The 1 World Connected initiative was launched in 2016 to provide an empirical foundation for efforts to close the global digital divide. In just the past few years, the proportion of the people of the world able to enjoy the benefits of Internet connectivity surged from one-half to two-thirds. Yet more work needs to be done. The insights generated by 1 World Connected’s research projects aid key decisionmakers, such as government departments and international organizations, in this important work with a data-driven foundation for determining what really works to bring the unconnected online. Over the years, the initiative’s projects have focused on increasing connectivity in the United States (for example, the use of municipal fiber and fixed wireless to connect people in smaller cities and rural areas) plus projects that seek to improve connectivity and access in developing countries in the areas of education, gender, and socioeconomic status. In 2022-2023, 1 World Connected continued its international work.
Increasing Global Connectivity
In September 2022, the University of Pennsylvania, through CTIC’s 1 World Connected project, pledged to the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition (P2C) to be a research and knowledge partner on connectivity and digital transformation. P2C is a multi-agency alliance launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies whose aim is to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally with a focus on developing countries. The pledge includes producing vital data-driven insights for policymakers and decision-makers and for supporting the evaluation of P2C initiatives.
Addressing Smartphone Affordability as a Barrier to Internet Adoption
1 World Connected’s research shows that universal access to broadband has increased. But even with improved access, the number of people using the Internet remains low, especially in developing countries. This suggests the need to focus on other barriers, and a particularly important one that emerged is smartphone affordability.
In 2022-2023, CTIC continued its collaboration with the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s Working Group on Smartphone Access to address this barrier to Internet adoption. The Working Group, consisting of experts from diverse global organizations and government departments, appointed Prof. Christopher Yoo as the initiative’s lead expert. Prof. Yoo and the 1 World Connected team of CTIC fellows and Penn students researched and analyzed strategies to improve smartphone access, including local manufacturing of devices, device subsidies, and a reduction in device import duties. The analysis resulted in the identification of higher priority interventions, interventions that merit further exploration, and lower priority interventions. The team’s findings, along with its actionable recommendations to improve universal smartphone affordability, were published in the milestone report, Strategies Towards Universal Smartphone Access released at the UN General Assembly 77 in September 2022 in New York City. The CTIC project team included CTIC research fellows Leon Gwaka and Sindhura K S and Penn students Shahana Banerjee, Meghan Moran, and Sophie Roling.
The Impact of Connectivity on Education and Socioeconomic Outcomes
Education is another major focus for 1 World Connected. The 1 World Connected team is collaborating with UNICEF in Rwanda on a project to assess the impact of GIGA, a UNICEF- and ITU-backed project that aims to connect every school to the Internet by 2030, on education outcomes in Rwanda. The project will apply innovative methods to assess impacts among 50 pilot schools that received connectivity through GIGA. Findings from this project will feed into the country-wide implementation of GIGA. Prof. Yoo, who served as an external expert and advisor for GIGA, toured one of the GIGA pilot schools during his visit to Rwanda in June 2022.
The team is also working on a project to assess the socioeconomic impact of connectivity on socioeconomic outcomes. It will use anonymized tax data, matched with connectivity development efforts, from entities such as the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). CTIC research fellow Leon Gwaka visited Rwanda in November 2022 and engaged with potential research partners, including UNICEF, Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), and Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA).
CTIC will continue its collaborations with international organizations on projects that promote Internet accessibility and adoption. These include GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation, Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, ITU’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, and EQUALS: The Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age. In addition, CTIC recently received a grant from Penn Global to continue its work on the impact of mobile Internet use, well-being, and gender in Bangladesh.
In November 2019, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded CTIC and Penn’s Warren Center for Network & Data Services a $350,000 three-year grant to fund new independent research into the role data play in digital platforms’ business models and the resulting impact on antitrust policy and law. The initiative’s co-leaders are Prof. Christopher Yoo and Rakesh Vohra, the George A. Weiss and Lydia Bravo Weiss University Professor of Economics and Electrical and Systems Engineering and the Warren Center’s founding co-director.
In the inaugural phase, EODS funded nine research proposals in such areas as cloud competition, advertising, data neutrality, smart contracts, and the effect of search engines on the media industry. Authors presented their findings at the Inaugural Economics of Digital Services Research Symposium on September 10-11, 2021. For the second phase of the initiative, EODS awarded five grants in October 2021. The findings were presented at the Second Economics of Digital Services Research Symposium on September 9-10, 2022. Research topics, authors, and links to full papers and blog articles for both symposia are listed here.
In November 2022, CTIC and the Warren Center announced the initiative’s 2023 grant recipients. Findings will be presented at the third symposium on September 8-9, 2023, and posted on the EODS initiative’s website and blog.
In recent years, antitrust has emerged as one of the most important and dynamic areas of law, particularly with respect to high technology industries. At the same time, competition law has become global as China and the European Union have become increasingly important enforcement authorities. The United States, European Commission, and China have brought cases against big tech companies and are in the process of considering legislation that would reform the way competition law principles would apply to digital platforms.
To help contribute to these debates, CTIC initiated a multi-year research project to compare how key antitrust issues are handled in China, the EU, and the United States. Phase one of the project focused on due process in antitrust enforcement. The resulting research had a significant impact on the U.S. Justice Department Antitrust Division and its Multilateral Framework on Procedures, the Framework for Competition Agency Procedures of the International Competition Network (ICN), and the Recommendation on Procedural Fairness of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Christopher Yoo and Yong Huang, Professor and Director of the Competition Law Centre at the University of International Business and Economics and member of the Expert Advisory Committee under the Anti-Monopoly Commission of China’s State Council, presented their findings on October 14, 2020, in an online event moderated by Weiwei Shen GL’12 GRL’18, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Legal Research on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence at the China University of Political Science and Law.
Phase two examined the antitrust issues posed by big data. As legislative proposals have taken an increasingly regulatory turn, the research team laid the foundation for a series of research papers applying insights from the research on past regulatory interventions to evaluate different aspects of future proposals.
The project was supported by Penn Global’s China Research and Engagement Fund and corporate contributors.
During the 2020-21 academic year, Christopher Yoo completed his second two-year term as a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).
The BDAC’s mission was to provide advice and make recommendations to the FCC on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access by reducing and removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment. Professor Yoo served as a BDAC member from its inception in January 2017 through the conclusion of its work in March 2021.
Building on his prior service on the Working Group charged with drafting a State Model Code for Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure and Investment and the Ad Hoc Committee on Rates and Fees, Professor Yoo focused his more recent efforts on the Working Group for Increasing Broadband Investment in Low-Income Communities. The Working Group concentrated on both deployment and adoption, paying particular attention to insights drawn from responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The BDAC adopted its report and recommendations in December 2020.
The Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) asked Christopher Yoo and Cary Coglianese to conduct research that served as the basis for recommendations it adopted in December 2020.
The first project, on “Protected Materials in Public Rulemaking Dockets,” was motivated by how the greater opportunity for the public to participate in governmental processes made possible by the Internet has heightened the risks of online disclosure of personally and commercially sensitive information. Agencies must now strike a balance between the need to promote governmental transparency and the obligation to protect individual privacy. The report, written by Professor Yoo, was released on November 24, 2020.
The second project, on “Agency Use of Artificial Intelligence,” explored the questions agencies should consider when deploying artificial intelligence. These include potential bias, transparency, procedural due process, capacity building, and delegation. The Conference commissioned Professor Coglianese to write a report on “A Framework for Governmental Use of Machine Learning,” which was released on December 8, 2020. The Conference adopted Recommendation 2020-2 based on Professor Yoo’s report and Official Statement #20 based on Professor Coglianese’s report on December 16, 2021, at its 73rd Plenary Session. Both were published in the Federal Register on January 22, 2021.
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