Can specific country models for pricing and connectivity be replicated with other countries? Can they be used for school connectivity programs; and if so, what are the key implications to consider?
Giga, the innovative partnership between UNICEF and the ITU, offers a platform for countries to address these types of questions, and also to share knowledge, data, and good practices on how to achieve universal, meaningful and affordable connectivity.
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has set digital transformation as a regional priority and has established common strategies to connect all schools to the Internet. Giga is working with the OECS to map every school in the region, and to provide real-time monitoring data on the quality of Internet connectivity.
On January 28, Giga conducted a webinar on Socio-Economic Pricing Regulation to share lessons from the Costa Rican experience with the “Connected Homes” program and to explore implementation considerations for the OECS region.
The “Connected Homes” program provided subsidies for Internet access that were set according to socioeconomic quintiles, reducing the price for access by 80% for the poorest quintile. Between 2016-2018, the program connected 140,000 families to broadband Internet, winning an ITU prize for policy innovation.
As with the case for Giga countries, Costa Rica also used schools as “anchors” for bringing connectivity to entire communities.
In addition to the concept of demand aggregation, the Webinar also covered some of the principles and regulatory policies from the Costa Rican experience on Socio-Economic Pricing, Universal Service Funds, and reverse auction.
The Webinar showed that in addition to financial instruments and regulation, data, collaboration and leadership are critical to the success, replication and scalability of any type of connectivity programs.
Giga is not just about connecting schools and connecting people. It is also about empowering entire communities to break the cycle of poverty through technology and education.
Schools are the starting point, but we need to work collaboratively in order to break silos and achieve the impact and sustainability we want to see.