Community access networks: how to connect the next billion to the Internet

Despite recent progress with mobile technology diffusion, more than four billion people worldwide are unconnected and have limited access to global communication infrastructure. The cost of implementing connectivity infrastructure in underserved areas remains a major barrier. Impoverished rural communities largely make up these unconnected areas, where communities are too poor to incentivize infrastructure investments from traditional telecommunications providers. The ensuing divide is especially acute for women, as it is estimated that 12% fewer women than men have Internet access worldwide, and this rises to a 29% gap in least-developed countries.

According to World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends, there is consensus that access to telecommunications services is a prerequisite to sustainable socio-economic development. This is reflected in several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that target inequalities in access to information and communication technologies (ICT) and telecommunications services. This includes, most significantly, SDG Target 5.b, which aims to enhance the use of enabling technologies to promote women’s empowerment, and Target 9.c, which aims to increase access to ICTs and provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in less-developed countries by 2020.

Exploring alternative strategies that focus on locally owned and managed communication infrastructure and investigating innovations in low-cost communication technology may provide solutions that bring down costs and expand and sustain infrastructure. Current examples include Rhizomatica, which is helping remote indigenous communities in Mexico gain access to previously unused spectrum, resulting in affordable voice and broadband services.

This project examines whether existing local access innovations can be scaled up and replicated in other areas. It will provide case studies and formulate recommendations with respect to telecommunications policies that are inclusive and promote equity in access to connectivity.

Project ID

108580

Project status

Active

Duration

18 months

IDRC Officer

Phet Sayo

Total funding

CA$ 700,000

Countries

North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Central Asia, South Asia, Far East Asia, South America

Program

Networked Economies

Project Leader

Chat Ramilo

Institution

Association for Progressive Communications

Institution Country

United States

Institution Website

http://www.apc.org/english/index.shtml