Submitted by willp on

Last year many people asked us what we meant by "sustainability", as it's an over-used word these days. This Wired story on the failure of Afghanistan's "WiFi City" offers a perfect lesson in the need to approach social impact initiatives with sustainability built into the underlying architecture of the initiative.  In SIFP applicaitons, we'll be looking for those which have sustainability - viability of a long term funding and/or business model -- which this initiative sadly lacked.

The work the founders of the effort did to bring WiFi across a deeply troubled city, combined with enterprising locals's efforts to spread the network, had enormous positive social impact in everything from simple communications, to telemedicine to education. But there was no sustainable economic model, not even a donor-assisted one, to pay for the satellite bandwidth.   

Faced with this situation, what would you have done differently?

As an armchair quarterback with info limited to the article, I at least would have started with a model in the beginning in which users of the net pay *something*, so that an underlying economic model is created that would be more attractive for donors (or government sources) to bridge until a time when it would stand on its own. 

See the SIFP definition of sustainability on the rubric page, here.