Ensuring full participation in the digital economy by all citizens, particularly the most marginalized, is essential in order to extend the economic and social benefits of the Internet and prevent a digital-divide driven widening of income inequality. Greater access and adoption of digital technologies can significantly improve the delivery of development services such as healthcare, food security, and education.
However, private sector investment in connectivity infrastructure is limited by a commercial frontier where marginal returns from investments in higher-income areas outpace returns from marginalized communities especially urban poor, remote and rural communities. Therefore, we are focusing on targeted activities to extend connectivity services to marginalized communities and geographies in order to ensure full participation in the digital economy, impact household income growth and social development, and improve development services delivery.
Our targeted activities focus on closing market information gaps that are currently limiting participation by investors, entrepreneurs, donors and governments in last-mile connectivity initiatives in order to facilitate greater investment, innovation and experimentation. These include:
1) Improving network access/coverage mapping
2) Highlighting opportunities and matchmaking between potential investments and potential funding
3) Encouraging new entry (investment actors/vehicles)
The Last-Mile Connectivity Business Modeling Tool is a dynamic Excel workbook designed to provide investors, entrepreneurs and donors with insight into the underlying financials of potential connectivity entities. Inputting basic data and context assumptions generates potential cash flow statements, key financial metrics and potential social impact.
As the global community approaches the third decade of the 21st century, the importance of the Internet in our social, economic, and political lives will only continue to grow. The prospect of billions of the most vulnerable people left without access and, therefore, unable to participate fully in our increasingly digitally intermediated world ought to be cause for alarm for policymakers, industry, and civil society alike. The recommendations in this report are a call to action for building on the progress to date and ensuring that the global community focuses on Internet access as a foundational element for sustained socioeconomic development.
Roughly four billion people globally have yet to adopt the internet. By including internet access in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global community is committed to expanding access and promoting adoption. As governments, donors, think tanks, and others try to understand how to achieve the SDGs, a significant body of work on barriers and progress toward internet access and adoption is expanding. The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) commissioned this paper to understand potential business model and technology innovations for accelerating access and adoption of mobile phones and the internet in emerging markets and inform the development community of innovations underway, as well as lessons emerging from these efforts.
As described in the report, the Internet is an integral part of the global economy. It generates more than $4 trillion and has been shown to increase opportunities in education, gender empowerment and transparent governance. Yet more than half the world’s population lacks Internet access. This so-called digital divide, between the connected and unconnected, is particularly acute in rural areas in the least developed countries. Low household incomes and high infrastructure investment costs deter investment in network connectivity, leaving communities and local economies cut off and at risk of falling further behind their peers. This report, however, uncovers innovative, low-cost business models that are being put in use around the world to connect the world’s lowest income consumers.