Extending Access to Rural Communities

  • Joe Duncan
  • January 24, 2013
Extending Rural Access

Demographic data reflects approximately 56% of developing country populations, an estimated 2.85 billion, live in small rural communities—2.95 million discrete localities.

This population is often the most socio- economically disadvantaged, with women and indigenous ethnic minority groups carrying the heaviest burden brought about by this isolation.

Access to Social and Economic Services
These rural populations are also often a priority for international donor and government programs.

As reflected in the large number of rural localities worldwide, leveraging ICTs may be the only viable approach for delivering socioeconomic services for years to come.

These services range from basic voice and text services capable of providing mobile money, mobile agriculture, etc. With broadband, more sophisticated services can be provided to these remote locations—education, health services, access to government, etc.

Rural Telecom Access
Nearly 50% of the rural populations in developing countries are without access to electricity and voice services. Virtually all are without affordable broadband services.

The current challenge is in reaching these rural communities. Fortunately over the past few years a number of commercially viable innovative technologies solutions have surfaced, capable of delivering high quality access at a significantly reduced cost.

These dynamics include a move towards small cell solutions, along with broadband distribution and long-distance backhaul solutions using unlicensed frequencies. A new generation of Ka band satellites also holds rich potential.

Off-Grid Clean Energy
The new generation of small cells and long- distance connectivity solutions also require lower demands for electricity.

Parallel to this, there are viable clean electricity solutions emerging, including solar, wind, and pico-hydro. And in the near future, small- scale biofuel solutions—all being suitable for meeting demands in off-grid settings.

Also, new business models are emerging in these off-grid settings, where there are opportunities for leveraging a community-based network as an anchor tenant for bringing electricity into the rural community via micro-grids.

Sustainable Business Models
Ultimately there is the need to achieve financial sustainability. New business models needs to focus around the deployment of thousands of community-based microtelcos. One model is where these local deployments are through a franchise arrangement. Others include build- own-operate or build-own-transfer models.

For more information on the GBI program, contact GBi Program Manager Joe Duncan by e-mail:


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