The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU’s) Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development launched the “Broadband Transforming Lives” campaign at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The global broadband body also examined new financing models that would help accelerate “meaningful universal connectivity” across the world.
The commissioners agreed targeted efforts are needed to lower the cost of broadband, and innovative policies are required to finance the rollout of broadband infrastructure to unconnected populations.
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According to the commission, collaboration among stakeholders will also be key to making universal and meaningful connectivity a reality.
Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s minister of ICT and innovation, representing president Paul Kagame, who co-chairs the commission, said: “We are on the verge of a new era that requires quick, effective and innovative financing instruments to connect the remaining unconnected. The old ways can no longer work in this era and we can no longer afford having anyone left behind.”
Commenting on the matter, ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao said: “Expanding avenues for investment in information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure has always been one of my priorities.
“As we enter a new decade, the last decade to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we need new incentives and financing solutions to create environments that are conducive to investment in ICT.”
The commission says “meaningful universal connectivity” encompasses broadband that is available, accessible, relevant and affordable, but also that is safe, trusted, user-empowering and leads to positive impact.
Further, it says, there is need to go beyond “business as usual” policy prescriptions and projects, and move towards more collaborative models based on resource-sharing and holistic approaches.
In Davos, commissioners explored ways to address the digital investment gap, policies and incentives for investors and what innovative financing models can be scaled up to expand infrastructure.
Among the models highlighted is the ITU UNICEF School Connectivity project, also known as the “GIGA” initiative. The project aims to bring connectivity to every school in every village around the world, to empower young people with the digital skills they need to flourish in the digital economy.
An estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, according to the ITU. The majority of the unconnected live in least-developed countries, where an average of just two out of every 10 people are online.
“Digital technologies can dramatically improve the lives of people and communities, and deliver on the promise of the United Nations Agenda 2030 to leave no one behind,” says Doreen Bogdan-Martin, director the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.
“Multi-stakeholder collaboration and partnership will be key to connecting the 3.6 billion people still offline. We all have to work together and increase our efforts to bring technology to the people, in every area and every walk of life.”