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United States

Promote Global Interconnectivity (US0098)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Aid, Capacity Building, Media & Telecommunications, Science & Technology

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Not Relevant

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

The United States Government, in coordination with other countries, multilateral institutions, and stakeholders, will work to actively promote global interconnectivity. Specifically, the Global Connect initiative will focus on encouraging foreign countries to promote Internet connectivity in development plans; to work in cooperation with multilateral development institutions in order to support connectivity and digital technologies; and finally, to harness the knowledge, skills and resources of the tech community itself to implement solutions for high-speed, affordable broadband access. As part of Global Connect, the United States will champion Internet policies, including openness, transparency, and rule of law, that can encourage investment and create a strong enabling environment for digital growth to ensure these new connections bear fruit

IRM Midterm Status Summary

This commitment was not assessed in the midterm IRM report.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 46. Promote Global Interconnectivity

Commitment Text:

Champion Internet Connectivity through Global Connect

The United States Government, in coordination with other countries, multilateral institutions,

and stakeholders, will work to actively promote global interconnectivity. Specifically, the Global Connect initiative will focus on encouraging foreign countries to promote Internet connectivity in development plans; to work in cooperation with multilateral development institutions in order to support connectivity and digital technologies; and finally, to harness the knowledge, skills and resources of the tech community itself to implement solutions for high-speed, affordable broadband access. As part of Global Connect, the United States will champion Internet policies, including openness, transparency, and rule of law, that can encourage investment and create a strong enabling environment for digital growth to ensure these new connections bear fruit.

Responsible Institution: Not specified

Supporting Institution: Not specified

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Editorial Note: Completion at the midterm is not assessed for this commitment because it was submitted to OGP in September 2016 following the close of the midterm reporting period; progress for this commitment is therefore assessed from September 2016 onwards in the sections below.

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed for the United States to promote global interconnectivity, specifically by having the Global Connect Initiative [631] encourage foreign governments to include efforts to promote internet connectivity in their development plans, working with major international development institutions to support internet connectivity and digital technologies, and working with the private sector to promote high-speed, affordable internet access. Through Global Connect, the US government committed to further work to establish a stronger enabling environment for digital growth by championing a range of “internet policies,” defined to include openness, transparency, and rule of law.

This commitment took place in the context of growing US emphasis on promoting internet freedom abroad, with the US Congress allocating more than $145 million to the US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development for activities that advance internet freedom. [632] According to a report published by the Brookings Institution, the “starting point” for the State Department’s focus on internet freedom “is that America’s traditionally strong advocacy for civil liberties should apply fully and without exception to the online world. Thus, if a government seeks to restrict these freedoms online, the US government will oppose it both rhetorically and in practice including by directly funding the development and rollout of tools that will subvert restrictive internet policies.” [633]

The Global Connect Initiative, launched by the US State Department on 27 September 2015 to support the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims to provide internet access to 1.5 billion additional people by 2020. [634] In contrast to the State Department’s broader activities in this area, the Global Connect Initiative is more directly focused on the potential social and economic benefits afforded by high-speed internet connectivity, with the White House noting that “access to affordable high-speed Internet can unleash the human potential and vastly expand the social and economic opportunities that exist in the digital age. It can change lives by connecting schools to the web, bringing telemedicine to rural health centers, lowering the barriers to political participation, and supplying up-to-date market information to businesses and entrepreneurs.” [635] The initiative’s goal of bringing 1.5 billion people online is ambitious in light of the fact that four billion people (60% of the global population) lacked internet access as of 2016. [636]

While the commitment aimed to broaden internet access, the government did not clearly commit to a disclosure of government-held information or improved opportunities for civic engagement. Instead, the goal of the commitment was to achieve broader social and economic benefits through internet access. In this sense, the commitment is not clearly relevant to the OGP values of open government. Moreover, it is unclear what kind of effect this commitment could have on US government practices, given the emphasis of the commitment text on supporting connectivity in other countries.

As written, the commitment has low specificity because it lacks clarity surrounding the range of foreign governments that will be targeted via Global Connect, the range of partner institutions that will support these efforts (e.g. multilateral development institutions and private sector actors), the scope of digital technologies that will be supported, and what exactly is meant by “internet policies.” Due to the lack of specificity surrounding these issues, it is not possible to anticipate a major impact.

Status

End of term: Substantial

Progress on this commitment was substantial at the end of term, owing largely to the Global Connect Initiative’s participation in various events (co-)organized or attended by multilateral development institutions.

By the close of the end of term reporting period, the IRM researcher was unable to document concrete actions taken by the government to promote internet connectivity in foreign countries’ development plans.

By contrast, with respect to supporting connectivity and digital technologies in cooperation with multilateral development institutions, on 15 September 2016, the US Ambassador to India Richard R. Verma delivered a speech on the Global Connect Initiative at an event titled Internet Inclusion: Advancing Solutions (IIAS) organized by the Indian Institution of Industrial Engineering (IIIE) in Delhi. Participants included government officials, representatives of development banks, the private sector, the technical community, and civil society “for a day of collaboration on bringing affordable, universal Internet access to the almost 60 percent of the world’s population that remains unconnected today.” [637]

In addition, on 18 September 2016, the US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment and the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development co-organized an annual meeting in New York to discuss means of promoting broadband internet access abroad to help meet development goals. Per a blog post on the Global Connect Initiative’s website, “many Broadband Commissioners expressed support for the key objectives of the Global Connect Initiative and, in particular, were keen on finding ways to accelerate major infrastructure projects among international development finance institutions.” [638]

Separately, on 5-6 October 2016, representatives of the Global Connect Initiative participated in the second annual Global Connect Stakeholders Conference on “Advancing Solutions” organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the World Bank, Internet Society, and People Centered Internet. Per a blog post discussing the event, participants included “175 top connectivity network engineers,” as well as regulatory experts and representatives from government to “discuss approaches aimed at advancing solutions to challenges to increasing connectivity and achieving Global Connect’s ambitious goals.” Several specific topics discussed at the event include running cables along the coast of West Africa, financing for connectivity and ICT projects, and leveraging connectivity to further human rights. [639]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

Public Accountability: Did Not Change

While the commitment is substantially complete, the activities undertaken by the government did not raise levels of openness, given their lack of clear relevance to the OGP values of open government. Moreover, while the events in which the government participated via the Global Connect Initiative may be seen as laying the groundwork for improvements in connectivity, they did not contribute to measurable changes in the level of openness domestically, the expected goal of an OGP national action plan, and the target of this evaluation.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. The government should nevertheless continue with efforts to promote internet connectivity abroad in light of the large percentage of the global population that continues to lack internet access, and should attempt to take more concrete steps in this direction relative to the activities that were completed under this commitment thus far. However, if this topic is included in a future OGP action plan, it is important that the activities be more closely linked to making the US government more open, such as by including the public in the development of new internet policies.

[631] U.S. Department of State. “Global Connect Initiative.” https://share.america.gov/globalconnect/. Consulted 9 October 2017.

[632] US Department of State. “Internet Freedom.” https://www.state.gov/j/drl/internetfreedom/index.htm. Consulted 8 October 2017.

[633] The Brookings Institution. “Internet Freedom: The Role of the US State Department.” 25 October 2012. https://www.brookings.edu/research/internet-freedom-the-role-of-the-u-s-state-department/. Consulted 8 October 2017.

[634] ShareAmerica. “Global Connect Initiative.” https://share.america.gov/globalconnect. Consulted 8 October 2017. 

[635] The Obama White House.“The Global Connect Initiative: Catalyzing Internet Access Worldwide.” 7 October 2016. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/07/global-connect-initiative-catalyzing-internet-access-world-wide. Consulted 8 October 2017.

[636] Ibid. Consulted 8 October 2017.

[637] Global Connect Initiative. “Internet Inclusion: Advancing Solutions - Delhi, India, September 15, 2016.” https://share.america.gov/globalconnect/. Consulted 9 October 2017.

[638] Global Connect Initiative. “Annual Meeting of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, New York, September 18, 2016.” https://share.america.gov/globalconnect/. Consulted 9 October 2017.

[639] Global Connect Initiative. “Internet Inclusion: Global Connect Stakeholders Advancing Solutions — Washington, D.C., October 5-6, 2016.” https://share.america.gov/globalconnect/. Consulted 9 October 2017.


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