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ITU and UNESCO See Steady Progress on Global Broadband Targets

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018 (4:55 pm) - Score 204
world network and broadband connections

The ITU and United Nations (UN) Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has today published their latest annual report. This broadly highlights the progress that is being made in on-going efforts to spread affordable broadband connectivity across the world and suggests various ways to boost the effort.

At the start of this year the Broadband Commission agreed to update its roadmap with the release of seven “ambitious yet achievable” new targets to assist in connecting the half of the world currently operating without broadband internet access by 2025 (see details below). As ever these are soft political targets because the commission itself is limited in its ability to both help fund and deliver on such objectives.

The main focus of this report is on the impact for both Developing Countries (DCs) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Overall the commission claims to have found “steady progress” towards their targets but there’s still a long.. long way to go and it won’t be cheap. Last year the ITU estimated that connecting the next 1.5 billion people will cost USD $450 billion (c.£346bn at today’s rate).

The full report can be downloaded online and to save you some time we’ve done a quick summary of the progress below.

2018 Progress on the Global Broadband Targets for 2025

Advocacy Target 1: Making broadband policy universal

Aim: By 2025, all countries should have a funded National Broadband Plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access and Service (UAS) Definition.

Progress:
Progress is being made in the establishment by countries of broadband policies, but only incrementally. The total number of countries with a National Broadband Plan (NBP) has seen a net increase of three, from 80% (156 countries) to 81% (159 countries). Also, a number of countries have approved their NBP (e.g. Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Maldives, Mali and Kuwait), while certain other countries’ NBPs have lapsed.

Advocacy Target 2: Making broadband affordable

Aim: By 2025, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries at less than 2% of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.

Progress:
The Broadband Commission, in its new 2025 Targets, has reduced the broadband services affordability threshold target from less than 5% to less than 2% of monthly gross national income per capita. This new target will particularly assist lower income groups in developing and least developed countries to gain connectivity.

The change in target, though, results in a lower number of countries meeting the affordability threshold. For fixed broadband affordability, 73 countries had achieved the new target, and 122 countries have yet to achieve it. For mobile broadband affordability, 109 countries had achieved this target, and 86 countries have yet to achieve it.

Advocacy Target 3: Getting People Online

Aim: By 2025, Broadband-Internet user penetration should reach:

a) 75% worldwide
b) 65% in developing countries
c) 35% in Least Developed Countries

Progress:
The report that it will be difficult to bring another quarter of the world’s population online in the next seven years at current population growth rates of 5% per annum – especially in developing and LDCs. At present world penetration stands at 48%, falling to 41.3% in developing countries and just 17.5% in LDCs.

Advocacy Target 4: Digital Skills & Literacy

Aim: By 2025, 60% of youth and adults should have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills.

Progress:
The report cites low data availability related to digital skills, and shows how global averages for digital skills vary from 5.2% (using a programming language) to 43.7% (transferring files). As such, it identifies the need to define what can be considered a “minimum level of proficiency in digital skills“, and to increase data collection in order to effectively measure advancements. Progress is thus inconclusive.

Advocacy Target 5: Digital Financial Services

Aim: By 2025, 40% of the world’s population should be using digital financial services.

Progress:
The report cites the rapidly expanding use of digital finance services – currently at 15.8% of the global population and 21.4% of the global adult population, and anticipated to increase to 40% of the global population by 2025.

Advocacy Target 6: Getting businesses online

Aim: By 2025, overcome unconnectedness of Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) by 50%, by sector.

Progress:
The report identifies key enablers to bring more businesses and small- and medium-sized businesses online. This includes creating supportive legal and regulatory environments, increasing digital skills and literacy, and reducing costs such as import duties on Telecom/ICT equipment and services. Progress seems to be a little difficult to fathom due to the complexity of the topic.

Advocacy Target 7: Achieving gender equality in access to broadband by 2025

Aim: By 2025, gender equality should be achieved across all targets.

Progress:
The report highlights that, as per the most recent data available, the digital gender divide in fact grew from 11% in 2013 to 11.6% in 2016; and that women are, on average, 26% less likely to use mobile Internet than men. The report identifies increasing global efforts to address the digital divide, including the EQUALS Global Partnership (www.equals.org), and as such has an optimistic outlook for achieving gender equality in access to broadband by 2025.

As you’d expect, the gender gap in developed countries is very small, although the commission’s charts aren’t particularly well labelled.

itu_un_gender_internet_gap_2018

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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