Broadband Access Critical to Sustainable Development Goals

  • ITU
  • United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
NEW YORK — Broadband access was recognized as critical to achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with the call to action to ensure access for all or risk that some vulnerable populations could fall deeper into the digital divide. This is according to United Nations and government leaders, and giants in the broadband industry, who came together in New York City at the annual fall meeting of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development on September 17, 2017.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The membership of this Commission offers an encouraging example of just the kind of multi-stakeholder partnerships we need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Technology is crucial in empowering people to participate in our digital future, and in helping governments to better serve people. But we must also address significant concerns such as cybersecurity, human rights, privacy, as well as the digital divide, including its gender dimensions. Broadband is a remarkable tool; now we must do more to ensure that all enjoy its benefits. Developing countries face the very real risk of being left behind. I look to this Commission to help ensure that broadband charts a course that includes all humankind, enhances human dignity and serves the global good.”

Addressing the Gender Divide
The Commission identified women and girls as particularly vulnerable to being left behind if they are not given broadband access and skills to use technology, in order to benefit from digital resources.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, who also serves as co-Vice Chair said, “Today, more than ever, the digital revolution must be a development revolution — a sustainable development revolution. We need broadband to strengthen the sustainability of development efforts. We need broadband to bridge divides and not deepen them – especially for girls and women. We need broadband that ensures equal access to education, that enhances the quality of learning across the world, because these are the strongest foundations for sustainability and peace.”

Access to Quality Network Speeds
Commissioners also identified the changing face of the digital divide as one that is no longer limited to broadband access, but also to access to quality network speed and digital services, including health, education, financial services.

Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia said, “Seventy-six percent of the world’s population lives within access of a 3G signal. Meanwhile, average speeds are increasing steadily around the world. According to Akamai, worldwide, 15 and 25 Mbps broadband adoption rates increased by 33 percent and 42 percent year-on-year, respectively. Global average peak connection speed increased 28 percent year-on-year to 44.6 Mbps for Q1 2017. This means that the definition of the digital divide is evolving, from the original definition of coverage and being connected/unconnected, to being connected with which speed of access. We must also prevent a new digital divide between those who live in the connected world benefiting from use-cases like connected health, connected education and smart transportation, and those without access to the use-cases the Internet of Things can provide.”

About the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 and comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors who are committed to actively assisting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to drive national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management.

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