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Subregional Workshop on ICT Co-deployment along Passive Infrastructure in South Asia

Expanding ICT connectivity has played strategically significant role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific region. ICT enables growth across sectors through accelerated innovation that increases productivity and efficiency. It provides a foundation for digital economy and society that bring socio-economic transformations in many significant ways including advancing health, education, financial services, smart agriculture, and energy systems; accelerating online communities, commerce, finance, and a wide range of services; economizing resource allocation and usage; and promoting public awareness and engagement.

However, investment in ICT infrastructure development is costly and time consuming and is further complicated by negotiations required when it comes to cross-border connectivity. One of the means to expand broadband connectivity is to leverage cross-sectoral infrastructure synergies; that is, through co-deployment of fibre optic cables (FOCs) along passive infrastructure such as roads, railways, power grids and oil and gas pipelines.

Co-deployment could save costs of infrastructure deployment by minimizing duplicated civil works and environmental impacts via a one-time investment and construction. Through significant cost saving opportunities, it would allow countries to scale up and access more quickly and efficiently infrastructure networks, both within and across national boundaries. It also serves a wide range of complimentary purposes which benefits other infrastructure sectors that needs high-speed broadband and ICT services. For instance, transport entities can leverage FOC network to develop intelligent transport systems and other applications for modern transport. As such, co-deployment results in a win-win outcome for all involved sectors.

However, various challenges and constraints are encountered by some member countries. The challenges do not only emerge from financial issues, but political and institutional issues have also been an obstacle. Therefore, raising awareness and knowledge of policy makers on the practical implications of cross-border co-deployment would facilitate informed decisions and ensure that countries take a mutually beneficial approach to materialize the practice of co-deployment in cross-border projects. At the same time, the capacity development will contribute to an informed consideration of the implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) Master Plan and Regional Cooperation Framework Document 2019-2022.

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