Universal Internet Access

Strengthening Global Efforts to Connect the Last Four Billion

The internet is a critical part of the daily lives of many people around the world: it has become essential in much of our work, daily communications, and many other aspects of our lives. Despite remarkable increases in connectivity over the past decade, fewer than half of the world’s population currently has access to the internet, and the vast majority of the unconnected are the urban poor, marginalized groups, and rural communities around the world. This digital divide is becoming a development divide that if left unaddressed, could substantially increase inequities both between and within countries.

On February 22, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), SSG Advisors, and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) will release new research at the  Accelerating Progress Towards the SDGs Through Universal Internet Access event, hosted by Microsoft in Washington, D.C.  SSG Advisors assessed the landscape of global efforts to accelerate access to the internet, with a view to identifying gaps and understanding how those could be filled. The outcome of this analysis is Connecting the Last Four Billion: Strengthening the Global Response for Universal Internet Access, which offers three recommendations for global actors to take more and more collective action to accelerate internet access and adoption by the most vulnerable populations.

Children in a Danajon Reef community utilizing the internet access in their village due to a TV Whitespace project with the Philippines government and Microsoft. The project has created access for over 20,000 Filipinos.

Many organizations are already working to address gaps in internet access. For example, Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative is supporting local innovations for affordability and last mile connectivity in a variety of ways, through grants to help scale business models, and education programs to support digital literacy. New businesses, such as Mawingu in Kenya, and AirJaldi in India, are using new technologies, including long-range Wi-Fi and TV White Space to increase access. In addition, USAID’s Digital Inclusion program is working with the public and private sector to extend rural broadband coverage by leveraging funding at the country level and by crowding-in private sector investment.  Increasingly, organizations such as GSMA’s Connected Society program and the Alliance for Affordable Internet tackle a variety of barriers to access, including lack of availability and infrastructure, issues of affordability and cost, and insufficient digital and internet literacy.

We’ll discuss opportunities to advance and build upon these promising activities on February 22. In addition to releasing Connecting the Last Four Billion: Strengthening the Global Response for Universal Internet Access, USAID will release and describe findings from a second piece of research, Closing the Access Gap: Innovation to Accelerate Universal Internet Adoption.  This study, prepared along with DIAL and Caribou Digital, provides examples and insights on business model innovations for improved access and adoption by the underserved. We invite you to join us for presentations, panels and discussion from 8:30am-1:00pm, at Microsoft on 901 K Street in Washington, D.C.  Please register via EventBrite to RSVP.