The big broadband hope


Image: Paul Kagame, Hamadoun Toure and Carlos Slim. By ITU
Paul Kagame, Hamadoun Toure and Carlos Slim

Global leaders and delegates from industry, civil rights agencies and UN agencies are meeting in Geneva under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to discuss the acceleration of broadband networks worldwide and the benefits it can bring the developing world.

The delegates will present their report on a vision for accelerating deployment of broadband networks worldwide to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 19, ahead of the opening of the UN Millennium Development Goal Review Summit in New York.

ITU says in a statement that the final outcome report of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which was established this year, includes a high-level declaration and series of recommendations designed to serve as a global blueprint for rapid broadband development in countries worldwide. The Commission believes broadband needs to be viewed as basic national infrastructure, and can play a vital role in re-energizing the Millennium Development Goals, now just five years away. The Commission says it aims to demonstrate that broadband networks have the same level of importance as roads and electricity networks.

The Commission notes that Millions of people cannot enjoy the benefits of broadband because they might be seen as unprofitable to construct, or access may be prohibitive. IT says in one report: “ Broadband subscriptions cost under 2.5 % of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in the 40 most connected nations. But at the other end of the scale, in the 30 countries with the lowest level of broadband penetration, subscriptions cost over 100% of per-capita GNI.

And yet a report issued by the OECD in December 2009 suggests that broadband networks can pay for themselves within ten years, because of the savings made in delivering services.”

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure has stated that broadband is about much more than surfing the web. “ In the 21st century, broadband networks are basic national infrastructure – just like transport, energy and water networks. As we move towards machine-to-machine communications – what we call ‘ The Internet of Things’ – these networks will underpin a vast number of services in areas like healthcare, education, energy management, transport systems, emergency services and much more. We must not regard broadband infrastructure as only for rich countries – or we will quickly create a new ‘ broadband divide’ . All people need direct and affordable access to this infrastructure, wherever they live,” he said.

The Commission comprises 58 leaders from across public and private sector. It is co-chaired by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Carlos Slim Helú , Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso, with Hamadoun Touré and UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, serving as joint vice chairs.

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