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Newsletter Issue No.1 2019

Happy 2019!

On behalf of the Broadband Commission we wish everyone a wonderful new year! 2018 was filled with successful initiatives, cooperation, and meetings that we look forward to continuing and expanding this upcoming year.

Recent Broadband Commission Activities

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) took place from 29 October to 16 November, at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, UAE. The conference opened with a global call to “act as one” in order to connect the nearly four billion people who remain unconnected to the Internet.

PP-18 set out a roadmap for 2020–2023. More than 2500 participants attended the conference, including heads of government, ministers and other delegates from most of ITU’s 193 Member States, as well as representatives from private companies, academic institutions and national, regional and international bodies.

Throughout the conference, the Broadband Commission was identified as a key facilitator in delivering broadband networks to the global community. Our previous working group on the Digital Gender Divide was referenced in Resolution 70 as an initiative to eliminate inequalities in the access and use of technologies in order to build a non-discriminatory information society. In terms of connectivity, Resolution 140 highlighted the commission’s launch of the Targets for 2025 in support of "Connecting the Other Half". These targets aim to expand broadband infrastructure and Internet access for populations around the world, joining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations. Additional highlights from the conference are available in the ITU News Magazine.


IGF 2018, hosted at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters from 12 to 14 November, marked the event’s 13th occurrence. Under the theme “Internet of Trust'” all IGF stakeholders were invited to contribute to intersessional activities such as: Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion(s), Gender and Access, Cybersecurity, The BPF IoT, Big Data, AI, and The BPF on Local Content. The event was organized back-to-back with Peace Forum and the GovTech summit during the Paris Digital Week.

The Web Summit in Lisbon, held November 4-7, brought founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers and heads of state together to discuss the future of technologies and the next steps for the web.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the web’s inventor, announced the starting principles of a new “Contract for the Web”, which seeks to set out responsibilities of governments, companies and citizens to build a better web for everyone. More than 50 organizations and prominent individuals signed on to the Contract, including Google, the French government, AnchorFree and the NewNow. Read more about the Contract here.

Organized by ITU and hosted by the UN, “The Role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Empowering Persons with Disabilities” panel highlighted the importance of leaving no one behind in the digital future. Held on December 3 at the UN headquarters, the session discussed the advancement of ICTs and alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognizes that “the spread of information and communication technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress.”  Panelists included: Daniela Bas (Director of UN DESA), K. R. Liu (award- winning accessibility advisor), Francesca Cesa Bianchi (G3ict), Hale Pulsifer (Fidelity Investments), Monica Desai (Facebook), Alexandra Cooke (App Association), and Ursula Wynhoven (ITU), who moderated the session.

UNCTAD held its African edition of eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya, from 10 to 14 December 2018, focused on the question:  “How can we ensure that the evolving digital economy brings inclusive development in Africa rather than wider inequalities and divides?” Following the release of the Working Group on Digital Entrepreneurship report, led by Andrus Ansip (Vice President for the Digital Market at the European Commission), a session was held on December 13th in coordination with the European Union to discuss its recommendations. The Broadband Commissioners attended and contributed the following:


The sixteenth edition of WTIS was held December 10-12 at ITU in Geneva. The event brought together government ministers, business leaders, regulators, national statisticians, top academics, and ICT data producers and analysts from all parts of the globe to discuss issues related to information society trends and their measurement.

In what has been coined the “50-50 moment”, over half of the global population is now connected to the internet. According to Houlin Zhao (ITU Secretary-General), “[This 50-50 moment] represents an important step towards a more inclusive global information society. However, far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy.”

ITU's Measuring the Information Society Report 2018 stated that stronger ICT skills will be necessary to connect people everywhere. At the same time, ICT prices have dropped globally in the last decade. Improved ICT regulation and policy-making have played a pivotal role in creating conditions for the reduction of prices, ensuring that part of the efficiency gains from higher ICT adoption are passed on to consumers.

On 21 January 2019, ITU hosted the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. Heads of WIP, UNCTAD and ITU met over a working lunch to discuss the importance of cooperation and partnership in ensuring an inclusive digital future.

For our first event of 2019, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and the World Economic Forum co-hosted a session on 22 January in Davos, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019. Around 60 government representatives and leaders in business, civil society and academia met to address the challenges associated with connecting the world in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Now that the internet has reached its ''50-50 moment',' we are confronted with new connectivity challenges that will need to be addressed through innovative approaches and strong partnerships. The special session addressed these challenges via a combination of small group and plenary discussions.


The meeting was opened by Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia Corporation, and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO and Acting President of The World Bank Group. Four interactive breakout groups covered the following topics:


1) Enabling Smart Ecosystems, led by Mauricio Ramos, Chief Executive Officer, Millicom Inc.

2) Achieving the Push to 100% Connectivity, led by Stephanie von Friedeburg, Chief Operating Officer, International Finance Corporation (IFC)

3) Developing the 4iR-ready Generation, led by Joanna Rubinstein, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Childhood Foundation

4) Building the Policy Environment, led by Philipp Metzger, Director General, OFCOM Switzerland.


Participants came together to address these questions and come up with constructive proposals. A reoccurring theme involved the need to assist countries in developing safe and secure “smart” ecosystems in order for countries to keep pace with the technology frontier. Connecting the remaining 50% of people will require different approaches than those used to connect the first half.

Another highlight at Davos was the bilateral meeting with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, and Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Doreen Bogdan-Martin. All agreed on the importance of global connectivity and leaving no one offline.

On 5 February 2019 we celebrated Safer Internet Day to raise awareness for a safe and responsive use of digital technology—especially among children and youth. According to Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, this year’s theme, “Together for a Better Internet”, highlights the need for strong collaboration and partnership to allow ‘’… children to benefit from today’s digital revolution [but also] protect them from the risks they face online.’’ The Broadband Commission’s active Working Group on Child Safety Online, co-chaired by _____ Rubinstein, President & CEO of World Childhood Foundation USA, and Scott Gegenheimer, Zain Group CEO Operations, works to advance initiatives to ensure a safer internet for children.



Following its launch during the Broadband Commission’s Annual Fall Meeting in September 2018, the Working Group on Digital Health’s report, “The Promise of Digital Health: Addressing Non-communicable Diseases to Accelerate Universal Health Coverage in Low- and Middle-Income Countries”, has been a wide success, and generated a number of follow-up events by the Co-chair of the group, Novartis Foundation, and other members such as Fundacion Slim. The report has also been translated into Spanish and French; for more information, visit the working group’s page.

Upcoming events

The Mobile World Congress will be held in Barcelona from 25 to 28 February, covering the theme of “Intelligent Connectivity”, a term that refers to the combination of flexible, high-speed 5G networks, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data. The congress will feature exhibitions of the latest technologies from leading companies in addition to an extensive conference program assembling thousands of key decision-makers. A few of our commissioners will deliver speeches during the Congress, including H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission, Chuck Robins, Chairman and CEO of Cisco, Mats. Granryd, Director General of GSMA, and Chang-Gyu Hwang, Chairman and CEO of KT Corporation.

The annual Mobile Learning Week will take place March 4-8 at UNESCO headquarters. In partnership with ITU and the Profuturo Foundation, this annual event gathers experts from around the world to share how affordable and powerful mobile technology can help accelerate learning for all. This year’s theme focuses on “Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development” to examine the breakthroughs in AI in recent years. AI has shown its potential for improving global development and societal change in addition to accelerating the process of achieving SDG 4. A variety of conferences, forums, labs and workshops will take place during the five-day event to explore this theme.


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is holding its annual eCommerce Week April 1-5 in Geneva. This forum welcomes ministers, senior government officials, CEOs, international organizations, development banks, academics and civil society to discuss this year’s theme, “From Digitalization to Development’.’ This topic highlights the need to break down silos increase effectiveness of e-commerce contributions to sustainable development.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum is the world’s largest annual gathering of the “ICT for development” community, with thousands of ICT experts and implementation actors participating in the five-day forum. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the WSIS Forum, which has provided a platform for a just and equal information society for a decade. The forum will take place from April 8 to 12 in Geneva, focusing on the theme of ‘’Information and Communication Technologies for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.’’


On 4 March 2019 UNESCO will host a global conference on “Principles for AI: Towards a Humanistic Approach”. Members of the private sector, international organizations, civil society and Member State experts will come together to discuss the opportunities and challenges AI poses, especially in regard to transparency and accountability. With rapid developments in AI technology, different disciplines, economies, and industries are quickly transforming with what much of the global community views as a potential for social good. The need to lay down principles for AI as part of a humanistic approach has been a topic of great debate and will be addressed at this global conference.


UNESCO and the Government of the People’s Republic of China are co-organizing the International Conference on Artificial intelligence and Education in Beijing from 16 to 18 May 2019. Around 500 participants, including representatives of UN agencies, academic experts, high-level Member State representatives, policy makers and leaders of AI industries will come together to discuss the benefits and risks of AI in education. This conference will serve as a platform to share expertise on leveraging AI for education and strengthening partnerships for promoting equitable, inclusive and transparent use of AI in education.