The Digital Inclusion team catalyzes USAID investments in internet access and usage through the Agency’s existing and new development programs, providing research and analysis, tools, resources and technical assistance.
The Dadaab refugee complex in northern Kenya was designed to hold 90,000 refugees. Today, it is home to over 500,000. With aid groups pushed to their limits, working in a context of violence and insecurity, effective communication and coordination are crucial. In 2011, USAID forged a diverse partnership to deliver affordable, reliable internet access to the Dadaab refugee complex.
USAID and its implementing partner NetHope brought together humanitarian organizations working in Dadaab, aggregating demand for internet services to attract local telecom providers. The resulting network—DadaabNet—negotiated a reduced price and added bandwidth capacity with Kenyan telecommunications companies, Safaricom and Orange. This partnership resulted in services that are 20 times faster and only 10% of the cost of VSAT systems that were replaced. Humanitarian agencies working in Dadaab are now able to deliver life-saving aid more efficiently while saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Kenya has one of the lowest global internet connectivity rates, with over 70 percent of its population without access to an affordable, reliable broadband connection. This lack of connectivity impacted economic development opportunities, education, healthcare and even governance, dramatically effecting a large portion of the population.
Working with the government of Kenya, NetHope and Microsoft, USAID worked with Mawingu Networks, a local tech startup, to use TV white space technology and solar units to extend Internet access to remote communities in Kenya. With support from USAID, Mawingu Networks piloted this approach in Laikipia County, Kenya, near the town of Nanyuki, where it transformed a local school into a Wifi hotspot, powered by solar panels. Local children, community members and the local health center now enjoy low-cost, high-speed Internet – creating new opportunities for local businesses, education, and health care. Ultimately, the project has enhanced the quality of local education, improved the responsiveness and delivery of key government services, supported local health care systems, and built the country’s capacity for quick and effective disaster response. Following the success of the initial pilot, Mawingu realized an opportunity to scale the delivery of low-cost Wifi to underserved, rural communities across Kenya and has since expanded its reach to connect much of the country through its affordable, efficient technology.
In 2014 USAID helped Indonesia draft and launch its 5-year national broadband plan, estimated to generate $23 billion in affordable, low-cost technologies to deliver internet to underserved schools, local governments, rural health clinics and citizens at commercially viable prices. As part of this, USAID continues to influence how the Indonesian government will disburse $130 million of an available $600 million in Universal Service Funds (USFs), for nationwide fiber optic backbone build-out. This effort will incentivize additional private sector investment to expand broadband, digital literacy and demand-driven services into remote areas of the country. The broadband plan aims to connect 100 million Indonesians through sustainable services within the next five years.