The promises of wireless Internet technologies have generated much interest on the part of the international-development community. While in developed nations these technologies have primarily been associated with mobility applications and local area networking in homes and offices, their most intriguing application in developing nations is the deployment of low-cost broadband Internet infrastructure and lastmile distribution.
Wireless Internet may be a very effective and inexpensive connectivity tool, but it does not carry any magic in itself. It can only be successfully deployed as demand for connectivity and bandwidth emerges in support of relevant applications for the populations served. These may be supporting e-government, e-education, e-health, e-business or e-agriculture applications. But those are not easily implemented in the developing world.
Demand aggregation for wireless Internet connectivity around applications that make sense in support of wireless infrastructure investment is the first important challenge that the UN ICT Task Force, infoDev, and the Wireless Internet Institute wanted to explore and document. The authors of this compendium have investigated dozens of field experiments around the world and selected several that exemplify some of the innovative approaches to this challenge. They do suggest that wireless Internet can indeed be sustainably and in some cases profitably deployed in support of economic and social development objectives in developing countries.
One common characteristic of these case studies is their unconventional, often grassroots origin. Entrepreneurs from the private, public, or not-for-profit sectors have independently developed original deployment models pointing to potential solutions for the developing world. Most, however, must confront serious challenges that are nontechnical in nature and associated with legacy regulations, administrative obstacles, and the opposition of incumbent telecommunications operators.