Broadband networks are the foundation of digital economies and a key driver of economic and social development. Nationwide broadband coverage is considered essential for the economic and social development of a country. Ubiquitous access to broadband is therefore a key element in any country's digital agenda and national broadband plan. The World Bank, for example, estimates that a 10% increase in broadband penetration in developing countries would bring a 1.3% rise in GDP.
Governments are facing a challenge in finding ways to ensure broadband roll out across the whole country (not only in high income areas). We are seeing more governments deciding to play a key role and be involved in network deployment, but the huge challenge is that these investments be fiscally sustainable and that incentives for private investment are preserved. The second major challenge is how to make the best use of the available limited resources.
To bridge the connectivity gap, three types of models have been internationally implemented:
Fully government-controlled and financed (state-owned enterprises).
Mixed model – operated by private sector but financed publicly or through a combination of public and private funding (PPP or direct subsidies).
Private sector financed and operated with public investment incentives (investment incentives, universal service funds).
Most countries have developed national broadband plans with different levels of achievement and continuity. Urgent public policies are required to accelerate digital infrastructure deployment and boost social and economic growth.
Digital transformation is now high on the global digital agenda. Several countries are working toward making transformation work for both the economy and for society. Leaders agree that unlocking the benefits of ongoing digital transformation requires addressing the challenges this creates for jobs, skills, and trust. Governments should develop a proactive policy making approach whereby all stakeholders are invited to the table to develop and implement a clear strategy to shape digital transformation.
The goal should be to maximize the benefits of digital transformation for innovation, growth and social prosperity: determine the policy implications of digital transformation, improve measurement, and develop an integrated policy framework for all of government. There is no right answer to how to address this challenge. What is clear is that a strategy is required, one that should be defined with the involvement of all key stakeholders and assure that private investment incentives are maintained.