Digital technologies for development and the role of connectivity

Digital technologies are revolutionizing global development. Technologies can help make our world fairer, more peaceful, and more just. The increased use of digital technologies during the COVID-19 lockdown such as mobile money, on-line shopping, on-line education, digital disease surveillance and monitoring, and dissemination of public health messages shows the great potential to support faster economic recovery and strengthen resilience against similar shocks.

In addition, the development of advanced technologies such as 5G, the Internet of things and artificial intelligence should help reduce global carbon emissions by up to 15%, or almost a third of the 50% reduction proposed for 2030, via the development of solutions for the energy, manufacturing, agriculture and natural resource extraction, construction, services, transport and traffic management sectors.

Since the late 1980s, the digital revolution has transformed the economy and society. First came the development of a connected economy, characterized by mass take-up of the Internet and the roll-out of broadband networks. This was followed by the development of a digital economy via the increasing use of digital platforms as business models for the supply of goods and services. Now the movement is towards a digitalized economy whose production and consumption models are based on the incorporation of digital technologies in all economic, social and environmental dimensions. The adoption and integration of advanced digital technologies (fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks, the Internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data analysis, robotics, etc.) means that we are moving from a hyperconnected world to one of digitalized economies and societies.

Developing countries in particular face significant challenges when it comes to international Internet Connectivity. That’s why the development of local Internet connectivity networks is now of paramount importance to developing regions. Establishing a local Internet Exchange Point (IXP) is one possible solution. But another solution is setting up Community Networks because they are a way of Bridging the Communication Gap.

Community networks happen when people come together to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure for Internet connection. Internet by the people, for the people. Community networks are designed to be open, free, and neutral, and often reliant on shared infrastructure as a common resource. The main challenge for Community Networks is sustainability.

Google Stations in particular was an incredibly good idea. It’s sad to see that they discontinued it. Google Stations was a Google service that allowed partners to roll out Wi-Fi hotspots in public places by providing software and advice on hardware to turn fiber connections into Wi-Fi. It was only implemented in India and Indonesia but in March 2018, the service was launched in Mexico, In February 2020, Google announced the service would be discontinued.

So how do we keep the Community Networks Sustainable? One key solution is in the word “Community Networks”. The community should be involved in the planning, installation, and maintainance of their own networks. Its a Network for the Community and by the Community.

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