Enabling The Internet of Things in Developing
Countries: Opportunities and Challenges
Md Nazmus Sakib Miazi∗, Zenville Erasmus‡, Md. Abdur Razzaque∗, Marco Zennaro†and Antoine Bagula‡
∗Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
†Wireless Laboratory, International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy.
‡Department of Computer Science, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract—This paper presents an overview of the enablement
of IoT in developing countries and discusses the visions, gen-
eral applications, opportunities and challenges of IoT in these
countries. It also touches on issues relating to security, privacy,
trust and the accompanied complexity. The potential applications
for IoT are countless and can optimize processes with a direct
impact on society. Certain challenges have to be addressed to
make IoT deployment successful. It will be shown that some of
the challenges can be turned into opportunities and that IoT has
good chances to succeed in developing countries.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a novel paradigm that
is rapidly gaining ground in the era of modern pervasive
computing. The concept is basically developed on an idea,
where there are numerous things or objects - such as Radio-
Frequency Identiﬁcation (RFID) tags, sensors, actuators, mo-
bile phones, etc. - that are connected with the Internet. Each
of the objects has a unique address and is able to interact with
other objects. The things or objects co-operate with each other
to reach a common goal. The IoT is a triumph of distributed
computing systems having a huge compatibility to compile,
process and distribute information using wireless and wired
The term Internet of Things was ﬁrst coined by Kevin
Ashton in 1999 in the context of supply chain management
. Nevertheless, in the past decade, the term IoT evolved as
a keyword of modern technology covering a wide range of
applications like intelligent transport, smart health care, smart
utilities, etc. In summary, we can deﬁne IoT as an integrated
Internet system, that is able to cope with highly dynamic
global network infrastructure, having the capability of con-
ﬁguring themselves according to the standard communication
protocols, where every single thing has its own identity and
intelligent interfaces for seamless integration into information
A. Visions of IoT
The vision of the Internet of Things is to merge computer
networks, Internet of Media (IoM) and Internet of Services
(IoS) with Internet of Things (IoT) for developing a global IT
platform of seamless networks . IoM is a system that facil-
itates Multimedia applications - such as multi-player games,
digital cinema, virtual world simulations, etc. It addresses
the challenges in video processing, 3D processing and high
demands for data rate to be adapted with network conditions.
IoS is a system of delivering software based components
throughout the global networks. Enterprise inter-operability,
Service Web, Smart Grids and Semantic Web are the key
research challenges to build up an integrated and robust IoS.
IoT demands scalability, i.e., the edge points will be con-
nected through Clouds, not a Local Area Network (LAN).
Communication challenges are to be drawn more among things
and data-centers. The IoT needs enhanced processing power
with large storage capacity having always-on connectivity. At
the same time, the cost is needed to be minimized. To facilitate
the end-users with the best of IoT, the applications, services,
middle-wares, networks and endpoints are to be structurally
deﬁned in an entirely new way.
The IoT makes it happen between people and things to be
connected to each other at Anytime, Anyplace, with Anything
and Anyone, ideally using Any path/network and Any service.
This inscribes objects much ﬂexibility in terms of the 6 C’s -
Convergence, Content, Collections (Repositories), Computing,
Communication, and Connectivity in the context where there
is seamless interconnection between people and things.
B. General Applications of IoT
The Internet of Things denotes a plethora of things intercon-
nected with each other seamlessly. We can divide the general
applications of IoT into three domains, such as, Industry,
Environment and Society. Activities involving ﬁnancial or
commercial transactions among companies, organizations and
other entities reside in the Industry domain. The Environment
domain consists of activities related to the safety, maintenance
and development of all natural resources. And ﬁnally, the Soci-
ety domain contains the initiatives referring to the development
and inclusion of societies, cities, and people. These domains
are not isolated ones, rather they have strong correlations that
enable us to develop new applications and services exploiting
intra and inter domain dynamics.
Now, we discuss a few important ﬁelds of the IoT. First of
all, we can think about the Aerospace and Aviation industry,
where IoT certainly helps to improve aviation safety and secu-
rity. Secondly, we can look into the smart Automotive Industry,
where RFID is used everywhere in automobile production.
Prominent technologies like Dedicated Short Range Com-
munication (DSRC), vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-
infrastructure (V2I) communications, Intelligent Transporta-
tion Systems (ITS), etc. are fully being integrated with IoT
to ameliorate the current status of vehicle safety services
and trafﬁc management systems. In addition, IoT is inte-
grating GSM, Near Field Communication (NFC), low power
BlueTooth, WLAN, GPS and sensor networks to develop
a whole new platform for ensuring better services in the
The IoT has a great prospect in the Medical, Health and
Pharmaceutical industries. IoT can facilitate patients with the
help of intelligent monitoring technology for diseases, ad-hoc
diagnosis and prompt medical service in case of accidents.
Edible and biodegradable chips are being used for guided
tests and treatments. In case of the Pharmaceutical industry,
it is really important to maintain the safety and security of
the distribution of products. In terms of IoT, tracking the
supply chain with the use of intelligent systems and monitoring
everything with advanced sensor networks, is certainly very
beneﬁcial to the people related to this industry.
The IoT makes the retail and supply chain management
(SCM) operations smooth and ﬂawless. For example, with
RFID-equipped items and smart shelves that track the present
items in real time, a retailer can optimize many applica-
tions. Research shows, 3.9% of loss happens worldwide when
shelves go empty and customers do not get the desired product
. So, IoT can save a signiﬁcant amount of money in retail
stores facilitating them with smart Supply Chain Management
systems. Moreover, in the Manufacturing, Processing and
Transportation industry, the IoT can be a great boost-up for
the integrated systems. Furthermore, IoT shows great prospects
in Agriculture, Environment, Media and Entertainment indus-
C. Contributions of This Work
In this paper, we mainly focus on the prospects, challenges
and the probable solutions to the problems for enabling IoT in
developing countries. In developing countries, people face a lot
of problems to have access to the communication technologies
in terms of poverty, lack of Internet speed, low levels of
expertise, and overall lack of infrastructure. The authorities
face enormous challenges to improve the current systems to
make the infrastructure capable of deploying IoT as a whole.
We identify the opportunities of IoT in developing countries in
section II. We state the challenges to exploit the opportunities
for deploying IoT in developing countries in section III. We
discuss the possible solutions to the challenges and provide
guidelines to ameliorate the current condition to enable IoT in
II. OPPORTUNITIES OF IOTIN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
The prospect of IoT in developing countries is huge, ranging
from agriculture to smart city applications. In this section, we
discuss the opportunities of IoT for the emerging sectors in the
developing countries. We anticipate the promising prospects of
IoT in the ﬁelds of transportation safety, agriculture, environ-
Fig. 1. Potential IoT applications in developing countries
ment, utility management, health monitoring and so on. Here,
we focus on some of the signiﬁcant ﬁelds.
A. Road Accident Mitigation and Transportation Safety
The developing countries are experiencing rapid growth in
terms of economic development, population and consequently
motorization. However, neither the sufﬁcient road network nor
the safe transportation techniques have been developed, result-
ing in an increased road safety problem. Driver distraction is
one of the major causes of road accidents and highway crashes.
Events and things that attract attention of the driver while
driving are called distractions. More speciﬁcally, distractions
are any type of events or causes that take away visual, manual
and cognitive resources from the driving task. Estimations by
the National Highway Trafﬁc Safety Administration (NHTSA)
show that driver distraction causes nearly 25% of police
reported crashes . Approximately, 80% of crashes and 65%
of near-crashes involve some form of driver distraction and
the distraction occurs within three seconds of vehicle crash
. As a result, it is an interesting and timely research ﬁeld to
work in in the aim of mitigating road accidents and ensuring
transportation safety, utilizing the best of IoT.
We can deploy smart devices to collect the data that indi-
cate the cognitive responses of the drivers, their mental and
physical health, the vehicles’ ﬁtness and safety measurements,
etc. Collecting the data makes it possible to take safety
measures like, alarming the driver or responsible authorities,
intelligently stopping the vehicle, restricting the fatigued driver
from driving, etc. In summary, we can think of an Internet
of smart vehicular systems to mitigate road accidents and
enhance transportation safety.
B. Precision Agriculture
According to the United States Census Bureau, the world’s
population is over seven billion now, and it is expected to
increase more than three billion over the next few decades.
As a result, the food demand will grow 1.5-2 times more
than what it is at presently . Besides, the farm economy
is becoming unstable due to the combined effect of the
volatile nature of agricultural conditions and the uncertainty
of expected income from farm products. In the developing
countries, the scenario is worse and becoming more abnormal
day by day. Natural calamities, lack of proper fertilization,
use of excessive chemicals and pesticides, inefﬁcient crop
monitoring systems lead the crop management system of these
countries to jeopardy. Moreover, usage of poisonous chemicals
like Formaldehyde to prevent food from becoming rotten urges
for effective food monitoring systems. The prospect of Preci-
sion Agriculture (PA) is reﬂected in many recent researches.
According to Global PA Market Analysis & Forecast (2015-
2022) by BIS Research, the global market size for PA has
been estimated to grow over $6.34 billion by 2022.
These conditions necessitate the usage of modern tech-
nologies to improve crop-planning, to facilitate the better in-
ﬁeld management decisions, to provide precise farm records,
to minimize the usage of fertilizers and pesticides to the
optimum level, to maximize proﬁt margin and ﬁnally to reduce
environmental pollution. In contrast, the solution remains in
a very elementary stage. In fact, the adoption of sensor and
actuator devices in implementing PA systems is very limited
and still in research farms worldwide. PA might help in
ensuring accurate utilization of plant nutrition materials, to
protect them from insects and diseases, and ﬁnally to yield
higher crop production. Moreover, PA actually provides a
better scope for the national policy makers to plan for the
future production of crops and helps them to develop the right
methods to maintain food security.
C. Environment Monitoring
Environment monitoring is a growing paradigm in the ﬁeld
of the Internet of Things and is becoming a key feature of
modern environment management systems. Reusable hardware
and software platforms and energy harvesting sensors  can
be exploited to facilitate IoT application requirements for
ameliorating the current environment monitoring systems. In
developing countries, the necessity of modern environment
monitoring is very high. There, the rate of air pollution,
noise pollution, industrial pollution, and a range of human
created environmental pollution is formidable. To mitigate the
pollution level, we need to monitor the environment both
in urban and rural areas. In the developing countries, it is
important to monitor the environment regularly to predict the
climatic changes and to deal with the natural calamities like,
cyclones, ﬂood, drought, etc. In these countries, the system
needs to be fairly cheap and easily maintainable. So, usage
of IoT in environment monitoring can open a new era of
opportunities to maintain the consonance of nature, climate
D. Utility Management
Utility Management is one of the most prominent ﬁelds in
respect to the application of IoT in the developing world. In
addition to electricity, gas, trash removal, etc., water network
monitoring and quality assurance of drinking water is consid-
ered as a signiﬁcant application of IoT. To ensure high water
supply quality, sensors that measure critical water parameters
are installed at prime locations . The whole monitoring
system is managed by an Internet backbone consisting of high
speed ﬁber optic networks and Cloud services.
In developing countries, there is virtually no utility except
electricity, which is being managed utilizing modern moni-
toring systems. Even for electricity, the whole system needs a
lot of manual inputs from management personnel. So, in these
countries, it is important to implement smart and cost-effective
systems that will beneﬁt people with efﬁcient utilization of
available resources and minimize the resource wastage.
E. Intelligent Health Management (mHealth or eHealth)
In this age, the cliche of global aging and chronic diseases
is becoming a regular phenomenon . To deal with the
situation, many developed countries are focusing on reducing
hospital beds and in contrast, they are building up intelligent
home health-care systems. These kind of systems are the
combination of Hospital-centric services and Home-centric
environments. Implementation of the systems by developing
practical and advanced health related technologies by exploit-
ing IoT is becoming a burning research issue .
Developing intelligent health monitoring systems is becom-
ing important for some other reasons, such as, real-time health
monitoring which helps to detect and predict formidable health
issues and to take precautions. Moreover, almost 25% of young
people do not intend to follow the proper prescriptions from
the doctors. Consequently, the necessity of continuous health
monitoring is gaining signiﬁcance day by day. IoT enables
the easy access of Internet to health sensors, actuators and
other devices and provides Cloud services to manage data
and system integrity. Thus, IoT creates an opportunity to
utilize ICT in respect to develop health intelligent management
In developing countries, the scenario is grimmer than the
developed world. Here, from the birth of a child, ending
up to the chronic diseases of aged persons, the degree of
irregularity in health management is immense. People are not
really concerned of their health and they do not even bother
to preserve their medication history. People often come to see
doctors when they are in the ﬁnal stage of cancer. So, the
scope of utilizing intelligent health management systems is
huge. IoT envisions a way to implement eHealth with robust
and affordable services in developing countries.
F. Workplace Safety Enhancement
In developing countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, India,
etc., work safety is often ignored to save capital and invest
in production more. Although the governments impose strict
laws to prohibit disasters and accidents in workplaces, it is
a very common practice of the industry authorities to bypass
the restrictions with the help of corrupted ofﬁcials. So, the
situation asks for a solution that should be cost effective, easy
to use and well-integrated. A well organized workplace mon-
itoring system can ensure reliable and corruption mitigation
procedures for meeting the safety standards in industry.
In recent years, a number of industry incidents happened
that point to serious safety ignorance and lack of modern safety
monitoring systems. The 2012 Dhaka ﬁre killed more than 117
garments workers at the Tajrin garments factory in Bangladesh.
Again, the Rana Plaza incident in 2013 killed an overwhelming
number of more than 1100 people and injured more than 2500
people in Bangladesh. These incidents indicate the substantial
necessity of well integrated safety monitoring and warning
systems. In these circumstances, IoT opens the door of hope
to sort this problem out.
G. Social Security Management
The current conditions in developing countries reﬂect the
lack of Social Security. The situation, especially in India
and Bangladesh, indicates an unsafe state for general people,
especially for women. The rate of street harassment to women
is very high and the condition is becoming grimmer day by
day. Nights are becoming dangerous due to an uncountable
number of thefts, robberies, hijackings, kidnappings, murders,
rapes and so on. In fact, the growth of terrorism and civil unrest
in developing countries put things to their worst. To get rid
of them, we need to provide a whole new system of social
security networks. The technologies ranging from a central
CCTV network to personal safety devices can be used to make
cities safer. We have all the technologies in hand to integrate
and the platform is IoT. So, it is a great prospect for IoT to
develop social security ensuring systems.
III. CHALLENGES OF IOTIN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
The prospect also brings a whole bunch of challenges. In
developing countries, the administrative and ﬁnancial systems
run by mostly without any integrated and automated system.
The level of technology usage is low, and the investment
on research and development is very little. In the following
sections, we focus on various IoT challenges in detail in
respect to developing countries.
A. Technical Challenges
1) Internet Connectivity: Internet Connectivity is a prime
issue, when we want to enable IoT. Internet of Things demands
ﬂawless and adequate connectivity among every particular
thing. To sustain ﬂawless connectivity, it needs fast internet
speed, a continuous power supply, robust backup systems and
reliable and scalable infrastructure.
Facilitating the end users with high speed internet in devel-
oping countries is a huge challenge. To deploy wired backbone
throughout the whole country is formidably costly, and it is
kind of impossible for them to develop a countrywide wired
network to facilitate every end-user. An easy alternative is to
provide internet access through wireless technologies, like 3G,
WiMAX, 4G-LTE, etc. This invokes other kinds of problems
concerning lower internet speed, high power consumption,
high cost per unit usage ratio, etc.
So, the authorities can deploy a hybrid model of internet
backbone over the whole country, consisting of a ﬁber-optic
national data-highway, local and national data centers, regional
WiMAX and 4G service points, etc. The main challenge here
is to deploy a hybrid backbone over the country, that trades-off
with the problems and facilitates the end-users with optimal
utility, that can be sufﬁcient to enable IoT in these countries.
2) Data Centers: The creation of unmatched amounts of
data is one of the most important offshoots of the IoT. Since
the Internet consumes up to 5%  of the total energy
generated today and with IoT demands on the rise, energy
consumption is guaranteed to rise as a consequence. Data
centers in developing countries that are run on harvested
energy and are centralized will cater for energy efﬁciency and
reliability. The storage of data thus has to be implemented
intelligently so that smart monitoring and actuation can take
3) Power Resources: Compared to developed countries, the
planning of electricity for developing countries presents itself
as a complicated dilemma. The challenge surpasses the mere
acquisition of ﬁnancing for energy related investments. Energy
development is challenging as electric power industries are
among the most intensive in an economy. This leads to the
severe draining of ﬁnancial resources.
IoT for developing countries (IoT4D) will aid in provid-
ing power solutions by enabling clean energy technologies,
creating smarter energy markets and by optimizing the imple-
mentation of existing products. For example, to improve the
use of energy in homes, the IoT will automate and promote
energy efﬁcient practices such as the running of appliances at
In terms of a solution presented by IoT, servicing customers
with information regarding utilities, devices known as smart
meters can provide real-time, two-way communication be-
tween customers and devices in their perusal. Beneﬁts involve
granular detail to customers about their electricity usage.
Smart meters also aid customers in modifying their energy
consumption in relation to current prices. A smart meter also
allows the collection of data automatically. This negates the
need for a company needing to send out an engineer to
manually collect data readings from such a meter. It also serves
as an effective means to detect outages and the necessity of
4) Human Resources: A great challenge is the lack of
technically knowledgeable personnel. They include Engineers,
Scientists and Technicians. IoT is a state-of-the-art term and
implementing the technologies to build up IoT platforms re-
quires learned personnel. In developing countries, the number
of research centers are very low. The funding and investment
to innovations is critically at nadir.
B. Device Reliability
IoT devices for developing countries need to be robust,
energy efﬁcient and able to run on batteries for months at
a time. They also need to be able to make use of the solar
radiation present for recharging capabilities (e.g., photo-voltaic
panels). Even the sensors connected to motes in areas where
they are exposed to environmental factors need to be of a high
quality and have a reasonable life span. These devices should
be designed in a modular fashion that makes components
easily replaceable, almost in a plug-’n-play manner.
It is important to know when an IoT device drops off from
a network and goes ofﬂine. Knowing when the device comes
back online is equally important. It is in this domain that
presence detection is able to give an exact and up to date status
of all devices that form part of a network. The monitoring
of IoT devices in this way lends the ability to correct any
problems that have arisen within a network. It subsequently
boosts its reliability.
C. Financial Challenges
The IoT provides a great opportunity for developing coun-
tries to leapfrog from poorly prepared to scientiﬁcally and
technologically equipped countries which can use the IoT
technology to face their current and future challenges by tap-
ping into the potential provided by this technology. However,
such opportunity may become reality only if the developing
world is ready to embark into this technology at the same
pace as scientists and technologists of the developed world
and ﬁnancial challenges related to these technologies are
addressed. These include low cost of acquisition, maintenance
and ﬁnancial sustainability.
As currently perceived, sensor devices are the raw material
of the IoT. Such devices are still expensive for many countries
of the developing world when accounting for the cost of
acquisition and shipping from the manufacturing companies
which are mainly located in the developed countries. This
may hamper their wide and ubiquitous deployment in the
developing world. Furthermore, for such devices, cost and
ﬁeld-readiness are still closely related while the most ﬁeld
ready devices are usually proprietary devices with vendor-
locked software, sometimes updated frequently at recurrent
fees or cost. This leads to higher cost of maintenance and
operation which also leads to a challenging ﬁnancial sus-
tainability situation for those operating IoT businesses. Many
of these challenges may be addressed through local IoT
expertise, the use of open source hardware and software, and
strong collaboration between scientists and technologists of
the developed and developing world. Such collaboration will
enable the IoT4D dream to become reality.
D. Security, Privacy and Trust Issues
IoT security is a topic that is still in its development stage,
though there exists a rather large volume of research that
analyzes the challenges it presents and possible means of safe
guarding against attacks. These challenges must be overcome
in order for the IoT to be ready for real world deployment.
Since IoT architectures can be complex and can scale to
accommodate billions of objects or things that interact with
each other and with other entities, such interactions must be
The complexity presented by large scale architectures allow
for attack vectors that can be capitalized on in a staggering
way as access by anyone, anyhow and anytime are key features
of the IoT . IoT threats are numerous and include attacks
that target various communication channels, denial of service,
identity fabrication, physical attacks, etc.
In terms of protocol and network security, efﬁcient cryp-
tography algorithms are needed that can provide a high
throughput even in 8-bit devices. These algorithms should
also be lightweight by design and offer end-to-end secure
Key management systems must be implemented that take
care of distributing credentials to these protocols. These cre-
dentials will aid in establishing session keys between nodes.
Another factor of concern is authentication to cater for
identity management. Authentication would allow the vetting
of data to ensure that it contains what it is supposed to contain.
The sheer number of nodes involved in an IoT network that
creates information can be a large threat to privacy. Users
involved in a sensor system or network should have tools
provided to them that caters for anonymity amid connected
networks. This will afford users a means of trust.
Awareness mechanisms should be put in place that can
detect intrusions and even prevent them. This will aid IoT
objects in protecting them or even gracefully degrading their
services. Recovery services must be able to determine areas
under attack and redirect the systems’ functionality towards
trusted areas in an IoT network.
IV. SOLUTIONS AND WAY FORWARD
As we described in the previous section, there are many
challenges for IoT in Developing Countries. We believe that
the solutions to these challenges are already available and
that Developing Countries will leapfrog ahead of industrialized
countries in adopting IoT.
1) Technical Challenges
•Connectivity: IoT networks will require hybrid solu-
tions. Developing Countries host more than 70% of
SIM cards in the world and most countries have ex-
tensive mobile coverage. M2M solutions  based
on GSM are therefore feasible right now . When
talking about long distance wireless links (necessary
to cover big distances as frequently the case in
Africa), solutions in the ISM bands don’t require
any license. Several satellite solutions are available
at reasonable costs for areas where there is no GSM
coverage. Finally, Disruptions Tolerant Networking
(DTN) based solutions for sensor networks have
been studied and tested for areas where human
mobility is guaranteed (most big urban centers).
•Internet connectivity: Internet connectivity is vital
to IoT solutions. The solution here is the segmen-
tation of geological area coverage. Sensor data are
mostly useful in the communities where they are
collected. So, it is desirable that we can build up
local segments of the whole system so that we don’t
need to synchronize all the data in real-time over
the Internet to the central servers. So regions with
limited Internet connection can still beneﬁt from the
rich data coming from Wireless Sensors. Fantacci
et.al. proposed a efﬁcient network architecture
for this solution.
•Power: reliable power supply is a big challenge in
most of the Developing World. Solar and Wind are
clearly the effective solutions. In contrast, establish-
ing the power plants of Solar and Wind are not
linear in cost. For example, if you double the size
the cost will be more than double. IoT nodes require
very little energy, so small solar panels are suitable
and are very cheap. In addition, energy harvesting
sensors are adding a new paradigm to the play-ﬁeld
. Deploying and maintaining energy harvesting
sensors is cheap and easy. It can conveniently ease
the demand of power.
•Data Centers: there are several examples of low
energy data centers and they are all powered by solar
energy which is abundant in Developing Countries.
2) Social Challenges
•Standardization: the lack of a standard is listed as a
limiting factor for the success of IoT. While this is
true for the Industrialized World, it can be seen as an
opportunity for the Developing World. There is no
deﬁnitive standard in IoT, so the needs coming from
the Developing World (long battery life, support of
different wireless technologies, longer wireless links
using TV White Spaces, etc.) can still be satisﬁed
by a new standard.
•Case Studies: what is needed to deﬁne clearly the
standardization requirements is more case studies.
By critically analyzing the lessons learned from
deployments, the IoT community can deﬁne features
that need to be standardized.
•Human Resources: this challenge includes training
engineers and scientists on IoT and ﬁnal users on the
beneﬁts they can obtain from this new technology.
Policy makers need to understand what beneﬁts they
can gain from the explosion of data coming from
IoT networks. Finally, a network of IoT practitioners
from the Developing World can exchange experi-
ences and drive this technology further.
In this paper, we present the opportunities that IoT can
offer in developing countries. The potential applications are
countless and they can help optimize processes with a direct
impact on society. We then listed a number of challenges that
have to be addressed to make this new technology successful.
Finally, we showed that some of the challenges can be turned
into opportunities and that IoT has good chances to succeed
in developing countries.
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