Digital Inclusion
Last-Mile Connectivity Initiative

USAID's Last-Mile Connectivity Initiative drives investment and innovation to extend internet to the world's 4 billion unconnected people.​

The Challenge

The growing digital economy generates more than $4 trillion in value annually. It provides the power to transform lives through financial, health, and information services. In developing markets, the digital economy is forecasted to grow at 18 percent per year. However, over 4 billion people still do not have access to the internet. 

Often low-income and remote, many unconnected areas are not economically viable for mobile network operators (MNOs) and internet service providers (ISPs) to supply under their traditional business models. Current service delivery models have nearly reached their market frontiers under business as usual. It is at this frontier where innovation is taking root. A growing set of companies employing alternative business models for connectivity are finding novel solutions to profitably reach those that remain unconnected.

Photo Credit: Panos

The Opportunity

Innovative connectivity solutions are emerging to reach low-income consumers in the most challenging markets. They are providing practicable, profitable, market-based approaches to internet connectivity for marginalized populations.

  • The world's 4 billion lowest-income consumers have an estimated $308 billion to spend annually on communications.
  • Their demand for connectivity is growing.
  • In developing countries, 62 percent of mobile phones are smartphones.
  • Top firms like Microsoft, Facebook, International Network Investments, and Vulcan, Inc. are already investing in last-mile connectivity.
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The Solution

USAID's Digital Inclusion Program leads the Last-Mile Connectivity Initiative to drive investment, innovation, and experimentation into technologies and businesses providing connectivity to marginalized populations. The initiative focuses on:

  • Increasing the availability and accessibility of market information on the financial and social opportunities presented by low-cost and profitable businesses providing connectivity. 
  • Highlighting successful last-mile businesses and generating matchmaking opportunities between potential investees and investors.
  • Exploring and encouraging new entry (investment actors/vehicles) and avenues for providing risk capital to enable promising, early-stage innovations.
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