Rural access to ICTs

Source: I4D Online
The time has come to reflect on the impact of ICT-based initiatives on rural women’s participation in the economy. Unfortunately, gender disaggregated statistical data and well-analysed and documented case studies are still rare. Nevertheless by studying what material is there, some interesting lessons can be learnt that practitioners and donors should take to heart. [see more]
It is now widely acknowledged that a liberalised market fully in compliance with their own rigid prescriptions can fail in certain circumstances, one of which is in delivering network access to low-income rural areas.

There is general agreement on the main obstacle: dispersed populations and low levels of income translate into higher costs and reduced per-customer returns, rendering conventional approaches economically unattractive, whether for market-driven or incumbent providers. While pooling users in the form of telecentres and cybercafes can enhance usage levels, extending the reach of the network remains the key challenge.

An alternative approach for rural ICT access is the community ownership model that combines community-owned Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) enterprises with the new wave of wireless and related technologies. This approach can greatly reduce costs and maximize the value-added of community resources, enabling the emergence of a new business model that is both more economically sustainable and more empowering than anything else available. Furthermore, the impact on development is greater as local needs are addressed more effectively, while they act as a community catalyst and as a support for a range of other development activities.

Certain advantages of a community-ownership model have long been demonstrated in infrastructure projects, in both developed and developing countries. In poorer countries, local community control and participation is widely recognised as being critical to the success of ICT projects such as telecentres and application development.

On the other hand, technological innovations, especially wireless technology, considerably reinforce the potential of community owned enterprises to help solve the rural access issue.
This is due to their low level of initial investment and scalability, their relatively simple technical deployment, their low-cost and open standards, and their adaptability to voice and data requirements. Furthermore, open source software is now developed for full-scale wireless networks.

The viability of the community ownership approach, although, depends on two pressing needs: access to finance and an enabling environment at national and local level. These are essential to ensure long-term sustainability from the community itself.

Regulatory obstacles have long been the major barrier to progress in many areas of ICT development. Limitations of one-size-fits-all liberalization of the sector, and the failure of one-operator-does-all schema is leading the debate at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) beyond binary oppositions and into new and less dogmatic territory.

Based a the document prepared by Seán Ó Siochrú for “WSIS Papers”: “Community ownership of ICTs: New possibilities for poor communities”
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Thursday, November 16 2006
Gains of engendering ICTs in rural Uganda
(Source: I4D Online)
Monday, July 24 2006
ICTs: Information and communication technologies for the poor
(Source: International Food Policy Research Institute)

The community ownership model

Community-based networks and innovative technologies to serve and empower the poor (UNDP)

Community ownership of ICTs: New possibilities for poor communities (WSIS Papers)

New models of network ownership and management: the role of local communities (World Dialogue on Regulation for Network Economies)

Discovering the "Magic Box": local appropriation of ICTs (FAO)

Ownership and partnership: keys to sustaining ICT-enabled development activities (IICD)

Poverty reduction through self-help: rediscovering the cooperative advantage (ILO)

Examples and case studies

Nepal wireless networking project: case study and evaluation report (Knowledge networking for rural development in Asia/Pacific Region (ENRAP))

Knowledge sharing for rural development: Challenges, experiences & methods (Latin America Information Agency)

Gains of engendering ICTs in rural Uganda (I4D Online)

ICTs: Information and communication technologies for the poor (International Food Policy Research Institute)

India: ICTs catalyse the rural and farm economy (I4D Online)

An experience of indigenous communications in Bolivia (FAO)

India: "Information Village Research Project" (Swaminathan Research Foundation)

Assessing the need and potential of community networking for developing countries: a case study from India (e-Development group)

Rural telecom cooperatives in the US ( National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA))

Community telecentre cookbook for Africa (UNESCO)

Detailed case studies on ICT project successes and sustainability (Eldis)

Laos: community owned communication network

Indonesia: motivating community based ICT infrastructure development (IDRC)

Rural community ICT applications: the Kothmale model (City University of Hong Kong)

Bhutan: migration to new technologies mission report (ITU)

Profitable universal access providers (Eldis)

New and old technologies for rural and community access

The wireless internet opportunity for developing countries (Information for Development Programme)

Open Spectrum International

Refuting objections to a Global Rural Network (GRNet) for developing nations (First Monday)

Harnessing ICTs to improve rural livelihoods in developing countries (id21)

Enhancing rural livelihoods: The role of ICTs (Id21)

The economic impact of telecommunications on rural livelihoods and poverty reduction (

What's stopping the wireless revolution? (Panos)

WiLAC Project (WiLAC)

Communication for development (FAO)

The one to watch: radio, new ICT and interactivity ( Comunica)

Out of the labs and into the developing world: using appropriate technologies to promote truly global Internet diffusion ( Center for International Development, Harvard University)

Wireless networks and rural development: opportunities for Latin America (University of Southern California)

Wireless networks for the developing world (ITC)

Community Wireless Connectivity Project: starting work in Africa (APC)


Will technology trickle down to rural America? (NetAction)

Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN)


Wireless community network

The wireless developer network

Comparison study of Open Source and Proprietary Software in an African context: Implementation and Policy-making to opti

Kofi Annan's IT challenge (ZD Net)

Rural access issues addressed at WSIS

The role of ICTs in fighting rural poverty: roundtable at WSIS 2003

WSIS: shaping information societies for human needs (ITU)

WSIS Plan of Action: the need for rural access (ITU)

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