Fisheries and TV White Space Broadband? The linkage between fishing communities in a developing country and a cutting edge Internet technology may seem tenuous to the uninitiated.   However, using Resonance’s Sustainable Transparent Effective Partnerships (STEP) methodology, the USAID/Philippines ECOFISH project has created a unique partnership with the Government of the Philippines and Microsoft to use the new TV White Spaces broadband technology to deliver better services to fishing communities in five outlying municipalities in Bohol in the Philippines.

On the surface, the rationale for such a partnership is far from obvious.  However, STEP focuses on uncovering the shared value for the private sector, for development objectives, and for stakeholders.  This approach enables us to identify ‘outside of the box’ opportunities that may not seem obvious at first glance.

In this case, let’s examine the potential intersection of interests among the private sector, stakeholders and the development community:

  • The Private Sector Opportunity. TV White Spaces is a disruptive technology.  It has the potential to deliver broadband levels of connectivity wirelessly over great distances and at extremely low cost – making it a very promising ‘last mile’ solution in developing countries that typically lack the physical infrastructure (ie phone, cable and fiber optic lines).  To date, there have been a small number of pilots of the technology – mostly in Western countries.  What the technology industry needs is a field deployment of the TV White Spaces technology under real world conditions.
  • Stakeholder Needs/Demands: The Government of the Philippines, as part of its Smarter Philippines Initiative has the ambitious goal of providing Internet access to the entire country by 2015.  If effective and economical, TV White Spaces technology has the potential to enable the government to reach even very remote areas.
  • Development Objective: Fishing communities in the Philippines are often remote and cut off from essential government services.  Working together, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and USAID’s ECOFISH project are seeking to enhance fisherfolk registration and, thereby, improve access to government services.  If outlying fishing communities are connected, it will greatly improve registration and access to government services.

Through STEP, Resonance engaged the partners in a series of facilitated negotiations, which enabled them to see the Shared Value opportunity of a partnership.  Once that value was understood by all parties, our team then worked with the partners to negotiate the terms of their collaboration – resources to be contributed, partner responsibilities, governance and timelines.  With the partnership concept finalized, we then facilitated the development of a memorandum of understanding among the partners.

The result: The TV White Space Supported Fisherfolk Registration in the Danajon Reef Partnership will use TV White Space –unused TV broadcast channels – to establish connectivity in remote areas and facilitate mobile fisherfolk registration in five municipalities in Bohol.  This partnership will significantly increase the ability of municipalities to register fisherfolk in outlying communities and provide improved access to government services.

As a partner, Microsoft seized the chance to demonstrate the power of the new TV White Space Technology in the Philippines – one of Asia’s fastest growing markets – represents a significant business opportunity.  According to Karrie Ilagan, Managing Director, Microsoft Philippines, “TV White Space technology is an example of how untapped resources such as unused television channels can be empowered to improve peoples lives like our fisherfolk with a better registration and convenient registration system.”

The new partnership is also enabling USAID to reach beneficiaries in a way not previously thought possible.  According to USAID Mission Director Gloria Steele, “This groundbreaking initiative demonstrates how win-win solutions for the environment and the business sector can be both profitable for the business sector and sustainable.”

Though the deployment of the White Spaces technology is too soon to make any definitive conclusions, the potential to benefit underserved communities is enormous.  Stay tuned in the months ahead as we provide updates from this cutting edge partnership.

Update: see more about the success of this project here.