Promoting equal access to digital connectivity, PPIAF’s support for digital development helps countries set proper regulations and find new ways, like infrastructure sharing, to spur investment that affordably connects the unconnected.

Digital technologies and their applications have been shown to have significant economic impacts on countries’ growth and development. For example, from the perspective of firms, digital development can increase productivity through efficiency gains, access to information, market efficiencies, and the reduction of transaction costs. Digital development can also improve public service delivery—enhancing the performance of hard infrastructure services, as well as that of social sectors like health and education.

Developing countries have seen rapid, but markedly uneven, growth in digital access and use over the last decade. One the one hand, mobile technologies have enjoyed unprecedented uptake, driven by private sector investment and supported by reforms to promote competition. This has enabled the growth of phone services for the underserved and poor to previously unseen levels.

On the other hand, Internet growth—while steady in developing countries—has not been as strong. Until more people have access to internet services through a fixed, broadband connection, the digital divide will persist. Basic connectivity is essential to determining the potential for development of all services. Challenges related to access to high-speed internet include cost of access and devices, availability of wireless broadband, and availability of high-capacity transmission backbones. PPIAF supports work to target this challenge.

PPIAF knows that, in part, the successful spread of mobile technologies was driven by a supportive business environment. Policymakers and regulators generally allocated the spectrum resources, licensed new operators to introduce competition, ensured workable interconnection arrangements, and took other steps to facilitate market development. There are lessons learned that can be applied to fixed broadband—and PPIAF is engaged fully in all aspects of helping countries move their digital development forward.