Many GKD members have argued that the for-profit private sector must
play a key role in expanding access to underserved communities. The
notion is appealing. The 2003 UNCTAD E-commerce and Development Report
states that in 2002, 32% of the world's Internet users were in
developing countries, and they are likely to constitute 50% of the total
by 2007. That's a lot of demand to attract private sector investment.
GKD members also seem to agree that a crucial element in extending
access is an open, transparent policy environment that encourages

Yet relying on for-profit firms to extend access can be problematic,
even in the "right" policy environment. If donors and government want to
realize universal access, they may have to "distort" the market by
providing venture capital, loans, training, and other types of support
to encourage companies, including local entrepreneurs, to serve poor,
rural, isolated communities. Otherwise, the market may never be large
enough for companies to invest the time and money it takes to develop
services/products for underserved communities. And non-profits that do
provide solutions may be unable to generate sufficient revenues to
continue without subsidies.


1. What specific elements does a policy environment need in order to
encourage the private sector to expand access to poor, isolated,
underserved areas? Where do such policies exist?

2. What lessons have we learned about the risks and rewards of creating
public-private partnerships to expand access to the underserved? Where
have these lessons been applied, and where have they worked?

3. What are specific, unexploited opportunities for public-private
partnerships to expand access to the underserved? Please provide
examples where these opportunities can be exploited effectively.

4. What concrete lessons have we learned about stimulating/supporting
local businesses to extend access to the underserved? Please be
specific. Where have these lessons been applied effectively?

5. Within underserved communities, women often face special difficulties
becoming ICT providers (e.g., lack of capital, education, competing
demands for time). Are there particular approaches that can be used to
support women entrepreneurs who want to offer ICT access to underserved
communities, beyond the 'Grameen cell phone' model?

This DOT-COM Discussion is funded by the dot-ORG USAID Cooperative
Agreement, and hosted by GKD. provides
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