Is Extreme Poverty Incompatible with Broadband?

global wifiIs it possible to have a community with extreme poverty (under $1.25 per day per person) in an environment with inexpensive, reliable broadband?

On its face, this seems an absurd question: reliable broadband almost by definition tracks to communities with sufficient resources to afford it. It’s a bit like saying “is it possible to have extreme poverty in an environment where houses also have swimming pools?”.

But it isn’t so simple — in fact, all poor communities on the planet will be getting reliable, reasonably-priced broadband in the next few years. So what does that imply for extreme poverty?

Even if broadband isn’t affordable to individuals, it is typically affordable to government officials, health clinics, some schools, international NGOs, and others. Once broadband arrives, government programs can reach citizens. International efforts, including direct cash payments, are enabled. Economic advantages of better information and price data are available. Efficiencies around transportation and supply chains are immediately presented.

Or to think about it another way, for a community to really be stuck below $1.25 per person, it almost by definition needs to be isolated, cut off from any economic opportunities or support programs whatsoever. $1.25 per day is an amazingly low number.

So it is reasonable at least to postulate that extreme poverty is in fact incompatible with broadband. (Term this crazy idea “Cashel’s Law”?)

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