In an increasingly connected world, there are still pockets that have yet to see widespread telecommunication infrastructure. Private telecommunications companies and development organizations alike may have to contend with a lack of investment in remote regions. Poverty, disease, and cultural differences in developing countries can make it difficult to put the structure in place to provide mobile service and internet connectivity. Yet knowledge is power, and providing digital telecommunications to developing nations provides citizens with increased economic and social opportunities. Emerging markets are the regions that are expected to show the biggest growth in wireless telecommunications in the near future.
Challenges to Overcome
People living in these remote regions face a number of challenges, including those of the political, environmental, and economic variety. While access to computers and mobile phones doesn’t tend to rank at the top of the list when there’s a lack of drinking water or electricity, the information that these services provide is invaluable. Accessing valuable information and communicating directly with government agencies, non-profits, and small businesses can boost economic development.
One of the challenges to face is the need to bring a wide range of individuals and groups together for development projects. This includes intermediary organizations, investors, and the local community. The country’s political situation can also play a role in the ability of investors to create new networks. For example, Myanmar is now seen as one of the fastest growing markets for telecommunications, with Norway’s Telenor and Kuwait’s Ooredoo hoping to create a widespread 3G network that reaches rural areas within the next five years. The developers are facing issues including contract disputes, arguments over land allocation, and a local skills shortage. Finances are also an issue for projects like these, as it’s expected that it could take up to 10 years before investors start seeing any returns.
Tech Companies Stepping In
High tech companies are also jumping on board to bring connectivity to some of the world’s most remote areas, notably Google. Google is now planning a $1 billion project involving the use of satellites and drones to provide internet access in previously unconnected areas. Google also launched 30 balloons in remote areas of New Zealand during last year’s Project Loon, providing internet speeds on par with a 3G network. Facebook is another high tech company jumping on board providing the world with internet access. To meet these goals, Facebook has been working with NASA scientists. Intel has already had success with its “digital village” initiative, bringing high speed internet access to the Amazon city of Parintins, Brazil and the Guangdong Province in China among others.
Building Local Community Involvement
Whether it’s provided through Femtocell base stations or low-altitude satellites, connectivity can play a major role in revitalizing developing countries. Mobile networks can connect refugee camps or remote villages to the rest of the world, allowing occupants to stay in contact with their relatives and access important information. A voice connection allows small business owners to call suppliers directly, saving time and money. While there are a number of private and public organizations helping to get communications infrastructure off the ground, ultimately the success of these projects depends on local community leaders. This helps ensure that the information is appropriate to what users want and need.
Although in countries like Myanmar only 12.3 percent of the population currently has a mobile phone, charitable projects and foreign investment are changing communities rapidly. In the near future, we will see a world which is even more connected to its most far-flung regions.
Cell Phone – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Google Loon – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Rachel MacDonald is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer who has worked as a copywriter for businesses from Lima to San Francisco. She specializes in travel, design, and the arts.