Low Cost Sustainability Access

5 December 2008 - A Workshop on Access in Hyderabad, India

Agenda

Information Communication Technology for Development is meaningless unless the last man in the queue is provided with access to cost effective ICT based services to deal with his / her daily life needs through major ICT platforms like the Internet. Also the talk of last mile connectivity at the grassroots is less meaningful in the absence of whether adequate provisions are made to access the same. Hence, the quintessential need to take care of low cost sustainability access while making provisions for ICT based citizen services delivery within the larger framework of Internet Governance. 

The focus on low cost sustainability access stems from the fact that costs of ICT provision to rural areas or for the weaker sections of society tend to be higher than to more densely populated urban areas or the richer sections. The ability to pay by potential subscribers is lower in case of the former than the latter. The challenge is of content in local language which is a hurdle for access to Internet and other ICT based services. Despite, in recent years, a number of interesting experiments has been initiated to extend low-cost telephone and internet access to low-income rural communities and thereby access to basic public services, they have either not reached beyond a limit or proved to financially un-sustainable. Not irrelevant is then to talk about inventing solutions and services and technology devices and delivery mechanisms that really cuts down the costs as well as other structural and cultural limitations of accessing governance services by the common man. 

The question that needs to be asked or must be at the forefront is whether the rural or the poor households’ have the willingness to pay for governance services as per their social necessity and viability. The question is how the Internet platform is congenial for the user community in terms of social and cultural needs. It is here we can talk of evolving out models, mechanisms, innovations that facilitates sustainable access to e-Governance / Internet Governance services. For instance, the franchise models of shared-access provision could appear to have the most favourable economics. Through standardisation and demand aggregation, they offer the prospect of reaping economies of scale in hardware and software procurement. This also facilitates in provision of technical support, and enhanced bargaining power in negotiating interconnection fees and leased line prices. Such models provide a win-win situation to ICT small entrepreneurs, as well as creating incentives to both cost containment and rigorous financial management. Equally important is to talk about entrepreneurial conglomerate to deal with content and language aspects of Internet based services.

Themes like 'Low Cost Sustainability Access'is highly important and relevant for platforms like the Internet Governance Forum. This is in consonance with larger governance and development objectives of IGF that facilitates meaningful debates and discussions on public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet. This theme fits into the larger IGF objective in facilitating the exchange of information and best practices; in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world; strengthening and enhancing the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries; in contributing to capacity building for Internet governance in developing countries, in helping to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users and so on.