With every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration, GDP growth is boosted by 1.4 percent in developing economies, a 2016 World Bank report states.

It’s no wonder then, that governments are hurriedly connecting up their rural communities. GovInsider has pulled together three examples of schemes in Asia Pacific.

1. Malaysia’s Smart Community

kemaman class=

In 2015, the Malaysian government launched its Smart Community project, aiming to reach out to rural communities nationwide. It provides villages with internet centres and fibre optic infrastructure, and teaches residents digital skills.

The first project started out at Kampung Gong Chengal in Terengganu; villagers used to travel 10 kilometres to the next town to get internet connection, but they’ve saved on travel time since internet hubs have been set up near their homes.

“Now that we have [an internet centre], we are not the only ones that benefit from it; other nearby villages use its services too”, Nini Faressa Binti Baharuddin says.

The government has also helped the district build a flood management system, helping different agencies aggregate sensor readings so that flood alerts can be sent out to the relevant departments.

Across all internet hubs, staff are also appointed to teach villagers basic ICT skills, such as creating websites to market local products and services.

The project – under the Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission – is trying to replicate its efforts across villages with a similar economic background. For example, “when we work with one district on tourism, it is something that we feel can be replicated across other districts as well”, Dato’ Ali Hanafiah – Chief Officer of the Communication, Digital Services and Standards Sector – tells GovInsider.

The scheme has since expanded to Langkawi and three other states – Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak.

2. Indonesia’s Kampoeng Cyber

In a rural village in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, internet connectivity first started from its community’s efforts, and now defines the village’s culture and identity. Unlike most places – where government sets out internet infrastructure – citizens in Kampoeng Cyber worked on their own resources to get affordable cable access.

“We were the first [village] which initiated collective internet connection for people’s
empowerment,” Sri Marpinjun, local anthropologist tells SAPIENS, a digital publication.

The movement started from a growing interest in the community to use computers. They were exposed to them when Heri Sutanto, founder of the initiative, rented computer labs at the university he worked at to teach them.

Soon after, villagers afforded cheap internet by spliting cables off a central modem, sharing it through one house and cutting costs by about 80 percent. Within one year of the movement, 150 people from 25 households were connected, and using it to launch new businesses and boost existing ones.

For instance, one villager started a blog to promote his handmade fishing gear, eventually opening up a physical store. One other marketed his craft for fake mustaches and beards online, which led to a commission for Soekarno, an Indonesian movie.

The digital influence has since spread to other neighbourhoods nearby – in the town of Solo, and the Suronatan Digital Village – where communities have built cheap internet access. The country’s Minister of Communications Technologies has also gifted Kampoeng Cyber with US$2,000 to keep up their efforts.

3. India’s Digital Village

In December, India announced plans to provide better health and education services for its rural citizens, setting up 100 “digital villages” and then expanding the scheme nationwide.

Local agencies can select a village to provide online health and education services to citizens, said Ravi Prasad, Minister of Law and Justice, and Electronics and Information Technology at a press event.

A village in Delhi also sped up works to build its own wifi hotspot, after the local government announced that it will take one year to do so. Residents gathered US$26,000 to create a wifi zone that spread across 2.5 square kilometres.

“I discussed that with the village youth and they insisted on installing WiFi here. In no time, the telecom company to implement this project had been hired and a tower installed in our backyard. Now the 2,700 mobile internet users in our village [can] benefit from this service,” Pradhan Ishvar Mavi, a local villager, tells Newsline.

Elsewhere, cyber hubs have been set up in Chandoli, the state of Rajasthan and Melli Dara Paiyong, in Sikkim. The former internet village gained enough traction that Mark Zuckerberg paid a visit to the rural community.

While the internet has allowed us to co-manage our grocery supply with our refrigerators, the previously unconnected are now discovering the might of the world wide web – its opportunities are endless.

Main image by jwvgoethe, licensed under CC BY 2.0