The Wireless Internet Opportunity For Developing Countries

November 17, 2005

While poking around on stuff related to the WSIS in Tunis, I found this excellent document about wireless internet in Africa, which was used at the first meeting of the WSIS in 2003. I only wish that there was an updated copy somewhere ...

"The most intriguing application [of wireless technology] in developing nations is the deployment of low-cost broadband Internet infrastructure and last-mile distribution.

The rationale for such interest is simple in theory: The digital divide cannot be resolved any time soon because of the prohibitive cost of deploying conventional wired infrastructure in developing countries. Wireless Internet, however, has the potential to solve this bottleneck, as the collection of articles and case studies in this volume demonstrates. ...

So, why should this topic become central to the World Summit on Information Society initiative? First, wireless Internet may be a very effective and inexpensive connectivity tool, but it does not carry any magic in itself. It can only be successfully deployed as demand for connectivity and bandwidth emerges in support of relevant applications for the populations served. These may be supporting e-government, e-education, e-health, e-business or e-agriculture applications. But those are not easily implemented in the developing world. They do suggest that wireless Internet can indeed be sustainably and in some cases profitably deployed in support of economic and social development objectives in developing countries.

The greatest aspect of this document is that it represents how often the most successful cases of adoption is grassroots and local — this type of development does not work well when it is imposed by some NGO or corporation.

You can read the entire document at infodev, an organization created to "promote better understanding, and effective use, of information and communication technologies (ICT) as tools of poverty reduction and broad-based, sustainable development."