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4 July 2019 | Updated on 28 April 2023

As current connectivity strategies seem limited when it comes to addressing the communications needs of billions of people in developing countries, small community-based networks are proving to be an effective access solution, a newly launched APC research report reveals.

The study Bottom-up Connectivity Strategies: Community-led small-scale telecommunication infrastructure networks in the global Sout is based on evidence gathered through visits to 12 rural community networks in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well as desk research and interviews. It demonstrates a wide range of benefits of local control over network infrastructure, including:

  • More attention to the needs of marginalised people and the populations of rural communities, including women and older people.

  • Lower costs and retention of more funds within the community.

  • A greater sense of agency and empowerment among users and those involved in the networks.

These networks also face challenges, including the fact that they are still relatively scarce or invisible, mostly because regulatory environments are generally hostile to them and not ready to foster their growth and replication.

The information gathered in this research can be used for evidence-based policy making, to help create a more enabling environment for small community-based local access networks and to encourage support for the development of these networks in future.

The study, authored by Nicola Bidwell and Mike Jensen, was produced as part of the Local Access Networks project, carried out in partnership with Rhizomatica and with financial support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The project explored local access infrastructure models as a viable alternative to connecting the unconnected, and the benefits to the local community in terms of well-being, gender equity and social or economic development.

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Media contact: Flavia Fascendini, APC communications manager,  

About APC 

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world. Read more about APC’s work on community-led telecommunications networks here