US $428 bn to connect 3 bn people to Internet

The world will require US $428 billion to connect the remaining 3 billion people aged ten years and above to broadband Internet by 2030 as per ITU report Connecting Humanity.

“Meeting the investment necessary to bring every person online by the end of this decade will require an unprecedented and concerted effort from the public and private sectors,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

“The new Connecting Humanity study led by ITU is the much-needed roadmap that will guide decision-makers on the journey towards accessible, affordable, reliable, and safe digital technologies and services for all,” added Zhao.

The study examines costs associated with infrastructure needs, enabling policy and regulatory frameworks, and basic digital skills and local content at both the global and regional levels, as well as how to mobilize the unprecedented levels of financing needed to extend networks to unserved communities.

According to ITU, over 12% of the global unconnected population live in remote, rural locations where traditional networks are not easily accessible, most of them in Africa and South Asia. This connectivity gap is exacerbated by the gender digital divide.

Across the globe, more men than women use the Internet: only 48% of women as opposed to 58% of men. Whereas in some regions bridging the connectivity gap predominantly means upgrading existing coverage and capacity sites, nearly half of the required radio access network (RAN) infrastructure investment in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia/Pacific will be greenfield, the new study says.

“While this is an ambitious aim, it is in no way an unachievable one,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

“The key assumptions used for this study are: Good quality broadband Internet is defined as an average download speed of at least 10 Mbps and is technology neutral (that is, data may be transmitted via cable, fibre, satellite, radio or other technologies); 4G is used as the proxy for mobile broadband and fixed broadband applied where most relevant; and target population aged 10 and older is used as the baseline for calculating broadband penetration and universal access to connectivity is defined as 90 percent penetration of that target population in line with the methodology and approach developed by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development to assess the investment needs to achieve universal, affordable broadband for all of Africa by 2030.

The model is based on estimates on a country-by-country basis across a sample of 218 countries and economies, but it carries some constraints with respect to country-level granularity, and makes occasional region-wide, or cluster-based assumptions.

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