A development path for developing rural telecommunications
This report outlines the development path for the development of telecommunication in rural areas of third world countries. The drivers for development considered are the economic, policy and technology drivers (Melody, 2011). The impact of telecommunication to our social-economic life is enormous. As an anchor for ICT development, different evolutions of telecommunications has given rise to a paradigm shift from the traditional way of doing things to new and innovative ways of doing things. For example, the act of governance, the health, education, commercial and many other sectors of the economy can now be delivered electronically. Presently research is going on how the Internet Protocol technology can become a part of our everyday lives (Internet of things).
However a lot of developing countries have poor rural areas which occupy more than half of the countries land mass and most at times more than half of the population. Most citizens of these rural areas live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. Commercial activities in many of these rural areas are very insignificant contributions to the economy of the country and region. Many viable projects in these areas are either owned by the government or they are an outlet for a metropolitan company.
This low or non-existent commercial problem has led many telecom network providers to shy away from rural areas. Even the ubiquitous and ‘wave making’ mobile telephony can’t be deployed in many rural areas. This is because the mobile network providers need a viable economic area to be able to recoup the cost of deploying highly expensive infrastructure.
Hence for telecommunication services to diffuse into rural areas, telecommunication service providers need to be sure they can recoup their investment and make profit and the subscriber has to be sure he will be able to afford the service without having to mortgage any other part of his personal economy to access the service.
Many governments from third world countries have not devoted time to fashion out a framework that will ensure access of telecommunication services to rural areas. The assumption in most cases is that the market will sort itself out. Unfortunately, the rapid evolution of technology has turned the telecommunications market into a very competitive one. It is more or less the survival of the fittest. Money has to be recouped from the old infrastructure investment at the shortest possible time before a new technology surfaces. Hence the network providers concentrate their business models around metropolitan areas.
If there has to be a change, then there has to be a deliberate attempt by the government to fashion out a development plan, taking into consideration the dynamic of the cost of deploying the technology and the cost of accessing the technology. This deliberate attempt must involve a regulatory framework to this effect, a conscious technological approach that will be suitable for the rural areas depending on its present economic state and an economic
approach that will define the telecommunication market players and structure which will help the local dweller find the technology attractive and affordable.
This report will look into these three areas and finally recommend how this framework can be implemented.
Rationale for the development framework
In the telecommunications markets, there has been a transformation from the era of a natural monopoly to that of a public monopoly which eventually due to liberalization resulted in a competition market (Melody, 2011). In other sectors like the Audiovisual media there has been a similar trend but with different driving forces and different market situations (Spaviero, 2011).
However both sectors and other sectors as well like broadcasting and electronic communications have been driven by technology changes which led to policy restructuring which eventually gave birth to new markets and economies. Today these changes have led to convergence in technology, markets, culture, policy/regulation and organization of regulation (Anders, 2011). An example of this is the possibilities created by broadband technology and Internet Protocol (IP). It has enabled separate sectors like broadcast, telecommunications and electronic communications to be delivered on one platform via Broadband which in itself has led to new regulatory issues and market possibilities (Tadayoni, 2011). Examples of such services are Triple play, IPTV etc.
As seen from the brief overview of development in the telecom and other sectors of the economy, it is necessary to appreciate the role of technology and policy as greater driving forces for changes in the economy of a sector. Hence in developing a development path for rural telecommunications, it is imperative to take into the consideration the role of technology, policy and the economics. That is why this report seeks to identify:
(1) What Policy framework is needed to help the adoption and diffusion of ICTs in rural areas?
(2) What technologies can be deployed at a cheaper cost to enable the diffusion of ICTs in rural areas?
(3) What economic framework can be designed to enable diffusion and adoption of ICTs in rural areas?
P o licy framework: This framework covers the proposed regulatory players and their functions. It also proposes some recommended policy initiatives that will have a great impact in reducing the cost of deployment and access to the telecommunications network.
(1) Executive Government: In this framework they mandate the existing regulator or create a new regulator to oversee regulations governing the new Public Private Partnership. They will also oversee access cost subsidy for the subscriber from the annual budget.
(2) Parliament: They will make of the regulations that will be implemented by the regulator. The policies have to become regulations to become law. To guide their decision, they will have to get input from the regulator a different interest groups to help them fashion an acceptable regulation that will govern the Public Private Partnership.
(3) Regulator: They will also make and implement regulations as well as implement parliamentary regulations, Settle disputes and ensure Quality of service of service delivered.
(4) Universal Access and Service Funds: They will fund the proposed Public Private Partnership by providing subsidy to infrastructure development in the rural areas. They will also work based on funding regulations provided by either the executive government or parliament.