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UN Commission Recognizes Role of Broadband in Inclusive, Sustainable Development

ITU logo23 March 2014: Access to broadband could be a universal development enabler for the post-2015 development agenda, according to the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development. Meeting in Dublin, Ireland, on 22-23 March 2014, the Commission recommended the inclusion of broadband penetration targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Commission also discussed the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in the post-2015 development agenda. The 30 Commissioners recognized the role of broadband access in inclusive, sustainable growth, including by lifting countries out of poverty and facilitating access to education, health care and basic social services.

“Broadband gives us the power to end extreme poverty and put our planet on a new, sustainable development course,” said Hamadoun Touré, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary-General. He urged Commissioners to define a Broadband for Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Acceleration Framework, which he suggested be presented for endorsement to the UN Secretary-General at the Commission's September 2014 meeting.

Denis O'Brien, Chairman of the Digicel Group and a founding member of the Commission, also emphasized the potential of broadband networks to tackle poverty, noting that “broadband networks…empower all countries to take their place in the global economy, overcoming traditional barriers like geography, language and resource constraints.” O'Brien advocated establishing a Champion's League Index to track best practices in broadband investment and deployment.

Better investment incentives are necessary to expand telecommunications infrastructure to meet anticipated user demand, according to the Commissioners. For example, in the world's 200 biggest cities the number of connected devices is expected to increase from 400 devices per square kilometer to over 13,000 devices per square kilometer by 2016. The Commission noted that 95% of telecommunications infrastructure is private sector-funded, and recommended that governments and international financing bodies remove barriers to investment.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame urged the Commission to go beyond connectivity and infrastructure “to focus on unleashing the smart use of broadband to help people use services in ways that will significantly improve their lives.”

The Commission focuses on making broadband more affordable and available worldwide, with an emphasis on accelerating progress towards the MDGs. [ITU Press Release] [Commission Website]