Broadband networks, services and applications have enormous potential to deliver dramatic results in education, health and socio-economic growth.
This is a consensus reached at the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s 13th full meeting, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, over the weekend.
Broadband commissioners agreed 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.
According to the ITU, the meeting debated 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 agreed on the importance of developing National Digital Scorecards to measure national progress towards achieving broadband targets.
The Commission’s over 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 says it 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, revealed that 57% of the world’s people still offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.