Comments on Intel’s Broadband Paper

A contact from Intel asked me to provide feedback on a white paper the company is finishing on broadband. The draft paper is here: Intel-Broadband_v 1.

The paper looks good but I have a few issues which I briefly highlight below.

1. Unlike others, I do not think broadband alone is going to promote all the stuff mentioned in the white paper. I think we need to take a more sober approach. We had similar discussions back when the “digital divide” was in fashion and the Internet was just emerging. Today, almost 20 years later, only 2.5 billion people use the Internet. So much for closing the gap…

2. I will suggest to reinforce the links between broadband and policy. We probably do not need countries, specially poor countries (the majority BTW), to have yet another strategy on yet another topic (nowadays broadband). What we need to do is advise countries to factor in broadband and other new technologies into current development strategies. We cannot ask countries to redirect scarce funding from existing development priorities to broadband alone (or take loans from the WB to do so, etc.)

3. Broadband is still expensive in most countries and will not be accessible by most of the population in poor countries -that large part of the population that needs the most services and information. How are we going to address this? By expensive I mean regular Western access rates for broadband but with poor country incomes. So 30 USD a month is not much for us to pay for access but it is a lot for people who earn say 2 dollars a day (about 3.5 billion across the globe). What is the pro-poor angle of broadband? Can competition solve this in a sector where fixed costs are relatively high, specially if we think about laying down fibber optic networks?

4. The paper does not say much about local enterprise development and local innovation. Many countries are now thinking of doing things on their own and with their own resources, following what has happened with mobile technologies (look at Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, India, etc.).

5. On this, the paper also needs top address more explicitly mobile broadband. In Kenya for example 85% or so of Internet connections are done via mobiles not computers. This seems to be the future but it is still expensive in spite of intense competition within most countries. And never mind roaming across countries…

6. Demand driven e-gov is the way to go. I can assure you we do much more on this at the country level in UNDP that UNPAN…

Cheers, Raúl

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