Working Group on

What are the barriers to broadband access?

Chaired by Mr. John Galvin, Vice President of Government and Education at the Intel Corporation, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s Working Group on Demand takes an in-depth look at demand creation programs that develop relevant services, programs and initiatives to unlock the benefits of broadband, address barriers to adoption, and increase first time users. Building upon a foundational recognition of the importance of connectivity infrastructure, the Working Group on Demand sought solutions to the impediments to productive use of technology access — including affordability, awareness and ability.

Setting the Stage

Background Overview

Despite the proven social and economic benefits of broadband development for GDP, productivity, job creation, education, governance, and employment, service providers often lack the business case to develop and expand broadband services in certain areas and existing broadband infrastructure often remains underutilized due to factors such as lack of affordability, interest or knowledge. 

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), combined with innovations in broadband connectivity and the rich ecosystem of applications and services, can transform the lives of individuals and entire countries. Yet in reality, many do not enjoy the benefits, and despite growing efforts to get the underserved population online, we need to do more. The infrastructure to provide connectivity is paramount, but only a first step, and the impediments to productive use – namely affordability, awareness and ability; are significant challenges. ‘Demand stimulation’ is the term given to addressing these impediments, recognizing it is not enough just to address getting citizens online. We find when all the challenges around affordability, awareness and ability are adequately addressed, and the value of ICT and broadband connectivity are realized, people benefit greatly from these valuable tools.

The Way Forward

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Working Group on Demand’s 2016 report, titled Enabling the Use of ICTs and Broadband: Understanding What Works to Stimulate ICT Adoption, examines case studies of different country-led demand creation programs from around the globe, targeted to stimulate ICT adoption and increase the use and impact of technologies and broadband. It focuses on these critical demand creation efforts in parallel to broadband deployments which address adoption issues in real-time. Each case study provides a unique lens and a set of best practices that can be scalable and replicable in other contexts.

The benefits of ICT and broadband connectivity are maximized when people are actively using the technologies in their daily lives. However, a majority of global citizens are still not online, which emphasizes the need for interventions on a large scale. While broadband infrastructure deployment is the first step, it is not the only issue, given many still don’t subscribe when connectivity is present. As illustrated in this paper, there are many options to stimulate usage, from providing subsidies for subscriptions, devices, and/or content, to engaging citizens with information and training on technology use. The first step in the process is for countries to evaluate their local data on deployment and adoption trends and focus efforts on closing the gaps in the lagging demographic groups or geographic regions using targeted initiatives.

Governments should establish policies and initiatives that are supported by data and have tangible, measurable results and realistic objectives and timelines. The policies should not favor particular technologies or market participants, and should ensure fair and efficient competition in the marketplace. The policies should also be flexible, to accommodate changing market conditions.

The list of recommendations provided below can effectively lead to the enabling environment required to encourage more people online.

The Working Group Model

Composition and Activities

The Working Group on Demand was announced in New York in September 2015 and held an onsite meeting in Dubai (March 2016) in addition to convening virtually. The report was later released in Bangkok, on 16 November 2016 in a session at ITU Telecom World 2016.

Focus Area

Outcome Resources


Mr. John Galvin
Vice President of Government and Education at Intel Corporation

Broadband Advocacy Targets