Collaboration to connect 1.5 billion people by 2020

Connectivity and the transformational force of ICT are vital to the success of the 17 sustainable development goals, affirmed UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova during a special session of the UN Broadband Commission held during the World Economic Forum in Davos on 20 January.

 She noted that Target 9c of the 2030 Agenda calls to “significantly increase access to ICT and strive to provide universal and affordable access to internet in LDCs by 2020,” and welcomed the growing convergence of the views between Government, private sector and civil society.

ITU Secretary-General Mr Houlin Zhao drew attention to the Organization’s drive to connect an additional 1.5 billion to the Internet by 2020, from the current 3.2 billion and welcomed the joint statement published on the occasion of the session that calls for reinforced collaboration to achieve this (link)‎. Mr Zhao and Ms Bokova are the co-vice chairs of the Broadband Commission. 

 The discussion focused on several dimensions of this challenge, including regulatory frameworks, financing mechanisms, capacity building, education and local content. 

Representing co-chair President Kagame, Jean Philibert Nsegimana, Minister of Youth and ICT Rwanda, emphasized that connecting the unconnected was a shared global responsibility and a profitable business opportunity.  Mr Carlos Jarque, CEO of FCC America Movil, representing co-chair Mr Carlos Slim, stressed theneed for a “proper ecosystem” to vastly expand connectivity for inclusive development.

Mr Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner, Digital Economy and Society emphasized the need to make the business case for investment and urged to this end  a stronger focus on skills and local contents. He said that giving digital competence to everyone in schools should be a ‎binding obligation. Mr Kaushik Basu, senior vice-president and chief economist at the World Bank warned that the new poor will be those excluded from the benefits of connectivity, ranging from education to receiving their wage to accesing vital information.

The next session of the Broadband Commission will take place in Dubai in combination with the Global Education and Skills Forum on 14 March 2016.