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Mobile services: a game-changer for the greater good

Pierre Guislain's picture
Mobile services are the extension services of inclusion.  Increasingly, the world’s poor – and especially the bottom 40 percent in terms of income – are being reached via mobile devices by government agencies, development partners, banks, companies and others. 

As we extend networks, and in particular broadband, to reach more isolated populations and the bottom 40 percent, we need to foster the development of relevant content in substance (including government services) as well as form (including pictorial and video information for the illiterate).

 
Mobile-money services like M-Pesa have 
helped bring banking to millions in 
developing countries. Photo: Ventures Africa 
The private sector is the key driver of this entire change process, which government should facilitate.
 
The acceleration of technological change – with mobile is at the forefront – is leading to increased convergence between networks, devices, services and content providers. Judging from what I saw and heard during last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona,  my sense is that telecommunications regulation (as  practiced today) will soon become obsolete, overshadowed by the importance of ensuring an overall balance and flexibility in this broader, converging market. 

Consequently, institutions like the World Bank will need to find better ways to ensure that key regulators talk to each other and work towards the greater public good. This includes not only telecom and competition authorities, but also broadcasting, financial services and other regulatory bodies. We should facilitate these conversations between regulators, especially in view of the fast-growing involvement of telecommunications entities in the mobile money space.

What we'll be doing at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress

Doyle Gallegos's picture
For a week every year, Barcelona, Spain becomes the mobile capital of the world as thousands from around the world convene in the city for the Mobile World Congress (MWC). In 2014, 85,000 participants attended the MWC, including more than 1,800 exhibitors, 4,500 industry CEOs, 139 government delegations and 22 international institutions).
 
The World Bank is sending an information and communications technology (ICT) team, led by Senior Director Pierre Guislain. While there, we will immerse ourselves in the latest research, trends and conversations about mobile communications. Our activities, discussions and investigations are being led by our quest for “Broadband Access for All,” which is one of our Global Practice’s strategic areas – as well as the primary theme for this year’s MWC. We believe that connectivity equals opportunity, and are working with clients and countries around the world to close the digital divide.
 
We focus on technical assistance, infrastructure, partnerships and policy solutions to help ensure that broadband Internet is not only accessible, but also affordable for all. Our Senior Director’s speech and panel discussion at next week’s meetings is titled “Elements and Enablers of Mobile Affordability: What is required to achieve affordable access to mobile broadband for everyone?”
 
One of the MWC’s key elements, and one of particular interest to our ICT team, is the Ministerial Program. This is a forum for government and telecommunications regulators and representatives to debate current problems, learn from emerging trends and engage with international organizations and operators.  We will be holding bilateral meetings with government ministers, industry stakeholders, potential donors and others to discuss real-life projects, ongoing challenges and solutions, and collaboration opportunities.

Azerbaijan's broadband at a crossroads

Natalija Gelvanovska's picture
View of Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo: David Davidson/flickr

Geographically and historically, Azerbaijan has often been at the crossroads: of trade routes, cultures, and influences. From a telecom policymaking standpoint, the country is currently at another important crossroad - this time having to choose from available regulatory approaches designed to pave the way for the high-speed broadband roll-out across the country.
 
Which regulatory framework is best to follow? Which country experience is closest to the needs of the Azerbaijani population and could provide for not only rapid but, more importantly, self-sustaining broadband market development?

Over the last year I had a chance to analyze the Azerbaijani broadband market, with my objective being the formulation of advice on the best way to stimulate the broadband market growth. In this blog I would like to briefly outline two relevant models of fixed broadband market development, either of which, from a quick glance, could be considered appealing for Azerbaijan because of a positive market growth trajectory and low consumer prices (the full analysis will be published soon). The models I am referring to are competition-led and government-led market development approaches, in the analysis they are represented by experiences of two oil-exporting economies, similar to Azerbaijan - Norway and Qatar.
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Thoughts on the Future of ICT Regulation in Nigeria

CGCS's picture

An Ox 2013 alumnus Temitope Lawal discusses the issues surrounding Nigerian ICT regulation and the future of the Nigerian ICT sector.

What drew you to the study of telecommunication and media regulation?

The liberalization of the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, which started in 2001, aroused my interest in regulation of the ICT sector. This, coupled with the rapid development of new technologies including next generation network access in developed countries, informed my decision to pursue the requisite academic and professional knowledge towards contributing to the development of the ICT sector in Nigeria.

What effect has learning about telecommunications globally and interacting with people from cultures and backgrounds had on your research?

Learning about global telecommunications has exposed me to various issues, including the importance of reducing the digital divide in developing countries. As a developing country, Nigeria continues to struggle with the provision of telephony, broadcasting, and internet access to people residing in under-served areas of the country. I intend to further my research in this area so as to understand how best to address and overcome the challenge of providing people with equal access to communication services, taking into consideration my experience and interaction with telecommunication practitioners around the world.

Connectivity equals opportunity: PPPs narrow the "broadband gap"

Pierre Guislain's picture
A billboard announces the arrival of high-speed broadband internet
in downtown Nukua'lofa, the capital of Tonga. Photo: Tom Perry / World Bank
You don’t need to be a grandparent or even have a particularly long memory to recall a time when information and communications technology (ICT) devices were luxuries only a few could afford, if not something lifted entirely from the pages of science fiction. Reform of the ICT sector happened fast, both in broadband and mobile, and we all feel it in our personal and professional lives. The extraordinarily rapid uptake of mobile telephony in developing countries is the most compelling element of the
ICT story, but it’s only partly about the technology itself.

The real plot twist lies in why reform took off so quickly. Simply put, the incumbents did not see mobile services as threatening. Telecom companies thought of it as a fancy, add-on service that would be useful for rich people but unthreatening to the standard business model. However, the new technology was able to fill gaps in countries where there was no service at all, and it was able to make very rapid inroads. Elsewhere, people would have gone through a more traditional rollout of fixed network and then mobile; in developing countries, mobile became the main service because incumbent service was so poor. Mobile moved in because the incumbents had not done their job.

This shows that the most important element of progress in ICT is the creation of an environment where competition can flourish. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are key players in this chapter of the ICT narrative. We see this in articles and interviews throughout Handshake, which examines PPPs in broadband and mobile/telecom (which together comprise our definition of ICT) and the services this infrastructure makes possible. In other words, we’re looking at PPPs whose infrastructure creates connections and whose services deliver connectivity.

How affordable is broadband?

Arturo Muente-Kunigami's picture
3.5 billion people do not have access to affordable broadband
(Note: China and India were broken out in this graph due to the distorting effect of their populations on the estimations per region.)

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), broadband can be considered affordable when it is at or below five percent of the average monthly income[1]. Statistics are usually reported on country averages; under a “Broadband for All” objective, it might be useful to realize that behind averages income is distributed unevenly among the population of a country. That is, even if broadband prices are effectively under five percent of the average monthly income of a country, that same price indeed represents a higher share of the income of the poorest segments of the population.

In this blog post, I will try to show the differences that averages hide, as well as highlight the importance of addressing specific segments of the population, especially when dealing with the bottom 40 percent of the population, which are – almost by definition – usually underestimated on average.

Using statistics from ITU and World Development Indicators (WDI), I have tried to calculate (grossly and certainly with lots of room for improvement) a tool to measure this “affordability gap” between countries and – more importantly – within countries.

​Smart Africa returns – with a focus on Rwanda

Samia Melhem's picture
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (center) and Minister Jean Philbert
Nsengimana (left) work with children during the recent
"Smart Rwanda Days" conference in Kigali.
“Smart” is in. So is digital. According to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, “digital innovation has leveled the playing field, making it easy for anyone from anywhere can compete in the global economy. Today, ideas do not have borders and therefore countries cannot be landlocked.”

Earlier this month, the Government of Rwanda convened a “Smart Rwanda Days” conference, bringing together participants from seven countries. During the two-day event, attendees were asked to “take the pulse” of digital development across Africa – as well as within their own countries – and then set concrete roles and responsibilities for current members of the Smart Africa alliance (Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Gabon). The event was co-sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union, the African Union and several private-sector companies.
  The Smart Rwanda Master Plan (SRMP), developed by the government in consultation with representatives of civil society and private sector, in February 2014, calls for better services to citizens through e-government and ICT education at all levels. The Plan includes a specific focuses on broadband networks and tertiary education, as well as fostering investments, innovation and creative local content to strengthen ICT. “Africa is on unstoppable move forward that tremendous progress is being made, but also the room for increasing speed and impact is limitless,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister for Youth and ICT.

Connecting Europe’s underserved communities to broadband

Roger Burks's picture
The benefits of broadband Internet are well-documented: for each 10-percent increase in penetration, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) can increase by as much as 1.5 percent. In addition, broadband Internet brings citizens access to new job opportunities, health services and possibilities for digital engagement with their government.
 
Broadband Internet can help bring jobs
to underserved areas, boosting
economic prospects.
However, citizens of the European Union (EU) who live in rural and economically disadvantaged areas have little access to broadband Internet, and therefore miss out on the wide range of opportunities it offers. Today, only 18 percent of rural households in Europe have access to these services.
 
As a result of these gaps and challenges, the European Commission is partnering with the World Bank and others on a new “Connected Communities” initiative. This large-scale project will connect towns and cities to broadband partnerships and operators, offering critical advice and specific business models to finally bring fast Internet to underserved communities.

A global information society: are we there yet?

Samia Melhem's picture
Gender and inclusion
must be more
integrated into global
information and 
​communication
technology
​(ICT) strategies.
The concept of a global information society is one of the most discussed and misunderstood “Big Ideas” of our time. While we’ve made gigantic strides toward connecting the world through information and communication technologies (ICTs), we have not attained that goal.
 
Over the last decade, ICTs have contributed to globalization, shaped economies, transformed society and changed our history. Companies that didn’t exist in 2003 – including Facebook and Twitter – are now essential components of media strategies and contribute to job creation. Broadband drives economic development across the world, and there are more than seven billion mobile cellular subscriptions.
 
Despite this meteoric change, we’re not quite there yet. While billions of people are already connected to these systems and opportunities, we need much more collaboration to bring about an information society for everyone.

A new Toolkit to help develop national broadband strategies

Sergiu Conovalu's picture
The world of information and communication technology has changed dramatically over the past decade, evolving from a simple transmission path for information into an enabling platform for countless personal, social and business uses. To keep up with this rapidly increasing usage and growing demand, today’s networks are steadily shifting from narrowband to broadband. Consumers are using broadband networks to access the Internet at speeds up to or exceeding 100 Mbit/s over wired connections, and they are increasingly using broadband-enabled mobile phones too for a wide range of activities.
 
The digital divide that was once measured in terms of differences in access to communications is now measured in terms of differences in quality of access.

A new resource from the World Bank, the Broadband Strategies Toolkit (http://www.broadbandtoolkit.org), offers advice to policy-makers and other stakeholders on how to develop a national broadband strategy. Based on expert research and collaboration that began in 2011, the final pieces of the toolkit were completed earlier this year.

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