Appendix A: Research proposal    
Home | Abstract | Table of contents Back <> Next

This appendix contains the original research proposal...

Title: Broadband access in developing world economies: an investigation of the factors affecting sustainability. (A study based on post-tsunami Aceh Province, Indonesia.)

Overall Aim and Research objectives:

The overall aim of the research is to identify the factors that allow appropriate communications technologies from the developed nations to be widely adopted in developing world economies.

The objectives flowing from this are:

• To survey the communications technologies which are now available or will shortly be available in the developing world.

• To see if Relief Agencies engaged in disasters have any interest in bringing internet connectivity to the victims as part of their economic development aid.

• By means of a survey, to obtain information from NGOs about their understanding of the role of internet connectivity during major disaster response and in economic recovery after such events.

• By means of a user survey, to obtain information about the uses, cost and impact of broadband internet access in an internet cafιs in Aceh, Sumatra.

• To attempt to analyse the conditions within which these technologies may thrive and identify economic and other constraints which determine if these enterprises are sustainable and replicable or not.

• To identify and describe actions which can be taken to extend and speed up the adoption of broadband in environment similar to those in the case study.

• To discuss the applicability and implications of the research findings, and to suggest areas where further more detailed research may be indicated.

Rationale and Background

In the world of International Development, there has been much discussion about the “Digital Divide” and how it has disadvantaged many nations. Many have agreed that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is a critical component of efforts to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. ( e.g. Marker, McNamara and Wallace, 2003 and UN ICT Task Force, 2003)

There have been positive developments over the past few years which should have contributed to a diminishing “Digital Divide”:

• There political intent, at some levels, to effect change: ICT development is agreed to be integral to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The leaders of many developing nations signed up to a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action to address this. (World Summit on the Information Society, 2003 and 2005)

• Appropriate technology is now available and more affordable: Significant advances have been made with VSAT and Wi-Fi in particular. WiMAX shows promise for the near future.

• Demand is proven: Household spending surveys show large proportions of income are spent on communications compared to developed countries; mobile phone take-up has outstripped all projections.

• Regulatory progress is being made: Organizations like the Global VSAT Forum are helping governments make their licensing regimes more expeditious, affordable and transparent. (IDRC, 2004)

Yet, adoption of broadband communications technologies remains relatively sluggish.

Some of the barriers are:

• National Infrastructure: Generally, the capacity of international internet connectivity to/from developing countries is low. Wire and fiber infrastructure within the countries is often limited. Thus, satellite technology is a preferred way to bypass national infrastructure bottlenecks, but itself carries a price premium.

• Trade regulations: For example, certain advanced technologies are subject to export restrictions from the countries in which they are produced.

• Licensing: Many countries are still restricting the use of telecommunications technologies for a variety of reasons.

• Cost and affordability barriers: The cost of shipping, import duties, installation and licensing make the cost of acquisition and total cost of ownership much higher than in the developed world. The average disposable incomes of many developing countries are substantially lower than in the developed countries. The prevailing costs limit the use of broadband internet to the average earner.

Major disasters such as the Asian tsunami of December 2004 have caused a rush of western aid agencies and funding into areas affected. In order to satisfy their own communications needs, many aid agencies have installed equipment such as Satellite antennas and wireless networks. As disaster relief transitions to longer-term economic development, many relief agencies have wound down their projects. Maybe there is an opportunity to use the remaining equipment to kick-start local economic development.

There are many donor funded ICT projects that demonstrate the technical feasibility and desirability of broadband access in under connected areas. By their nature, these are subsidized and are therefore not self sustaining. They therefore have limited longievity, reach and impact.

It is postulated that if broadband access is to become widely available in underserved areas, it will do so because local entrepreneurs can see opportunities for creating viable local businesses based on this technology. There is therefore some merit in trying to identify the components of viable (and therefore self replicating) business models for enterprises based on broadband. Alongside the 3 “P’s” of Policies, Pipes, and People put forward by the Leland Initiative (Smith, 2003), it is proposed that a fourth “P” – Profit, needs to take its place.

C.K. Prahalad has stirred up a lot of interest in how multi-national businesses can make a profitable business out of serving low income customers in addition to higher income people. At a conference, he said "Don't look at the poor and say there is no hope. Selling to the poor may be more profitable than selling to you and me. This is where the future is. Opportunities are everywhere. This (digital divide) is not about lack of opportunity; it is about lack of imagination." (Prahalad, 2000) See also Prahalad, 2004. Leaders from multi-nationals such as Cisco, Microsoft and HP have become increasingly aware of the growth potential from customers on low incomes in developing countries. The major players from the broadband industry are so far not engaged with this thinking.

It is hoped that the findings of this research might make a contribution to understanding at a number of levels:

• within the industry that supplies bandwidth and communications hardware

• within the governments of developing nations in respect of policies towards broadband

• within local business communities in developing nations

• within international donors and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in respect of suggesting additional intervention options.


Research Approach

Although the author had previously intended to widen the proposed surveys to additional locations, It is felt that better results will be obtained by concentrating on a location to which access is available.

Reference will then be made to other published studies to try and bring perspective to the findings of this research.

Part 1: Survey the available technologies for the specific locations. In particular, this will be pertinent to broadband provision by Satellite. Clearly, some services may not be available if they are not within the coverage footprint of relevant satellites. This survey will also compare and contrast the available services. This work can be completed by desk research using established sources.

Part 2: Financial survey. Sufficient data should be collected to be able to construct a useful spreadsheet model of a single internet cafι business, from which the effect of each significant variable might be understood.

Part 3: Qualitative survey / structured interviews of non-financial factors. This will attempt to elicit the opinions and perspectives of a number of stakeholders into the wider factors affecting sustainability. These are likely to be cultural, social, regulatory and structural issues.

The relevant stakeholders would be:

• Internet cafι owners

• Internet cafι users

• Local NGO staff

• Headquarters NGO Staff

• Representatives of International donors (e.g. DFID, USAID, ECHO, World Bank, etc.)

• Local sources of commercial funding (banks, credit unions, etc.)

• Local authority officers Access to these individuals would either be via personal interview, or via existing contacts working on ICT projects.

Resources: In addition to possible personal visits, regular connections will be made using email, instant messaging, and voice calls. If possible, interviews will be recorded for later reference.


Action Plan


• Formulation of the modified research proposal

• Selection of specific study sites.

• Gain commitment of partners to collect data (assuming this cannot be done personally at all sites)

• Approval by supervisor mid January 2006

• Draft NGO and user surveys

• Compile list of recipients for NGO survey

• Arrange for translation of user survey

• Pilot surveys with NGO respondents and users.

• Complete pilot surveys 31st January 2006
• Continue review of the Literature • Produce interim summary of literature and references 31st March 2006

• Collection of survey data

• Survey data collection complete. 28th February 2006

• Analysis of data

• Clarification / validation of any anomalies

• Writing initial conclusions

• Complete these steps 31st May 2006
• Construction and validation of business model spreadsheet • Business model spreadsheet complete. 30th June 2006
• Writing dissertation • Submission to supervisor of draft dissertation 30th September 2006
• Honing dissertation based on supervisor input. • Final submission of dissertation 31st December 2006



IDRC (2004) Open and closed skies: Satellite access in Africa Horsham: DS Air Ltd

MARKER, P., McNAMARA, K., AND WALLACE, L. (2002) The significance of information and communication technologies for reducing poverty London: DFID

PRAHALAD, C.K. (2000). The Creating Digital Dividends Conference [Conference presentation] Seattle, Washington: October 16-18, 2000

PRAHALAD, C.K. (2005). The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid: eradicating poverty through profit Wharton School Publishing

SMITH, L . (2003) Bringing Africa online. [online] Available from: http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/1103/ijge/gj03.htm [Accessed 10 May 2005]

UN ICT TASK FORCE (2003) Low cost Access and Connectivity: local solutions. New York: UN

WORLD SUMMIT ON THE INFORMATION SOCIETY(2003) . Plan of Action [online] Available from: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/poa.html [Accessed 10 May 2005]

WORLD SUMMIT ON THE INFORMATION SOCIETY(2003) . Declaration of Principles [online] Available from: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/dop.html [Accessed 10 May 2005]

WORLD SUMMIT ON THE INFORMATION SOCIETY(2005) . Tunis Commitment [online] Available from: http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs2/tunis/off/7.doc [Accessed 21 December 2005]

Edited by the author for the web.

© Copyright, 2006  Rob Longhurst (rlonghurst@drasticom.org)