The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without affordable and universal access to ICTs and broadband connectivity, according to members of the UN Broadband Commission who met on 18 September for the annual Commission meeting, held on the eve of the opening of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The Commission addressed two specific challenges during this year’s meeting: firstly how broadband can support the equitable provision of health and education in all countries, as well as how to achieve the investment levels required for the roll-out of global broadband infrastructure that connects everyone, everywhere.
“Investment in infrastructure for the roll-out of broadband worldwide remains a major challenge that requires a more concerted effort and innovative public-private partnerships if we are to connect everyone, everywhere,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission.
Prior to this annual meeting, on 15 September, the Commission issued the latest edition of its flagship State of Broadband report, a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.
The report confirmed that according to latest ITU figures, by end 2016 3.5 billion people will be using the Internet, up from 3.2 billion last year and equating to 47% of the global population. Progress in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries has been encouraging, with the Commission’s target of 15% of the LDC population online expected to be reached by the end of this year.
The State of Broadband 2016 is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.
State of Broadband 2016 lead author Phillippa Biggs answers questions about key issues in this year’s report:
Access: More than half the world is still offline! What is the main reason for this and how can it be solved?
Phillippa Biggs: There is no single main reason – there are many different reasons, which differ from country to country, as well as individual to individual. Historically, attention has focused on infrastructure availability and network coverage; nowadays, issues of demand and affordability are coming to the fore… (See video for more).
Where does the Commission believe broadband can drive significant progress for sustainable development?
Phillippa Biggs: The Commission is united in its belief that broadband can contribute strongly to the attainment of all 17 SDGs, although some of the impact of broadband may be more obvious, more dramatic and/or more immediate for some goals in particular. For example… (See video for more).
Smart cities: The world is rapidly urbanizing and we are at a pivotal moment to design smart cities for the future, what role will broadband play in moving this agenda forward?
Phillippa Biggs: Broadband is helping make our cities and human settlements more energy-efficient, through smart grids, smart water management, intelligent transport systems, and better data and analysis to improve decision-making. At the same time, they can help create greater economic opportunities in rural areas, and potentially slow down the migration to urban areas. (See video for more).
Recommendations: The report concludes with many recommendations for policy-makers and world leaders, what are the most urgent, and where are the quick wins?
Phillippa Biggs: The report calls for better understanding, and greater priority to be given to universal access. The telecommunication and ICT industries have totally transformed over the past two decades or so, principally by greater private sector provision, technological innovation, the move to mobile, and the emergence of new players… (See video for more).
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