48 per cent of the global population is online whereas 3.9 billion people still do not have access to the Internet as per recently released report The State of Broadband report prepared by the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
Broadband technologies are today driving substantial transformation in many development-related sectors including health, education, financial inclusion and food security, making them a key accelerator towards achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Broadband is crucial to connecting people to the resources needed to improve their livelihoods, and to the world achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
“The goals for education, gender equality and infrastructure include bold targets for information and communication technology. The State of Broadband 2017 report outlines how broadband is already contributing to this and makes valuable recommendations for how it can increase this contribution into the future,” added Zhao.
Men continue to outnumber women in terms of Internet usage worldwide, though women now outnumber men in Internet usage the Americas. Recent studies, though, show that the disparities in gender access are becoming wider in developing countries, especially in Africa.
Only 76% of the world’s population lives within access of a 3G signal, and only 43% of people within access of a 4G connection. Unless people have the opportunity to migrate from 2G to at least 3G to 4G and beyond, they will remain under-connected.
Over the last year, there has been impressive growth in the number of new Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), an important form of support infrastructure that can potentially help reduce latency and cut transit costs. The growth of IXPs in Africa over the last year is remarkable. Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Rep. of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe all established an IXP over the last twelve months to mid-2017.
The benefits of broadband for food security, health and wellbeing, inclusive education and the environment are real and increasing. Broadband technologies, along with the digital literacy skills to use them, enable people, groups and communities to create their own solutions, states the report.
UN Global Pulse has worked with the World Food Programme (WFP) to assess the potential of using mobile-phone data to develop real-time indicators of food security.
WHO reports that 73 of 116 (63%) of its Member States have defined national digital health strategies and corresponding plans to implement them, although close to 40% of countries have yet to develop a digital health strategy.
UNESCO has successfully conducted projects in Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Senegal to advance and deliver teacher development through mobile phones.
Innovative tracking technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles are being tested to monitor wildlife in protected areas in southern Africa – including Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Issued annually, The State of Broadband report is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.