Broadband can be your most powerful development catalyst – UN Commission to govts

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s 13th full meeting, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, yesterday, reached consensus on the need for a new set of connectivity targets to help governments more effectively harness broadband networks and services to drive progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Commissioners agreed that broadband networks, services and applications have enormous potential to deliver dramatic results in education, health and socio-economic growth. A recent informal meeting of Commissioners at the World Economic Forum in Davos emphasized that connecting the unconnected and generating sufficient investment opportunities for the universal deployment of broadband networks, services and applications will be a key factor in achieving all 17 global goals.

Debate in Dubai around potential new targets focused on the importance of adding targets to measure the utilization of selected broadband-enabled public services, the choice of statistical indicators to accurately gauge broadband access at the country and community levels, as well as the choice of data sources and methodologies for generating accurate, reliable measurement. The Commission also agreed on the importance of developing National Digital Scorecards to measure national progress towards achieving broadband targets.

The Commission’s 60+ leaders and experts from government, UN agencies, civil society and a broad spectrum of business sectors will now work to formulate concrete, measurable broadband connectivity goals that could be agreed by the next full meeting of the Commission in New York in September.

“Agreement on new targets in September would serve as the next stepping stone to the Commission’s vision of ‘broadband for all’, said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission alongside UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Broadband represents a powerful way to accelerate progress towards the attainment of the 17 SDGs, and new broadband networks and services will play a key role in the delivery of education, healthcare and basic social services, particularly for chronically disadvantaged communities.”

ITU already tracks broadband deployment in the Commission’s annual State of Broadband report, which includes rankings of nations worldwide in terms of broadband policy, affordability and uptake.

“The world is going through a staggering confluence of emerging technological breakthroughs that can open vast new horizons for growth and development,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “There remain 1.3 billion people without electricity today, and over four billion people without access to the Internet. Access and connectivity are absolutely crucial for societies across the world. This is why the message of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development is so important.”

The latest edition of the Commission’s State of Broadband report, released last September, showed that broadband Internet is failing to reach those who could benefit most, with 57 per cent of the world’s people still offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.

Established in 2010, as a top-level advocacy body promoting broadband as an accelerator of global development, the Broadband Commission is chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helú.

The Commission recently welcomed ten new high-level members: They include Abdulaziz Salem Al Ruwais, (Governor, Communication and Information Technology Commission, Saudi Arabia); Jean-Yves Charlier (CEO, VimpelCom); Scott Gegenheimer (CEO, Zain Group); Mats Granryd (Director-General, GSMA); Ramin Guluzade (Minister of Communication and High Technologies, Azerbaijan); Baroness Beeban Kidron (award-winning filmmaker and 5Rights Campaign champion); Philipp Metzger (Director-General, Swiss Federal Communications Office); Catherine Novelli (US Under-Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy & Environment); Rupert Pearce (CEO, Inmarsat) and Rajeev Suri (CEO, Nokia).

The new members bring the total number of Commissioners to 62, including the four principals.


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