which
the internet can be used, actually used, in ways to
That’s the challenge, it seems to me, is how to take
access and to translate access into the real
opportunities and means for achieving development.
I challenge the Internet Governance Forum, because
it seemed to me that in the past, the Internet
Governance Forum has been rather more concerned with
simply the extension of access, rather than how access
can actually and practically be used in support of
development initiatives in those societies where
internet access is not 80 per cent, but internet access
is 3 or 4 or 5 per cent.
That really is a broader, I think, global challenge,
is how to make the opportunities that are available
through the internet for development, for achieving
a measure of economic and social broader base of
economic and social equity, how to achieve, in fact,
that as a social goal.
I guess I would suggest that as an Asian Pacific
Internet Governance Forum, that the direction be to
challenge the IGF to in fact look at issues of the
internet, not simply in terms of the extension of
access, but how, in fact, the internet can be used as
a tool for the broader social and economic development.
The other element of this, I think, which hasn’t
really been discussed in this panel, but comes up often
in this area, is the notion that simply providing
cellular access to the internet is sufficient.
The problem with cellular access is that the broader
integration of cellular access into the kind of
effective applications and uses as you’re seeing in
Hong Kong, or as would really provide the support for
development in a country like Bangladesh, has really not
I would challenge, I guess, the Asian Pacific region
and the Internet Governance Forum to in fact take on the
responsibility of finding ways of supporting those
countries that have not in fact achieved the transition
into a digital society to allow them to in fact realise
that kind of transition and begin to use, and begin to
achieve and realise the opportunities that the internet
presents to broader development.
So thank you.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you, Michael, for an insightful
observation. I think really putting access where it
belongs, that is as a means towards an end and an end
Before I go to Rafik, just want to take a stock as
to who want to provide some comments or questions.
Is Rafik with us? No, then let’s go to the floor.
>> Izumi Aizu: I’m Izumi Aizu from Tokyo, Japan. Since
Rafik is also in Tokyo, I would like to cover some
aspects of strange story and policy about access in
Our Minister of Communication in December last year
said we want to aim 100 per cent coverage of the broad
wand and 100 per cent utilisation of the broadband.
The status is that we have 90 per cent coverage and
30 per cent utilisation of the broadband, not internet.
I fully agree with what Pindar said. Our policy
talk tended to be focusing on the supply side and supply
side, but it is very difficult for the ministries and
the panel of experts to make a case, where do you need
to use the broadband. There is a gap between 90 and 30
and we are making some argument. One can’t say, no,
let’s just aim 100 per cent by breaking up the axis of
the largest telco following Australia.
But whether this making a very cheap local access of
broadband really gives advantage to those disadvantaged
people, be it the poor people or the people in remote
areas, they don’t see the case, because in the past 10
years, the gap between rich and poor in Japan, in
While the digital divide is being decreased. So
your digital economy really help everyone to become
richer or for me, it’s just means for the use, not to be
left out. You need some basic use of the broadband, but
still it doesn’t guarantee you to earn additional added
value, economically, and creatively or culturally
>> : I’m Teddy from the Philippines. I would like to ask
about the role of software, particularly open source
applications, on access.
I know that Microsoft is a sponsor, but I have to
ask this, in the Philippines, we are trying to form
a comprehensive policy on open source. I would like to
ask, based on the experiences of countries here
represented, what is the role of open source
applications in access? Is it a positive role and if
there is a positive role, what is the role of government
in promoting open source and open standards? Should
government in the first place intervene? Should it have
clear cut policy or should this just be left to the
market? Basically, that’s my question?
>> Edmon Chung: Please take note and then we’ll come back.
We’ll take a few more questions.
I’ll have to ask everyone to be really brief.
>> : My name is Verak again from Cambodia.
I’m just interested in the panellists, as a panel
itself. I have noticed mainly the panellists are
representative of the countries which are more advanced
and in this very topic of digital divide can be seen
here, I guess.
My comment is basically that I just want to point
out the digital divide is within countries, but also if
you look at the different countries within Asian
Pacific, I think there’s a major divide where countries
like better Burma, Laos, Cambodia, East Timor would
probably have less than one 10 per cent of the
population having access and access alone is not the
whole point about internet.
User generated content which is also, to me, very
important, particularly tied to free speech and human
rights and this is what I like to add, to Michael who
raised the issues of challenging the IGF to bring up
this issue of development, but also the issues of human
rights and free speech and how the IGF can promote the
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you. Take a question at the back and
then at the front. Take one more and then we’ll go back
to the panel.
>> : Narish Adjwani, President of Cyber Cafe Association of
Mine is more of a community than a question, because
that’s really where I need to chip in from a perspective
of my understanding from the digital divide or reason
for digital divide.
I agree, I’m not disagreeing with any of the
impediments mentioned so far, in terms of a physical or
a cultural or funds or usage, but I think the piece
which is missing, whether it is a developed economy or
an emerging economy, is a last mile provision to the
When I say last mile, in no way it means an internet
access, it means a person or a place where one can
really take advantage of internet usage and in my
opinion, the digital centres referred by one of the
panellist or cyber cafes, is a place where all the
things can been care of.
What I mean by all the things taken care of, the
challenges which I have heard so far, whether it is
access or affordability, or assistance or usage, all
that can be really assimilated at that place and can be
provided to the end user.
I think the society has not done anything about
promoting those digital centres or they have not been
made part of the policy making where they can really
have a say. My request to this AP IGF would be kindly
consider, it’s a very large community or it’s a very
large providers who need some kind of representation in
the policy making and it will really take care of the
challenges which we are talking about here.
>> : Hello, my name is Akram Choudhry, I’m a parliament
member from Bangladesh and also group chairman for
Centre for E parliament research.
This is also not my question, but a comment that
Michael has appropriately pointed out.
I really agreed with him, because in Bangladesh, the
government, she has given a priority for digital
Bangladesh, charter for change, but then minister also
taking a lot of initiative, making supporting the
schools programme through establishing yap, but I feel
that cyber side of the internet can be used for broader
economic and social document in Bangladesh. The
Bangladesh government has at least 13 programmes and
most of the what we call reliefs, sometimes directed
towards not appropriate people and it is because there
is a lack of kind of database of those persons deserving
all those kind of internet, who are entitled to all
those services, social services.
That’s why we actually developed centre for E
parliament research, so that the areas which are getting
kind of benefit or social safety net programme for the
poor, we are trying to develop database of those persons
who deserve all those entitlements, so once the
constitutional reaches all those things, must not be
misdirected to all those other people.
Therefore, internet can be used for broader social
economic development as Michael stated.
>> : My name is.
First of all, I want to thank you very much for your
Especially I’m very pleased to hear that you have
been so doing many good things, good initiative to help
people in your country to bring them to ICT for their
I want to address the issue similar to from
Cambodia, about the gap between each country is huge, in
terms of between country in Asian Pacific, comparing
access to internet in Hong Kong, comparing to Laos, so
much different to where I come from.
I think that it’s very difficult for a country like
Laos to help those marginalised, disadvantaged group to
access to internet and computer, because if you look at
the private sector, they don’t interested either,
because the market is too small. Like 6 million people
and profit not going to make a lot of profit out of it.
Look at the government. They also don’t put it in
the as priority, so the government has limited budget
for development, so they put more priority on poverty
eradication and so on.
If you look at the donor agency, like Dr Li Shan
also mentioned, it’s not in the development agenda as
So my comment is that if you look at the regional
level, then that should be policy to help this
countries, because it cannot, life depend on the local
government to deal with is beyond their ability to do it
For example, if Microsoft going to develop operating
system, they going to have licence, so that kind of
policy will not really help those disadvantaged
countries to get to the technology instead preventing
them to be developed.
That’s the issue I want to raise.
Thank you very much.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you. Now I come back to the panel.
I have Pindar, Sharil. If I still have Rafik on the
line, Rafik and then Markus and also Christine.
>> Pindar Wong: There was an earlier question about open
source software and the benefits. Just to try and
address that, I would see the benefits as being free,
free not in the sense of the licence fees or royalties,
but free to innovate and what I mean by innovate have it
is to meet your needs, the freedom to evolve the
software to meet your nodes. The example of Laos and
the 6 million, because they can download the software
and if they put the time and effort in, they can modify
it to meet their own requirements without having to
check with anyone. One of the benefits we heard from
Christine about the benefits of the internet is it is
based on open standards. So you are not being locked in
or controlled by anyone. You are in some sense, you
have the right to self-determine your on-line future by
downloading and also contributing. It’s not just one
way. It’s contributing. I know the case in, for
example, in Cambodia. The benefits I see of open source
software, obviously there is the quality, there is over
time, it depends to bugs tend to get ironed out, because
everything is transparent, but I see the real benefit of
one of being in control of your own on line death any,
because you have the control to innovate and in that
sense, to develop those services, but what you need
hopefully also those which are revenue generates.
>> Edmon Chung: I’ll go to Rafik first. Are you on the
Can we try to fix that?
>> : Rafik this will be really short, so hello everybody,
just to introduce myself briefly. My name is Rafik
Damak. I’m from Tunisia, where it is not a part of
Asian Pacific region. I’m also a student at university
of Tokyo and councillor for ICANN.
I will talk more to represent to you perspective and
I’m not going in describing internet penetration, but
I am not interested about the usage, which is dependent
to which is as available as internet access.
First, I’m glad to see that governments like
Hong Kong focus on children and try to help family with
It’s really similar to experience in Tunisia, when
the government provide with the so-called family PC and
student laptop. Also provide regular discount and
decrease on internet fees and also try to extend the DSN
But I am also surprised that we don’t talk about
youth in general, but just to focus in children.
I also agree that educating user is important, also
like providing infrastructure and access, but without
follow up on capacity building and how we can use
internet, it’s not enough especially for adults.
I’m not really talking about youth for this aspect.
Youth are really key player for helping the adults
to learn about internet usage. Even if I’m not fan of
concept of digital natives, which don’t encourage
differences that may exist in and in particular, in
But I think that digital native show that youth are
adapting internet access to their needs and they make
their own usage of internet.
So as I talked about digital and youth, to take
a due in addition example, even if it is not from Asia,
but it’s an African country.
Youth represent majority of user of social networks,
like Facebook. We are more than 1 million users which
represent a third of internet user in Tunisia, for
a country of 10 million, so it’s really a huge number
and even Tunisia is in the top of user Facebook user for
Middle East and North Africa region.
Such usage become a key element for social and
cultural event and even for civil and political
Why we observe such evolution in Tunisia, especially
after the large deployment of DSL in 2005, with regular
decrease of internet fees and then we have now 200,000
households which access through DSL connection.
Youth took advantage of that since the beginning.
Now the new change I think that will happen with
mobile internet through 3G, which just started in
Tunisia last April. I’ll really new project and it will
change again the usage of internet from the perspective
of young users.
Finally, to finish, I am really confident that youth
are able to develop their own usage of internet and we
don’t need to be worried for them or we to educate them
how to use internet in a safe way. Because youth see
internet in terms of opportunities when their parents
unfortunate see it in terms of its.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you, Rafik. We have Sharil, Christine
and we’ll end in Markus.
>> Dato Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi: Mine is a direct response to
a colleague from Cambodia and Laos, they were asking
about basic access props just sharing some knowledge
that I’m aware of, there is two things. One is actually
the — I have been involved in some work, many, many
years, ago, with the World Bank and Asian Development
Bank, about getting things like spectrum policies and
regulatory policies in place. That’s one of the first
things that usually investors will look at before they
decide whether they want to invest in a particular
If you’re interested in that, you can sort of see me
later and then we can have a chat about that.
No. 2, following on from that, there are some funds
available from I believe the World Bank, which I do used
to work with, at some point, which will at least assist
in terms of building some capacity, maybe for a couple
of trial projects, you know, for access and
connectivity. Because what they have been doing is that
they have moved now from funding for bridges, roads and
power towards communications, so that’s just for
information. If someone else has some other
information, that’s useful, please. Thank you.
>> Christine Runnegar: I would just like to commend the
governmental efforts to close the digital divide, but
I wanted to emphasise the importance of community based
projects with this target. I had a slide up earlier in
my presentation, but unfortunate there wasn’t sufficient
time to go through each of the five projects, these were
projects that were developed by people within the
community identifying what the digital divide was, what
they needed to do to fix it, put forward some projects
applied for grants through our community grants
>> Markus Kummer: Just a quick word on the discussion.
More or less the same comment I made yesterday, when
I attended the youth camp, I was surprised then on the
discussion on the digital divide, I listened with
interest and I noted that there was obviously a need to
discuss these issues in a multi-stakeholder context.
In the same way, it came up today, the discussion
turned away from the plumbing of access to the broader
social developmental context.
Of course, these points are all very valid and this
was all about that, about bridging the digital divide
and Geneva documents already, they greatly noticed that
technology is not an end in itself, but should be here
further to people’s centre development and however, the
point I’m making is the IGF carefully shied away from
these issues for the very simple reason that this is not
part of the IGF mandate. There are other institutions,
other forums dealing with this. The whole follow up is
precisely about this.
There is the ITU is the main agency in implementing
which has the main task of narrowing the digital divide.
The same, there is the global alliance for ICT and
development. They are also mainly here for what is
known as jargon ICT for development. We have now
started talking about internet governance for
development, IG for D and this will be on the agenda on
the Vilnius meeting, but this will not be about
application or social services, it will more about about
how the government’s aspect can be made development
But we are at the beginning of this discussion, and
also the definition. We have not advanced conceptually
very far on this, but that just said, we have to be very
careful in a global IGF context, governments don’t like
duplication and overlap and this will be also looked at
in the discussions in the general assembly when it comes
to renewing the mandate and I’m sure there will be
something in the resolution that will say the IGF should
be careful not to engage in duplication and overlap.
That’s fairly standard, but we have to respect that.
Having said that, obviously, each region has its own
way of defining its own agenda and if the Asian Pacific
region finds there is merit in having
a multi-stakeholder discussion on these bridging the
digital divide issues, maybe there is a vacuum there and
there is no other forum, so be it, but I just wanted to
say this to explain why we don’t take up this issues at
the global level.
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you, Markus. Obviously my time
keeping is very bad, but I would guess that the priority
is given to having such a good gathering to say a few
Quickly, Paul and then Tony. I hope you bear with
me for just a little while longer.
>> Paul Fung: I just want to answer one of the participants
just point out that open source software may help
bridging the digital divide that we have.
I myself is doing I will next development. I love
open source very much. But actually, I spend the last
six months trying to find out in open source software is
really helping on all aspects to improve information and
astonishingly I found a paper from a university in Italy
which is called open source versus closed source
software. Public policy in the software market.
It is by a professor in Italy.
This paper points to a very interesting conclusion,
that by mandating that forcing the public to use open
source software by a government is actually decreasing
the level of social welfare and the only solution by
a mathematical model and this is something that persuade
me that only an information campaign and self-adoption
of open source software is actually increasing the
social welfare. So I actually recommend if you have
time, please go to that paper called open source versus
closed source software, pull policy in the software
market and try to look into the logic, which is very
funny and actually, giving some insight on how the
government policy is affecting the market.
One point just to notice is if the government is
mandating forcing people to use open source software,
the social welfare level decrease because of the
decrease of choice on the public, which is part of the
Actually, we have to take care, if we are forcing
people to use open source software, actually are we
doing bad things? Please take care.
>> Tony Wong: Luckily, the Hong Kong Government is taking
a pragmatic approach, in terms of choosing what kind of
source and we just choose the source that fit for the
Anyway, thanks for Edmon for giving me a bit of time
to share a bit more about the Hong Kong experience, when
hearing people around the world and in particular Asian
Pacific region talking about their comments.
I want to echo a little bit about Michael and the
Japanese colleagues say about what is the point of
getting hundred per cent for the sake of getting access
in the Hong Kong situation is probably on one hand is
a bit advantage in terms of the access or peptration
rate is already well above 70 per cent as a whole and
also in terms of students, they are talking about 80,
90 per cent.
But my sense is we need to find a business case, we
need to find some benefits case in terms of getting the
penetration increased. We are now talking about for the
sake of enhancing the penetration for the sake of
achieving a hundred per cent or going back to the
internet learning projects as an example, I would like
to share with you when we study the case with the
primary and secondary school.
Imagine you are a teacher facing a class of junior
secondary school and when you want to introduce another
new teaching methods, new ideas and also encouraging
your students to go on-line to search for their own
answer, to find things, to challenge the information on
the internet, but all of a sudden, a couple of little
hands raise up and saying that I can’t get access.
I don’t have a computer. I don’t have internet at home.
Or my parents don’t allow me to do that.
Then all that kind of E learning or advanced way or
internet learning can’t take flight. It take only just
one, that little student, not being able to get on-line.
So at that example, we need hundred per cent. So that
is primarily the motive of why the government is taking
that bold step of making the commitment of ensuring all
the students in Hong Kong will be able to or not being
stopped by getting access to internet for learning
That is some of the examples that I want to share.
The other thing is the district cyber centre
experience I want to echo the Indian colleague’s
suggestion. And that through based on our example, it
is really indeed a very good focal point, not only to
gather those underprivileged group penetrating through
our district networks, to group them together, to give
them training, give them support and give them access
facilities, it also gather a huge potential of
negotiation and bargaining power, both in terms of
securing brand name sponsorship from company like
Microsoft, which Microsoft give the project a very
substantial amount of support and also the broadband
internet companies, but also in terms of aggregating the
purchasing power of those centres, when they are talking
about enhancing their equipment, buying the software and
hardware in terms of improving their training, that kind
of aggregation, that kind of network of support centres
approach would probably help aggregating the purchasing
power of the NGOs across the districts.
So this is something I want to share with the
>> Edmon Chung: Thank you Tony and with that, I will wrap
the session and a round of applause to distinguished
guests on the panel.
That will be the end of the first day of the round
Just a housekeeping note. We have a round table
dinner tonight, but if you haven’t got your ticket, you
have to get one from the registration disk. We have
people bringing guests to the restaurant, which we can
walk to. We can start going now. Also, there will be
some help for those who are staying at the meridian,
please feel free to go back to your room, put down your
stuff and we’ll have people taking people from the lobby
of the meridian to the wine owe clock, which is where we
are having dinner tonight.
6.30. If you are going back to the meridian, we’ll
meet you at the lobby at around 6.30. We’ll have
a people just generally around there.
So erase 6.30. Just take your time, we’ll have
people at the lobby waiting for you and take different
people at different times from the hotel.
But people who are going directly will have people
bringing you to the venue right away.