Extending Access to Services:
Policy and Regulatory Reforms
and Smart Subsidies
Despite rapid growth in telecommunications and information services in the past decade, the developing world falls short of universal access by most measures. Mobile service has helped narrow the gap in voice communication, including in many rural communities. But the technology and economics of today’s mobile platforms are less than ideal for access to the ICT-based services needed to realize the vision of an inclusive, people-centered information society. Meanwhile, the number of fixed lines per capita is growing at a slowing pace throughout the world and, in some countries, has even begun to decline as operators shift resources toward the mobile sector and corporate services.
Investment in nationwide infrastructure, particularly in backbone facilities, also is slowing.1 This is distancing the dream of ICT access in rural areas and may even start slowing growth in mobile service outside urban centers. Even if adequate backbone exists, a similar outcome occurs where open access rules are missing or poorly enforced.