December 2016, Issue 35
LEFT: Sandi Sein Thein introduces how Geek Girls Myanmar inspires women to engage in the tech sector. RIGHT: Htaike Htaike Aung shares stories of the impact of connectivity in Chin state.
A4AI-Myanmar Takes on Gender and Public Access
On November 17-18th, A4AI-Myanmar met in Yangon for a packed two days of knowledge sharing and policy dialogues. The activities included a workshop on gender-responsive ICT policy and regulation, a public consultation on Myanmar’s universal service strategy, and meetings of the coalition working groups.
U Soe Thein and U Than Htun Aung of the Post and Telecommunications Department, Ministry of Transport and Communications, participated in the meetings and reiterated the need for Myanmar to embrace an ICT ecosystem that all citizens can benefit from—starting with designing inclusive policy and regulation.

Workshop on Gender-Responsive Policy

More than 60 people participated in the gender workshop to explore how internet access contributes to women’s socio-economic development and learn about ongoing initiatives in Myanmar and South/Southeast Asia.

We are grateful to all the experts who shared valuable lessons from their work, including Helani Galpaya (LirneAsia), Osama Manzar (Digital Empowerment Foundation), Ari Katz (IREX), Lisa Garcia (Foundation for Media Alternatives), Nandini Chami (IT for Change), Thae Nu San (Tech Age Girls Myanmar), Sandi Sein Thein (Geek Girls Myanmar), NayChi Su Mon (Ooredoo), Min Thu (Telenor), and Htaike Htaike Aung (Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation). Our own Ingrid Brudvig, Women’s Rights Research and Advocacy Coordinator at the Web Foundation, also contributed to the workshop by presenting an overview of the global Digital Gender Gap Audit, and Myanmar partners are already in discussions about developing a scorecard for Myanmar.
Helani Galpaya shared LirneAsia’s latest research on access in Myanmar and preliminary findings that must be considered at the policy level and the planning of the universal service fund. While rollout of mobile phone networks in rural areas has had a positive impact—in general markets, households, and individuals are better off—a significant gender gap in mobile ownership persist at 25% (down from 29% in the 2015 baseline survey). LirneAsia will launch the full research report in December 2016—look out for the release to learn why and how policymakers must design targeted solutions to bridge this gap.
Osama Manzar shared lessons from Digital Empowerment Foundation's last-mile solutions to connect women weavers in rural India to digital skills and e-commerce. He highlighted the importance of understanding and considering the entire ecosystem when looking at community-based initiatives focused on women. Nandini Chami echoed this principle. Speaking about her work on public access, she noted that gender-responsive solutions should be embedded in the community, not designed as a temporary fix.
We also heard initial findings from a new study by IREX on young women and digital skills in Myanmar. One insight that came through strongly is the importance of public access in creating opportunities for girls to get digital training and support services. As Ari Katz explained, Myanmar’s network of 5,000 libraries is a notable asset in this context because libraries are seen as safe public spaces.
A4AI in Yangon, Myanmar. November 2016.
Consultation on Myanmar’s Universal Service Strategy
Myanmar’s telecommunications law requires the development of a universal service fund that would serve to bridge the service gap in rural and remote areas. With the design of the fund gets under way, the Ministry has enlisted the A4AI-Myanmar coalition to serve as a platform for the consultants to engage with industry and civil society, ensuring that the process incorporates a multi-stakeholder view.
As the first in a series of public consultations, the November session sought to establish common understanding of the opportunities and challenges the fund presents. Sonja Oestmann, Intelecon, guided the discussion by highlighting four key areas to consider when designing a universal service strategy — the four A’s — availability, accessibility, affordability, and ability. 

Htaike Htaike Aung of MIDO enriched the presentation with stories from rural site visits, where the consultants sought to assess the service gap and understand the early impact on communities where connectivity is available. We learned about an internet cafe in Chin state that had no PCs—just WiFi, youth learning digital skills at a monastery library in Bagan, and many more stories of computer classes popping up in villages where infrastructure is available.

A4AI, including the USF working group of the Myanmar coalition, will continue to support the process in the coming months as the consultants undertake a scoping study, draft an initial strategy proposal, and design a pilot project.
For further updates from the A4AI-Myanmar working groups, as well as materials from the gender workshop and USF consultation, please visit the A4AI website: November 2016 A4AI-Myanmar Coalition Meeting & Workshops.
Introducing the New Advisory Council Members
A4AI members recently participated in elections for new representatives to the Advisory Council, a non-fiduciary body that provides oversight and strategic direction to the Alliance’s mission, strategy, and work plans.

We are excited to announce the newly elected representatives who will begin their two-year term in January 2017:
  • Belinda Exelby, GSMA, leads relationships with international inter-governmental institutions, including the ITU, World Bank, and OECD. Belinda is also responsible for the GSMA’s Capacity Building programme, which works with more than 20 institutional partners to deliver face-to-face and online training courses for telecoms and ICT regulators worldwide. Belinda is a Director of the US Telecommunications Training Institute and the UK Telecommunications Academy.
  • Johan Hellström, Sida, has worked on digital development in various ways for more than a decade, including setting up physical telecentres and conducting research on ICT-enabled election monitoring. At Sida, Johan currently focuses on improved access to open and secure ICT. He is also finishing his PhD at Stockholm University, where he is specialising on mobile-facilitated participation and crowdsourcing, with a regional focus in East Africa.
  • Njideka Harry, Youth for Technology Foundation, serves as a consultant to several social enterprises, for-profit businesses with a social mission, and international agencies on matters related to technology for development, entrepreneurship, girls’/women’s welfare, and economic empowerment. Njideka is the President & CEO of Youth for Technology Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2000 with the mission to use technology to transform the lives of youth and women in developing countries.
  • Paul Rowney, MyDigitalBridge Foundation, is a social entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in ICTs, including with the United Nations, in the private sector, and now through civil society with the MyDigitalBridge Foundation. Paul brings experience leading various technology ventures in Southern and Eastern Africa, and has worked on areas such as ICT education, electronic voting, and the deployment of a TV White Space pilot to connect rural communities.
  • Renee Wittemyer, Intel, has worked at the intersection of ICTs and development for 14 years as a researcher at Microsoft Research Labs and Intel Research Labs, and as the Director of Social Innovation at Intel. She has conducted research on areas such as gender and the internet gap, connectivity and access, e-governance, public-private partnerships, and financial inclusion. She is currently the Director of Government Strategy at Intel.
In addition to these new members, we are also pleased to share that Lakshmi Puri of UN Women and Smeeta Hirani of World Pulse have been re-elected for a second term on the council. We are grateful for their continued service!
Private Sector Membership Grows
Tetra Tech is the latest private sector organization to join A4AI. Tetra Tech is a leading provider of consulting, engineering, and technical services worldwide—now leveraging their expertise to implement internet connectivity projects in the developing world. We are excited to have Tetra Tech on board with the Alliance and look forward to working together to promote affordable internet access around the world.

Public WiFi at Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. (Photo: Karolle Rabarison)
Coming Soon! — Affordability Report 2016/17
The research team is nearing completion of the next edition of our flagship annual publication—the Affordability Report. The report investigates policies and regulations that can enable lower costs, based on A4AI’s set of good practices. Our latest research increased coverage to 58 countries, with the addition of 7 low-income countries to last year’s roster, and also includes an in-depth look at public access solutions.

Stay tuned for more updates as we approach the report launch in February 2017.
Highlights from Recent Advocacy Efforts
A4AI team members took advantage of a number of advocacy opportunities in November, including events in India, Niger, and Botswana.
  • Bangalore, India: A4AI’s Shaddy Shadrach participated in the Digital Citizen Summit 2016, a South Asia-wide platform to facilitate dialogue, share learning, and build strategic partnerships to promote internet rights. A4AI member Digital Empowerment Foundation, who co-organized the event, aims to establish it as an annual regional summit for South Asian stakeholders. Participants formed working groups to kickstart this effort, and A4AI will continue to extend support in the coming months.
  • Niamey, Niger: Eleanor Sarpong played an important role in shaping the official communique from the West African Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF), a forum organised by ECOWAS. Two recommendations stand out: (1) adoption of A4AI's "1 for 2" affordability target, i.e. 1 GB of mobile data for 2% or less of average monthly income and (2) adoption of the African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms.
  • Gaborone, Botswana: Dhanaraj Thakur and Erica Penfold joined debates on ICT data, statistics, and policymaking at the ITU’s World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium. The event featured the launch of the 2016 Measuring the Information Society (MIS) Report, which looks at growth and barriers in the ICT sector across 175 countries. Read our takeaways from the report and symposium on the A4AI blog: Examining the new MIS 2016 Report.
Team members also recently returned from the Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico. We participated in a number of sessions throughout the week and had the opportunity to catch up with many members and partners. Look out for a full report from IGF in the January issue of this newsletter.
Planning is under way for the first coalition meetings of 2017. National coordinators will confirm the exact dates soon; please look out for the invitations and agendas.

Approximate timeline:
  • Late January: Nigeria
  • Late January: Ghana
  • Late January / early February: Dominican Republic
  • March: Mozambique, Myanmar
A4AI looks forward to participating in the 2017 Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona February 27th – March 2nd. Let us know if you plan to attend and would like to connect with the team.
Thank you for reading! As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. A4AI members that would like their updates featured in the newsletter may send their inputs to
About A4AI

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) is a global coalition of public sector, private sector, and civil society organisations working to advance the shared mission of affordable access to mobile and fixed-line Internet for all.
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