The UN has put out a report with the Working Group on Broadband for the most vulnerable countries. The study follows the Broadband deployments and usage for national development in four least developed countries (LDCs): Cambodia, Rwanda, Senegal and Vanuatu. This is a great effort by a ton of people and I applaud the time and work that was put into it. Thank you for sharing it with the World!
What can we learn from this in colonias and under developed parts of the United States?
I started to work through the pages on it because I’m wondering how it can give us perspective on how we are deploying broadband to some of our own counties, cities, and colonias in the State of Texas and across the US. There are so many areas that need the help, granted maybe not as much some of the countries on the list, but nevertheless I bet there are things that we can glean from this.
So, instead of taking notes to share at my next meeting with community leaders, I figured I’d share them with everyone.
This is more of a stream of consciousness as I read the report versus a standard blog post. It serves as a way for me to make the report relatable to my projects. If you’d like your own copy of the report, check it out here:
A transformational tool to help overcome
Broadband Internet offers significant benefits for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), as a transformational tool to help overcome their vulnerabilities, grow their economies and enhance the livelihoods of their citizens.
Absolutely agreed. Whether at the Country, County, or City level, the benefits are far and wide. We have seen increase in job numbers, and as a result, the livelihood, sustainability, and resiliency to other job markets, of the communities because of this at a local scale through our work. It’s encouraging to know that this can be done at a much larger level and produce the same results!
Yet demand for and productive use of broadband in LDCs has not matched the growing supply. Causes include weak digital literacy, unaffordability of smartphones, lack of relevant local content and applications, patchy mobile broadband coverage and limited capacity among policy makers to apply broadband across different sectors of economy.
Yes, yes, and yes. It’s the same thing we are facing in some of the neighborhoods we work in. Digital literacy, especially in older generations, is stunting the growth. There is a very old-school mentalilty, that if “it’s not broke, don’t fix it” to business, marketing, accessing information, etc. The problem is communicating that if there is a better way to do something, maybe it is broken.
Unaffordability of technology in general is an issue we face. Access is one thing, access to access is another. We have tried to resolve this by refurbishing computers and machines from Cities, School Districts, and the community to help those who don’t have access get access. This is one of those places that obviously it’s easier to do at smaller scale than a whole country.
Lack of relevant content can be daunting as well. How do you convince a 50 year old restaurant that they need to be on Yelp or Google when they don’t even know what a Yelp is?
Government needs to get on board
Getting policy makers to think outside of the box is luckily an area that we don’t struggle with in South Texas. If you are having problems with this, tell your constituents to follow Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar, and local leaders like Pharr, Texas Mayor Amborsio Hernandez and McAllen, Texas Mayor Jim Darling.
Productive use of broadband also relates to the development of local e-Business, which is hindered by shortcomings with the promotion of local entrepreneurship, access to capital and facilitating laws and business services.
Again, an issue we don’t have in South Texas is helping entrepreneurs. If you need help with this take a look at what our local Chamber of Commerce and a neighboring EDC have done.
IdeaPlace: A thought incubator and business plan development programs
The Innovation Grant Program which helps businesses get off the ground with a network of Chamber members and up to $10,000 of capital.
The McAllen Creative Incubator which gives those startups a place to work, network, and take their ideas to the next level.
Their participation in 1 Million Cups that bring entrepreneurs and local business leaders together to get over humps in the road, find local resources, and share their ideas.
The Mission Economic Development Corporation
Ruby Red Ventures offers up to $20,000 for a business and business plan competition.
The Center for Educational and Economic Development is a multi-million dollar resource outfitted with all the latest technology, workspace, and tools a local business could need to get off the ground.
Broadband isn’t just about the hardware
digital training and awareness needs to be magnified among both citizens and governments. Governments need a better understanding of the cross cutting nature and potential benefits of broadband. Too often, high speed Internet is seen as an infrastructure issue. Consequently, there is a narrow focus on broadband as infrastructure rather than the services it enables. A holistic vision is required that identifies how broadband can be applied across different sectors in an integrated manner.
I can’t agree more. So much of this begins with education. At a personal level making sure people can relate to what their benefit can be. Why is broadband important to people who don’t have it? What benefit can be show to them?
At the government level (local included!): What can this do for the community that is relatable to the people sitting in the decision making chairs? Is it jobs? A higher tax base? More educated voters? Better education? Tourism?
Awareness and trainings are KEY in building a digital economy. These are such great, great points!!
Leverage partnerships in your community
Governments should also make greater use of the private sector to help develop public broadband applications including the leveraging of emerging startup communities. Micro, small and medium sized enterprises should be provided with the necessary assistance to adopt broadband technology for their businesses.
This is making my heart swoon when thinking about what we are doing with my local non-profit @CodeRGV. Find a community partner, embrace them, and empower them to facilitate change in your community
OMG, that was just the Executive Summary!
Wow. I’m blown away with the succinct way this was researched, organized, and delivered. I’m equally blown away with how much this resonates with what we are working on in rural Texas and in our colonia communities.
What I have learned is that while there is still much work to be done, it looks like what we are trying to accomplish in Deep South Texas is on par with what seems to be working at a much, much, larger level. Keep up the great work my Lone Star State!
Download the full report here:
and THANK YOU to everyone who put it together. What an incredible piece of work United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.