Published on Digital Development

A new Toolkit to help develop national broadband strategies

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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 (, 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.

Broadband networks offer an enabling platform that allows developers and individual users to enhance existing services and to develop new ones. They give countries an important tool for enhancing national competitiveness by fostering growth, expanding public services, enhancing business opportunities, and better serving their citizens.

The transformative technology of broadband Internet is similar to the impact that electricity had on productivity, growth and innovation more than a century ago. Besides its potential to redefine how economies function, broadband is also proving to be a critical enabler of civic and political engagement, facilitating the exercise of fundamental right to freedom of expression, and giving users the opportunity to become content creators as well as consumers.

However, slow download and upload speeds translate into lost economic opportunities. A substantial gap persists between the developed and the developing world when it comes to broadband: not a single one of the top 10 economies by average broadband speed is in the Southern Hemisphere.

Only with appropriate policies in place can broadband’s full potential as a transformative platform be realized. The World Bank’s ICT Sector Unit, in close cooperation with infoDev, created the Broadband Strategies Toolkit to assist policy-makers, regulators and other relevant stakeholders as they address issues related to broadband development. The Toolkit provides detailed analysis on how to facilitate broadband deployment, with a particular emphasis on developing countries, as well as case studies from Brazil, Kenya, Morocco, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Turkey, and Vietnam.

One of the primary challenges to broadband development is the lack of a uniform definition.  Some see it as a public sector investment, indicating a need to ensure affordable access across all economic sectors. Other countries view network deployment as primarily a private sector matter, which poses a challenge to policy-makers as they consider funding of such priorities. The Toolkit envisions broadband as an ecosystem consisting of supply and demand components, both of which are equally important if the expansion of broadband networks and services is to be successful.

The Toolkit’s seven modules explain the definition and evolution of broadband, why it is important and how we can encourage its development. Specific modules include:
  1. Building Broadbandfocusing on how broadband can help to transform a country’s economic development and improve employment growth
  2. Policy Approaches, which discusses policies and strategies for promoting the build-out of broadband networks, as well as ways to encourage the use of broadband services and applications
  3. Law and Regulation for a Broadband World, highlighting key policies and regulatory trends that policy makers and regulators are considering to foster broadband
  4. Universal Access, explaining what roles governments should play in promoting universal broadband access when market mechanisms do not meet goals for broadband access and use on their own
  5. Infrastructure Technologiesdescribing the various wireline and wireless technologies now being used to build out broadband infrastructure
  6. Driving Demandfocusing on the issue of demand facilitation: what government and the private sector can do to spur the use and adoption of broadband networks and services by consumers
  7. Global Footprints, addressing the main challenges that developing countries face in deploying broadband networks
The Broadband Strategies Toolkit provides a useful policy-oriented underpinning for the 2016 edition of World Development Report (WDR), on the theme Internet for Development. The aim of new report is to assemble the best available evidence of the Internet’s impact on economic growth, equity and the efficiency of public service provision, where broadband development plays a significant role. Moreover, the report will be founded on a synthesis of the latest international research in the emerging field of ICT for Development (ICT4D), as well as a base of original research that will delve deeper into the mechanisms by which the Internet drives growth. 


Tim Kelly

Lead ICT Policy Specialist

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