Thursday, 14 January 2021

ITU Releases 'The Last-Mile Internet Connectivity Solutions Guide'



Despite the meteoric growth of the Internet and broadband connectivity, 3.7 billion people remain offline and are excluded from the direct benefits of the global digital economy, says a new publication just released by the International Telecommunication Union, The Last-Mile Internet Connectivity Solutions Guide: Sustainable connectivity options for unconnected sites. The press release said:

While there are multiple constraints on Internet access and use, the Solutions Guide addresses those posed by gaps in infrastructure coverage and service affordability. The low return on investment in network deployment in sparsely populated areas means that, in many developing countries, connectivity is largely limited to urban areas, leaving rural and remote areas totally cut off. 

Moreover, even when telecommunication networks are present, access to the Internet may be limited by prohibitively high prices, and lower-income individuals and families may be priced out of connectivity. 

Offline populations are particularly concentrated in least developed countries (LDCs), where according to latest ITU data, only 19 per cent of individuals were online in 2019. Regionally, in Africa and Asia-Pacific, less than half the population is online: 29 and 45 per cent respectively.

Written from the perspective of localities and users in areas without Internet access, the Solutions Guide contains tools, service interventions and policy solutions that can help policy-makers to select and customize appropriate solutions to extend Internet access to their localities, taking into account their unique characteristics. 

The guide is divided into four main steps that outline the planning and policy development phases of interventions to encourage infrastructure  deployments:

  1. Identify digitally unconnected and underserved regions;
  2. Review options from existing solutions;
  3. Select sustainable solutions that best fit the given situation;
  4. Implement interventions to extend sustainable connectivity service. 

The guide draws on lessons learned by governments, service providers, technology vendors, international organizations, multilateral development banks, bilateral donors, academia and others over the past 30 years. It is intended to be a living, active guide that is continuously updated and revised. 

In addition to the Solutions Guide, ITU is developing a range of resources to help Member States address last-mile connectivity challenges, including a database of case studies and interactive last-mile connectivity diagnostic and decision-making tools. It also offers capacity-building services and assistance on design, planning and implementation, including identifying unconnected areas and providing expert guidance on the selection of sustainable technical, financial and regulatory solutions. 

The PDF is available here. You can find the database and other information here.

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