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ITU launches COVID-19 recovery plan for Africa

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300m live 50km away from broadband connection, says AU
The International telecommunication Union (ITU) has launched a new initiative targeted at helping countries recover from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by expanding access to affordable and reliable connectivity.

Under the term Connect2Recover, the United Nations (UN) telecommunications arm, will initially focus on select African countries, the least connected and likely to be hit hard by the pandemic in socio-economic terms.

Out of the 25 least connected countries in the world, 21 are in Africa.

However, nearly 300 million Africans live more than 50km from a fibre or cable broadband connection, according to African Union (AU)’s Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa. Access to high-speed internet thus remains out of reach for many Africans, hindering their ability to fully harness the potential of digital transformation.

The initiative, announced on Wednesday, is with the support of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre of Saudi Arabia.

COVID-19 has highlighted that digital infrastructure is not just a convenience, but an essential requirement for full participation in society and the economy.

The Connect2Recover, ITU noted, seeks to expand access to affordable and reliable connectivity, which is an essential aspect of countries’ COVID-19 recovery strategies.

The Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said the body and the wider international community are transitioning from aiding countries with their immediate response to COVID-19 to helping countries prepare for and adjust to a ‘new normal’.

“As the UN is calling on its member states to build back better, Connect2Recover represents ITU’s contribution by facilitating socio-economic recovery through the use of digital infrastructure, services and applications, thanks to the generous support of the Japanese government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he stated.

ITU explained that Connect2Recover would consist of three key elements.

State Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan, Minoru Terada, said Japan recognised the importance to continuously work together with countries to strengthen their digital broadband infrastructure for adapting to the new normal, which would provide a base of teleworking and remote activities.

“Digital technology is playing a vital role to respond to and mitigate the COVID-19 impact. Under these circumstances, our project aims at improving the connectivity through the development of resilient broadband networks to respond to pandemic, especially among African countries,” Terada stated.

Director of Health and Environmental Assistance at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, Dr. Abdullah Almoallem, said the pandemic affected the global economy, financial markets, trade and global supply chains.


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