Two New Reports Review Gaps and Innovations That Inform Work Toward Universal Internet Access

The Digital Impact Alliance, USAID and SSG Advisors discuss findings and future of access at D.C. event hosted by Microsoft.

Washington, D.C. – The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), in collaboration with USAID and SSG Advisors, has released two new reports that explore the current landscape and gap analysis of ongoing efforts to accelerate internet access, and provide insights on business model innovations improving last mile access. The reports were discussed at an event today: “Accelerating Progress Towards the SDGs through Universal Internet Access,” hosted at Microsoft Corporation’s Washington, D.C. office.

For the world’s most vulnerable, the digital divide exists and is growing. Globally, roughly four billion people remain unconnected to the internet and women, in particular, face an access gap. To address this issue, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) placed universal internet access on the global development agenda, which calls upon the global community to achieve universal and affordable access to the internet in the least developed countries by 2020.

As of today, global progress is not on track to meet the 2020 target. Per estimates by the Alliance for Affordable Internet, on the current growth trajectory, only 53 percent of the world’s population will be online by 2020.

“Connecting the remaining 47 percent is critical if we are to solve long-standing global development challenges at a macro and individual level,” said Kate Wilson, CEO, Digital Impact Alliance. “Promising digital technology innovations can only flourish when there is available and affordable quality internet coverage and coordinated efforts to deliver to the last mile.”

To understand what efforts could move the needle, the Digital Impact Alliance and USAID commissioned the reports from SSG Advisors and Caribou Digital to inform and motivate community-wide efforts to expanding access.

Connecting the Next Four Billion: Strengthening the Global Response for Universal Internet Access, authored by SSG Advisors, highlights that while there are a range of ongoing efforts to promote greater access to the internet, gaps remain that will slow, or even impede, progress toward universal access. It is up to governments, technology companies, and investors to take the next step and create opportunities for economic and social development in rural communities across the globe. Greater collaboration and collective action will accelerate progress towards the SDG goal on universal access.

Closing the Access Gap: Innovation to Accelerate Universal Internet Adoption, authored by DIAL, USAID and Caribou Digital, shares recent and ongoing efforts to test business model innovations, providing both a framework to help decision makers consider where innovation can best address gaps in their specific contexts, as well as lessons and opportunities for action across the ecosystem.

Based on the two reports’ findings, three areas have emerged as opportunities for greater, more collaborative action on the part of governments, industry, donors and others with a stake in achieving the SDGs:

  1. Mainstream internet access across the development agenda Development organizations can improve economic and social development outcomes and improve their operations by advancing internet connectivity and adoption.
  2. Amplify innovative business models, through concerted and coordinated efforts to explore and finance successful models – The market alone will not close the access gap, innovation is required in business models and technologies to reach consumers who are otherwise excluded from the reach of traditional network operators.
  3. Develop consist approach to digital access, through researching and establishing a collection of best practices Assess and showcase best practices by creating toolkits that will help others replicate promising digital access projects.

“It is up to governments, technology companies and investors to take the next step,” said James Bernard, Director of Strategic Partnerships, SSG Advisors. “By working together to identify, nurture and scale promising Base-of-the-Pyramid connectivity businesses through early-stage blended finance, incubation services and policy reform, we can bring the last four billion online and create opportunities for economic and social development in rural communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

About DIAL

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) aims to realize a more inclusive digital society in emerging markets, in which all women, men and children benefit from life-enhancing, mobile-based digital services. A partnership among USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish Government and the United Nations Foundation, DIAL’s efforts help accelerate the collective efforts of government, industry and development organizations to realize this vision.

About SSG Advisors

SSG Advisors is a global solutions firm that works with a variety of government, community, and commercial clients on impact-driven sustainable development opportunities. With experience in more than 50 countries, SSG provides clients with proven, practical expertise in ICT4D, Sustainable Investments, Partnerships, Capacity Development, Analytical Services, and Knowledge Management. Our team is comprised of international development professionals with cutting edge expertise in a wide range of relevant fields. We bring deep experience in sectors as diverse as education, renewable energy, economic development, and civil society.

About Caribou Digital

Caribou Digital is a research and delivery consultancy dedicated to building ethical, sustainable digital economies. Collectively we have decades of experience in delivering digital technology projects on the ground in emerging markets and researching the impact of digital platforms on primarily low-income users.

Press Contact
Paul Quirk, DIAL