Broadband is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It plays a vital role in improving global sustainable development by supporting the provision of basic needs such as education and healthcare, helping to lift people out of poverty through e-commerce and job growth, monitoring climate change and planetary processes, and bridging the digital gender divide.
But in order to achieve these ambitious goals, we must ensure that broadband is rolled out to include the 4.2 billion people around the world who are offline today. Yet, affordability and access remain key barriers, leaving billions of people unable to benefit from its potential to boost economic growth and development.
Working together to connect the next 1.5 billion
The roll-out of broadband infrastructure and broadband-enabled applications and services can help foster inclusive economic growth around the world.
Noting this, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development issued a statement to the 2016 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development yesterday, urging policymakers, the private sector and other partners to make deployment of broadband infrastructure a top priority to accelerate global development and progress towards the SDGs. According to the Broadband Commission, an estimated USD450 billion is needed to connect the next 1.5 billion people to the Internet. As most of this investment will be delivered by the private sector, creating an investment-friendly enabling policy and regulatory environment is crucial to bringing everyone online.
Bridging the gaps
Digital inclusion is of utmost importance to ensure that no one, and no society, is left behind.
Notably, broadband roll-out will help to bridge the digital gender divide, which will have vast positive economic outcomes. The EU economy could be boosted by Euro 9 billion a year by bringing more European women into the ICT field, according to European Commission estimates. Similar findings around the world. Moreover, boosting women’s participation in the tech sector can help to fill the growing skills gap in the digital economy. (SDG 5)
Some 795 million people around the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life, yet roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. Broadband can help improve the supply chain and distribute food more effectively and efficiently. (SDG 2)
Roughly 44% of WHO Member States report to have less than 1 physician per 1000 people, dramatically reducing in remote and rural areas. Broadband rollout can improve access to information, expertise and remote diagnosis for both health workers and patients. Broadband supported applications can also empower patients to manage their own treatments, for instance, the ITU/WHO Be Healthy, Be Mobile app provides information to support diabetics during Ramadan. (SDG 3)
In 2013, 59 million children around the world did not attend school. Broadband enables mobile teaching solutions for remote and poor communities, giving children the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. (SDG 4)
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are vital enablers of the three pillars of sustainable development – economic development, social development and environmental protection – but we must ensure that we have effective partnerships in place to realize their potential.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin @DoreenBogdan has been the Chief of the Strategic Planning and Membership Department since 2008. She was previously the Head of the ITU/BDT Regulatory and Market Environment Division and was responsible for the programmes on Regulatory Reform and Economics and Finance.