As GBI’s USF Project Lead, David Townsend explains, there are nine key stages of development for any USAF. Not every Fund follows the same order of stages, but each one should consider evaluating its fund vis-a-vis the complete framework. A brief description of each stage can be found below.
1 Enabling Legislation
A USAF should be established according to a clear legislative mandate, which authorizes the collection and disbursement of funds for the purpose of expanding ICT access. Different enabling laws incorporate varying degrees of detail about the scope and purposes of the Fund.
2 Institutional Framework
Following legislative authorization, the Fund must be established under an institutional framework that allows it to implement the statutory mandate. The basic establishment of the institution, whether independent or within an existing agency, requires identification of personnel and budget specifically assigned to implementing the USAF functions.
3 Collections and Accounting
USAF administrations must establish as a first priority the mechanisms and procedures for collecting contributions to the Fund and otherwise obtaining income. These must include adequate accounting measures and financial controls.
4 Market Assessment, Gap Analysis
Before a USAF can effectively address the needs for ICT development in under-served communities, it is important to evaluate the current status of the target markets. A basic market assessment involves collecting up-to-date information on the degree of service available, ideally to the level of individual villages. A more extensive Gap Analysis examines the economic characteristics of these locations to determine the potential for market-based deployment of commercial services (market gap), versus locations which require USAF support (access gap).
5 Strategic Plan
A USAF Strategic Plan defines the overall goals and targets for the Fund over an intermediary period, typically 3-5 years, to help guide annual planning and operating priorities. The Strategic Plan is based on forecasts of anticipated Fund resources, the availability and skills of Fund staff, and the priority objectives for uses of the Fund. It defines the key policies or programs to be followed, such as services to support, locations to target, as well as implementation strategies and mechanisms.
6 Organizational and Business Plan
A USAF Organizational and Business Plan provides an internal structure and planning framework for the administration of the Fund. It typically should include description of the organizational structure and personnel roles and responsibilities, as well as budget plans and various other administrative rules and policies.
7 Operating Procedures and Plans
To ensure consistent and effective operations, and coordination with the objectives of a Strategic Plan, USAF administrations should establish standardized Operating Procedures, which define the functions and responsibilities associated with Fund activities. These should be supplemented by annual or bi-annual Operating Plans, which define the specific targets and priorities for the designated period, in compliance with the outlines in the Strategic Plan.
8 Project Design, Award and Implementation
Fund objectives are accomplished by providing financing to Projects, which may be of varying size, scope, and objectives. Fund-supported projects are usually designed to meet certain targets within defined ICT market segments. Financing may be awarded by various mechanisms, including competitive bidding or direct negotiated awards to specific implementing organizations.
9 Monitoring, Evaluation
USAF administrations should ensure that their financial support is properly utilized and that subsidized operators comply with the terms of their contractual agreements. This requires extensive monitoring and evaluation of Fund-supported projects, either by in-house staff or contracted firms. The evaluations should also examine the effectiveness and impacts on local communities of the projects, and feed back into future project planning.