Newsletter No.3 2020

Newsletter Issue No. 3 2020

Launched in 2010, the Broadband Commission’s relevance and importance to sustainable development has continued into the present. With today’s focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Commission has adapted its mandate to reach the 2030 Agenda and “Connect the other half” of the World’s population through Broadband.

Throughout the years, Commissioners have tackled several subjects from health to education to child online safety, and have made recommendations through the Commission’s Flagship report; The State of Broadband.

These recommendations have guided both the public and private sector in implementing policies to improve accessibility, affordability and build broadband infrastructures worldwide.

As we enter the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs, the Broadband Commission celebrates its 10th Anniversary by asking Commissioners and our community to reflect on what has been achieved so far and the next steps to realize our goals.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development hosted a powerful discussion at the High Level Political Forum Side Event entitled, “Pathways Towards Universal Access to Resilient Connectivity in the LDCs and Landlocked Countries.” Bringing together Commissioners representing the private sector, international organizations and civil society, participants discussed how to “Build Back Better with Broadband” in the current pandemic and beyond.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao kicked off the session with a call to action requesting that this year’s HLPF place emphasis on the critical need for investment in digital infrastructure, explaining that “COVID has reinforced the urgent need to mobilize governments, operators, equipment manufacturers, investors, and vertical industries, including both large and small companies, to accelerate progress toward bridging the broadband divide.”

ITU Director of Telecommunication Development and Broadband Commission Executive Director, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, echoed Mr Zhao’s thoughts and stated, “We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to harness the momentum generated by the pandemic to really energize global efforts to get the networks and services in place that could transform our global landscape forever” emphasizing the power of ICTs to reverse the tide of inequality and the urgency for the Broadband Commission to realize its goals. 

Panel speakers touched on how the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown an even sharper spotlight on the importance of connectivity for under-served regions, and the need for societal awareness and organizational flexibility to address the digital divide. In addition, speakers agreed that digital skills-based education worldwide will be crucial to the successful implementation of broadband.


SAMENA Telecommunications Council conducted its annual Leaders’ Summit 2020 on July 9th as the world’s first-of-its-kind digital remote-collaboration experience among global and regional industry leaders and decision-makers, spanning multiple geographies and time zones. Global bodies of renown, including specialized ICT development bodies of the United Nations, international financial institutions and inter-governmental economic cooperation organizations were among the most prominent contributors to the event, which was virtually attended by hundreds of participants across the globe. The event also benefited from an exceptional level of representation from the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, with 15 representatives taking part.

Joining key speakers Houlin Zhao and Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a number of Commissioners spoke on topics including child safety online (the World Childhood Foundation’s Dr Joanna Rubenstein), business resilience and the cloud (Facebook’s Dr Robert Pepper), and global connectivity (GSMA’s Mats Granryd), along with many others. H.M Queen Silvia of Sweden participated as a special VVIP guest, in her role as a globally-recognized children’s rights advocate.


Highlights from Commissioners

Bocar Ba

CEO – SAMENA Council

We have witnessed during the Leaders’ Summit the sense of urgency around the need to ensure advanced, reliable and resilient network infrastructure to master the current and future crises. Our success between 2020 and 2030 will be influenced by our progress in meaningfully leveraging digital communications technologies, their application, and the advanced digital networks that they run and scale on. The COVID-19 crisis highlights just how the use of ICTs can contribute to better managing and living through crises.

Scott Gegenheimer

Zain Group

Connecting the unconnected is key to enabling better preparedness for the next crisis. To achieve this, we need to move from 2G to 3G to 4G to connect the rest of the world first; 5G alone will not solve our issues.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs

Columbia University

To reduce inequalities and bridge the digital divide, it is fundamental that we address the gaps first. These can only be addressed through the provision of universal digital access as a public good, requiring massive collaborative public private efforts.

Mats Granryd

Director General – GSMA

The Mobile Industry is vital and has enabled continued social and economic activity throughout the coronavirus pandemic while accelerating digital transformation worldwide. 

On July 20, Childhood USA launched a new bold initiative, The Childhood Summer Institute.  The virtual Summer Institute is a unique opportunity for a diverse group of American teens (15-19 years-old) to be part of a global movement to safeguard children online and offline. Over a period of five weeks, Institute Scholars will virtually connect with world business leaders from Ericsson, Microsoft and Verizon, UN agencies including ITU, law enforcement bodies, experts from academia, and practitioners from various national and international organizations, to learn about the complex problem of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. The Scholars will learn about cutting-edge technologies for child protection online, understand the online risks, and look at strategies to prevent abuse from happening. As part of the curriculum, the Scholars will discuss the findings and recommendations of the Broadband Commission’s report on Child Online Safety.  Additionally, emphasis will be on issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic around inequality and inclusivity. Special thanks go to sponsors Verizon, Bristol Meyers Squibb, the Carlson Companies, Polsinelli, and all guest speakers involved in this interdisciplinary effort designed to help educate youth to become effective advocates for child online safety.

Amir Dossal, Chairman, Global Partnerships Forum, image via Nestle


“At a time when across the world, all countries are faced with the pressing dual concerns of health and the state of the economy, the United Nations is emphasising the importance of creating innovative partnerships as a way forward. With healthcare looking to rapid innovation from traditional and non-traditional healthcare players, global players like the UN have made a call to entrepreneurs and innovators to take part in global solutions. 

Whilst the UN has a track record of facing scores of humanitarian and regional crises the unique differentiator COVID-19 embodies is the global nature of the pandemic, underscoring the interconnection between countries, governments, the private sector and civil society.” 

Read more.

Image: Amir Dossal, Chairman, Global Partnerships Forum, via Nestle

Reimagining Global Health through Artificial Intelligence: The Roadmap to AI Maturity, the third report from the Broadband Commission Working Group on Digital and AI in Health, will be published this September. The report will present actionable recommendations tailored to individual stakeholder groups – enabling governments, health organizations, civil society, the private sector and others to capture the game-changing capabilities of AI for health.

The Nigerian Communications Commission has published guidelines to help parents anticipate risks and better protect children online.

“The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear a shift in the norms, putting more activities, including education of children, online. This has leapfrogged Nigerian children into the future. Online activities have acquired new meaning and become the reality for Nigerian parents and children. Screen time and screen activities are the new normal. Parents are constantly searching for online learning platforms, TV stations are providing more child-based educational content and schools are teaching via Zoom, Google Classroom and YouTube. Cyberspace, the internet and online activities are here to stay. The future has arrived, welcome!!

The fusion of children and the internet has not given birth to new concerns as is widely perceived, it has magnified the critical need for parents and care givers to step up to the new norms of online life for children, thus the need for online parenting. Concerns of safety and privacy have been with us from the beginning of time. What has changed however, is the invisible and borderless nature of these concerns and the magnitude of the consequences when they occur.”

Global Symposium for Regulators 1-3 September

As GSR celebrates its 20th edition, we will be celebrating 20 years of changing regulatory frameworks, presenting an updated 20th anniversary edition of the ICT Regulation Handbook as well as concrete guidance on steps that regulators can take to achieve meaningful connectivity for digital transformation. 

GSR-20 will provide you with the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge, collaborate and identify evolving regulatory tools and approaches to bring affordable, safe, secure and trusted connectivity and online access to people everywhere.

World Summit on the Information Society Forum 7-10 September 2020

The World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2020 represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community. The WSIS Forum, co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, in close collaboration with all WSIS Action Line Facilitators/Co-Facilitators, is the leading mechanism for coordination of multi-stakeholder implementation activities, information exchange, knowledge creation, the sharing of best practices, and the fostering of public/private partnerships to advance development goals. This year’s forum will provide structured opportunities to network, learn and participate in multi-stakeholder discussions and consultations on WSIS implementation. The agenda and programme of the forum will be built on the basis of submissions received during the WSIS Open Consultation Process.

The 2020 WSIS Forum (WSIS+15) also serves as a platform to track the achievements of WSIS Action Lines, in collaboration with the UN agencies involved, and will present information and analyses of the implementation of WSIS Action Lines since 2005.

UN General Assembly 15-30 September 2020

Stay tuned for details about the 75th Annual UNGA assembly.

Broadband Commission Meeting 18 September 2020