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Bringing the next billion online one human at a time

Bringing the next billion online one human at a time

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Gavin Faulds, Regional Business Head MEA Region, STL Technology, discusses the strategic collaborations the company has been involved with in order to bring the next billion people online in Internet-deprived areas of India and South Africa.

Akola, situated in the Indian region of Vidharbha, is Maharashtra’s third largest city. While the city is home to shimmering rivers, sprawling forts and intricately carved temples and mosques, it is largely known as the ‘Cotton City of India’ due to its high cotton production. A 15 km drive from Akola is Kalambeshwar, a village that is home to roughly 2,000 people including Arpit Nigam.

A young, vibrant teen, Nigam is in Class XII and keen on learning about computers and the Internet. While many of his counterparts in Akola and other cities around the country may have access to computers at their homes, Nigam does not have access to many computers in Kalambeshwar. As a result, he has to travel 30-40 kms every day to satiate his hunger to learn. He is among millions of people who are yet to be exposed to a computer in a country that is the second largest online market in the world. With more than 504 million active Internet users who are five years old or above, India also contains 685 million people who are still offline.

World (un)connected

Apart from India, many countries such as China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, etc. still have a large proportion of their population who have never been exposed to the Internet. In some countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Papua New Guinea, close to 90% of the population aren’t using Internet. Those are staggering numbers given that the Internet penetration across the globe has reached 62%. At a time when technology advancements are at their peak and the world is going digital at the speed of light, there is a large underbelly of millions of unconnected people. So, what can be done to bring the next billion people online?

Bringing the world together

As an industry-leading integrator of digital networks, STL is on a mission to create a connected world. The company enables telcos, cloud companies and enterprises to harness the full potential of networking technologies by integrating digital networks of the future. The company also has core capabilities in optical interconnect, virtualised access solutions, network software and system integration.

Through strategic collaborations and initiatives, STL has enabled the digital inclusion of millions of people worldwide.

Connecting the unconnected in South Africa

STL entered a technology partnership with a leading South African ISP to provide Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) infrastructure in Soweto. With this partnership, the open-access fibre network provider will use STL’s innovative connectivity solutions to enable affordable, reliable broadband connectivity to up to 20,000 homes and lower income groups in the Protea Glen East and West areas of the South African township of Soweto.

STL also recently signed up with Limpopo Connexion, a subsidiary of Limpopo Economic Development Agency that provides world-class broadband services to government bodies and enterprises in South Africa. Under the agreement, STL will provide an end-to-end, fully containerised and web scale convergent BSS/OSS platform to Limpopo as the service provider looks to modernise its network platform to fuel digital-led economic growth across the region.

Accelerating Digital Transformation in Sudan

STL announced a strategic Digital Transformation partnership with a leading telco in Sudan. The customer has chosen STL to overcome constraints from legacy systems and to move to a modern agile digital platform. The partnership with STL will enable the telco to modernise its platforms and cater to a growing subscriber base.

Bridging digital divide in India

STL is committed to leveraging technology to bridge the gap between urban and rural India. We are connecting over 12,000 gram panchayats across Maharashtra and Telangana under BharatNet initiative. STL-built networks will connect more than 13 million citizens across the two states.

Further to drive our mission to transform lives through technology, STL connected holy caves of Amarnath from Pahalgam as well as Baltal to provide 4G services to everyone during the pilgrimage. Also, STL Garv, a rural-connectivity platform of STL, has directly reached thousands of rural citizens and helped people, including Nigam, improve their digital literacy. The Garv team leveraged technology to help many rural citizens in their day-to-day lives. STL Garv has resulted in a 27% increase in Internet usage, 76.2% increase in women education and 50% increase in use of government applications.


STL’s continuous pursuit of transforming lives with digital networks is stronger than ever. Through strategic collaborations and initiatives, STL has and will always be working towards enabling the digital inclusion of the next billion.

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