Today, almost half of the world’s population uses the Internet, mostly in urban and densely populated areas, and nearly a third are on social media.
The challenge of connecting people living in rural and remote areas to the Internet persists in many countries.
The State of Broadband 2018, released today by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, shows that while much progress has been made, new efforts are needed to “…invest in digital infrastructure, in case certain developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) find themselves left behind in the race to digitalize.”
The annual report this year emphasizes the importance of national investments and broadband plans to ensure the digital divide does not widen further and ends with key recommendations to ensure that no one is left behind.
The report, for the first time available online in an interactive format, also provides a global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access against the Commission’s seven advocacy targets. It also highlights the impacts of rapidly evolving information and communication technologies (ICTs), including the implications of emerging trends like the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Here are some of the top takeaways from the 2018 report:
ITU data reveal that 52% or 3.7 billion of the world’s population remained offline in 2017. So what is needed to connect those who remain unconnected?
Affordability is a key target outlined by the Broadband Commission (Target 2). Mobile Internet is generally proving to be more affordable and available than fixed-line broadband, leading to increased uptake of mobile, especially in rural and remote areas. However, fixed broadband is falling in terms of cost of installation and use across the world.
Investments in infrastructure will also be key. The scale of the infrastructure that must be built or upgraded to bridge the digital divide and deploy emerging technologies is considerable. Last year, ITU estimated that connecting the next 1.5 billion people will cost USD 450 billion.
To increase people’s access to broadband services and to help accelerate the achievement of all the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is critical to create an environment conducive to growth for the industry. To that end, ITU is focusing on key interventions that will expand broadband access and use.
“The 4 I’s – Infrastructure, Investment, Innovation and Inclusivity, are central to ITU’s strategy to leverage the power of ICTs to expand access to broadband services and help accelerate the achievement of all United Nations SDGs,” says Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General.
Advances in mobile broadband (such as 4G and 5G) and next-generation satellite technologies will mean the delivery of digital services more quickly and reliably. They will also help to meet the challenge of connecting people living in rural and remote areas, which persists in many countries.
The growth in the field of IoT also presents increased opportunities for digitization and connectivity.
The report concludes with a number of key recommendations designed to advance progress in broadband at the national and international level in a coherent approach.
To boost broadband, the Broadband Commission recommends: building national leadership for broadband; promoting Internet training and stimulating consumer and business demand; monitoring ICT developments to inform policy; reviewing universal service measures; strengthening digital skills and literacy; supporting local eBusinesses and entrepreneurs; adapting legal frameworks; and reducing taxes and duties on telecom products and services.
For more information, view the interactive report here.
To learn more about the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, visit the website here.