Broadband access was recognized as critical to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by global leaders who met in New York City at the annual fall meeting of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Technology is crucial in empowering people to participate in our digital future, and in helping governments to better serve people. But we must also address significant concerns such as cybersecurity, human rights, privacy, as well as the digital divide, including its gender dimensions.”
This important call to action was echoed by other commissioners, who highlighted the role and responsibility of members of the Broadband Commission to work together to respond to the growing risk of an expanding digital divide.
President Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda, and Co-Chair of the Broadband Commission said, “Our efforts remain vital in ensuring that broadband, and ICTs in general, receive the attention they deserve, in the global development agenda.”
Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary General, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission said, “This year’s State of Broadband 2017 report highlights several important findings. First, there is a suggestion that we are entering a ‘winner takes all’ phase in digital development – digital ‘frontrunner’ countries are moving even further ahead, while developing countries are generally being left behind. Furthermore, gaps in transmission speeds are also increasing. And there is still no visible progress that the digital gender divide is closing.”
The Commission identified women and girls as particularly vulnerable to being left behind if they are not given broadband access and skills to use technology, in order to benefit from digital resources.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, who also serves as co-Vice Chair said, “We need broadband to strengthen the sustainability of development efforts. We need broadband to bridge divides and not deepen them – especially for girls and women. We need broadband that ensures equal access to education, that enhances the quality of learning across the world, because these are the strongest foundations for sustainability and peace.”
Commissioners also identified the changing face of the ‘digital divide’ – as one that is no longer limited to broadband access, but also to access to quality network speed and digital services – including health, education, financial services.
Rajeev Suri, CEO, Nokia said, “Global average peak connection speed increased 28% year-on-year to 44.6 Mbps for Q1 2017. This means that the definition of the digital divide is evolving, from the original definition of coverage and being connected/unconnected, to being connected with which speed of access. We must also prevent a new digital divide between those who live in the connected world benefiting from use-cases like connected health, connected education and smart transportation, and those without access to the use-cases the Internet of Things can provide.”