Let me preface my comments by some more general considerations:

(a) No matter how wealthy he might be, a donor is only willing to
finance operation costs -- or even a substantial fraction thereof -- for
1 or 2 years.
(b) As accumulated cost for ongoing operations rapidly exceeds inital
investments (due to breakdown or obsolence), most projects should
consider "operation cost" and "relacements" right from the beginning
(it's: only the first PC is for free, you have to pay already for the
next one).
(c) As a consequence of (b), many if not most projects collapse, once
the original donor disappears.
(d) To prevent (c) there is a new buzz-word: sustainability
(e) However, the concept of "sustainability" holds a deep and
fundamental misunderstanding about the difference between NGOs and
for-profit companies.
(f) In the "North" (or whatever synonym you like) a NGO gets funding
mainly from donors, endowments, tax-reducibles, public money.
(g) In the "South" (or whatever synonym you like) there are no rich
donors nor a huge amount of persons interested in tax-deductions, and
public money is urgently needed for 1,001 tasks -- ICT4D is just one
among many.
(h) Thus, sustainability in the South actually means: those who benefit,
one way or the other, have to pay for the services they receive -- at
least for the direct costs (e.g., for replacements, upgrades, expansion.
Whoever is the provider has to charge for those costs - regardless of
whether it's a so-called Small Business or a NGO).
(i) Another way to look at it: most private small businesses are not
really "for profit", but rather are a way to for someone to generate
self-employment income, i.e., the small business is not expecting to
generate revenue for share-holders or interest for capital-investment.
(j) This makes the "Northern" distinction between small business ("for
profit") and NGO ("charity") -- found in many fund-applications of World
Bank, Regional Development Banks and Big national Donor Organizations --
not only incorrect but counterproductive. (In the "Southern" context,
aquiring sustainability means going into business and charging fees,
just like any other business).
(k) With respect to national public funds: assignment of extremely scare
public funds to subsidize ICT4poor seems reasonable and ethical if and
only if using ICT vs. other means will save money. Example: a Nicaraguan
Teacher is paid roughly 0.58 US$ per class-lesson assuming
class-frequencies of 35 and more. Operation of 1 single PC costs roughly
the same per hour. Nicaragua has a recognized deficit of some 10,000
primary and secondary teachers in public education, mainly due to budget
limits. Under these circumstances, spending 1 single US$ (or asking the
parents to pay) to sustain a School-computer is not only a waste but
(l) Corolary from a-k: the usage of ICT in the "South" can only be
sustained if it provides measurable economic benefit, either in form of
services directly for end-users, or in the form of reduced costs (or
extended coverage) compared with traditional approaches to providing the
same or similar services.

Having said this, here are my answers:

> 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?

Drop the artificial distinction between "for benefit" NGOs and "for
profit" micro and small enterprises.

> 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?

Assume that, unless there is a clear benefit for the public sector, as
explained above, public spending in PPP must and will tend to 0. Thus,
the contibutions will be only for limited administrative costs,
administrative and policy support.

> 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.

Use smallest-scale bids for local would-be service providers, open to
NGOs and small businesses. Treat both as part of the local
micro/small/medium-enterprise environment, and provide support, etc.,
to both that are normally given to any of these types of enterprises.

> 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?

If you don't do as expressed above, realize that the utmost probability
is that your (donor) project will be history as soon as you stop
throwing in money. (You have the odds of the experiences of thousands of
Tele- and Info-centers against you).

This DOT-COM Discussion is funded by the dot-ORG USAID Cooperative
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