IGF 2018 - Day 3 - Salle VI - WS279 Scaling community networks: exploring blockchain and efficient investment strategies

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Paris, France, from 12 to 14 November 2018. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 


>> PAUL WILSON: Good morning.  Good morning, everyone.  Can I be heard?  Is it working?  Excuse me. 

   You can hear something?  Hello?  Right.  Strange.  Okay. 

   Okay.  Well, good.  Good morning, everyone.  We should get started.  And I guess I might still need some more volume.  Or maybe not. 

   Thank you all for coming.  I am your moderator for today.  My name is Paul Wilson from APNIC, the Regional Internet Registry for Asia Pacific and quite involved with Internet activities around our region, including to some extent community networks.  But this session is on Scaling community networks: exploring blockchain and efficient investment strategies.  So if that's not the workshop that you are looking for, then please stay because this one's going to be pretty good. 

   To explain some of the background, this was originally two workshops, so in terms of the workshop proposals which went into the IGF MAG, there was one on investment strategies, scaling community networks; there was one on blockchain and community networks as friends or foes.  So in the wisdom of the MAG, it was decided to bring these two workshops together, and that's going to create quite an interesting combination with quite a lot to talk about and a lot of speakers, which is god to see, so thanks for turning up. 

   The organizers of the workshop have been Carolina Caeiro from LACNIC, and Stavroula Maglavera from the University of Thessaly.  Welcome. 

   This sort of convergence of the two workshops is really a common theme of how community networks can be sustained and scaled up through new investment in new opportunities and strategies for community networks and also through new technologies, such as blockchain, which has been suggested as just one example, actually, that we will be focusing on here amongst many. 

   So I think what we have in the room, it's quite fantastic to see.  We have quite a few hands-on practitioners here from community networks themselves, and I hope we will be hearing about what's the latest thinking and strategies and interesting, what's happening in the environment of community networks these days.  We have some technologists here to talk about what they think and if they think there are new opportunities coming up, blockchain or otherwise.  And we also have some donors and investors in community networks, and I think we will be very interested to hear about their experiences with community networks and current interests, what are you as investors looking for specifically in community network projects today and where would they fit into your broader categories.  So the idea is to talk about how these things can be matched up in the tango that is investment and funding these days, as Carolina put it yesterday, which I think is a suitably Latin metaphor, the tango of projects and donors. 

   So we've got quite a few speakers, about four minutes each, followed by some discussion.  I really hope that the practitioners here speaking on the panel or otherwise will get stuck into the discussion and make it a lively session. 

   Now, I have been given or suggested three questions to put to panelists as you speak, so if you wish, then please try and address any or all of these.  Specifically, to what extent do current community network strategies, both donors and networks, address the needs of stakeholders in community networks?  That's the first. 

   Are there new aspects, circumstances or opportunities, strategies or technologies that can improve the effectiveness of investments in allowing community networks to grow and proliferate? 

   And also, how it we leverage or work with grass-roots initiatives for digital inclusion and sort of embed them in the development of community network models? 

   So I am going to invite speakers sort of in turn, but I will ask you to introduce yourselves, and I will start with Carolina from LACNIC. 

   >> CAROLINA CAEIRO: All right.  Can you hear me?  All right.  Well, thank you, Paul, and good morning, everyone.  Thanks for joining us today. 

   As Paul mentioned, I am with LACNIC, more specifically the FRIDA program and Seed Alliance.  This is a coalition of grants and awards programs run by the National Internet Registries of Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.  Essentially the Seed Alliance supports innovations on Internet development across our three regions of work. 

   Just to sort of get you a sense of who we work with from the donors present at the roundtable, we work with IDRC and Internet Society.  We have also worked in the past with our colleagues from SIDA as well. 

   I would like to say a few words about the Seed Alliance around community networks and I will jump into some reflections about Paul's first question:  To what extent do current strategies address the needs of community networks? 

   So I think one important thing to highlight about the Seed Alliance is that we have been, I guess (static) we started supporting community networks as early as 2012.  So for instance, some networks in South Africa, in India, ultimately in Argentina, just to mention a few, and we have also been supported of the LibreRouter, which has brought together several people in this room in that project. 

   So jumping directly to our funding strategy, in 2018 and with funding from our colleagues, we started offering a funding line inclusively on community networks, and that was sort of a very exciting shift for us because it allowed us to start focusing on what we understood sort of the core challenges that community networks are facing today.  So essentially, we decided to support innovations across four areas or four topics.  The development of technical innovations, be it hardware, software, or a combination of the two, as was the case with the LibreRouter.  We also supported business models for making community networks sustainable, which I understand is sort of a concern for multiple donors working on or supporting and investing in community networks.  And also while enabling regulation and development of local content. 

   So now going to the question of to what extent do current strategists address the needs of community networks, I wanted to share the case of FRIDA, the FRIDA program, the Latin America program which I coordinate, where we had a bit in our 2018 call for proposals a bit of a mismatch, if you will, between the type of applications that we were expecting to get and the applications that we actually got. 

   So essentially, we opened up our call for proposals on these four topics that I mentioned before, but applications for projects that came in were primarily looking at creating new networks.  So essentially, we had grass-roots organizations applying that had a clear purpose to want to connect, so essentially they were proposing, I don't know, to close the gap, the digital gap with indigenous communities,  however, we did see that some of these organizations were unclear as to what technologies were available to them.  They were unclear in some cases about how to achieve connectivity and how to achieve also the sustainability of those networks. 

   So essentially there were sort of two key takeaways from this experience for the FRIDA program.  The first one is that new organizations are looking to replicate community networks, so when we talk about scaling up community networks, at least in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, we are seeing definitely a window of opportunity.  There's organizations that want to resort to community networking as a solution to achieve connectivity.  And we also realize that it's very important as a strategy to resort to knowledge transfer from existing and consolidated networks to new communities that are looking to connect.  And here I think it is fair to say that there's organizations already working on this.  Internet Society is actually doing a wonderful work on this front worldwide, and also we have an organization in Latin America working on this.  If we are to say that there's a conclusion or something that we are hearing from our pool of applicants, it's that there's more work to be done on this front. 

   So I will stop it at that.  I have some other thoughts to share, but I will save them for the discussion. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you very much, Carolina.  That's a good summary, I think, of some of the thinking that's currently going on in projects in the field.  But we also have Carlos from APC, and I think APC's approach is really good to hear about.  Thanks, Carlos. 

   >> CARLOS REY MORENO: Hello.  Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak at this session. 

   I am going to address at least two of the three questions, and I think the current investment models that there are for connectivity are not actually addressing the reality of community networks.  Right?  They are not working.  I think they are stuck on for-profit model that is not conducive for some of the models that are being put forward in the movement of community networks. 

   Those financial institutions are routed in the paradigm of large financial organizations that can absorb large capital at once, and even with those investments, they are failing to connect the unconnected.  There is a market failure.  Those markets are plateauing.  Those traditional models even are subsidizing investment, and the base stations stop working after a year because they don't have a return on investment there because their business models are too costly for the areas where they are trying to provide service.  So in these market failures, we need to innovate.  We need fresh thinking.  We need to think outside of the box.  And I am not saying that connectivities would be free.  I am not saying that everything should be subsidized.  I think that all the -- I am proposing that from all the course that there is in the value chain for providing opportunities, I think there is an opportunity to reduce a lot of them without much effort.  If all the investment financial instruments that are out there, when they finance, they enforce or they put policies and clauses and conditions that enforce infrastructure sharing, that enforce common base use of the fiber that they are deploying or infrastructure sharing on the towers that they are subsidizing or free access to community networks to any of those resources, then that cost would go down, and eventually those business models will start making sense for those that are looking at this from a social development perspective and not from a for-profit capitalist thinking. 

   Because the business models that Carolina was saying are about resource sharing, and most of the resources here are not only serving those resources, the physical infrastructure, but about serving human resources to actually provide those skills and that training to those communities that actually want to do it.  So let's try to, from a donors perspective, try to reduce all those costs as much as possible so then the business models and the people without resources in rural and marginalized areas are able to benefit as well from connectivity. 

   It's been interesting.  I think we are putting a lot of pressure on community networks.  Everything is having a lot of hopes, a lot of expectations, but the problem is huge.  Social inequality is there and has been there for many years, I mean, and the economic models that we have are only increasing that.  So I think it is possible by putting all these efforts in there, but at the same time, it would be a pity that all this movement, all this energy that we are seeing, all these hopes stops.  So I think I am pleading to all the donors and financers in the room to trust the process, I think to trust that many people here are doing their best on trying to understand a problem that is huge.  We are talking about a lot of companies that have not been able to solve this problem.  The unconnected remain unconnected because the problem is big.  And with some funding and with some people putting a lot of their hearts and their minds into the problem, we are starting to see some progress in understanding how this can be made.  And it would be a pity if there is no more resources in general to explore this in the next two, three, four, five years.  This is not going to get solved next year.  This is not going to get solved in 2020.  We need to continue thinking and serving and putting this together. 

   Thank you. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you very much, Carlos.  That's a very motivational call for this very session that we are in. 

   Phet from RDC. 

   >> PHET SAYO: It's hard to follow Carlos.  Anything I said, it follows on what he said.  Specifically in the Asia Pacific context, that's where I am based and where most of my work has been.  The national development research Center is the crown corporation of Canada.  We support development research in the area of what used to be called ISPs for development.  That's how old I am.  I am sure you don't know what that term is.  We funded research that supported connectivity and ISPs established in Vietnam, Mongolia.  My own work was Laos, Nepal, just to name a few. 

   We realized early on that localization was an issue, particularly around language.  We supported regional localization of languages, Khmer, Bhutanese, Nepali.  That gives you a brief work of the past.  That was early 2000.  I feel now coming to IGF, I don't know what number, 13, 14, whatever it is, it's a restatement of the access question yet again.  And my own program was -- in a previous cycle was focused on post-access issues, issues that assumed that access was over with.  We were surely wrong.  We are back to that question yet again. 

   So during, again, the 2000s, we were involved in what was called the telecenter movement.  Again, that shows you my age.  Telecenters -- I don't know if you would remember, but that movement was pretty much squashed by what was the advent or the adoption of mobile phones as the primary form of connectivity.  Governments, private sector, development sectors were investing in subsidizing these community hubs.  If you look -- I remember in India we supported what was called Mission 2007, so 11 years ago, and the idea of every village.  The Indian government has now laid fiber.  The question of sustainability, business models, access or what, these are still questions that remain, interesting enough. 

   Now I am going to state a question of strategy and approach which does not reflect my organization.  It reflects more of my own personal view.  I had a conversation with Carlos I think a year ago, and he was asking me why was I interested in this movement of community networks, and I explained it this way.  And if you can bear with me, I am going to offer you an analogy. 

   My glasses is ecology.  This table is ecology.  The wall is ecology.  The tree outside I assume you would all agree is ecology.  Nature capital N is something entirely different.  Nature is green, is mother, inherited from the Greek goddess.  Here is something, if you can put that in your head, is the analogy I want to offer you.  Ecology is to Nature as infrastructure is to the Internet.  That was my response to Carlos.  I think what we need is an ecological approach to access, not a mystification approach to the idea of access to a free and open thing. 

   I think there's an advantage to thinking that way because it addresses the question of sustainability.  Just as ecology is sustainable and managed at the local level, so should the infrastructure, not this notion -- and this is why I think we often see a disconnect.  I have been to many of the IGFs.  You see a disconnect between the people who talk about digital rights on the side of Nature, mystification.  And people who work on the physics of networks, like Paul Wilson and company, and Carlos, who work on the infrastructure of things.  That disconnect of ecology and Nature has to be met.  And for me, that is community networks.  This is why I was involved in the open source movement.  This is why I support the community networks.  I see a way, an alternative, and that's through an ecological approach, closer to the situation and the ecologies that people have access to. 

   Again, that is not IDRC's position.  That is my own personal position. 

   And as Carlos mentioned, there's a lot of hope involved, and I think that what community networks -- and not that we have evidence around this, but let's consider an intuition.  Carlos mentioned there's hope around countering what seem to me power symmetries.  We have information about data flows, misinformation, and the hoarding of data, hoarding of flows and infrastructure.  I think community network offers an alternative to that hoarding and that hierarchy. 

   In terms of our approaches that we support, I think Carlos can give you more examples and more detail.  I am just speaking in general terms.  We are a development research organization, so we support development research that involves in-depth case studies, analysis.  This was pushed and launched by APC recently.  I hope you grab a book that speaks to the very subject.  We support the movement around open telecom data, policy, and regulation, championed by the likes of Steve Song.  We believe in movements and awareness building.  As Carlos mentioned, we need a lot of that support.  And we believe in supporting emerging initiatives in cases where that has shown sustainability. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you, Phet.  That's your time.  I hate to cut you off.  Carl from SIDA. 

   >> CARL ELMSTAM: My name is Carl Elmstam, and I work for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, or SIDA.  I will speak very much from my perspective as a donor.  And specifically working in the unit for sustainable economic development, where my focus is ICTs and digital development. 

   So when thinking of how we -- how we think when planning our investments, the very starting point for that is the Swedish strategy in the area.  And that strategy has a very strong focus on increased access, and I'd say that our current analysis includes, of course, that the increase rate of people being connected has been dropping sharply over the past year.  And one could argue, as Carlos just did, that the current business models, mobile network satellite, et cetera, are not sufficient to reach all, or at least for a long time.  So with that focus on access with the emphasis that SIDA always has on reaching those in greatest need, the poverty perspective, it leads to solutions like community networks, so it makes a lot of sense for us.  We also prioritize a rights perspective, and these seem to be well integrated as community networks inherently gives power back to the local community. 

   Over the last few days, I have heard many different descriptions of things that stand in the way for community networks.  It's spectrum, laws and regulation that need updating if community networks are to be given a fair chance.  I have also heard some suggestions on how to overcome those obstacles.  I thought I would talk a little bit about that.  And to me it seems that communication is very key to enroll other organizations, and perhaps in my case, it's about working within my own organization to activate other parts of it, not necessarily the ICT experts or the digital experts. 

   So for example, we support training of regulators in the Global South, but that's completely other part of my organization that does that.  And are we sure that the one hand knows what the other does?  Well, I hope so in our case, but I think that that's an important point. 

   So communication, communicating with our colleagues, always increasing the number of people who are aware of community networks will, of course, help build that momentum and remove any inconsistent behaviors from large organizations. 

   And another example that I think is important to pay attention to is how community networks can generate jobs in the local community.  There is room for entrepreneurship and business opportunities and where the profit will stay and be reinvested in that community.  Which should make these projects interesting to people who work with private sector developments.  So we will have to be sure to speak to them as well. 

   Again, I think that we have units that work with a focus on infrastructure, infrastructure funds, and of course, we should see how community networks complement existing infrastructure and be sure to explain that in a way that infrastructure experts who might usually be focused on roads can also understand community networks.  And same would go for people working with rural, et cetera, et cetera. 

   So with that, thank you, and thank you for inviting me to speak here. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you, Carl. 

   We have a trio of major funders here with us, so I would like to ask Alberta Cerda from Ford for a few remarks. 

   >> ALBERTO CERDA: Thank you very much.  To answer your questions and lead to go this briefly, at least, for what foundation does, so you can have an idea clearly of the work, Ford Foundation is one of the largest foundations in the U.S.  It has several programs, but one of the programs is Internet Freedom program.  This program basically provides support to public interest organizations advancing Internet policies with a human rights or social justice perspective.  And basically, the program and the Foundation in general, although we like to say that we are global, the truth is that we basically work in the U.S., and we have ten regional offices in different developing countries, and from those regional offices, we are able to work in 40 different countries worldwide, mainly Sub-Saharan African countries, Latin American countries, and to some extent some countries in Asia. 

   So why, therefore, Foundation engages in the discussion about community network is basically because of the social justice implications, the fact that most of the people that are not connected are usually rural communities, people that usually are members of communities that have been marginalized for society for the economic system. 

   Until 2014, this program was fully dedicated only to the U.S., and as a result, there was an assumption that access wasn't a problem and most of the issues were associated with privacy.  Only beginning in 2014, the program started to operate beyond the us, and at that point it was necessary to reassess what was the scope of the actions and the subject matter that we were working with.  And one of the issues that arose was access.  We work in Indonesia, and at that time, barely 20% of the population has access to Internet.  We work in Kenya, and at this time, less than 50% of the population has access to Internet.  And therefore, there was room for working as Ford Foundation, as a social justice foundation, in order to overcome that gap. 

   Now, during the first, I would say first two years of the program working overseas, there was some investment in implementing community networks, particularly in Brazil and India.  But at that point, we started to realize that the limited resources that we could commit to the field were not enough to satisfy the needs associated with implementing a specific project in specific communities.  Very limited, actually.  Therefore, we need to make a reassessment about what was the actual role of Ford Foundation to play in the field? 

   Ultimately what we decided in 2015 was if there was a role for the Ford Foundation to play in this field, it was about supporting organizations changing policies.  What does it mean?  It means a broad range of issues.  This is not necessarily related only to community networks.  It is about Internet access.  And therefore, we have been supported issues about litigation, municipal networks in the U.S., for instance.  We have been supporting public transparency of the use of universal service fund in Nigeria.  We have been focusing on increasing competitiveness in the public sector in Brazil.  We have been supportive of some issues about increasing advocacy for policy changes in Latin America related to community networks. 

   So with that I am trying to say, as the question with the moderator, what the foundation is doing and what it is looking at doing in the future in this area, basically to support those initiatives that are trying to change the policies, so it's the policy level in these countries where we are operating, which currently are basically 40 different countries worldwide. 

   I hope that answers your question. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you.  Thank you so much. 

   Now, moving along, Jane Coffin, ISOC has had a lot of interest and reaffirmed its interest in community network.  What can you share with us in four minutes?  More or less. 

   >> JANE COFFIN: I will try to be brief. 

   Part of ISOC's vision, as I am sure many of you know, is that the Internet is for everyone.  That sounds a little simple, but our new CEO, Andrew Sullivan, who comes from the technical community, has been pretty clear that everyone is everyone and all of us, yeah, and around the world.  So the focus of the Internet Society, because the Internet is for everyone and we focus on access, technology, openness, sustainability, and interoperability, so it's that nexus between development, technology, and policy with what we are doing. 

   We have four campaigns running this year.  Community networks has been one of those campaigns.  It's not our first experience with community networks.  We've been doing this work for over 11 years.  And at the heart if what we do are projects that have proven that what we have been doing in partners around the world critically -- because it's through our chapters, people like APC, others in the room, AlterMundi, others, nothing gets done without partners, and our objective is to turn the work we are trying to instigate into back into the community, so it's community run and led.  We can have push and pull in different ways with funding, with training, and with other technical specifics. 

   Right now what we are doing from a strategic perspective is running a campaign focused on community networks, on capacity development, community development, and technical development.  And policy as an underpinning role and communications with that. 

   Next year, we will continue that campaign, which is being tied together not only from that campaign perspective but with a foundation.  That's a new thing.  It was just announced last week.  The foundation will focus on chapter capacity building, which also is something that is helping around the world develop community networks in some areas or help focus on policy change, as Alberto was saying, and working with organizations like the African Union to push that or colleagues in the Pacific or Latin America. 

   Community capacity building is one of the -- the second tranche, disaster relief and recovery and research.  So the research arm and the community-building arm which is focused on community networks and chapter capacity building, are three different pieces that may have a way and a role to help fund community networks.  The key thing is to talk to our partners in the community, and we need to do more of that to understand where they also think the funding should go.  So my guess is that we will be looking at bringing in observers to help the foundation formulate where it best can go on some of those aspects.  But the critical thing is not to try and make these decisions on our own but work with the community of interest to try and focus on what they also think is most important. 

   I would say that when I first started at the Internet Society, I was impressed by the work that had been going on on Internet Exchange Points and the it will physicality of the work being done.  They were made.  They were sustained.  And they were continued with partnerships, like with APNIC and LACNIC and everyone around the world that we work with.  It wasn't what I call an empty aid promise.  I have worked on aid projects for five years in the form of Soviet republics, and in some of those countries, you might as well have thrown the money out of window as you flew over the country.  Might have benefitted the community.  Some projects were very effective, but I learned a lot of hard lessons about what it means to build communities, and if you don't start with that process which Carlos spoke about, you've got nothing. 

   I would say that these small projects are worthwhile because their social impact is huge, but the impact investment, which is the new term in the community, right, social impact investment, this is what that does with community networks.  It's not just about the technology.  We used to say that it's the human engineering, which is 85% to 90% of the work; right?  The technology is going to work on its own if you know how to install it, which is part of what the LibreRouter or LibreMesh is about.  The hard work is being done by the technologists, but if you don't have that human engineering work done, you've got nothing left. 

   We know with v6 deployment and other technical deployment, that's the humans as well; right?  You've got to instigate that in countries.  So this is not so different.  It's a different formulation on the ground and community building in that sense, but it has huge impact from what I've seen.  So I think they are extremely worthwhile, and it's not an empty promise, as I would say. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thanks very much, Jane. 

   So this joint workshop is about the funding and financial models, and although as Jane said it's not all about the technology, there may be some technology opportunities and impacts that can be taken into account.  So Stavroula, can you tell us where you are coming from? 

   >> STAVROULA MAGLAVERA: I am Stavroula Maglavera, coming from University of Thessaly, and I would like to give you a little bit of the history what the European Commission has done in the last five, six years for grass-roots initiatives and community networks. 

   It's the program initiative called Collective Awareness for Sustainability and Social Innovation that supports more than 30 quite big projects with the involvement of community networks, and communities in general were supported.  And it was the engagement, supported the engagement of the community networks and the initiatives through the use of digital information technology.  So a lot of -- during the life of these projects, a lot of interesting digital tools have been developed for the engagement and empowerment of the community networks.  And it was one of the first initiatives that the European Commission included all of these initiatives in the actual implementation of the project.  It was -- it's a bottom-up approach, and the tools have been implemented with the active involvement of the communities participating in this project. 

   So there is also representing one of the (?) that supported this specific project.  So there is a list of tools and best practices and pilots implemented within this year, so you can find it under the CAPSSI website, www.capssi.eu, and you can find the status of all these implementations that have been made. 

   As a support action, we also provide to the community different tools how to get together and where to find tools for sustainability and collaboration between the different groups.  So at the same time, it seems the future is in front of us, we created the DSI manifesto that includes the key topics that the different stakeholders would like to see in the next coming years to be included in the strategy and the discussion and also, of course, all this includes the technology, the different technologies that are around. 

   And the other thing that I would like to point out is the European Commission, now there is an issue, they commence a new project called the Next Generation Internet, presentation was yesterday in the workshop for that, so community networks can be part of this initiative, and continue using these technologies and tools of Internet so to be sustainable and to continue towards this way. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you very much. 

   Silvia Molina, you have been working on P2P technologies, I think.  

   >> SILVIA DIAZ MOLINA: Yes, thank you.  I don't know if I can answer any of the questions, but I wanted to talk about inclusion.  I think that has to do with sustainability, also with social justice.  I am anthropologist, working on a research project called peer-to-peer models at the university in Spain.  Our project's principal goal is to co-create these centralized tools with communities.  These centralized tools like with blockchain.  Blockchain is known because of the cryptocurrencies, but it brings also possibilities in terms of governments, related with governments, with no intermediaries, one community can translate part of their governance rules into the code.  Then this they have to decide what they want to automate or not. 

   I think this is a good opportunity to review or to speak about all the processes within the community, all the tacts, including the usually forgotten ones, for example, the emotional labor. 

   Of course, making these co-creation process really inclusive is a big challenge, but for the previously mentioned reasons, making the rules into code, translating the rules into code, the inclusion is much more important.  It is crucial. 

   We worked, my project worked with a network community.  Our first case study that had a very (?).  In that case, for example, our main worry was how the tool could reflect or reproduce all power relationships within the community.  So I only wanted to talk about the social part of the project that works with blockchain.  I think it has a lot of potential. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Okay.  Thank you very much. 

   Panayotis, I think you are another person here with blockchain experience. 

   >> PANAYOTIS ANTONIADIS: I wanted to talk because I will have a debate, so I will be a little provocative.  I am a founder of an organization called NetHood, and we try to breed, as we say, the physical with the digital and also different disciplines and certain actions.  I will talk here with two hats.  My old hat, I took (?) incentives in peer-to-peer connections.  My old community created BitTorrent, and blockchain came out of this community of peer-to-peer systems. 

   I want to talk about incentives and the narratives.  And I will say that blockchain has many problems as a technology.  First of all, it has a built-in-by-construction speculation element.  Because it requires more and more records to be invested by the peers of the system.  So since the cost increases, then when you put monitor incentives to this, the price increases, and this is a built-in speculation part.  It is very highly energy inefficient.  It consumes a lot of energy.  And I think the fact that releases as from the trust-building process is not a benefit but a short -- how do I say?  It's a problem.  Because creating trust is one of the most important processes in community building, and when you have an algorithm doing this for you, it's not good. 

   And I will talk about incentives.  I would say when we talk about blockchain, community networks, there are many initiatives that try to combine this too, and I want to talk first about a community network in Germany where people save their unused capacity, their Internet, without any incentives, and they have created a framework that makes sure that their own consumption is not influenced by those that use their own network.  And this is enough for them to do it.  Not only they do it for themselves, but they put resources for what I call the right to surf.  This is important to make communities successful, to share our Internet connectivity. 

   On the other extreme, there is initiatives like Skycoin, exactly the same type of activity, sharing our spare capacity.  They are doing very strong economic incentives.  Cellular wi-fi, get paid, extend the Internet using viral profit motives.  For me, this is problematic because it somehow assumes that this is the problem why we don't share our Internet connectivity.  But for me, the problem is not that we don't have enough economic incentives, but we don't have the means to share it without protecting ourselves.  If we make the analogy with Airbnb, Airbnb helps us to share our rooms.  In the case of the Internet, it's not even so difficult to share our Internet connection.  It could be just a configuration option.  So I think we should fight more the policy and regulation to allow the right to share. 

   Then some people could say that it's a little bit of an extreme community, like the couch surfing analog of Airbnb.  Maybe we need also some more robust economic schemes.  For this, guifi is a very good example also of sustainable model based on market rules where are sharing Internet connectivity among peers.  And here there is another obstacle, which is the right to use, right to use the public infrastructure.  And this is what guifi struggles today, and would like some of us to be in the European ombudsman, where guifi has submitted a complaint because they are illegally not given the right to use infrastructure.  Given this right, we have a very good model that is easy to replicate.  It's better to replicate than have guifi grow.  And we can have a very sustainable model without any other extra speculation incentives of profit or things like that. 

   So my statement is that we should focus more on making community networks viable and legal, and then the economic incentives are there.  Then trying to create some sort of a narrative that we need the profit to make the community networks sustainable. 

   Thank you. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you very much, Panayotis.  I do hope that sparks some debate and some imaginative thought about exactly what this panel is about, which is to identify opportunities for community networks to prosper and grow. 

   Lastly on the list, Nicolas from AlterMundi. 

   >> NICOLAS ECHANIZ: Hi.  Thank you.  I am Nicolas from AlterMundi.  I am also the current chair of the community networks special interest group.  First of all, I wanted to share a little bit of the document that came out from the Latin America Summit of Community Networks that met on September this year.  One of the issues that we discussed during this Summit was actually funding and how we could improve, what we can tell to our funders. 

   So there are many things that were identified as important.  So one of them is that we believe that community networks at this point need funding as a collective, not just as individual projects; that we have needs that are shared, like for example, policy and regulatory incidents or technological development, training strategies, and social impact that are not projects from one specific community but shared among us. 

   Also, we believe that it would be interesting to have more projects funded with smaller grants instead of funding a few with a lot of money.  And actually, what I would say is every community network project needs to be funded.  I think that is one objective that should be put on the table.  I know of many of the processes of funding beyond the net, FRIDA, et cetera, that had great projects presented to their cause, and they just cannot get selected because there's a limited amount of projects that can be chosen.  And if we are really committed to connecting the unconnected or to letting the unconnected connect themselves, if they are there and they are saying hey, we want to connect ourselves, we have the drive, we have the project, well, we should somehow guarantee that they have the initial funding. 

   There's also the importance of making Universal Service Funds available to community networks, and I think funders, international organizations, cooperation agencies could focus on how to help community networks make a credible case for their governments to actually design lines through which they can assign Universal Service Funds. 

   Another important thing is that we believe that we need to have objective studies about the cost of deployment of community networks and also studies regarding the social value.  So community networks deployment can be somehow compared to other options.  We know that at this point in time, in some way community networks are competing with big company projects regarding, for example, the Universal Service Funds.  I have shared many panels with GSMA people or telcos, and they are arguing that they need governments to subsidize demand, which means that governments should put the money they received from this same guys and give it to the people to pay for the profit of these companies.  To me this makes really no sense, but it's being pushed forward each time with more energy. 

   So I think we need to build a strong case for community networks.  And the most important thing, I think, is to make the movement, the collective, more present, to have less focus on specific projects and specific communities, but to rely more on the collective.  I think that the CNC, for example, the community network special interest group, has a role there to work a bit as a federation of community networks, and there are others, the African Group is already established for many years.  I think we should rely more on that, and I think that funders could also, in some way, related to these collectives to help identify the more important projects to fund and the strategies because it's those collectives that know what is needed to move forward, to scale up. 

   So that's my points. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you very much, Nicolas.  So that's the end of a collection of speakers, I think a great credit to the organizers for bringing together such a diverse group.  But there's more.  Thanks to everyone for keeping to four minutes, but I would like to open the floor because we've got quite a few practitioners and experts here who I am sure have got some comments in response or some answers to the three questions.  So please, if anyone would like to contribute. 

   Please, go ahead.  Introduce yourself. 

   >> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much.  This is very inspirational.  I come from (?) Foundation.  It's really inspirational hearing from all of you.  First of all, I heard that these telecenters, so first of all, I have to explain to you a little bit about our projects.  So we work with a number of libraries, community libraries, so this is -- fortunately, we have over 6,000 libraries across the country, and this is a strong network.  This is a trusted organization, trusted by the community. 

   So what we do is very simple.  We provide three things.  One is free Internet, two device, three training.  So these f IRS two are provided by the telcos.  We approached the many telcos, and one of the telcos sponsored that.  So training part, we partner with a number of international organizations, including University of Washington, which we developed a curriculum called mobile information literacy.  The reason we have to choose a mobile piece, information literal, is in Myanmar, over 80% of the people go online using the mobile phone, but they don't know the potential of this.  Most of the people use less than 10% of this tool on the mobile.  So that's why we developed the curriculum, and we are delivering curriculum and we are delivering training across these libraries. 

   So initially there were only 55 libraries that we worked in 2015.  Now the network is expanded to 150.  So that's where we started to develop other projects such as the gender, like to girls, which we got an award from ICEF this year.  Also, we are working with Walmart Foundation on the safe migration.  In Myanmar, many of the people migrate to other countries because of the lack -- because of poverty.  So you mentioned about social justice, which is really true for our country because many of these migrants workers are exploited in Thailand or Malaysia because of these problems.  But they don't have any information.  So through these libraries, we provide all the information.  We even developed a chatbot.  The reason we use a chatbot is that many people are familiar with using the Facebook than the mobile apps.  I think you might -- technologists are here also, you can also educate me.  In order to get mobile app, you need to do a lot of promotion, awareness.  But the chatbot I think is very fast because they are already familiar with Facebook.  You know?  So that is a part, I don't know how you can explain to me about other technologies involved with that.  So this is some of the projects that we are working on that, and community network is so important in our country.  Thank you. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you so much. 

   I would like to maybe invite some of our colleagues from community networks that are present in the room.  Do you mind raising your hand, those of you who are working in community networks or developing community networks?  Are there -- I mean, for me, sort of the most interesting aspect of this workshop was to be sort of the discussion and hear from your communities, you know, what you think is sort of important to be supporting and funded or sort of maybe share a bit of your experiences on the ground.  So I don't know if anyone wants to maybe take the floor.  Thanks. 

   >> AUDIENCE Okay.  My name is Damian from Argentina.  We are a community network, also in the CNC, just like Nicolas mentioned.  Most of our point of views are mentioned in that brief from Nicolas. 

   We think the regulatory point is important.  We work together with regulatory in our country to solve the problems that we have to implement the networks, and that's the same history as in other countries of the region and the world with the community networks.  And we, just like Nicolas said, we receive also many other situations of communities that want to deploy a network, and it's important to evaluate every case and see if there is another potential network that can be deployed in that region and if there are all the conditions given to deploy that network or if there is another help that is needed to give connectivity to that region.  We think that the community networks are the crucial point to give connectivity in many regions and towns and places that there is no community network, then there will be nothing to connect the people that live there.  So that it will be important to take those points, to think about those points when we talk about community networks because it's important to take care about the regulations, but also the need of infrastructure for the new communities in some cases, in some places.  And there aren't a lot of different programs in different regions because we can count the programs with one hand or two hands.  I mean, there are always the same programs in different regions.  And we can resolve them with the government and the investment and not very high investments.  That's what we want to show that if we could do that with the funds we have, then with some help we can improve that situation very much. 


   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you.  Thank you very much. 


   >> AUDIENCE: Hello.  My name is Givi Baron from AlterMundi.  I want to also highlight the role of the community members in self-funding the initiatives.  We have been working for many years as AlterMundi without external funding and successfully deploying networks with the help of the people.  And I think I think seen many projects fail with external funding because of an attitude of saying oh, we are helping these poor people that don't have any money or means.  And this normally creates a relationship with the people that it's not sustainable.  I wouldn't know how to say this in English.  So I think it can become very powerful if both external funders acknowledge this capacity of the communities of making little investments that also change a lot the attitude of the people regarding these technologies and this network that they are building because they start to feel that it's also their own network and not so much something from outside.  And I think if blockchain people have any chance of helping, it could be in this ground where there are some initiatives of cryptocurrencies, more ecological in terms of power consumption and things like this, that could potentially enable local people to generate local economies.  I think this could be a way. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you. 

   Adam Burns, you have been involved with netcons. 

   >> AUDIENCE: Hi.  My name is Adam Burns.  I have been involved with community networks for probably about 15, 16 years in one form or another.  And I would really like to underline some of the points made by the previous few speakers in terms of I feel that there's sometimes a small multilayered use of the word "community."  Most of the time I would class a community network as something that does have a sense of high ownership of its own infrastructure, and that can have great value in terms of understanding their communication requirements in their local areas and being able to make informed decisions upon the growth and sustainability, both of their culture and community and the infrastructure that supports that.  And I think further to just some of the funding models here that both mechanized algorithms, such as blockchain or mechanisms that automate community or cultural decisions on these communications and/or funding, both have their problematic sides.  They may well be suitable for some areas, for some uses, but I think they should be examined very, very carefully.  And I think again, I would like to repeat that my view of community networks is that they are an opportunity for a locality, complete with its culture, to be able to start to provide their own local communication requirements, often filling the gaps, as Ramon Rocha and Steve Song would say, filling the air gaps between buckets full of stones, the community networks can act as sand or water to fill the gaps of those communication requirements. 

   Thank you very much. 

   >> AUDIENCE: Thank you, Paul.  My name is Julian Casabuenos from Colombia.  From our experience in supporting community networks, we believe that we still need to support to maintain broadband access and stable access because in some regions, we can get some kind of connectivity, but it is not really stable, and the bandwidth is not enough to have all the benefits from the Internet. 

   And also, access to new technologies to support this broadband access is important. 

   We are facing problems with our government to access to spectrum for community networks of mobile phones, replicating the experience of (?) in Mexico.  So it's necessary still to work with the government and try to create these regulatory environment that is prepared for the deployment of these networks.  And also appropriation of the technology for these communities that have been disconnected for so long.  So it's important to have more training workshops to teach them about the models of operation, not only technical, but administrative as well, to make them sustainable and showing them other models that we have in other parts of the world. 

   So I will leave it there.  Thank you. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thanks, Julian. 

   Pindar Wong, can I just acknowledge you.  Thanks for joining us.  Pindar is someone who knows about blockchain at an international scale.  Do you see an opportunity for blockchain at a very local Pindar? 

   >> AUDIENCE: Thanks, Paul.  Let me actually -- I do, and for several reasons.  Actually, the gentleman who spoke about incentives I think is right on the money.  And I think it is actually about the money, which is kind of interesting.  I have been involved in the wilderness of playing around with bitcoin for a few years, and where I think we are in terms of driving incentives and finding resources, the language of money is extremely powerful.  It's a way we can organize economic activity, it's a way that we can plan for the long-term.  It's a way that we can secure resources.  But the way we are thinking about money these days, I think in bitcoin is (?) yes, there are a lot of innovations, a lot of problems as well.  The technology is very difficult to scale.  But I would point to really three things.  First of all, the age of the Internet was sort of like permissions innovation.  Right?  So that's the sort of the Internet age.  We are sort of -- the bitcoin age is sort of permissions monetization.  In other words, making money right now is literally a command line, make money, enter.  So what this is really kind of clever is that we can actually very finely grain design economic and social incentives at a very, very granular level.  Some people call this cryptoeconomics, some call it token engineering.  I am not quite sure what it is, but what it is in my mind is what can this community agree with as a means of exchange so that we can actually do stuff? 

   So a lot of criticism is about the definition of money, a store of value, unit of exchange, a unit of account and medium of exchange.  I would say it's none of that.  It's an agreement within a community for what to use when building consensus.  So for the very first time, community networks can use the software -- because it is only just software -- to start to say I don't trust you, you don't trust me, but let's try and work together, let's try and trust the software. 

   So what's interesting now is I think the means of exchange can be had to bridge these gaps between the stones, so to speak, to design incentives.  It's a question of how.  One of the thinking mistakes, I think, with nearly all the cryptocurrencies and blockchain are that they are very zero sum.  In other words, they really have just taken the physical money unit, which is either I have it or you have it, and I don't really see that as being very useful.  In fact, I think the biggest thing is with digital we have -- we had to invent scarcity.  Right?  Because everything was freely shared.  So the research work I am doing right now is with refugees and trying to invent what's called female money, which is basically nonzero sum.  How do you have a positive sum economic token whereby you can start generating trust automatically?  It's still in research, still early stage, but the good news is I think there's a different conversation that we can have that's different from when Phet was doing his round the last 20 years because now we have the means of exchange.  We also have peer-to-peer markets like OpenBazaar, whereby you can actually trade peer-to-peer online.  Not only do you have the means of exchange right now, you also have the means of instruction because nearly all the intangible assets, goods, and services can be produced originally in a digital form.  We can have provenance there.  So I think it's a good opportunity now to have this conversation because there's a new tool in the toolbox with blockchain. 

   Thank you. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Can I throw it back to our funding partners here and ask you, perhaps, if -- here's a question.  Would you see reference to blockchain as a feature or a bug in a funding proposal regarding community networks?  And I mean, that's a little facetious, but what else have you heard here today that you think might be a relevant hook on which to hang a sort of justification, a case for working together in a new way with community networks? 

   >> It's not about what I have heard so far, but what I haven't heard.  I am from Chile, so I am not going to make this argument for the sake of my country.  Mexico is a country where 40% of the population has no access to Internet, and some of the most successful initiatives on community networks came from Mexico.  And the new government has decided to embrace community networks, a main priority for implementing national priority for providing access for that 40% of the population that is unconnected.  That has some down sides and high sides.  The downside is they assume community network operates from top to down, top-down policy.  On the bright side, you have policy will and you have financial support for implementing community networks in that country. 

   And I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the possibility of making of community networks a government policy and to which extent that has opportunities or the challenges associated to which extent this community in particular can engage with the Mexican government or Mexican authorities to inform that policy making and to make it work. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Okay. 

   Phet?  And we have a couple of online questions, actually. 

   >> PHET SAYO: Considering the fact I helped co-edit a white paper on blockchain and Pindar co-reviewed, I am on the fence.  If I ever saw blockchain come through in a proposal.  I think it's early days.  I think the two speakers that talked about the trust level, as a research, I wonder at what scale is trust between the people and is it between machines or from machines?  So I think the easy answer for me is it depends on what the research question is. 

   I think at the heart of it, since this is about -- this whole forum is about trust, it's interrogating trust, be it from blockchain or anything else. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Okay.  Thank you. 

   So we have a couple more here and a couple online.  We only have 12 minutes or so left, so let's keep it to a couple minutes.  Thank you. 

   >> NICOLAS ECHANIZ: Thank you, and thank you for opening the space. 

   I am Nicolas from AlterMundi.  AlterMundi has been talking a little bit, so I will be brief. 

   I have been around on the community network arena for a few years, and in particular my role within the organization has been to visit different communities around the world that are doing these things.  So something I haven't been hearing much is on one side community networks, so it's not any other kind of network you can deploy top down.  We are talking about the wills of others.  And talking about that, I feel that something we need to acknowledge is that it's not our take for community networks to exist or to flourish, but we are in a capacity to facilitate that process, to enable an environment that makes this sense. 

   So on our side, that is not the deployment side.  It's actually we are not being the ones that are creating an environment for it to thrive.  We need to think about what things we can do on our side.  And that means that yes, funding is one, like articulating to governments the ones that should be talking about these things, finding means for them to engage with the communities, creating regulations that are enabling for them to do things that are not imposing restrictions but creating opportunities for the communities to do it. 

   And at the funding level, creating, like, what Nico was saying, having chances for the communities to approach the investment in a much easier way and not in a way that destructs the communities but builds on top of their capacity to do things. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you.  Can we take one of the online questions? 

   >> MODERATOR Okay.  We have two online questions, I think they can be combined.  First we have Oluwaseun Ajani from Nigeria, and he is asking all the organizations that are represented and in particular the Foundation, what are you doing to ensure that rural students in Sub-Saharan Africa, living where there is an absence of reliable connection to the electricity grid, get the benefits of community networks for their studies? 

   And we also have Arvind, he asks we had P2P standards for blockchain.  From the beginning of the Internet.  How can blockchain help now if we know that it needs a large computational power to secure, if it is open blockchain?  Thanks. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Do we have any responses? 

   >> (Off microphone). 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Specific question for Ford? 

   >> ALBERTO CERDA: In the case of Ford Foundation, we are currently working with ten different organizations in Sub-Saharan African countries, including three of them in Nigeria, and since the request he is come from Nigeria, the three initiatives that we are supporting in Nigeria are about public access to Universal Service Fund.  Second one to a group, we want to provide general support, so the organizations decide exactly what is the priority.  The second project is about digital security for human rights defenders and other people at risk.  The third initiative is about an organization that probably many of you may know that initiative that covers initiatives from digital literacy to digital policy, so it's a critical piece of work in particular from our program. 

   In addition to that, we have an office in Lagos, and that particular office is providing support to over 40 different initiatives, but my knowledge of them, I am not directly engaged in those initiatives.  It's for the regional office. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Was there any work on the question of electrical power supply, or for that matter, any comments on that question? 

   >> ALBERTO CERDA: Since the program I work for is about Internet freedom issues, I assume electricity is there, I don't do work on that particular area.  But again, we have offices there, we have different other initiatives from my colleagues on empowering women's rights and on educational issues as well as on civic space and civic engagement.  Unfortunately, I am not familiar with all the programming of the ten offices and 40 program officers working worldwide for Ford Foundation, so it's a question for the regional office. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Jane. 

   >> JANE COFFIN: I would just say for the remote participant that the foundation which John Dada -- is John here?  He is on the other panel.  There's an indigenous connectivity panel on community networks in another room.  But we can put you together with that person.  John Dada did work not only in community literacy training with orphans and women in remote parts of Nigeria, but he's also been training in community network training summits, like my colleagues and I have been working on for the past three or four years. 

   One thing I wanted to add about funding, and to support Nico's point, we've got to really figure out and work with community networks to know what it is they need versus what we think they need because we don't know that local environment as well they do, and this is also with any project that I think I have been working on from a technical side too is that they know best how they can consume that funding and they can use it, and we have seen -- I don't know the right word.  I call it flooding people with money.  If you give too much money to a project, people may -- it may be divisive.  It may not be as good on the development side.  I know it's hard for larger institutions to give out smaller grants.  We've been doing that.  We know that that's intensive.  But we are not going to stop.  We may be giving more in the future, but we -- I think collectively we could think of ways to also look at the longer-range distribution of funds.  But I have become a bit not very popular at times because I think no money should go outside our organization now without specific training.  We have tried to do some basic management training, and I don't mean this from a capitalist perspective, so take it as a way that we could work with you on the right word.  But how to manage the funds and how to manage projects, perhaps not with the more sophisticated networks in the world right now, but we've seen the challenge that giving someone money can take and that you do have to make sure they know how to manage it in some ways. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thanks, Jane. 

   >> NICOLAS ECHANIZ: So regarding Jane's comment, I think that one way to maybe make this subgranting of small grants possible would be to try to coordinate with community networks' collectives so that the collective can manage the bigger funds to distribute as small bootstrap funds for initiating projects. 

   I also wanted to mention, again, from the Latin America Summit document, other things that are not money but are resources, and I think that many times our donors also have the capacity to work on regulatory issues and to help us push forward these initiatives. 

   So I will just point what's written here, it's in the document, if you want to access it in the CNC.info website.  We talk about idle bandwidth.  That's one thing that's for free.  And we just need to manage it correctly.  In the case of AlterMundi, we are using the bandwidth from a national university, and we use all the bandwidth during the time that the university is closed.  And this is replicated in some other cases.  This should be generalized, like we should do this everywhere. 

   Extension of public access points.  Governments usually set up public access points, but there's no policy to let the people extend those points through community mesh networks, and that would be very interesting. 

   Community management of government plans because also it's very frequent that governments install some access point or some infrastructure.  They leave it there, and some months or years afterwards it doesn't work anymore.  Community management of those programs would be great. 

   Access to infrastructure.  We are always fighting for this.  We need to use the towers, the infrastructure that's already there, but for very small communities, it's really difficult to get to talk to the players that control those structures. 

   Also, free interconnection and free transit.  Many states have big fiber optic networks that are mostly idle, and community networks could really benefit from pairing with those networks. 

   And also -- and this is -- well, this would be interesting to discuss -- with tier 1 networks, could provide free transit agreement to community networks.  If we are really -- and I always come back to this.  Are we really committed to connecting the unconnected?  So if we are committed, there are many things like this that are just free.  We only need to talk about it.  No?  So I think it's important to identify the low-hanging fruit, as my colleague Nico usually says, and go for them.  No?  Thanks. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you.  That's an excellent summary of a whole lot of points.  I think it reflects your great knowledge of a wide range of networks in your work. 


   >> AUDIENCE: Yes, I wanted to respond to the question online about energy consumption for some of these blockchain networks. 

   I think that is actually true, at least in the current generation of blockchain networks that use proof of work.  Just to give you an idea, as of today, the bitcoin network has 43 million terahashes per second.  That consumes a lot of energy.  And there are protocols out there for consensus that may not use proof of work.  The one that you may want to look at is by Bram Cohen, who invented BitTorrent, that famous peer-to-peer network.  You can look at that, but again, it's unclear whether any of these systems work.  They may work in theory but may not work in practice.  Bitcoin has evolved this crazy ecosystem out of nothing to this level of computational power, which is probably beyond many state actors to try and actually attack. 

   So the point I was trying to make, though, is you don't need to actually be a miner to use the network.  Right?  You just need the bitcoin token to be able to access this blockchain itself and the security thereof.  Thank you. 

   >> PAUL WILSON: Thank you very much, Pindar.  I realize we have hit the end of our time, so I am sorry for not having a better wrap-up for this, but I think the last couple of comments serve that purpose very well.  So thank you all for coming.  Thanks for your contributions.