This Solutions Guide is designed to address, in consultation, engagement and discussion with governments, service providers, communities, civil society, technical organizations and young innovators, the lack of telecommunication service delivery (voice and data communications) in developing countries around the world. It details a process for identifying solutions to extend telecommunication services to unserved and underserved geographies in developing countries, which are home to the bulk of the 46.4 per cent of the world’s people who are not yet connected to the Internet. The solutions presented here can also, however, be applied to underserved and unconnected geographies in higher-income countries. The Solutions Guide articulates a process that helps identify specific solutions for localities that are unserved or underserved in terms of telecommunication options and that do not currently benefit from connectivity. The link to the global network of voice and data communications is referred to as the “last mile”, which in this Guide is synonymous with “first mile”.

The Solutions Guide clearly focuses on two aspects. First, it describes the solutions that can currently be deployed for sustainable, affordable communication service to unconnected communities in developing countries (low- and middle-income countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States). As the focus is on sustainable, affordable solutions for currently underserved localities and on interventions that can be deployed today, it refers to legacy access technologies found in advanced economies and emerging technologies that are not yet in widespread commercial deployment, but does not discuss them at length.

Secondly, the Solutions Guide focuses on the conditions and constraints facing individual localities, and the solutions it presents are aimed at providing communities with sustainable, affordable service. While these individual interventions can be aggregated and viewed through a regional or national lens (for example, by national government agencies focused on universal access), they are for the most part presented individually. Additional elements of the ITU Last-Mile Connectivity Toolkit build on the Solutions Guide by developing interactive regional and national planning tools.