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World Bank, ITU, GSMA, WEF seek increased bandwidth, congestion management

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Claim digital technologies impacting COVID-19 crisis

The World Bank, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Global System for Mobile Telecommunications Association (GSMA), and the World Economic Forum (WEF), have called for increased bandwidth, congestion management across the globe in this period of COVID-19 pandemic.

According to them, text messaging is saving lives and curbing the spread of the pandemic. Contact tracing apps will help manage the spread and ease confinement that is crippling economies. And new technologies like artificial intelligence will help understand and tackle this virus head on.

None of these things, according to them, are possible, however, without resilient networks that power digital connectivity. Based on this, four bodies have launched an accelerated action plan to better leverage digital technologies and infrastructure in support of citizens, governments and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the plan is to put forward immediate priority areas for private-public collaboration that can be taken by governments in partnership with the private sector.

The action plan comes out of a high-level virtual roundtable held last week with finance and information and communication technology (ICT) ministers, ICT regulators, CEOs of telecom and technology companies from around the world.

Together, the group agreed that private-public sector collaboration will be essential to respond to the crisis to ensure networks are well-equipped to handle an exponential increase in digital traffic, help countries future-proof their digital capabilities and infrastructure, and ensure access to digital services for the most vulnerable populations.

Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said it is a credit to the world’s ICT community that the huge surge in traffic caused by COVID-19 has not crippled our connectivity, “but let us also remember that the power to stay connected remains a huge privilege. ITU figures reveal that 3.6 billion people remain totally cut-off from the Internet. Billions more struggle with connectivity that is woefully insufficient.

“COVID-19 has thrown into sharp relief the connectivity chasm we call the digital divide. And it has refocused our minds on why bridging this chasm and bringing affordable access to all is so crucially important to ensuring no-one is left behind.”

The leaders identified immediate priority areas for private-public collaboration that can be taken by governments in partnership with the private sector, starting now.

These areas formed the basis of the new action plan to maintain connectivity during the COVID-19 crisis – and to catalyze sustained collaboration between the public and private sectors to increase internet access beyond the current crisis.

The call for action seeks to pursue five key objectives, which includes increase bandwidth, strengthen resilience and security of networks, and manage congestion; connect vital services and ensure the continuity of public services to safeguard the welfare of populations; power FinTech and digital business models to support the most impacted businesses and communities.

Others are to promote trust, security and safety online, and leveraging the power of mobile big data.The action plan also includes specific operational responses in the immediate-term (0-3 months) and short-term (3-6 month) in five areas.

They are promote network resilience; ensure access and affordability of digital services; support compliance with social distancing principles while providing vital connectivity; leverage e-health, telemedicine and Big Data to address the health crisis and ensure institutional frameworks are fit for purpose.


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