Gillwald to UN Dialogue on Digital Inclusion: We Need Demand Side Valuation

Watch the video above to view Dr Alison Gillwald deliver her presentation on digital inclusion.

The United Nations Division for Inclusive Social Development, in partnership with the ITU, organised an online global dialogue on “Digital Inclusion for All” on 16 February 2021. The event brought together high-level technical experts, as well as representatives of Governments, civil society, academic institutions, and the private sector to discuss the urgency of addressing digital inclusion for all. RIA’s Dr Alison Gillwald was one of four presenters to address the gathering.

The main point that Gillwald made is that the digital divide, digital inclusion and connectivity, on their own do not address or redress digital inequality. Digital inequality is far more substantive than supply side infrastructural measures. It’s a massive demand side issue, she argued.

There’s a lot of talk about the “big reset” and about using this opportunity for new social compacts that are more equitable. Gillwald’s concern about this is that we seem to be doing the same things – we’re looking at the same business models, the same licensing frameworks and the same institutional arrangements that have not served us. As a result, while these have brought connectivity to many people, this has been minimal within developing country contexts where there are low penetration rates amongst the poor.

From a policy point of view, digital inequality has been identified together with climate change, as one of the most wicked policy problems currently facing the planet, she said. We have to move away from the commercial supply side valuation of resource in our policy towards demand side valuation that realizes the value of global public goods.

According to Gillwald, the model of commercial supply side licenses that were valued in terms of their contribution to GDP as well as what could be extracted for the fiscus from licensing fees, has to be balanced with more demand side valuation mechanisms.

Gillwald called for a new digital deal, which draws on the UN Green New Deal.