At a recent press conference, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) of the Philippines announced its plans to scale up the use of TV White Space (TVWS) Technology to deliver free broadband access via municipalities across the archipelago nation of 94 million. The $31 million initiative comes as a direct result of the TVWS public-private partnership (PPP) between DOST, Microsoft, and the USAID ECOFISH project, which piloted the technology over the last 18 months in several remote coastal communities. How did a PPP of a total dollar value of less than $1 million achieve such scale?TWS BOOTH 2mx2m_final[1]

Scale is a buzzword in international development today, but few understand how to achieve it. At Resonance, we see partnerships as a key tool in achieving scale and we often design our partnerships with scale in mind. Because PPPs share risks, they often allow partners to experiment and pilot new technologies and methodologies that partners could not attempt on their own.

What are the attributes of a good scaling PPP?

  • Institutional capability and mandate in at least one partner. Whether it is public sector or private sector, there needs to be at least one partner in the PPP that has the capacity and the will to scale the partnership. Here, DOST has the role of leveraging technology for development across the Philippines.
  • Strong incentives. These can be market-based or even political. In the case of the Philippines, DOST is in charge of the government pledge to deliver broadband across the nation. Thus, it had a very strong incentive to move forward in scaling. In other cases, such as our Non-Revenue Water PPP, it is the private sector partner that has the incentive to scale into a new market segment.
  • The right pilot gathering the right data. To borrow the old tech database adage, ‘Garbage in = Garbage out.’ Thus, it is critical that pilot efforts are selected carefully, so that they can make a clear case for scaling. In addition, gathering the right data from those pilots is equally critical. In the case of the TVWS partnership, the team was able to demonstrate how broadband access in remote municipalities dramatically improved government service delivery.

In the case of the Philippines, the partners invested considerable time on the front end of the partnership sorting out these issues, rather than rushing forward without a solid foundation on how the partnership could eventually scale. By embedding partnerships with strong fundamentals, partners can leverage small scale PPPs to achieve that most illusive of results: scale.

By Steve Schmida