SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s CEO, Bocar BA, as Commissioner to the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, during the Commission’s Annual Fall Meeting, held on 18 September 2022 in New York, emphasized on the importance of broadening the base of contributors for broadband infrastructure financing and funding, echoing the tenor of many discussions taking place around the world to unlock new capital and innovatively fill digital connectivity gaps through new partnerships.
The Annual Fall Meeting of the Broadband Commission this year focused on broadband’s role as a key driver of the transformation of education and the consequential importance of universal, inclusive, and affordable access to connectivity. The meeting highlighted the importance of the BBCom’s 2025 advocacy targets and how to achieve them in the remaining three years, dived into the role of technology in education, how smaller businesses can make big contributions towards broadband ecosystem development, and stressed the centrality of continued multi-stakeholder engagement. The meeting called on policy makers to broaden the base of contributors to broadband infrastructure funding and financing, to ensure that access to connectivity is universal, inclusive, and secure (with an emphasis on children), and that content and services are locally relevant and available and purposeful. Skills development with a focus on digital skills and discernment of information were highlighted as critical to reap the benefits of digital transformation going forward.
“We have made significant progress globally in ensuring universal access to broadband continues to improve, but much remains to be done," said Paula Ingabire, Rwanda's Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation representing Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Co-Chair of the Commission. “The mission of the Broadband Commission still rings as relevant today as when it was first formed. We must continue to strive for universal access to meaningful, safe, secure, and sustainable broadband communications services that are reflective of human and children's rights. Public-private partnerships continue to be a key tactic towards enabling us to achieve this objective."
At the meeting, the Broadband Commission launched its annual State of Broadband Report, focusing on the shifting realities of the pandemic era.
According to the report, COVID-19 sparked a surge in Internet use, but challenges to universal connectivity remain. The report also explores four principal barriers to achieving universal connectivity: lack of skills, lack of access, lack of devices, and a lack of the means to pay for necessary equipment.
Addressing the persistent digital divide and meeting the Commission's advocacy targets requires strategies, policies and a conducive regulatory environment, says the report. That environment should encourage affordable, meaningful, safe and inclusive broadband services, and it should attract the large investment that is needed.
“The need for greater access to broadband that is fit for purpose in this new world has never been more urgent," said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau and Executive Director of the Commission, “we need the right regulatory environment and the right strategies and policies."
Commissioners leading working groups on Smartphone Access and AI Capacity Building presented findings and recommendations of their final reports. The preliminary findings of the interim discussion paper of the Working Group on Data for Learning were also introduced.
Read the full BBcom press release here.
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