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UN seeks governments’ focus on broadband penetration

By Adeyemi Adepetun
29 March 2017   |   4:03 am
The United Nations (UN) is seeking the attention of various governments in ensuring that broadband is deepened in their respective countries.

The United Nations (UN) is seeking the attention of various governments in ensuring that broadband is deepened in their respective countries.

This formed the fulcrum of the 2017 Spring Meeting in Hong Kong, SAR of China, where the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, an arm of the UN, lamented that currently, some five billion people are without mobile broadband access.

It stressed that the paths to access digital services and applications are currently blocked for much of the world’s population, thereby holding back progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The meeting placed emphasis on remote and rural areas – especially to support Least Developed Countries, which represent the biggest challenge and where barriers to access also need to be viewed through the prism of affordability and content, notably local and multi-lingual content.

In Nigeria, mobile broadband penetration is put at 20 per cent, with the Federal Government eyeing 30 per cent penetration and 80 per cent growth in Internet activities by 2018.

Co-Chair of the Broadband Commission, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, highlighted that, “ICT and broadband are linking everyone and everything for the betterment of economies and societies. We are motivated by wanting to have the global community connected, especially the billions of unconnected. We will succeed when we work together: government, industry and civil society leaders.”

Secretary-General of International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and Co-Vice Chair of the Broadband Commission, Houlin Zhao, said: “Our central conviction is that broadband and ICTs are critical if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. ICTs underpin vital achievements and modern services in many sectors, and governments and industry must increasingly work together to create the conditions so badly needed to facilitate the growth of broadband for sustainable development.”

The 2030 Agenda provided the context for discussion. UNESCO Director-General and co-Vice Chair of the Broadband Commission, Irina Bokova, noted that “The framework for all our work is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We must ensure the digital revolution is a revolution for human rights and promote technological breakthroughs as development breakthroughs.”

The importance of scaling efforts in digital education and mobile learning was a priority which received full support and agreement from Commissioners. In advance of UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week, many singled out education as one of the most fundamental areas for action where the Commission can drive effective change.

A recurrent issue under discussion was the need to strike a workable balance between investment and taxation for the benefit of all members of society, in order to promote human development and sustainable growth while spurring innovation. On top of this are issues associated with the cost of spectrum auctions, often in key markets where the digital divide is most prevalent.

The Commission underlined the need to build an ecosystem with government, with all ministries and the private sector working together for more efficient investment and taxation, to empower individuals and communities. In this respect, the Commission committed to work more closely with Ministries of Finance to promote the development potential of broadband.