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Telcos, partners pledge $30b to bridge online connectivity gap

By Adeyemi Adepetun
14 December 2022   |   3:23 am
Commitments worth $29.92 billion have been pledged since March to bring the world’s hardest-to-connect communities online, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies.

ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao

Commitments worth $29.92 billion have been pledged since March to bring the world’s hardest-to-connect communities online, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies.

The total commitments, coming in 578 pledges from around the world, include cash funding as well as policy, programme and advocacy efforts mobilized since the launch of a dedicated pledging platform to extend Internet reach around the globe.

The updated figure for the pledges in support of global connectivity was announced during the first yearly meeting of the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition in Geneva, Switzerland, recently.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, said: “It is heartening to see the international community from so many sectors focus on bringing digital connectivity to all. ITU is uniquely positioned to support this effort and we will continue to mobilize our distinctive and diverse public-private membership base around concrete commitments to connect the world.”

ITU formed Partner2Connect two years ago as a global platform to expand digital connectivity.

To date, pledges mobilized by the coalition have come from 280 entities representing 118 countries. The commitments – made by governments, businesses and civil society – are for projects in the drive for universal and meaningful connectivity.

Earlier this year, ITU reported that 2.7 billion people remain unconnected to the Internet, a number equivalent to roughly one-third of the world population.

The pledges mobilized are especially meant to support developing countries where connectivity is lagging and the digital gender gap is widest.

According to ITU’s Facts and Figures 2022, released last we​ek, only 26 per cent of people in lower-income countries use the Internet, with 21 per cent of women in those​ countries being online compared to 32 per cent of men.

Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau and ITU Secretary-General-elect, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said: “The digital divide is no longer just a technology divide – it is an opportunity divide.

“We live in a world filled with crisis and need. For its part, Partner2Connect’s success in mobilizing commitments will be central to global efforts to get every person online.”

ITU said access to the Internet is a critical element of global development efforts, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, adding that the funding, services, technical support, and other assistance detailed in the pledges will improve access to — and preparedness for — digital technologies.

The Partner2Connect initiative focuses its work on four areas: connecting people everywhere (access), empowering communities (adoption), building digital ecosystems (value creation), and incentivizing investments (accelerate).