IGF 2018 WS #384 Overcoming Barriers to Investment in Connectivity

Salle IX

Organizer 1: Christopher Yoo, University of Pennsylvania
Organizer 2: Sharada Srinivasan, University of Pennsylvania
Organizer 3: Muge Haseki, University of Pennsylvania
Organizer 4: Eric White, World Economic Forum

Speaker 1: Eric White, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 2: Allen Bailochan Tuladhar, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Antonio Garcia Zabellos, Intergovernmental Organization, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Sharada Srinivasan, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Christopher Yoo

Online Moderator

Muge Haseki


Sharada Srinivasan


Break-out Group Discussions - 60 Min


The workshop, as described above, seeks to bring together knowledge of the community through breakout group discussions on a very pertinent topic: how do we best improve investment in connectivity? We seek to bring together different sources of funders - grant-making organizations, government entities, multilateral development banks, and last mile connectivity enterprises - at one platform to discuss these challenges and learn from each other, as well as from the rest of the IGF community. In that spirit, the breakout group leaders initially provide very brief, fire-starter remarks. Perspectives from four different stakeholder groups relevant to this discussion: connectivity enterprises (Picosoft Nepal), impact investors (through WEF), government/multilateral development banks (IADB) are sought to be represented. We have also reached out to grant-making organizations (Sylvia Cadena, ISIF) and members of holding companies (Jim Forster) as well, to include them in the session. Each of our selected panelists/breakout group leaders therefore will intervene to provide critical perspective from their experiences in this space.


IGF has been dominated by oft-heard voices, and we have constantly sought to introduce new and relevant voices to the discussions. Organizers will ensure stakeholder group, gender and geographical diversity, as can be observed from the list of confirmed speakers. In the spirit of introducing new voices, connectivity enterprises and multilateral development bank representatives (Allen and Antonio Zabellos) have been invited and confirmed participation. We are also in the process of reaching out to Holding Companies/Private Equity players to request for their presence in the session. Gender balance has been encouraged through speaker choices and each speaker will bring unique expertise and experience to the topics discussed. Organizers will encourage remote participation and participation on social media.

The purpose of the session is to gain a more nuanced understanding to fund connectivity. We bring together different sources of funders - grant-making organizations, government entities and multilateral development banks - and last mile connectivity enterprises at one platform to discuss these challenges and learn from each other. We will host a hybrid format that allows for panelists to share experiences in short 5 minute snippets, followed by breakout discussions in each of the two segments of the session. Outline of the session: I- Perceived Barriers to Investment (45 minutes) Participants from connectivity enterprises, PE firms, grant-making organizations and multilateral development banks will provide their perspective on the key challenges faced by their own stakeholder group to fund last mile connectivity in a series of fire-starter talks that each last about 3 minutes. After the initial round of remarks by each of the speakers, the audience will break out into groups with each panelist leading a breakout discussion with members of the audience to further nuance and add perspective to these challenges. In a way, each breakout group will assume the role of the stakeholder group of their lead panelist/breakout group leader. These breakout group discussions will last 20 minutes, run parallely with the remote moderator convening the remote group as a separate breakout group session. A non-panelist from each breakout group will then report their insights into the main session. The moderator will condense the overall discussions thus far into a list of challenges that each stakeholder group has listed so far. II - Actionable Steps and Policy Implications (45 minutes) Next, the focus will shift to distilling actionable steps for each stakeholder group to overcome these barriers discussed in the previous segment. Panelists from businesses, multilateral development banks and grant-making organizations will once again respond on steps that they believe that they can take in the near future to overcome some of the listed challenges. This would be followed by 30 minutes of highly-interactive discussion with members of the audience, again broken into breakout groups that assume the role of one of the three stakeholder groups: enterprises, multilateral banks, grant-making organizations. A non-panelist from each breakout group will then report their insights into the main session. The moderator will condense the overall discussions and lead a Q&A with the whole group. Following the Q&A, the moderator will summarize the key takeaways from the discussion and the workshop will conclude with interaction between all participants to supplement the learnings. The meeting will end with policy implications to overcoming these barriers, and provide actionable insights to organizations seeking funding, as well as perspective from the grantees for policy-level discussions at grant-making organizations.

During the open discussion in the breakout groups, open questions will encourage responses from participants and everyone will be given equal weight and equal opportunity to intervene. Walk-in participants will be encouraged to participate in the discussion by the moderator who will seek contributions from participants in person and remotely. The remote moderator will play an important role in sharing the ideas of remote speakers/participants and will encourage interventions through video. They will convene a separate breakout group for remote participants. Following the group discussion, the moderator will report back to all participants on discussion. To encourage diverse contributions, more contributors will be invited to summarize their break-out group’s discussion.

Despite remarkable increases in connectivity over the last decade, less than half of the world’s population currently has access to the Internet. This workshop will focus on primary barriers to access funding for last mile connectivity projects from the perspective of four main stakeholders: investors such as private equity funds, philanthropic organizations, multilateral banks, and implementers, and address the following questions: What are the barriers to unlocking investment, and how do they matter? What are the needs of the funders and beneficiaries? What are the information gaps that need to be bridged on either side? What are the policy implications for successful connectivity investments? A large portion of current investments for connectivity comes primarily from private network operators. Those investments have disproportionately connected developed economies, urban areas, and wealthier populations, where there is a promising profit for those investments. The business case for network operators to invest in connectivity in poorer and more sparsely populated areas is weak, typically because those communities bring very low average revenue per user (ARPU) despite increasing levels of data consumption. The goal of philanthropic and grant-making organizations, on the other hand, is often to distribute funding to help connect certain communities such as women, schools, or indigenous populations without a rigid requirement of sustainable business model to do so. These connectivity initiatives fail as soon as they run out of funding. Grant making organizations sometimes provide ‘planning grants’ that serve to provide an initial influx of money and prepare organizations for larger management, but often, this can be futile if the organizations do not have adequate business training. Local enterprises which apply for such grants have their own barriers too. For instance, they may not have adequate training and expertise to fulfill the expectations of the grant process and run a full-scale business sustainably. In addition, since they tend to be geographically isolated as a last mile connectivity provider, they tend to have limited professional networks to exchange information and advice during the implementation process. Similarly, multilateral banks, too, have different goals and seek to invest large sums of money - a lot of their funding tends to serve backbone investments, not access networks. Their investments in backbone often fail in case relevant market players do not use the backbone to create access networks that can provide adequate returns on investment. Long term vision towards sustainability needs to be built in on both sides of connectivity investments - grant-making organizations and enterprises that are working in this space.

Online Participation

The remote moderator will be involved throughout workshop planning to advise on where remote participation will need to be facilitated. The moderator will frequently communicate with the remote moderator throughout the session to ensure remote participants’ views/questions are reflected. Organizers will share information with the remote moderator about training sessions for remote participation at IGF and ensure they have all the necessary information. As noted, the remote moderator will animate the remote participation group with an expert/speaker. This will ensure remote participations are given the opportunity to interact with multiple experts remotely. Co-organizers will ensure that the workshop is promoted in advance to the wider community to give remote participants the opportunity to prepare questions and interventions in advance and to generate interest in the workshop.

Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Successful connectivity investments require coordinated efforts from multiple stakeholders. While a large portion of current investments for connectivity come from private network operators, new avenues of blended financing show potential.

Information gaps on the viability of new business models can inform targeted investments. 

Policy can play a facilitating role in new investments for connectivity.