By Cyber Era NG Special Correspondent
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development called for a joint global effort to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity by 2030 at its annual Fall Meeting held recently at UN Headquarters in New York.
According to the Commission, the collaborative effort must ensure that people around the world are not only connected, but that they also have the skills and knowledge to use that connectivity.
The Broadband Commission—a high level public-private partnership fostering digital cooperation and developing actionable recommendations for achieving universal connectivity—stressed that accelerating universal and meaningful connectivity through partnership and cooperation is essential to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“We need to build a digital future that is inclusive, affordable, sustainable, safe and people-centered,” said Commission Co-Chair Carlos Slim. “There should be no digital deserts in the world, and there should be no one excluded from connectivity. People have the right to enjoy a safe, productive and affordable online experience. Broadband should enhance the quality of life of everyone.”
At the meeting, the Commission called for innovative investment models to bring together private and public stakeholders to deliver meaningful access and content to those most in need.
“As technology advances and 2.6 billion people remain unconnected, it’s crucial to prioritize universal and affordable broadband access, coupled with investments in digital skills, and the elements that truly define meaningful connectivity, such as inclusive and localized digital content, accessible hardware, cybersecurity measures, and policies that ensure digital inclusion for all,” said Rwanda’s Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation Hon. Paula Ingabire representing Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Co-Chair of the Commission.
The Commission’s meeting comes amid the recent ITU announcement that 2.6 billion people across the world still lack access to the Internet in 2023. The reduction from the estimated 2.7 billion people offline in 2022 leaves about one-third of the global population unconnected.
This year’s Annual Meeting also took place ahead of SDG Digital, an event convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to highlight how digital solutions can support the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Tech is racing ahead and billions of people are being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a Co-Vice Chair of the Commission. “Our task is to invest in affordable broadband, digital skills, and everything that makes connectivity meaningful.”
At the meeting, the Broadband Commission launched “State of Broadband Report: 2023 Digital Connectivity – A Transformative Opportunity.” The latest edition of the annual report reviews the progress of seven Global Advocacy Targets and highlights the opportunities that would come from broadband that is universally available, equitable and affordable.
This year’s report notes that market trends for consumption and supply are shifting despite gains in connectivity. Those trends may not be strong enough to guarantee that the objective of universal and meaningful connectivity will be met by 2030.
The report offers five considerations for how future efforts on connectivity for digital transformation should be financed and funded:
- defining measurable goals;
- addressing barriers to Internet use where coverage is available;
- broadening the contributor base and implementing creative funding approaches;
- aligning and incentivizing funding contributors;
- building sustainable network infrastructure policies.
“Rapid technological advancements hold transformative potential that, together with a renewed global solidarity and international cooperation, will play an essential role to attain the international development goals,” said Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO Dr. Tawfik Jelassi. “The Broadband Commission and UNESCO remain committed to fostering this crucial multi-stakeholder dialogue and producing strategic foresight that will help us set international standards and lead the way in leveraging ICTs for sustainable digital transformation.”
The Broadband Commission develops policy recommendations and thought leadership focused on the use of broadband connectivity to accelerate progress toward achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and universal and meaningful connectivity.
To mobilize efforts to bring the life-changing benefits of digital transformation to everyone, the Broadband Commission puts broadband connectivity at the forefront of global policy discussions.
A Working Group on Data for Learning, chaired by UNESCO, and one on Connectivity for MSMEs, chaired by ITC and the GSMA, presented findings and recommendations of their final reports during the Annual Meeting.
Over 50 Commissioners and representatives attended the Broadband Commission meeting. This included government leaders, as well as heads of international organizations, private sector companies, civil society and academia.
Special guests attending this year’s Annual Meeting included: Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies of South Africa Mondli Gungubele; Chairwoman of the US Federal Communications Commission Jessica Rosenworcel; and President, Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) Kyoung Yul Bae.