Connect the World and Save Money

Nilmini Rubin, executive vice president for International Development at Tetra Tech, discussed how we can connect four billion people to the internet and save money on the World Economic Forum (WEF) technology blog. Nilmini explains the importance of and strategies behind adopting a build once approach—installing internet infrastructure as part of traditional infrastructure projects.

This post originally ran on the WEF blog.

A few years ago, $100 million was spent on new roads in Liberia, but the decision was made not to lay internet cables beneath the roads. At the time, this would have cost an additional $1 million; installing those cables today requires a new construction project at a price of tens of millions of dollars.

Failing to adopt a build once approach and installing multiple types of infrastructure at the same time did more than waste money—it wasted lives. Laura Woodman, CEO of NetHope, writes that “as a result, connectivity across Liberia remains poor, a fact that hampered Ebola response efforts as community health centres struggled to coordinate efforts.” The lack of internet connectivity made it hard to map Ebola outbreaks, mobilize communities, and manage supplies and logistics in order to reduce transmission of the deadly disease.

Unfortunately, this Liberian example is not exceptional, it is typical: most road, water, electrical and sewer projects don’t incorporate internet exchange points, cables or towers.

Nilmini Rubin

Nilmini Rubin

Nilmini Rubin, vice president for international development at Tetra Tech, works to facilitate power and infrastructure transactions, promote clean energy solutions, expand electricity connectivity, boost energy service delivery, and improve utility operations. Prior to joining Tetra Tech, Nilmini served as a senior advisor to the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and as a senior aide to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the White House's National Security Council, the U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum. She holds a Master of Business Administration and a bachelor's degree in economics and development studies from the University of California, Berkeley.