Question 10-3/2 Telecommunications/ICT for rural and remote areas

1 Statement of the situation

In order to meet the objectives set by the WSIS Geneva plan of action including those in the Millennium development goals for improving connectivity and access in the use of ICT to be achieved by 2015 for all on this planet, the challenge of infrastructure development in the rural and remote areas of developing1 countries, where more than half of the world population are dwelling, is an essential foundation for providing valuable ICT applications outlined in C7 of Tunis agenda for quality of life of residents in the marginalized, harsh climate and difficult geographical terrain.

The rapid migration of population of developing countries to urban areas may cause the adverse effect to the poverty alleviation unless measures are taken to improve the environment of the life in rural and remote areas possibly by deploying telecommunications/ICT for these areas.

The important aspect related to installation of cost effective and sustainable basic telecom infrastructure in rural and remote areas needs further studies and specific outcome needs to be available for the vendor community to develop a suitable solution to meet the challenges in the rural and remote areas.

The existing network systems are most of the time primarily defined for urban areas where necessary support infrastructure (adequate power, building/shelter, accessibility, skilled manpower to operate etc.) for setting up a telecommunication network is assumed to exist. Hence the current systems need to meet more adequately the rural specific requirements in order to be mass deployed.

Some of the known challenges that developing countries planning to spread ICT to rural and isolated areas must be tackled are the following ones:

    1) Shortage of power

    2) Expense of maintaining power backup usually diesel and environmental hazards thereof

    3) Difficult terrain

    4) Difficult access and transportation

    5) Lack of skilled manpower

    6) Installation and maintenance of networks is quite challenging and difficult

    7) Very high operating cost

    8) Low potential ARPU

    9) Sparsely populated and scattered population cluster.

More detailed study on challenges of deploying cost effective and sustainable ICT infrastructure in rural and remote areas is expected to be taken up within ITU-D study group taking into account the global perspective.

Therefore, "Connect villages with telecommunications/ICT and establish community access points" should be promoted more intensively by emerging broadband technologies for various e-application services to vitalize the social and economic activities of rural and remote areas. Multipurpose community telecasters (MET), public call office (PICO), community access centres (CAC), e-posts are still valid for cost effectiveness for sharing infrastructure and facilities by the community residents leading to the goal of provision of individual telecommunication access.

Therefore, it is proposed to deal with the challenges and system requirements of fixed and mobile networks for rural deployments in developing nations.

Decisions that may drive first the examination and then the choice of particular techniques and solutions for the provision of multimedia telecommunications/IT services may be influenced by, inter alia, the following:

    a) Increasing availability of telecommunications/ITS that provide enhanced broadband connectivity at progressively lower costs, lower energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

    b) Experience gained since the previous study cycles of WTDC in many parts of the world in developing, implementing and refining major rural telecommunication programmes, as more countries respond to particular situations and in-country demand using "best practices" as outlined in the work of ITU-D.

    c) The influence of cultural, social and other factors in producing differing and often creative responses to meeting the demand for multimedia services from residents of rural and remote areas of developing and least developed countries.

    d) Progress being steadily made on human resource development/management issues which are fundamental to establishing sustainable telecommunication infrastructure.

2 Question for study

There are a variety of several (new and old) issues that members will be interested in addressing within the four coming years of this Question. It is proposed that the main new key issue for study is the range and scope of techniques and solutions that are expected to play a significant role in the provision of e-application services for rural and remote areas. It is further proposed that the study should progress in stages to cover a four-year cycle in the following manner:

Step 1 to continue identification of the full range of potential techniques and solutions that can significantly impact on the provision of telecommunication/ICT applications in rural and remote areas, with emphasis on those that employ the latest broadband technologies designed to lower infrastructure capital and operating costs, assisting convergence between services and applications, taking into considerations reducing green house gas emissions.

Step 2 to continue to investigate and report on how the techniques identified above can be used to best deliver the range of services, and applications required by rural and remote communities and adapted to the needs of their users.

Step 3 to identify, assess and consolidate the challenges faced by developing countries in setting up a low cost sustainable telecommunication infrastructure in rural areas of developing nations.

Step 4 to describe the evolution of system requirements for rural network system specifically addressing such identified challenges of rural deployment.

Step 5 to continue consideration of the sustainability of the techniques and solutions identified in the above-mentioned steps.

Step 6 to augment the report on the range of case studies that clearly demonstrate how a range of techniques, based on new technology aimed at providing reduced capital and operating cost solutions, reducing (GH G) emissions and enhancing community participation, can maximize the benefits of broadband telecommunication/ICT infrastructure in rural and remote areas.

In dealing with the above studies, the work under way in response to other Questions being dealt with in ITU-D, and close coordination with relevant activities of the Questions, [in particular Questions 14-2/2, 18-1/2, 20-2/2 and also Questions 7-2/2 and 18-1/1 (Study Group 1), are highly relevant]. In the same way, the studies shall take into account cases related to indigenous communities, isolated and poorly served areas LDCs, and small island developing states (SIDS) and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), and highlight their particular needs and other particular situations which need to be considered in developing telecommunications/ICT facilities for these areas.

3 Expected output

The output will be a report on the results of the work conducted for each step above, together with one or more recommendations at appropriate times, either during the course of or at the conclusion of the cycle.

4 Timing

The output will be generated on a yearly basis. The output from the first year will be analysed and assessed in order to update the work plan for the next year, and so on.

5 Proposers

The Question was originally approved by WTDC-94, revised by WTDC-98, WTDC-02, WTDC-06 and WTDC-10.

6 Sources of input

Contributions are expected from Member States, Sector Members and Associates, as well as inputs from relevant BDT programmes, particularly those that have successfully implemented telecommunication/ICT projects in rural and remote areas. These contributions will enable those responsible for work on this Question to develop the most appropriate conclusions, recommendations and outputs. The intensive use of correspondence and on line exchange of information and experiences is encouraged for additional sources of inputs.

7 Target audience

Target audience

Developed countries

Developing countries1

Relevant policy-makers



Telecom regulators



Rural authorities



Service providers/operators



Manufacturers including software developers






a) Target audience

Depending on the nature of the output, upper- to middle-level managers among operators and regulators in developing countries including relevant rural authorities are the predominant users of the output. Such study outcome will ensure adequate attention of vendors to focus on their development efforts to meet the needs of developing countries.

b) Proposed methods for the implementation of the results

To be decided during the study period.

8 Proposed methods of handling the Question

Within Study Group 2.

9 Coordination

The ITU-D study group dealing with this Question will need to coordinate with:

Focal points of the relevant Questions in BDT.

Coordinators of relevant project and programme activities in BDT.

Regional and scientific organizations with mandates covering the subject matter of this Question.

Other relevant stakeholders (see Recommendation AAA).

As may become apparent within the life of this Question.

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1.This includes least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing states (SIDS), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and countries with economies in transition.