Explored: the Digital Infrastructure for the Next Billion Users in Emerging Markets

  • world economic forumThe Digital Infrastructure Report 2015 examines the challenges of providing infrastructure and applications to 4.5 billion unconnected consumers, largely in emerging markets
  • All markets face challenges related to changes in consumer and business usage and the need to remove frictions that prevent users from transporting and accessing data.
  • More than 1 billion people will move to cities, requiring the development of “smart cities” with ICT infrastructures
  • Access the report here and for more information about the meeting:http://wef.ch/ea15

Jakarta, Indonesia, 20 April 2015 – At a time when the potential of the internet for economic and social benefit seems boundless, major issues loom that could affect the ability of billions of people – 96 % of them in emerging markets – to get connected and participate fully in the digital economy. The Digital Infrastructure Report, published today, explores these issues in depth.

The report, written in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, argues that emerging markets face two broad issues in providing affordable internet access: building network capacity and expanding network coverage, including a critical and urgent need for more spectrum to be released and allocated to mobile usage. Encouraging broader internet usage, particularly in emerging markets, is also critical to bringing more people online.

The Digital Infrastructure Report also points out that the changing nature of consumer and business usage and the rise of the Internet of Things will have a significant impact on network infrastructure needs in developed and emerging markets. It argues that governments should support policies that encourage network investments to meet future traffic growth, including removing barriers to the roll-out of low-cost technologies such as small cells, experimentation with new commercial pricing models and the rationalization of legacy regulations.

“The technologies exist to help resolve several of these issues, but some are hampered by out-of-date policies, legislation and regulations,” said Bruce Weinelt, Director, Head of Telecommunication Industry, World Economic Forum. “There is a need for rationalization of legacy regulation, as well as experimentation with new commercial pricing models that can fund network investments without harming competition.”

As more of the world’s population migrates to urban centres, the development of “smart cities” requires the planning and deploying of ICT infrastructure. More than 1 billion people will move to cities over the next 15 years – about 360 new cities with populations of 500,000 or more will be created – mostly in developing markets. Governments need to set smart-city policies. These include determining targets for long-term investments in a city’s digital infrastructure and driving greater citizen engagement, and allowing industry to focus on the execution of the policies and deciding where the best returns on investment lie.

“Governments in emerging economies have been determining the specifics of their broadband access aspirations. This assessment should help to develop a country-specific operating and funding approach, one that is technology agnostic, provides incentives for investment and allows experimentation,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman, Bharti Enterprises. “Countries could learn from the different models being used to connect the economically unviable regions.”

As digital technologies become more pervasive in everyday life, there is a growing need to unlock consumer and industry value by removing frictions that prevent users from transporting and accessing their data, particularly their personal data and digital identities, while continuing to respect user privacy.

The Co-Chairs of the World Economic on East Asia are: Hans-Paul Bürkner,Chairman, The Boston Consulting Group, Germany; John Riady, Executive Director, Lippo Group, Indonesia; Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Chief Executive Officer, PT Bank Mandiri (Persero), Indonesia; William Lacy Swing, Director-General, International Organization for Migration (IOM); and Teresita Sy-Coson, Vice-Chairman of the Board, SM Investments Corporation, Philippines.