Developing nations face a number of broadband demand and supply side barriers. These include a shortage of wireline infrastructure, constrained inter- and intra-modal competition, low income, and limited awareness. Developing countries also often face challenges such as weak regulatory and legal frameworks and significant differences in infrastructure development between rural and urban areas. As a result, such countries typically lag developed countries in broadband penetration (Figure 1), although there are exceptions such as some nations in the Caribbean or the Gulf States.

FIGURE 1.15.
Fixed broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants

Source: World Bank (

A number of studies show that broadband increases economic growth (See 1.3.1 Impact of Broadband on Gross Domestic Product in Chapter 1). Broadband is also a platform for innovation, an enabler of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) growth and a facilitator of new firm foundation. This is particularly relevant for countries facing the challenge of promoting economic development and looking to raise the standard of living of their citizens. In that regard, it is useful to look at international objectives for promoting development and examine how broadband fits in.

This module offers a summary of broadband trends in developing regions. It reviews broadband in the context of the Millennium Development Goals and the World Summit on the Information Society. It highlights particular bottlenecks that developing countries face deploying broadband networks. It then summarizes regional situations. Countries are classified into geographic and economic groupings according to the World Bank’s regional and income classifications.* The module also reviews the challenges faced by countries in special circumstances. The module summarizes the findings from the seven country case studies commissioned for the Broadband Toolkit.