Where We Work
Wanting to affect the process by which two billion Asian citizens assume status as a new global middle class, DDI’s focus is on Asia, and our activity encompasses the ASEAN nations of Southeast Asia, the SAARC nations of South Asia, as well as China’s PRC and Chinese Taiwan. The five governments below currently capture our attention.
Meaningful Broadband-China was established under the leadership of Dean Li Guangian of the Department of Information Management at Peking University (PKU) in partnership with Digital Divide Institute. The collaboration began with a series of lectures by the DDI Chairman in Beijing who was assigned as Visiting Professor at PKU. The key researcher leading the effort is Associate Professor Han Shenlong, who is considered a leading expert on Digital Divide in China. MB-China is expected to be activated in a series of seminars to be held at the university beginning in May of 2016. China’s Confucius Institute has invited DDI’s professor Smith to deliver a lecture series called “Confucius and the Internet,” that explores the link between the philosophy of the ancient sage Confucius and principles and challenges that shape the internet in China. Dr. Han also teaches Information System Analysis and Design, and Theories and Technologies on Modern Information Retrieval. Introduced to the field of community informatics by Dr. Kate Williams and Dr. Abdul Alkalimat from the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, he helped organize the Community Informatics Summer School (CISS) of Peking University in 2011 and 2012. He is a co-author of Community Informatics in China and the US: Theory and Research, which is the first community informatics textbook to be published in China. Dr. Han is also the organizer of the first community informatics conference in China, called eBeijing 2012. His current research project, sponsored by the National Social Science Fund of China, investigates the digital divide between China’s urban and rural areas and its impact on China’s urbanization process.
Digital Divide Institute continues to expand the scope of nations where we are involved. Our latest is Bangladesh, a nation of 165 million persons. Stakeholders from Bangladesh will be benchmarking with Indonesia to adapt field testing activity for Meaningful Broadband. A focus will be the role of women and girls in Bangladesh’s massive textile industry. We believe that technologies can be used to support education and entrepreneurship among low-income workers, allowing workers in Dhaka’s textile factories to return to their rural villages to establish entrepreneurial businesses aided by 3G printing and “maker spaces.”
The Kingdom’s ICT coordinating body, called NIDA, requested DDI formulate a Meaningful Broadband Working Group. Essentially, the plan would support the implementation of the broadband plan established with the help of the International Telecommunications Union. If successful, the Kingdom of Cambodia would be the first low-income nation to attempt to leapfrog directly into next-generation digital technologies – skipping several steps in the classic process of economic development that emphasizes urbanization and manufacturing.
Cambodia is an inspiring place to consider the future of broadband. With the killing fields a distant memory, “killer applications” in local language are now on the minds of Cambodia’s youth. Though the Kingdom is small (15 million) and still poor ($900 per capita) and overwhelmingly rural (80%), it is a steady achiever, averaging a 5%-7% GDP growth for the past 17 years, exceeding China’s rate The World Bank says Cambodia may be the first agriculture-based low-income nation to leapfrog over the grimy urban manufacturing phase and directly into a services-based knowledge economy, led by a big push into eco-tourism.
Indonesia is DDI’s current showcase, and the first country where Meaningful Broadband has been fully embraced by all stakeholders in public-private and academic sectors. It has not only generated the political will that caused the government to establish an Indonesia Broadband Plan, but the Meaningful Broadband model test-market deployment to the first “Kabupaten” or local districts. To establish the design of the test market activity, the World Bank’s ICT division stepped in to head the technical team. The driver of Meaningful Broadband is the activation of a “sleeping infrastructure” – the underutilized 42,000 kilometer Palapa Ring fiber optic backbone which traverses the archipelago. The World Bank’s contribution was to link the fixed broadband to a Last Mile solution that aimed to establish the first interoperable e-government network, incorporating local schools and health clinics.
Beyond this, the Meaningful Broadband conceived a program of Meaningful Use. That concept refers to a device project and also a campaign to elicit massive local content which would generate jobs and revenue for citizens located outside urban zones. The embrace of Meaningful Broadband did not come suddenly. DDI’s presence in Indonesia began in 2004 at Prof Smith’s seminar at Jakarta’s Harvard Club hosted by Intel Corporation. At this event, Prof Smith began his vital long-term partnership with Pak Ilham A. Habibie, a respected local business leader and son of the former Indonesian President. Dr. Ilham Habibie later became chairman of Digital Divide Institute- Indonesia, now located within his family’s think tank, called The Habibie Center, By 2011 the nation’s most powerful leaders signed a Jakarta Declaration for Meaningful Broadband and created a Meaningful Broadband Working Group, overseen from the National Palace under the watch of President SBY. Learn more about Meaningful Broadband in Indonesia.
In 2015 the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand invited Digital Divide Institute to re-introduce Meaningful Broadband-Thailand in order to advise the shaping a new “digital economy and society” program of the Army-led national government. Till recently, Thailand’s telecommunications sector was a source of a competitive disadvantage as several lower income ASEAN nations zoomed ahead of the more affluent Thais in all the indicators of “ICT readiness.” The DDI Chairman was an adviser to the Kingdom of Thailand beginning in 2005.
In 2007, Professor Smith relocated to Thailand and established DDI-Asia at the nation’s flagship royal university, Chulalongkorn. Under the chairmanship of the NBTC chairman, Prof Smith became managing director of the Meaningful Broadband Working Group which included all five of the CEOs of the combative telecommunications operating companies. He mobilized the National Research Council of Thailand to provide research support and funding for the working group.