How We Connect the Unconnected
Image courtesy of FairCount.org.
Connect Humanity is building a community of practice and investment vehicles dedicated to supporting, catalyzing, and scaling solutions that address five barriers to internet access:
Map investment-ready options to catalyze and scale infrastructure providers, reduce the cost of backhaul, and improve open source technology at key points in the connectivity stack to increase the ease of building networks.
AFFORDABILITY & BUSINESS MODELS
Index, support, and explain financing models that best support the specific investment needs of digital infrastructure like community networks, co-ops, and municipal bonds.
Advocate for policies like increased access to spectrum and “dig once” policies which would accelerate the rate at which people get connected, and support the community of people already leading work in this area.
Support digital services and digital literacy initiatives at scale (e.g., in schools, on device, and at point of sale) and increase the pipeline of network engineers working in the public interest.
Share best practices in scaling the production of locally relevant content, which is a critical incentive for getting people to use and pay for the internet.
Working with TechSoup’s community of more than 1 million civil society organizations around the world, Connect Humanity will generate community-level insight into what practices might be best scaled and what’s needed where, and implement those learnings, backed by capital. Central to our approach is a focus on supporting a robust ecosystem of actors, blended financing models, policy change, and open practices.
01 Expand the Financial Toolbox
Different communities and interventions to expand access require different types of financing. Connect Humanity will leverage creative financing solutions to support partners with grants, working capital, and impact investments. We will also identify opportunities for leveraging existing capital held in various development funds, develop pooled risk and investment models, and partner with governmental funders. Connect Humanity itself will raise and invest both philanthropic and investment funding.
Often, funders can only provide massive capital investments, but many organizations doing connectivity work can’t absorb these sums. We aim to serve as the missing middle between philanthropic grants which typically don’t exceed $250,000 and larger-scale finance ($5 million+) by helping expert organizations scale up sustainably with manageable investments over time.
- Fellowships to build the pipeline and community of network engineers;
- Initiatives for digital literacy at scale; and
- Research and advocacy on key policy issues.
- Sponsor initiatives to train regulators and empower diverse local content creators.
Debt Financing Fund
- Provide working capital and financing to organizations, enterprises, and networks connecting communities.
- Invest in innovative open source technologies in the connectivity stack to reduce the cost and/or increase the ease of building networks.
Impact Investment Fund
- Invest in content and services with high growth potential that help people to see the value in using and paying for the internet.
02 Support a Sustainable Ecosystem of Actors
The vast majority of funding will go to the ecosystem of existing actors already providing alternative infrastructure to disenfranchised communities, pioneering new business models, advocating for policy change, driving digital skills training, and producing critical locally relevant content. Among other goals, we aim to help these organizations become sustainable through initiatives such as a course on business planning and financial fundamentals to help scale community networks to a point where they could accept working capital debt financing.
03 Rally Civil Society for Policy Change
Connect Humanity will rally civil society to put sustained pressure on governments and regulators to move connectivity policy forward. We will pursue policy and regulatory changes to fundamentally shift the economics of connectivity, accelerating the rate at which people are connecting and benefitting portfolio partners. Lastly, we will bring new transparency to the state of global connectivity through initiatives such as an Ease of Doing Connectivity Business Report, which will rate each country’s regulatory environment to not only clearly lay out barriers to connectivity, but also highlight countries that are ripe for investment.
04 Drive Growth Through Openness
To cultivate a robust community of practice, we will implement tested open practices — open consultations to inform our strategy, openly documenting learnings and best practices, upleveling open telecom data mapping efforts, and prioritizing open source tech. We aim to not only support actors already doing leading work on these issues, but also to grow a body of shared knowledge for network engineers, public interest technologists, VC investors, and philanthropists working toward the shared goal of meaningfully connecting the unconnected.
Connecting 3.6 billion people to meaningful internet access.
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