Catalyzing Broadband Internet in Africa
This project aims to inform policies that help marginalized groups in Africa, such as women and the poor, to take advantage of the social and economic opportunities of broadband Internet. Internet access is critical for social and economic development in developing countries. According to a 2009 World Bank study, a 10% increase in broadband penetration generates a 1.4% increase in gross domestic product (GDP) in low-income countries. Recent studies also found that Internet users' household income was an average of 19% higher than non-users in several developing countries. Broadband Internet creates an environment that spurs business growth, nurtures science and innovation, and empowers people. Africa offers a good example of the potential benefits and challenges of creating broadband networks. While access to mobile technology has risen tremendously, a new gap is emerging between those who have access to broadband Internet and those who do not. Public services and economic opportunities are increasingly moving online. Access to high speed broadband networks is essential for Africans to earn a living. Those without access, often women and the poor, risk being further excluded. Public policies can contribute to an affordable and inclusive broadband Internet infrastructure. To ensure the benefits of access to broadband are widely distributed, it is critical that policies take the needs of marginalized populations into consideration. The South Africa-based think tank Research ICT Africa (RIA) will manage the project and conduct the research. RIA seeks to: -determine the policy challenges related to providing affordable broadband services; -influence policy processes with reliable evidence and evaluate policy outcomes; -mobilize African research networks focused on broadband to identify innovative ideas and solutions that help to reduce inequality and poverty; and -build African researchers' and policy leaders' capacity to undertake rigorous research that informs pro-poor broadband policies. IDRC's support to RIA will contribute to reformed policies in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria that ensure inclusive access to broadband Internet in Africa. In doing so, the policies will help enable widespread social, economic, and political gains.