Rob Katz

Expanding Rural Access: Evidence From Vietnam, Mongolia and Sri Lanka

Vietnam Expanding Rural Access TowerOver the past year, I have posted two submissions developed by Darrell Owen, a former U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) employee who has been working at the bleeding edge of rural connectivity for the BoP. Darrell’s posts and his white papers reflect ongoing work in the area of expanding rural access to information and communications technology, specifically broadband through wireless technologies.

The first post, Internet for All: A Field Report on the Wireless Revolution, cited some early working papers developed based on his experience. In the second, we posted a related white paper and PowerPoint presentation, Expanding Rural Access – The Case for MicroTelcos, that provide a summary.Last week, I hear from Darrell again–he has just enhanced and expanded his set of short working papers (attachments are in PDF format below) to reflect his continued engagement in this important area. In the new collection of working papers, he takes a fresh look at the nature of universal service funding (USF) programs and their need for significant restructuring. This is due primarily to the potential USF programs offer with regards to directly supporting the Commitments and Agenda coming out of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 and 2005.

Darrell also puts forward a case for needed changes that take into account the findings reflected in The Next 4 Billion: Market Size and Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid. His argument: those living in rural areas are, in fact, a market–and some of the projects Darrell has been engaged in prove this to be the case. He also challenges the approach of USF programs that focus only on telephony and access.

The updated Expanding Rural Access Working Papers include short descriptions of three USAID projects that have been completed in rural Mongolia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Each takes a slightly different approach, relying on different technology solution sets, providing different services, but all showing the viability for financial sustainabilty in remote, rural areas. These papers are not simply ideas and theory, but rather evidence and input from on-the-ground piloting of different approaches in different settings.

Thanks, Darrell, for sharing. Comments are, as always, welcome below.