How do we Expand Connectivity to the Last Billion?

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Tuesday marked the culmination of over six months’ worth of information gathering, interviews, and workshops focused on finding successful business models for connectivity.

On a sunny afternoon in Washington D.C., FHI 360 hosted the launch event for the mSTAR report titled Business Models for the Last Billion: Market Approaches to Increasing Internet Connectivity. Attending the event were representatives from the White House, USAID, the State Department, and major corporations such as Microsoft and Cisco, as well as other experts in the field of ICT4D.

But importantly, and in line with the recommendations in the report itself, both entrepreneurs who have started successful businesses that increase connectivity, and the investors who have helped them scale so far, were present and spoke during the event.

In this report, written by SSG, we make the contention that both the technology and the business models exist for increasing connectivity to the so-called “last billion.” Of the approximately 4 billion people who currently do not access the internet, we focused on those with the lowest income, most of whom live in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. By addressing those hardest to reach markets, we found truly innovative ideas that may well work for the “middle billions” as well.

In both our launch event, and during the workshops (termed “white boarding sessions”) that informed our conclusions, we invited a variety of stakeholders from various points throughout the connectivity ecosystem, and brought together perspectives that don’t often mix. In New Delhi, we heard heated discussion between government regulators and Internet Service Providers. In Silicon Valley, the development experts explained more about the procurement process to members of large technology companies. Creating these networks within the process of the report brought to light a key element of our recommendations: in order to create a fully successful system that allows effective business models to scale, we need to encourage and develop relationships within finance, information-sharing, and technological expertise. As we write in the report:

Bringing together the resources of donors, philanthropists, investors, industry, and local communities means that scaling last billion connectivity business models and closing the digital divide does not require substantial new infusions of funds or the creation of entirely new tools.

The entrepreneurs and financing bodies represented at the launch event were a perfect complement to this thesis. Lauren Kickham of Vulcan, and Jim Forster, Chairman and angel investor in Air Jaldi and Mawingu, discussed the way they came together to finance one successful connectivity business model called Mawingu. As he introduced the 12 grant recipients of the new Affordable Access Initiative, Namema Amendi, of Microsoft, detailed the reasons why, as a firm, increasing connectivity not only provided social good, but also increased the company’s potential market. Michael Ginguld of Air Jaldi shared his hope of connecting the Internet infrastructure that he was building with other forms of infrastructure, including water and electricity, and Paul Talley, of ViRural, discussed his realization that working on a connectivity play in Nigeria meant that he could not only focus on more traditional types of investment, but that he could also look for types of financing interested in supporting the social impact his model would have as well. Philip Zulueta, of Wi-FI Interactive Network (WIN), described the investment opportunity, by declaring that “data is the new oil.”

In the launch event, we saw the excitement surrounding the recommendations we lay out in our report. We found models that work, the technology that already exists, and the potential partners who are ready to be a part of a broader network to support the scaling of these models. We hope to see the momentum for this network building, and continued support from members interested in connecting the last billion.

Want to learn more? Start by reading our report.

2015: What A Year We’ve Had!

year-in-review

At SSG Advisors, we believe in the work we do to deliver innovative development solutions that improve people’s lives, and we also believe in communities this creates, within our company and beyond. Looking back at our achievements in 2015, we’ve had a number of accomplishments we’re proud of, so we thought we would share with you our own reflections on the past year, both in terms of our work, and our people:

We Grew

  • Over the past year, our company has grown significantly. We welcomed on board more than a dozen new members of staff, in Burlington, Washington and overseas. We’re also moving into a bigger, brighter space in DC, to match our big bright office in Burlington.
  • Throughout the year, we launched eight new projects across the world, including in Haiti, East Timor, Somalia, and Liberia – all new markets for us. We also moved into new areas of technical expertise, for example with two new projects in fish catch traceability innovation and integrated water management.

We helped clients launch and scale many new partnerships

Mara Partnership

The Mara Serengeti Hoteliers and the partners after Signing the Resource Efficiency Partnership.

  • Together with Microsoft, USAID, the Government of the Philippines, and Tetra Tech, we won the 2015 P3 Impact Award for our TV Whitespace Partnership.
  • We launched a partnership in the Mara Serengeti that will allow hoteliers to save water, and operate in a more environmentally friendly manner.
  • We also ran three Rapid Partnership Appraisals, in Ghana, Timor Leste and the Mara-Serengeti region (in both Kenya and Tanzania.) In the process, we interviewed over a hundred businesses and other stakeholders and refined our discussions down to specific partnership ideas, which are now being explored.
  • With the US Global Development Lab’s Center for Transformational Partnerships (CTP), USAID’s Office of Private Capital and Microenterprise (PCM), and USAID/Nepal, we conducted a private sector engagement assessment that identified opportunities to collaborate and partner with the private sector to help Nepal ‘build back better’ after the 2015 earthquake in the agriculture, tourism, and construction sectors.
  • With CTP and USAID/Malawi, we identified opportunities to partner with the private sector to achieve food security, economic development, and climate change resilient outcomes to support ongoing program strategy development and programming.

We worked to counter violent extremismIMG_2629

  • This year, we facilitated several workshops on development approaches to countering violent extremism (CVE) in Africa and the Middle East. Using an innovative participatory methodology, SSG guided U.S. government staff, development practitioners, youth leaders, and other stakeholders through training on CVE strategies and action planning to implement CVE programming in their communities and projects. SSG also guided participants through workshop sessions dedicated to exploring new thought areas, such as the role of women in violent extremism.
  • Considering the tragic attacks that have taken place throughout the world over the past year, we recognize the need for greater discussion from a wide range of stakeholders on new efforts and innovative strategies to counter violent extremism. With this in mind, SSG facilitates the USAID-funded CVE Forum, which provides a platform for practitioners to collaborate, share lessons learned, and discuss CVE strategies. The Forum also posts project insights, highlights new research, and provides a weekly rundown of thought, news, and ideas related to CVE.

We supported sustainable investments

  • We developed a billion-dollar pipeline of agribusiness investment opportunities in two markets in West Africa.
  • We facilitated the launch of the PFAN-Asia platform, which will mobilize investment for small-scale renewable energy projects across SE Asia.

We provided deep insights

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  • We conducted an evaluation of the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) project this year and in doing so developed an online monitoring platform that will enable the State Department to glean real time programmatic insights.
  • With CTP, we co-authored a ground-breaking paper on the role that local private sector partners play in development partnerships around the world.
  • We conducted an evaluation of early grade reading programs in the Dominican Republic.
  • We prepared a Case Study of a major USAID partnership with Coca-Cola.
  • With the CTP, we wrote four How-To Guides that USAID Missions around the world are now using to integrate private sector engagement and partnerships into into their strategies, planning, and programming.

And on top of it all, our staff members welcomed three new babies, graduated from business school, started Master’s degrees and were accepted to top tier business schools.

We’re grateful for the year we had, for the hard work of our staff, and for the hundreds of experiences, interactions, and opportunities to learn that 2015 brought us. We know there is more to come in 2016!

Gender Sensitive Early Grade Reading Strategies Take Shape in Peru

Reading is quite possibly the most fundamental component to furthering subsequent education. In fact, it is the gateway that allows individuals to tap into knowledge embedded within their respective cultures. Regrettably, it is often girls who face the biggest challenges in the classroom, particularly in more traditional cultures. To address this challenge, local universities and NGOs are working together, with support from bilateral donors, to strengthen early grade reading with a focus on increasing gender awareness. At a recent workshop, (part of our work on LAC ED,) the organizations gathered to enhance pedagogical skills and increase gender sensitivity in one of Peru’s most impoverished regions.

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Participants practice new techniques at an educational training workshop in Peru

Ucayali and San Martin, the two regions of focus, sit in the transition zone where the Andes meet the Amazon. Steeped in beauty and rich cultural heritage, these two regions are emblematic of the natural splendor found in Peru. However, what is often left out of view are the resources required to achieve educational objectives at a standard necessary for development. Moreover, literacy and school completion rates are greatly imbalanced between genders, boys experiencing the positive side of the asymmetry.

To address this, SSG and local partners implemented two, three-day reading and gender workshops in these regions. The workshops were intended to strengthen pedagogical approaches and technical knowledge and skills in early childhood reading and gender education. Participants attending the workshops work within one of the two regional government educational departments and a local NGO. These educational professionals are in a unique position to influence curriculum, classroom management, and teaching techniques of the teachers and the schools where they work.

Each workshop was characterized by participatory, experiential knowledge building and skills development activities. Participants not only strengthened their own capacities, but also developed mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the implementation of these skills in the classroom. Additionally, the trainings provided space to collect information regarding the external technical assistance needed to accomplish educational goals, an essential component to developing future programs in the region.

There are many obstacles to education such as crime and insecurity, family dynamics, and poverty. However, these workshops helped topple some obstacles by addressing gender and early childhood reading, two crosscutting themes that have the propensity to reinforce the improvement of other social conditions, that without, would make development a much more challenging task.

How partnerships can help achieve SDG Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

SDG 3The shift in focus from adoption to implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals presents a timely opportunity to explore how public-private partnerships can help contribute to achieving Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Until now, most health public-private partnerships in developing countries have been comprised of collaborations between health companies and non-profit organizations that, while meaningful in their impacts, are fairly limited in scope and durability.

In order to achieve wider, more lasting results, there is a need to evolve health partnerships from largely philanthropic to market-based approaches, while ensuring the fundamental human right to health is not compromised.

Expanding the number of companies concerned with health in developing countries yields a far greater chance of improving health outcomes for larger numbers of people. While health partnerships have typically involved companies whose primary business is health, firms across a much broader swath of the economy face the challenge of worker absenteeism and turnover due to illness and disease. Other sectors ripe for health partnerships include:

  • agribusiness
  • manufacturing
  • services
  • tourism
  • extractives
  • information and communications technology

Taking a systems approach to health allows us to explore a broader range of partnerships that address the root causes of health obstacles, thereby achieving greater impact.*Health financing, in particular, has significant potential to contribute towards achieving SDG Goal 3 by unlocking resources needed to upgrade hospital and clinic infrastructure, strengthen pharmaceutical and health supply chains, and modernize health technologies.

For example, the The Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital was built to replace Lesotho’s main public hospital under a public-private partnership that enabled a private health care provider to use $120 million in debt financing to upgrade and operate the facility over 18 years for a $32 million fixed fee tied to the achievement of key performance indicators. While some have praised the project, others have highlighted that more than half the national health budget is being set aside to provide high returns to the investor. While it’s clear that while health financing partnerships present opportunities, they also need to be structured carefully, with full participation of civil society stakeholders, to ensure that projects respond to, not compromise, the health needs of all citizens.

Financing for development isn’t easy – regulations alone present enough of a hurdle to deter many investors. Add in enormous geographic, economic, and cultural disparities between financiers and those in need of health care, combined with a general lack of business readiness in places most in need of resources, and health financing begins to look like an airy scholastic notion rather than an actual mechanism for attaining health and well-being for all. Fortunately, taking a long view provides perspective: just because something is complicated and difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worth endeavoring. Effective market-based health finance partnerships – undertaken by committed actors from the private, public, and civil society sectors who understand these challenges and are nonetheless willing to sustain their engagement over time – can transform the health landscape from charity to sustainability.

 

 

* For more information about health systems, see WHO’s Framework for Action and USAID’s Vision for Health Systems Strengthening

 

Leveraging Credit to Drive Input Supply in Timor Leste

Timor-farmers

The horticulture sector in Timor Leste is hindered by the scarcity of key agricultural inputs and the weakness of the input supply system serving more remote or rural areas. Materials such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, plastics, netting, and drip irrigation lines are generally unavailable for purchase outside of the capitol city, Dili. To date, the level of demand for these inputs in remote districts has not been large enough or consistent enough to entice entrepreneurs to invest in input supply. Facilitating access to credit for agriculture is one approach that development actors can take to create an expanded input supply system through increased demand.

Investors of all classes and scales, from microfinance institutions to infrastructure project financiers, have historically viewed the agriculture sector with greater levels of trepidation than other industries. The relative unpredictability of biological systems (not to mention the weather), make associated financial risks difficult to assess. Given this backdrop, what approaches can development actors take in order to lower barriers to agri-lending in Timor Leste?

This presents an opportunity to take a market system approach that engages finance institutions and farmers to lower barriers on both the ‘buy side’ and the ‘sell side’ of the lending equation. On the ‘buy side’, development practitioners can work to enhance the credit-worthiness of farmers by introducing improved technologies and practices, cultivating new market linkages, and expanding access to market information. The deployment of weather-indexed crop insurance can help reinforce this process by reducing the financial risk of crop failure for both the lender and borrower. On the ‘sell side,’ donors can make use of subsidy mechanisms such as credit guarantees and subcontracts to buy down the risk of agriculture-focused credit products. Every lender has different priorities and tolerances, and designing an effective finance partnership is often a matter of determining how to blend ‘buy side’ and ‘sell side’ services and how to set lending targets for the finance provider.

Only when the rural districts of Timor Leste possess a critical mass of buying power will entrepreneurs start to invest in the retail outlets and distribution networks needed to reach that market. Access to credit is a key avenue for enabling the ‘demand pull’ that will spur the growth of a stronger input supply system. Why not start there?

Evaluating PPPs: Drawing Lessons from Evaluations of International Security Programs

capacity building for counter-insurgency in Guatemala

Georgia Army National Guard provides a safety brief to Guatemalan soldiers and police agents in order to build capacity and to enhance their capability in combating transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking organizations. (Georgia Army National Guard Photos by Georgia Guardsman)

At first glance, the notion that public-private partnerships (PPPs) and international security programs can learn from each other may seem far-fetched. After all, PPPs are about multi-sector collaboration of companies, donors and NGOs, while international security programs are – by and large – focused on public sector institutions in law enforcement, border protection etc.

Despite these very real differences, both sectors face similar challenges in at least one aspect: the evaluation of program effectiveness and efficiency. International development practitioners have historically based PPPs on the notion that government-corporate collaboration is inherently impactful. However, due to the difficulty of building consensus around PPP objectives and performance indicators among diverse stakeholders, there has been limited emphasis on collecting and measuring outcome data.1 Similarly, international security cooperation implementers are often focused on building the capacity of partner militaries or law enforcement and have typically either not developed indicators or not tracked such indicators consistently. As a result of this lack of emphasis on indicators, monitoring and evaluating security partnerships often relies on anecdotes rather than pre-established, easy-to-monitor metrics.2

Further, without frameworks or baselines against which to measure results, evaluators are faced with the challenge of developing alternatives to measuring the performance of these partnerships. Impact evaluations are often unfeasible due to their great expense and the lack of available historic data. Given these constraints, how can companies, donors and governments better understand partnership effectiveness and efficiency?

One option for understanding partnership effectiveness and efficiency is to leverage mixed methods to quantify qualitative data, as SSG has recently done in evaluating a U.S. Government-funded international security cooperation program. In the absence of robust performance data, we used a mixed methods research software based on data coding to  not only capture key themes from interviews, but also to indicate how many and what type of interviewees mentioned certain themes. Another option is using evidence-based strategy tools such as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis and scorecard-like ratings and rankings of programs through key performance objectives and criteria, such as effectiveness and efficiency. This second option, which SSG used within its Rapid Partnership Appraisal (RPA) of agribusiness PPP opportunities in Haiti, involves developing new performance indicators, allocating scores to different partnerships or partnership components, and comparatively ranking the components. This approach is useful when comparing and contrasting multiple components of a larger partnership, or when evaluating a type of program that does not have a commonly associated set of indicators.

SSG has learned that by using these proven methods, evaluators can still measure performance in an insightful, evidence-based fashion, even in the absence of historical data. As emphasis on PPPs continues expanding in international development, and as capacity building, rather than troop deployment, continues being a security cooperation priority for the United States, managers, policymakers, and researchers should leverage these types of low-resource intensive methods to better understand if PPPs are delivering results for stakeholders. We at SSG will be among the researchers continuing to invest in ways to better monitor and evaluate such programs moving forward.

[1] See the 2010 USAID paper, “(Re)valuing Public-Private Alliances: An Outcomes-based Solution.”

[2] See the 2013 RAND Corporation publication, “Review of Security Cooperation Mechanisms Combatant Commands Utilize to Build Partner Capacity.”

Maximizing Program Impact through Local Sustainability, Part 1 of 2

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As with all USAID projects, funding for USAID’s Private Financing Advisory Network-Asia (PFAN-Asia) is time-limited. Generally, these types of projects last between 3-5 years and when funding ends, so too does its activities and associated impact. So, how can a project with a finite lifespan maintain, and even potentially increase its impact over time? The answer lies in designing a project that not only creates immediate impact, but also plans for a future in which donor funding is no longer available.

Achieving long-term sustainability has been an integral part of PFAN-Asia since its inception, and SSG Advisors has been leading the effort to identify and prepare a local organization to carry on core PFAN-Asia activities on a sustainable basis. The chosen organization will also have the opportunity to potentially receive funding from USAID, as well as receive capacity-building and other support from PFAN-Asia to improve its overall capabilities. Over the past year, SSG has made significant progress on these objectives by engaging with a broad array of past and present stakeholders, gathering input and feedback from the clean energy financial advisory community in Southeast Asia, and establishing a firm understanding on the metrics for success.

In this first part of a two-part post, we will explore how SSG developed a transparent and equitable approach to selecting a local organization. The second part will then focus on detailing how SSG is working with the selected organization to prepare it for a potential award from USAID and, ultimately, assuming responsibility of operating PFAN-Asia.

Stage 1: Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI)

SSG designed a 2-stage tender process, consisting of a REOI and RFP, to open up the PFAN-Asia opportunity to as many interested organizations as possible. This approach allowed the greatest possible diversity of technical expertise, management capacity, and geographic reach, while achieving milestones against a tight timetable. The first stage, the REOI, was released publicly in September 2014, and promoted through multiple channels, including:

  • Direct Outreach – SSG sent the REOI document directly to organizations that the project had previously identified as possessing a like-minded mandate and requisite capacity to operate PFAN-Asia.
  • Network Outreach – SSG also shared the document with PFAN-Asia’s extensive network of contacts including PFAN mentors, clean energy investors, project developers, and development partners.
  • Public Outreach – By using the online development procurement portals DGMarket, Devex, and Collaboration for Development; the CTI PFAN website; and social media outlets such as LinkedIn and Facebook, SSG also promoted the REOI’s visibility in the broader clean energy finance marketplace.

By the time the REOI window closed in October 2014, 25 organizations had submitted their interest in becoming the future operator of PFAN-Asia. The organizations came from throughout the 12 PFAN-Asia countries, and offered deep expertise in clean energy finance across the region. SSG developed a structured evaluation process in order for multiple stakeholders to participate equitably in the evaluation of the EOIs. The scoring tool asked evaluators to score each EOI along each of the scoring dimensions below:

  • Organizational History and Status –the history of the organization, areas of expertise, core services, brief financial information (including annual revenues or budget), and a brief overview of organizational strategy;
  • Experience in Arranging Clean Energy Financing and Networking – Current and past experience in mobilizing financing, with particular emphasis on clean and renewable energy, and on serving small to mid-sized projects (size range from $1 million -50 million). Experience in running a network;
  • Organizational Reach – Geographic reach and experience, including domestic scope, regional work, and prior and current partnerships or activities within the PFAN-Asia Countries;
  • Organizational Governance and Structure – Governance and management structures, reporting and evaluation policies, and human resources profile;
  • Technical Staff – Information about current staff with relevant expertise in clean energy technology, SME business development, consulting, and finance and investment; and
  • Approach – Proposed approach for the implementation of PFAN activities in Asia, which may include primary operating model(s), priority activities, and high-level plans for achieving sustainability.

Independent scoring of the EOIs by each of the evaluators demonstrated a sound consensus for a shortlist of five organizations that scored significantly higher than the rest of the applicant pool.

Stage 2: Request for Proposals (RFP)

Following the completion of the REOI process, SSG released the Local Partner Selection RFP to the five shortlisted Offerors identified in January 2015. In response to the RFP, PFAN-Asia received four proposals, with two of the five shortlisted bidders combining their efforts into a single submission. Proposals were, once again, reviewed and scored by the evaluation committee using criteria originally developed during the REOI process and then further refined for the RFP to include additional guidelines that established key factors for consideration. Evaluators individually scored each proposal across the following six criteria:

Table 1: RFP Evaluation Criteria

Criteria Scoring Guidelines / Factors Maximum Points
Organizational Capability and Track Record
  • History of the organization, it’s core capabilities/areas of expertise
  • Current and previous successes in facilitating investment for clean energy projects and businesses
  • Range and types of clients targeted and served, and the degree to which this overlaps with CTI-PFAN’s intended beneficiaries
  • Expected ability to meet USAID financial management, accounting and record-keeping requirements, including past work with international donors with similar requirements
15
Management Plan and Staffing
  • Organizational structure and approach to managing and implementing PFAN-Asia
  • Strength of proposed staff for key personnel roles, based on experience and profile
  • Strength of overall team, including complementary skills of key personnel, quality of other personnel consistent with overall management/staffing plan, and planned levels of women’s participation within the organization
20
Sustainability Plan
  • Viability of proposed approach, including quality of revenue streams, links to market projections, and resulting near-term and long-term sustainability projections
  • Creativity in approaches to serving the market on a sustainability
  • Degree to which the plan aligns with CTI-PFAN’s broader strategy in the region
  • Specific efforts to address gender by increasing women’s involvement in clean energy activities
30
Geographic Coverage Plan
  • Quality and realism of proposed strategy to provide services throughout the region, including use of existing PFAN network assets and resources
10
Clean Energy Financing / Carbon Reduction Plan
  • Quality and realism of proposed approach to maximize clean energy finance mobilization and carbon reduction impact
  • Effectiveness, as measured by anticipated clean energy finance mobilization and carbon reduction over next 3-years
25
Maximum possible points 100

Following an initial review of the proposals, the evaluation committee convened for a detailed discussion on each of the applicants. During this discussion, the members of the evaluation committee took turns leading the group, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals along each of the scoring dimensions. After the meeting adjourned, committee members individually finalized and submitted their scores to SSG. The winning organization was then determined based on highest overall average points received in April 2015.

Coming up in Part 2: Preparing the local organization to operate PFAN-Asia on a sustainable basis

With the winning organization selected, SSG is now beginning to shift its focus on the next phase of activities, which includes:

  • Organizational Capacity Building: In order to qualify for potential funding from USAID, the winning organization must demonstrate rigorous and transparent business operations by successfully passing the Non-US Pre-Award Survey (NUPAS). Over the next 6 months, SSG will work closely with the winner on assessing and improving its organizational capacity, with the objective of passing the NUPAS in 2nd quarter of 2016.
  • Sustainable Operations: The objective of Task 3 is not only to handover the operations of the PFAN-Asia to the local operator, but to do so on a sustainable basis. In support of this objective, SSG will help the winning organization develop a long-term business plan that will ensure PFAN-Asia can continue to positively impact clean energy financing in the region for years to come.

Stay tuned for an update on these activities in the second part of this series in the 2nd quarter of 2016.

SSG’s Partnership to Advance Internet Connectivity Promotes Sustainable Fishing, Saves Lives, and Wins Prestigious Award

SSG Advisors P3 Award

New York, NY – Current and former heads of state, Fortune 500 CEOs, and other global leaders gathered in New York on Friday at the Concordia Summit to celebrate this year’s winner of the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Impact Award. This year, the award was given to the TV White Space Partnership, an innovative partnership between Microsoft, the Government of the Philippines and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), facilitated by SSG Advisors. Vice President Joseph Biden attended the Summit, and Secretary of State John Kerry offered his congratulations to Microsoft, USAID, and the Philippine Government for their tremendous impact in improving livelihoods and the management of coastal fisheries in the Philippines.

“That’s the very definition of paying it forward, and it is giving new life to the old saying ‘teach a person to fish,’” said Kerry, as he announced the winning partnership.

The TVWS Partnership improved the lives of fisherfolk and the management of coastal fisheries in the Philippines by extending Internet access to remote and underserved coastal communities, reaching over 20,000 people. The Partnership deployed Microsoft’s TVWS technology, which generates a long-range wireless Internet connection by riding empty television UHF and VHF broadcast channels. Together, the partners connected schools and community centers in six remote municipalities to the Internet via TVWS.

TVWS helped support a new mobile online system to register fisherfolk in hundreds of rural communities, improving fisheries management. This system enables the government to better understand who is fishing where and, as a result, to better manage precious and threatened fish stocks. Thanks to this project, the Government of the Philippines has now incorporated TVWS as a key element of its universal broadband access strategy.

The TVWS hubs also saved lives: when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the pilot region in October 2013, TV White Space was the only means of Internet connection and communication for relief workers and communities. It helped coordinate the relief effort, and it allowed victims to contact loved ones.

SSG Advisors, through its Sustainable Transparent Effective Partnerships (STEP) methodology, developed the TVWS partnership concept, brought the partners together, and facilitated the partnership during implementation.

“This partnership demonstrates the power of collaboration for solving some of the world’s most complex problems,” said Nazgul Abdrazakova, founder and President of SSG. “By forging connections between companies, governments, and communities, and by promoting innovative applications of existing technologies, we can deliver tremendous benefit to communities across the world.”

The award was announced at the Concordia Summit in New York City on October 2.

About SSG Advisors:

Founded in 2005, SSG Advisors LLC is an international development consulting firm based in Vermont with a global presence. This firm of innovative professionals is focused on harnessing the power of collaboration among companies, communities, and governments to address development challenges. SSG Advisors offers solutions that leverage the combined power of private investments and public initiatives to change lives. Since its founding, SSG has helped clients build and manage effective collaborations in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, where it has worked to tackle development challenges related to citizen security, economic growth in conflict-affected regions, enterprise development, workforce development, ICT, and climate-smart development.

About the P3 Impact Award:

Concordia, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Institute for Business in Society, and the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships created the P3 Impact Award to recognize public-private partnerships (P3s) that are changing our world in innovative and impactful ways.

When a ‘moonshot’ is not enough: uncovering the real challenges to bringing the world online

Internet Booth in South Africa

Vodacom Container store offering internet in Joe Slovo Park, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Victor Grigas.

In a recent article in WIRED, journalist Klint Finley addressed the approaches that businesses and governments are taking to extending Internet connectivity to the majority of the world that still lacks it. He points out that while high-profile efforts like Facebook’s drones, OneWeb’s low-earth orbit satellites, and Google’s Loon balloons have drawn attention for their cool technology and ambitious visions for blanketing the world with high-speed Internet from above, the bulk of growth in connectivity is due to decidedly “old-fashioned” techniques: stretching new fiber optic cable across the world’s oceans and land masses, building towers, and using the wireless, mobile, and landline networks to connect to the end user.

The reality, however, is that, while technological infrastructure is central to the Internet’s growth, it is rarely the decisive factor. Rather, regardless of approach, almost every Internet expansion initiative must wrestle with three core factors: the business model, the legal and regulatory context, and the interests of incumbent players.

  • Internet providers need to lower costs and find new revenue sources in order to reach low-income populations. This will often mean finding new applications for low-cost technologies, sharing core network infrastructure with other providers, and developing alternative revenue sources from advertising and value-added services.
  • Favorable laws and regulations – and governments that fairly and reliably enforce them – are critical to the success of the global network. Despite its digital face, the Internet has a substantial footprint in the physical world. Towers, cables, internet exchange points, wireless spectrum, and data centers all in turn require licensing, right of way permits, and enforceable contracts.
  • Not everyone wants change – entrenched interests can be some of the biggest obstacles to new approaches that increase competition and drive down costs. Local government and incumbent telecommunications operators may have strong incentives to maintain the status quo and/or limit competition.

Bringing the next three billion online is an ambitious, but achievable goal. While ‘moonshot’ efforts such as Project Loon and others are important for pushing the bounds of technology, it is critical that companies, investors, and governments also focus on the business models, infrastructure, and enabling environment factors that shape the marketplace.

Wastewater Solutions: Partnerships for Sustainability in the Mara-Serengeti

Mara Partnership

The Mara Serengeti Hoteliers and the partners after Signing the Resource Efficiency Partnership

On September 15th, the Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal, and other government officials gathered alongside members from a number of industries on the edge of the Mara River as part of the Mara Day celebration – an annual event shared between Kenya and Tanzania devoted to protecting the natural beauty and resources of the Mara River region.

This year’s Mara Day marked an exciting milestone. For the first time, Kenya and Tanzania signed an agreement ensuring that both countries will sustainably co-manage the Mara ecosystem. This inter-governmental commitment demonstrates a prominent level of engagement for sustainability efforts in the area. Meanwhile, members of a new public-private partnership signed and agreed to address some of the difficulties associated with water pollution in the Mara-Serengeti region. The partners included the Mara-Serengeti Hoteliers Forum (MSHF), the multi-national chemicals manufacturing company BASF, the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), the Kenya National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), and the Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) of the Lake Victoria Region.

The partnership declared at Mara Day is a result of  SSG Advisors’ private sector mapping work, carried out as part of the USAID Kenya and East Africa Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaption, Research and Economic Development (PREPARED) project, with the continued efforts of Polycarp Ngoje, PREPARED’s Partnership Specialist. In describing the level of effort and cultivation needed to get partners on board, SSG’s Director Thomas Buck noted, “This partnership has been over a year in the making, and has really started to take shape in the past 4-5 months.”

Through intense collaboration and the utilization of a diverse multi-sectoral set of skills and assets, the partnership will be instrumental in addressing and improving resource efficiency challenges and practices throughout the Mara-Serengeti region. By providing technical assistance through assessments and management guidance to hospitality operations in the area, the impact of BASF’s involvement will be two-fold: lowering operating costs and establishing sustainable wastewater practices. The result will be a cleaner and healthier ecosystem, sustaining the natural beauty of the region.

The partnership has already set goals for the first year. During the upcoming months, the partners plan to establish a measurable breakdown of how to achieve the reduced effects of wastewater in the Mara. In addition to forming a quantitative, results-driven analysis, the partnership also aims to facilitate a noticeable increase in the use of green technology and innovation practices. Lastly, within a year from now, the group intends to identify and institutionalize a set of actionable wastewater practices – management models and technological innovations – intended to become the industry standard in the area.