Today’s inequalities are unacceptable: extreme poverty remains a central challenge, improving areas of health, education, social inclusion, food security and gender equality are imperatives. At the same time, technological advances in information and communication technology (ICT) have radically transformed the way people live; today, ICTs can play a vital, transformative role offering key opportunities for sustainable development.
In September 2015, global leaders set a series of ambitious goals and targets to foster international development by 2030. Overall, knowledge societies and ICTs are mentioned in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and ICTs specifically in 4 of the 17 goals. However, there are no fewer than 38 additional targets whose achievement will depend upon universal and affordable access to ICT and broadband including infrastructure, innovation, information access, increased efficiency, early warning, disaster risk management, knowledge sharing, and data. Goal 17 calls for enhancing the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to reach all SDGs.
“Today, the technological revolution must become a development revolution (…) The world is going through a staggering confluence of emerging technological breakthroughs that can open vast new horizons for growth and development. Access to knowledge and connectivity are absolutely crucial for societies to achieve sustainable development – this is the core message of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development.” – Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO
The Broadband Commission was established in 2010 as a top-level advocacy body promoting broadband as a key accelerator of national and international development. In 2015, the Commission was re-launched to showcase and document the power of ICT and broadband-based technologies for sustainable development. Today, it is composed of 62 Commissioners from government, UN agencies, civil society and a broad spectrum of business sectors, chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helú.
“The SDGs have ushered the development community into a new era that comes with unprecedented opportunities to strengthen the role of our Commission.” – H.E. Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth & ICTs, Gov. of Rwanda (on behalf of H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda)
The 13th full meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development – which took place on 12-13 March, 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates – discussed broadband’ s key catalytic role for development.
“There is no conceivable way to achieve the SDGs without the central role of broadband and ICTs in general. This is the single most empowering technology we have. My recommendation to the industry is to build that content together with the expert communities, the development community, in a way that can allow for a rapid-scale uptake.”- Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the Earth Institute, Columbia University
The meeting sought solutions to achieving education, equity and employment for all through discussion of best practice, sharing knowledge and building international cooperation from the leaders of public, private and social sectors.
“Our industry is making huge contributions to the SDGs, it is the enabler working across all of the SDGs. It is going to accelerate the adoption and successful achievement of the SDGs, if we get it right.” – Dr. Robert Pepper, Cisco
Global leaders from government, private sector and civil society, reached consensus on the need for a new set of connectivity targets to help people to more effectively harness broadband networks and services to drive progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. But, the Commissioners noted that while ICTs and broadband present huge opportunities for development, there are challenges to overcome to meet the SDG targets.
“Today, 3.2 billion people are connected to the Internet via a mobile device, which will grow by a billion and a half to 4.7 billion by 2020. The world is going mobile, people becoming more and more connected – the mobile industry is very committed to connecting everyone to a better future. But there are still many people without Internet access. And we need to understand why that is. Is it due to poor coverage, or poor local relevant content or just an affordability issue? (…) Mobile money is key for ensuring that people have money and can exit the most extreme poverty – there are 400 million happy users of mobile money. But it needs to be carefully regulated, so we don’t kill that good initiative with over-regulation.” – Mats Granryd, Director-General, GSMA
“From my perspective, the regulatory environment around the world has fallen behind where it should be – 10, 15 years behind where we see technology changing in the industry. Key areas that would greatly assist ICT industry participants – such as cloud services, data privacy and security, infrastructure and spectrum pooling – are not properly addressed. This is something where we need to come together to figure out how to drive the regulatory environment forward so it can support the evolution of technology and roll-out of services.”- Scott Gegenheimer, CEO, Zain Group
“Governments must take a wider look at their national ICT policy scope, we cannot just look at ICTs and telecom as standalone anymore. These policies need to interact with sectors like health care, education, energy and transport, to ensure that many of these ICT use cases – some of which we cannot even forecast or imagine – are enabled and not constrained by outdated regulation. Those who move fast will gain a first-mover advantage in accelerating SDGs via ICT. Developing National Digitalization Scorecards, by which governments can assess their global policy framework across multiple sectors that need to be digitalized in order to enable the programmable world, could prove very useful and efficient. – Rajeev Suri, CEO, Nokia
“Digital health solutions have already been revolutionary for healthcare in low and middle-income countries, and to further ensure equal access to healthcare we need to continue working together to extend global broadband coverage – the impact may be greater than we can imagine.” – Dr. Ann Aerts, Novartis Foundation
“We are in the era of Big Data, but only very few countries in the world have data protection, and that is very central. I think legislation on that should be considered carefully.” – Professor Murenzi, TWAS
“800 million Indians will have 4G access by 2018; 1.2 billion by 2020. All of a sudden, you will have a population twice the size of Europe that has access to high-quality Internet. And we don’t know what the impact of that will be.” – Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post journalist, Special Guest
“There are many people still not connected – we need a good environment to encourage investment in ICTs, but if you do not have a good business and regulatory environment, how can you get people to invest?”- Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, ITU
The Commission will now work to formulate concrete, measurable broadband connectivity goals to be agreed at the next full meeting of the Commission in New York in September 2016.
“ICTs represent the best means of implementation of the SDGs. (…) Therefore we need to remain focused until the last school, the last health centre, the last woman in the most remote village of this planet is connected, and also empowered with appropriate content and services.” – H.E. Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth & ICTs, Gov. of Rwanda (on behalf of H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda)
“I think when this Commission started, we all thought it was a terrific idea. Now, I think it is an indispensable idea – there is no way forward without it!” – Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the Earth Institute, Columbia University