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Newsletter No. 6 2018

Broadband Commission Activities

Following the tradition of its Annual Fall Meetings held in conjunction with the UNGA, The Broadband Commission convened in New York on 22-23 September, alongside the 73rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.


On Sunday 22, the three ongoing Working Groups held their sessions to discuss the final outcomes with their members.

The Working Group on Digital Entrepreneurship, chaired by Mr Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission, has released the report Digital Entrepreneurship, which looks at the challenges and opportunities for using digital entrepreneurship to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The study sets out a nine-point action plan to achieve healthier, wealthier, longer and more peaceful lives for all:

  1. Connect by 2025
  2. Skill up by 2025
  3. Build a supportive policy environment for digital development by 2025
  4. Deliver equal opportunities
  5. Make the administrative transactions of a business fully digital by 2025
  6. Adopt and propagate electronic identities and signatures by 2025
  7. Fund knowledge and innovation by 2023
  8. Harmonize cross country rules for healthy high volume regional trading relationships by 2025
  9. Develop digitally by 2020

The Working Group on Digital Health, co-chaired by The Novartis Foundation and Intel Corporation, has launched the report The Promise of Digital Health: Addressing Noncommunicable Diseases to Accelerate Universal Health Coverage in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. The report provides recommendations and examples of best practices for how policy-makers can use available technologies to address noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). According to the World Health Organization, NCDs killed 41 million people in 2016, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The report highlights that addressing NCDs is essential to achieve Universal Health Coverage. The report outlines six building blocks to achieve SDGs:

  1. Policy makers need to prioritize and lead a national digital health strategy
  2. Legal frameworks are essential to protect patients while enabling innovation
  3. Standardized infrastructure that allows information to be used and shared is key to effective NCD management
  4. Interoperability between diverse digital health solutions and data sources is a must to enable coordinated NCD management
  5. Partnerships combine expertise, assets and ideas to amplify the scale and impact of successful digital health solutions
  6. Sustained financing is mandatory if successful digital health solutions are to be scaled

The Working Group on Epidemic Preparedness, chaired by KT Corporation, has launched the new report Preventing the Spread of Epidemics using ICT. The report provides recommendations and examples of best practices for how policy-makers can use available and innovative ICTs to prevent the spread of epidemics such as SARS, MERS and Ebola. The report shows how properly and securely utilizing data, establishing an integrated global epidemics monitoring ICT platform, and expanding global governance are essential to help prevent the spread of epidemics effectively.

The Commission’s main plenary held on 23rd September evolved around the theme of “How to connect the Other Half”.

For her first participation at the Commission’s annual meeting, Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO and Co-Vice Chair of the Commission emphasized that “We are reaching an important milestone with half of the population online. But advantages of internet access are not shared equally. Access to Internet is not enough in itself to improve livelihoods. We must put emphasis on digital skills and knowledge"

The Commission’s Co-Vice Chair Mr Houlin Zhao stated: “I am pleased to say that the Commission goes from strength to strength. This year saw the launch of our updated global broadband targets to bring online the world's 3.8 billion people currently not connected to the Internet, at the Special Session in Davos in January attended by many of you, as well as Heads of UN agencies and industry CEOs. The Commission's targets track some of the most important policy priorities in broadband, and will play an important role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals."

Mr Carlos Slim, Co-Chair of the Commission said: “Broadband is transforming all sectors and activities of our society. But many rural areas are still not connected to the Internet. Governments and regulators need to make universal connectivity a main priority for sustainable development."

President Kagame, Co-Chair of the Commission reminded us that: “We are preparing to mark a new milestone where half of the world's people are accessing the Internet. While this growth is not spread evenly across the world's regions, it is nonetheless an encouraging development. With more people online, we need to think through how everyone can access the digital content safely and fairly. To take full advantage of the latest technological innovations, we have to adapt rapidly, including more innovative approaches to policy and regulation. The best way to handle this is through close collaboration among the key stakeholders, from government, the private sector, and the research community."

The Broadband Commission had a great deal of representation through its Commissioners appearing in several panels organized during the 73rd UNGA session such as Mr Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP. The session entitled “Curse or Cure? Leaving No One Behind in an Age of Technological Revolution”, focused on the 2030 agenda and the increasing role of technologies in our society’s development.

The Novartis Foundation, Co-Chair of the Working Group on Digital Health hosted a dedicated side event after the Commission’s meeting to discuss how innovative multisector partnerships are successfully building healthier cities, keeping in mind that the goal is to reach a world in which each person receives the healthcare that is needed. The Novartis Foundation also held a side event for the promotion of the new Working Group report: “The Promise of Digital Health: Addressing Non-communicable diseases to Accelerate Universal Health Coverage”.

During the UNGA several commissioners gathered at the SDG zone to discuss them in depth. Mr Rob Shuter and Mr Mats Granryd discussed the importance of ICTs to achieve SDGs by focusing on SDG 5 on how to overcome the Digital Divide with the promotion of the progress report on Digital Gender Divide : bridging the gender gap in Internet and broadband access and use.

The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education honours outstanding and innovative contributions made by individuals, institutions and organizations to advance girls’ and women’s education. This year, the Prize recognized projects supporting girls' education in some of the poorest villages of Egypt, and Jamaica.

The Prize was awarded at an official ceremony taking place at UNESCO HQ in Paris, France on 11 October 2018 in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.

Each year, The Equals in Tech awards are granted to the most innovative and creative of global initiatives promoting the inclusion of women and girls in the tech sector and in internet access. This year’s winners were announced during a ceremony held at the Yale club, New York on September 22. The 2018 Equals in Tech Awards were awarded in four categories: access, skills, leadership and research.

Mr Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA, presented the 2018 Access Award to, a Mercy Corps, The 2018 Skills Award was presented by ITU Secretary-General Mr Houlin Zhao to Laboratoria for their initiative entitled, Giving women from underserved backgrounds a career in tech, Mr Andrew Sullivan (CEO of the Internet Society) and Ms Arancha González (Executive Director of ITC) co-presented the 2018 Leadership I Award to Women in Tech Africa and Mr David Malone, Rector of the United Nations University, presented the  2018 research award to AfterAccess. This year, the Leadership II Award was presented by Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, to New York-based SAP Next-Gen to acknowledge the efforts of tech companies to bridge the gender digital divide.

Fundación Carlos Slim, together with the Novartis Foundation and the Mexican Ministry of Health held a joint event to promote the Working group on Digital Health report: “The Promise of Digital Health: Addressing Non-communicable Diseases to Accelerate Universal Health Coverage”. This event featured the report in Spanish and focused on health issues in Latin America. The event titled: “Harnessing the power of Digital Health and Big Data to design and implement effective public health policies in Latin America” took place in Mexico on 24-25 October 2018.


The Broadband Commission has welcomed new commissioners:

 Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was elected as WHO Director-General for a five-year term by WHO Member States at the Seventieth World Health Assembly in May 2017. He is the first WHO Director-General to have been elected from multiple candidates by the World Health Assembly, and is the first person from the WHO African Region to serve as WHO's chief technical and administrative officer. Immediately after taking office on 1 July 2017 Dr Tedros outlined five key priorities for the Organization: universal health coverage; health emergencies; women's, children's and adolescents' health; health impacts of climate and environmental change; and a transformed WHO. Prior to his election as WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros served as Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012–2016.

Mr A​drian Lovett is the Web Foundation's President & CEO. His 20-year career in international development and advocacy has focused on delivering policy change on complex global issues in the Global South, North America and Europe. Prior to joining the Web Foundation, Adrian was the interim CEO of ONE, the campaigning and advocacy organisation co-founded by U2's Bono to help end extreme poverty. He previously led ONE's Europe division as its Executive Director. Adrian played a key leadership role in successful campaigns such as Make Poverty History and the Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel the debts of developing countries. He has also held senior roles at the likes of Oxfam and Save the Children.

In 2015, Ms Joanna Rubinstein was appointed as President & CEO of World Childhood Foundation (WCF) USA. Founded in 1999 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, WCF invests in innovative programs to end violence and child sexual abuse and exploitation.  An expert in global health and sustainable development, Rubinstein brought to WCF over a decade of experience in leadership roles at Columbia University (CU) and at the United Nations (UN).  As Chief of Staff to Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Rubinstein helped develop and lead several global initiatives in health, education and sustainable development. Notably, she supported artist Shakira and ALAS' work on Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Latin America and the Carribean, the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission, the Ministerial Working Group on Health, and the Millennium Development Goals Advocates. As a Senior Research Scientist and an Assistant Director of the Earth Institute of CU, she was instrumental in the development of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Currently, Rubinstein supports members of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group of the UN Secretary General.



The GSMA has released their “2018 Mobile Industry Impact Report” focusing on the importance of the mobile industry and its impact on the achievement of the SDG’s. The report launched during the 73rd UNGA evolves around the theme of intelligently connecting everyone and everything to a better future.

Upcoming Events

The Plenipotentiary Conference is ITU's top policy-making body that sets the general policies of the organization for the next four years. This year, the event will be organized at Dubai from the 29th October to 16 November 2018. Member states will have the opportunity to submit proposals within the regional framework. The Plenipotentiary Conference elects the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, the Directors of the Bureaux, members of the Radio Regulations Board, the Member States that will constitute the next ITU Council. Visit the website for more information. This year’s event will also feature the report issued by the expert Group, to the Broadband Commission “A New Deal: Investing in our common future Policy recommendations to close the broadband gap” launched under the framework of the Broadband Commission.

This year marks the thirteenth edition of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). This event will be held in UNESCO’s HeadQuarters in Paris from 12 to 14 November 2018. The theme for this year is “Internet of Trust” with different topics to be discussed, including: Cybersecurity, Trust and Privacy, Development, Innovation & Economic Issues, Digital Inclusion & Accessibility, Emerging Technologies, Gender and other topics.

On the 22nd January, the Broadband Commission and WEF will host a special session during the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. This year’s theme is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.