USAID/NetHope Promote Digital Inclusion
As the potential for digital technology to support improved development outcomes has become clearer over time, an enduring USAID partnership with NetHope has built on opportunities to advance digital inclusion as a development catalyst.
The partnership, which was initiated in 2010 and is now in its final year of implementation, has been driven in collaboration with the USAID Global Development Lab’s Center for Digital Development and has leveraged NetHope’s role as an NGO representing a coalition of nearly 60 of the world’s largest global nonprofits and over 60 leading technology sector companies.
Known as the USAID-NetHope Global Broadband and Innovations Alliance (GBI), the program’s activities have been split into two broad categories: Digital Inclusion and Digital Finance.
Digital Inclusion Projects
Digital Inclusion projects have focused on promoting the expansion of affordable, reliable, and competitively serviced broadband internet access to rural areas in priority countries. The program has benefited from a flexible approach, incorporating elements of technology innovation, business model innovation for last-mile connectivity, and best-practice broadband policy and regulatory reform.
Key themes of the program’s work:
- Demand Aggregation for Broadband Access. In Uganda, the GBI program built upon the digital development agenda of the USAID Feed the Future to design and implement a program to improve broadband access for member NGOs and USAID implementing partner organizations. The program strategy relied on coordinating and aggregating demand for services and negotiating with network operators for discounted internet access pricing for organizations involved in agriculture, education, health, and other key sectors. Building on the success of the Uganda project, the approach was replicated in a similar follow-on program in Malawi.
- Promotion of Connectivity Technology. In Botswana, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, and Indonesia, GBI supported rural broadband access projects that have utilized innovative, low-cost access technologies, unlicensed and dynamic spectrum access methods, and off-grid-powered network infrastructure. These projects have demonstrated the potential of these innovative technologies as enablers of business models that can improve the economics of internet service delivery in rural and underserved areas.
- Policy and Regulation. With recent advances in technology and the telecommunications industry, the public sector regulatory agencies have also shifted and created new possibilities for improved sector management. To this end, GBI has worked with national governments to support the development, revision, and implementation of national policies on broadband development, universal access, and radio spectrum management in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Kenya, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Zambia.
Digital Finance Projects
Digital Finance projects have sought to promote the use of digital payments as a development tool and catalyst for empowerment and entrepreneurship across myriad humanitarian and development sectors. Much of this work has been carried out through a working group of NetHope members who have worked together to build organizational capacity around the emerging digital payments space to form shared approaches to key challenges and build a community of learning.
In all realms, GBI activities have sought to address cross-cutting challenges such as gender equality and humanitarian support; and the program has advanced an ecosystem approach that acknowledges that digital access, digital applications, and digital finance are important and often highly interrelated factors of the broader inclusion agenda.