Access to the Internet for citizens and businesses is a key component of development – as essential as roads, electricity, and other infrastructure. Yet, more than four billion people lack Internet access. With this in mind, in 2015 the U.S. Department of State launched the Global Connect Initiative (GCI) to help connect an additional 1.5 billion people to the Internet by 2020.
This is an ambitious goal, with profound economic and development implications. The World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report, “Digital Dividends for All” highlighted the impact of added Internet connectivity in emerging economies: expanded trade, job creation, and a government’s increased ability to serve its citizens.
But the Internet can only become available, accessible, and affordable for everyone if we work closely with partners across sectors. For this reason, GCI is a collaborative initiative designed to work with every group involved in development – from national governments and development agencies, to NGOs, academia, and the private sector.
On April 14, finance ministers, multilateral development banks, and representatives from NGOs and the technology industry came together in Washington, D.C. to discuss GCI. Every partner country and stakeholder was invited to invest in infrastructure and support policy changes that will make the Internet more affordable and accessible for all.
As an engine for growth and a resource for knowledge, the Internet’s power to improve lives and help build economies is unprecedented and undeniable. The goal is set: connect 1.5 billion more people online by 2020. Everyone has a role to play in making that a reality.
Julie N. Zoller (@) is Senior Deputy Coordinator of the Office of Multilateral Affairs, Office of International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economics and Business Affairs in the United States Department of State. Before this, Ms Zoller was Deputy Associate Administrator of International Spectrum in the Office of Spectrum Management, National Telecommunication and Information Administration, Department of Commerce. Ms Zoller is an elected member of the Radio Regulations Board. In 2008, she became the first woman to chair the Board. She also chaired the Board in 2011.