A new report released recently by the United Nations (UN) Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has revealed that broadband technologies are today driving substantial transformation in many development-related sectors, including health, education, financial inclusion and food security, making them a key accelerator towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The report, The State of Broadband 2017: Broadband Catalysing Sustainable Development, was released just ahead of the commission’s fall meeting in New York City this week.
Issued annually, the report is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the commission in 2011.
“Broadband is crucial to connecting people to the resources needed to improve their livelihoods, and to the world achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said ITU Secretary-General, Mr Houlin Zhao.
“The goals for education, gender equality and infrastructure include bold targets for information and communication technology. The State of Broadband 2017 report outlines how broadband is already contributing to this and makes valuable recommendations for how it can increase this contribution into the future,” he added.
The report also examines global trends in broadband connectivity and technologies, reflects on policy and regulatory developments, as well as the applications of broadband for sustainable development. It also presents several policy recommendations.
Promoting investment in broadband connectivity from a broad range of sectors, the report notes, can help achieve the full potential of these technologies and bring the world closer to the goal of an inclusive digital society accessible by all.
While 48 per cent of the global population is now online, some 3.9 billion people still do not have access to the internet, with the digital gap growing between developed and developing countries. According to estimates, internet penetration in the developing world is projected to reach 41.3 per cent by the end of 2017, while internet user penetration is projected to reach only 17.5 per cent in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in 2017.
Only 76 per cent of the world’s population lives within access of a 3G signal and only 43 per cent of people within access of a 4G connection. Unless people have the opportunity to migrate from 2G to at least 3G to 4G and beyond, they will remain under-connected.
Also, fixed and mobile broadband services are becoming progressively more affordable in a large number of countries. However, there are many challenges to making internet access affordable for developing countries, in part due to the high costs of satellite access and fibre-optic cables. The consumers most affected by high costs of internet access are those in landlocked countries.