In the second installment of our sneak preview blogs from contributors to the 2016 State of Broadband Report, an American diplomat reveals a plan to build stronger offline relationships to help advance #ICT4SDG. The Global Connect Initiative for Accelerating Global Internet Adoption is a big partnership for the goals, Sustainable Development Goal 17.
In early 2015, the global Internet passed a critical threshold of three billion Internet users. By the end of 2016, internet adoption will grow from just over 3.2 billion at the end of 2015 to almost 3.5 billion.
While this growth is to be applauded, much more effort is needed to ensure that the benefits of the Internet spread to the remaining 3.9 billion people without Internet access. It is now well- established that Internet connectivity is one of the most important drivers of economic growth and opportunity.
To spur more action to close this digital divide, the U.S. Government, led by the U.S State Department, launched the multi-stakeholder Global Connect Initiative in 2015 aiming to bring an additional 1.5 billion new Internet users online by 2020. The initiative has three inter-related goals: first, to encourage governments to make Internet access central to all development and growth initiatives. And second, to work in cooperation with multilateral development institutions to double public and private lending for connectivity and digital technologies. And finally, to harness the knowledge, skills and resources of the technical community to implement solutions for high-speed, affordable broadband access.
In doing this, we recognize that building Internet infrastructure is only one step towards digital inclusion. Creating a policy environment that sustains a healthy Internet by encouraging investment and innovation is critical for long term success.
In April 2016, over 150 participants, including representatives from over 30 countries, as well as civil society, the tech industry, international organizations and multilateral development banks joined U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and World Bank President Jim Kim in Washington, D.C., in support of the Global Connect Initiative and its objectives.
Stakeholders announced over 65 new and ongoing initiatives in support of connectivity by governments, international organizations and multilateral lending institutions, industry and civil society. They highlighted their planned and recent investments in connectivity valued at over USD20 billion, in many cases leveraging public investment to support larger private sector investments in connectivity infrastructure.
In addition to these efforts, many other countries and private sector companies have committed to accelerating the expansion of Internet infrastructure and increasing adoption through demand side activities (such as skills training and the development of locally relevant content).
As with the rapid adoption of mobile technologies, the majority of investment will continue to come from the private sector. Targeted multi-stakeholder efforts, such as the Global Connect Initiative, can help to tackle barriers to access and unlock latent resources, accelerating the diffusion of the Internet’s benefits to those who currently remain unconnected.