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Monday, January 27, 2020

Broadband Commission examines new financing models - ITREALMS

The ITU UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development examined new financing models that would help accelerate ‘meaningful universal connectivity’ on the sidelines of the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, reports ITREALMS.

An estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, 
ITREALMS gathered that the majority of the unconnected live in the least developed countries, where an average of just two out of every ten people are online.

The Commissioners agreed that targeted efforts are needed to lower the cost of broadband, as well as innovative policies to finance the rollout of broadband infrastructure to unconnected populations. Collaboration among diverse stakeholders will be key to making universal and meaningful connectivity a reality for all.

"We are on the verge of a new era that requires quick, effective and innovative financing instruments to connect the remaining unconnected. The old ways can no longer work in this era and we can no longer afford having anyone left behind," said Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, Republic of Rwanda, representing President Paul Kagame, who Co-Chairs the Commission.

​ Dr Carlos M Jarque moderated the session while also representing the Commission's co-chair, Mr Carlos Slim. Dr Jarque stated, “the Broadband Commission has contributed to a shift from the perception of ‘broadband as a luxury’ to ‘broadband a basic infrastructure’, and in certain countries, even broadband as a human right. 

As we move ahead the Commission has twofold responsibilities; first, to improve the digital experience of those already online and second, to promote actions that will bring the remaining 3.6 billion people online.”

"Expanding avenues for investment in information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure has always been one of my priorities," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "As we enter a new decade, the last decade to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we need new incentives and financing solutions to create environments that are conducive to investment in ICT."
‘Meaningful universal connectivity’ encompasses broadband that is available, accessible, relevant and affordable, but also that is safe, trusted, user-empowering and leads to positive impact. It also advocates the need to go beyond ‘business as usual’ policy prescriptions and projects, and towards more collaborative models based on resource sharing and holistic approaches.

Commissioners and participants also examined ways to address the digital investment gap, policies and incentives for investors and other digital industry stakeholders, and what innovative financing models can be scaled up to expand infrastructure.

Among the models highlighted is the ITU UNICEF School Connectivity project, also known as the ‘GIGA’ initiative. It aims at bringing connectivity to every school in every village around the world to empower young people with the digital skills they need to flourish in the digital economy. 

The GIGA initiative is anchored in the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s findings which state, that by "2030 every adult should have affordable access to digital networks" and calls for "a broad, multi-stakeholder alliance, involving the UN to create a platform for sharing digital public goods."

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