Stephen Ondieki lives in Africa's second-largest slum, Kibera in Kenya, where most residents earn less than US$1 a day. However, Stephen owns a computer repair shop that not only enables him to earn US$8 a day, but also to give back to his community by turning his shop into a hang-out spot for youth, whom he mentors and teaches about IT and networking. "They see me overcoming the same challenges they face and they're motivated to try to make some changes themselves," he says.
Stephen acquired his IT skills through training with the Cisco Networking Academy, a program that collaborates with organizations around the world to teach hundreds of thousands of students the skills needed to build, design, and maintain networks - an increasingly crucial skill in an increasingly networked world.
Stephen's success and community outreach in Kibera would not have been possible without reliable and affordable access to a broadband connection. For Stephen and for many other individuals in developing countries around the world, broadband connectivity acts as a powerful catalyst as well as an anchor for economic and social advancement.
For example, a broadband connection provides greater connectivity for a farmer in Colombia, allowing him to have updated market information on the price of sugarcane, which in turn results in his ability to keep more of the profit when bringing his harvest to market. Or, a tour guide in the Sahara can learn Spanish through an online course in order to better communicate with his clients. It allows doctors and nurses to virtually check in on their patients, citizens to access government services, and entrepreneurs to develop and distribute new technologies that improve the quality of life of their communities.
Broadband connectivity also creates jobs and business opportunities: A 2012 World Bank study estimates that effective broadband development will create between 2.5 and 4 additional jobs per broadband job and that 10 percent broadband penetration can increase a country's GDP by 1.5 percent. A 2012 study by the GSMA and Deloitte found that in developing markets, a 10 percent expansion in the penetration of mobile telephony services, which are enabled by mobile broadband, increased productivity in developing markets by 4.2 percentage points. Relatedly, a 2012 study by the Economic Policy Institute claims that $1 billion invested in wireless infrastructure in a year will lead to 12,000 jobs in that year, including 3,500 direct jobs, 4,500 supplier jobs, and 4,000 induced jobs.
However, less than 10% of the population in developing countries has access to affordable, reliable broadband internet, according to Inveneo, a non-profit that delivers sustainable computing and broadband to the developing world.
Connectivity growth is hampered by existing market conditions, regulatory hurdles, and government prioritization. In addition to the insufficient broadband infrastructure, connections that do exist are often too expensive and unreliable to encourage universal access. For example, according to the BBC, a small business broadband connection in Kenya can cost around US$120 a month for a relatively slow connection of 256kb per second - a prohibitive combination of high cost and low reliability. By comparison, in Paris, France a high-speed connection of 12,800 kb per second is available for only about US$34.
Considering the great benefits of broadband connectivity to individuals and businesses alike, it is crucial for developing countries to help build out broadband infrastructure.
Public-private partnerships play an important role in this process. The Cisco Networking Academy that Stephen in Kibera participated in currently runs 10,000 academies in 165 countries (including 382 academies in 30 countries in Africa) and this success frequently depends on public sector collaboration. For example, in South Africa the Networking Academy partnered with the Department of Basic Education, Vodacom, Microsoft, and Mindset to use local service providers' towers to transmit wireless signals, without which remote areas would have been impossible to reach.
Access to broadband has allowed Stephen to change his life and better his community. With greater broadband deployment in developing countries, more individuals will have the opportunity to significantly change their future for the better. As global organizations, governments, NGOs, and corporations plan for the years ahead, we must ensure that broadband deployment for the whole world is a priority. With reliable access to the internet, the Stephens of the world will take care of the rest.
Learn more about Cisco's Corporate Social Responsibility: csr.cisco.com