Broadband/Network | ICT4SDG | Infrastructure
September 24, 2019

New study shows economic impact of broadband on least-developed, landlocked and small island nations

By Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau; and Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu Under-Secretary-General, and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States

*This article is an adapted version of the foreword of our new report “Economic impact of broadband in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS: An empirical study.”

Least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS)’ constitute 91 of the world’s most vulnerable nations. Some of them lag significantly behind in terms of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As part of the ongoing global efforts to help countries implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is necessary to pay particular attention to these groups of countries.

With the onset of the digital economy and the technological revolution, broadband connectivity, or, more broadly, access to fast Internet, is a necessity if countries are to participate effectively in the global economy.

Indeed, broadband is an enabling technology, as it supports existing and new applications in many different sectors, including education, government, financial services, health, disaster management and e-commerce. Yet broadband Internet access in the majority of the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS remains below the global average.

“LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS would do well to implement policies that focus on further investment in improving broadband access, connectivity and uptake.”

Notwithstanding anecdotal evidence of the positive impact of broadband on economic, human and social outcomes, there are very few studies that quantify these positive contributions at the macro level.

Moreover, most of the existing studies are not current, and hence do not take account of the improvement in access to broadband and its application in a growing number of activities and industries.

To fill this gap, ITU and UN-OHRLLS joined forces to prepare this study and assess the economic impact of broadband in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.

The findings of the study confirm that both fixed and mobile broadband have a positive economic impact in the most vulnerable countries.

The impact of broadband appears to be stronger with increased penetration. For both fixed and mobile technologies, the analysis finds that gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is related to broadband penetration, indicating an increase in economic impact as broadband penetration increases.

Since the relative impact of both fixed and mobile broadband is greater in vulnerable countries than in other developing and developed countries, LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS would do well to implement policies that focus on further investment in improving broadband access, connectivity and uptake.

It is therefore our hope that this study will serve as an important advocacy tool in support of investment aimed at broadband access, connectivity and use in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.

This investment could yield even higher economic returns than in other countries, and propel these vulnerable nations towards achievement of the SDGs.

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New study shows economic impact of broadband on least-developed, landlocked and small island nations

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