USFs - Passive funds or active instruments of social change?
Telecom USFs have been around in many countries, but are a relatively new construct in some others, especially in emerging nations.
Whether examined scholastically or by practitioners on the ground, there has been much debate about whether USFs are a workable idea to extend connectivity to those sections of society that need it most.
Amid all that speculation, this Position Paper attempts to squarely address the question: Are USFs useful? And if so, under what circumstances?
The Paper argues that USFs can choose to remain passive and sit on collected funds, or choose to become social change agents by
- being flexible in defining their objectives, such as including broadband and specially disadvantaged social groups within their scope, and
- actively pursuing objectives and actions towards a hands-on social change course
Sharing the example of USOF, the Indian USF, the Paper shows how the Fund has successfully managed to change the social landscape of a particularly challenging, insurgency-affected geography, by setting up a mobile network in India’s Red Corridor.
It also discusses how the USOF has more such plans to bring connectivity to remote North Eastern regions through a mobile network, and other rural areas, through a fiber-based broadband network extending up to 250,000 Block level villages, thereby giving a much-needed boost to ICT-based development goals.