By Alia EA

Newsletter Issue No.2 2021

The Broadband Facts and Figures Campaign pulls data from the ITU 2020 Facts and Figures Report to provide a baseline of knowledge about the status of Connectivity globally. Touching on various topics like the rural/urban divide, youth and ICT, the gender digital divide, and the effects of the pandemic on connectivity bandwidth, the campaign will engage stakeholders across demographics and knowledge levels.

Giga engaged with key stakeholders across 10 countries, holding virtual workshops to gather critical data and insights and better understand existing initiatives and policies related to broadband connectivity; after further desk reviews to fill in gaps and validate data, we are proud to share our co-created sets of recommended priorities for each country.
Contact the Giga team to request for the full opportunity brief.

Despite the fact that women make up over half the world’s population, they have very low representation in the investment of the world’s assets. According to Morgan Stanley, this disparity currently constitutes a multi-trillion dollar missed opportunity globally. The Boston Consulting Group notes that gender-diverse businesses have 53% higher ROE, 19% higher Innovation Revenue and 6% higher net profit. Improving diversity in the tech sector represents a massive economic and financial opportunity. 

The GEIT Working Committee (Gender Equitable Investment in Tech) was formed to attack this problem of inadequate and gross disproportionate funding for women in tech. Through a portfolio of programs, GEIT influences three forms of intervention: influencing policy changes, awareness building and active intervention programs. 

Check out the findings and resources on the new GEIT website here

The central purpose of this Report is to provide recommendations to governments in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic about how to use digital technologies to deliver better quality and more resilient education systems that enable everyone to have access to equitable learning opportunities. The pandemic has shown the huge potential of digital technologies, both hardware (including desktop and laptop computers, tablets, mobile phones, radios and TVs) and software (including applications, learning management systems, administrative systems, networks, platforms, content and data analytics) to be used to support the delivery of better and more extensive education and learning. However, it has also served as a stark reminder that all technologies can be used to create both positive and negative impacts, and that one of the main effects of COVID-19 has been to increase educational inequalities at all scales. 

The UNESCO Chair in ICT for Development, with support from the EdTech Hub, developed this report and associated Guidance Notes in 2020 building on a series of regional and sectoral consultations with education experts. 

Read the report here

“2020 marks a dramatically different childhood experience that these young people will remember for the rest of their lives, and a different teaching experience where teachers have had to rapidly adapt, be creative, and shift roles.

This different education service, over many months, has the potential of having a huge negative impact on students’ skills and economic prospects for the rest of their lives. The World Bank has, from the very start of the pandemic, been working with countries to support them in addressing this crisis”

Read the article here to learn more about how the pandemic has created an education crisis, and how the World Bank proposes addressing it and laying the groundwork for a post-COVID world.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is driving Sub-Saharan Africa into its first recession in 25 years — putting decades of economic progress at risk. An inclusive, cohesive and sustainable recovery will depend on how effective governments and private sector partners are at addressing four key priorities:

Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)
Addressing macroeconomic vulnerabilities
Harnessing the digital transformation
Ensuring a just transition to zero emissions

Given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis, Africa faces a difficult and unpredictable road to recovery, and there will continue to be a wide range of policy challenges to address. However, by prioritizing these four actions, governments and businesses can come together to ensure an inclusive, cohesive and sustainable recovery that benefits Africa and the world.”

Read the full article here 

The ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development 12-15 April 2021 

The 2021 ECOSOC FfD Forum will provide an inclusive platform to advance an action-oriented dialogue on the solutions on financing the COVID-19 recovery and sustainable development on the path to 2030. It will be geared to build momentum for urgent global action to tackle challenges to the achievement of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda across all its seven action areas in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.

The event will bring together heads of State and Government, ministers and high-level government officials as well as senior officials of international organizations. Civil society organizations, the business sector and local authorities will also be represented.

2021 SDG Investment Fair 13 – 14 April 2021

Private investment in areas critical for implementation of the SDGs has to date been vastly insufficient. The situation has worsened due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a drop of almost 50 per cent in foreign direct investment in the first half of 2020. 

Identifying solutions to scale up private investment in a challenging global context will be critical. The SDG Investment Fair was established to support direct informal interaction among representatives of governments of developing countries, the private sector and financial intermediaries with a view of accelerating the mobilization of investment for the SDGs. 

The 2021 Fair will feature: 
– Direct interaction between countries and investors 
– Discussion of critical policies and regulations that shape an attractive environment for SDG investment; 
– Representatives of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance discussing its work and deliverables. 

HLPF 2021 6-15 July 2021

The theme of this year’s HLPF is:
Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”

The HLPF in 2021 will discuss Sustainable Development Goals 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, 3 on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships in depth. The Forum will also consider the integrated, indivisible and interlinked nature of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

WTDC-21 8-19 November 2021 

WTDC-21 will be a landmark digital development conference and a unique opportunity for the global community to develop innovative approaches and forge new models of collaboration to overcome digital development challenges and accelerate connectivity and digital solutions in the final Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

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Newsletter Issue No.1 2021

This January the Broadband Commission launched the Universal Connectivity Campaign, illustrating ‘10 Reasons We Need Universal Connectivity’. This campaign draws connections between the many reasons we need to connect the unconnected and the work of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and its Working Groups. Each reason ties directly to a related publication of the Commission.

Read more

Newsletter Issue No.7 2020

As we prepare to close the year of 2020, a year that has been full of global challenges matched with global solutions, the need for universal connectivity has never been more apparent. From opening the online classroom to providing virtual healthcare services, broadband has proven to be the hidden hero of the COVID-19 pandemic. Closing the digital divide is of the utmost importance to build back a sustainable and inclusive world.

Read more

Newsletter Issue No. 6 2020

Nearly half the global population aged 10 years and over – equating to some three billion people – has never used the Internet. Many of the unconnected live in rural and remote areas, where connectivity remains a challenge. A disproportionate number are women, particularly in Africa and South Asia, where the digital gender divide is particularly marked. And of course, most are poor, lack basic literacy and, with only limited digital exposure, see little value in getting online. 

With just ten years remaining to meet the SDGs, this timely new report asks: What will it take to connect the world? How much investment is needed, where are the global ‘pain points’, and how can we mobilize the unprecedented levels of financing needed to extend networks to unserved communities? 


Digital applications now permeate all aspects of the economy and society, enabling us to access government services, make mobile payments, play games, listen to music, watch movies, travel more efficiently, and so on. With digital transformation affecting every aspect of our lives, this also poses new challenges for regulatory structures that have traditional been organized on a sectoral or domain basis. The ITU World Bank Digital Regulation Platform and Handbook aims to provide practical guidance and best practice for policy makers and regulators across the globe concerned with harnessing the benefits of the digital economy and society for their citizens and firms. 

The Digital Regulation Platform provides an update and revised version of the ICT Regulation Toolkit.  The 2020 Digital Regulation Handbook, originally published as the Telecommunication Regulation Handbook, and now updated to mark the 20th anniversary of the publication and provides more detailed guidance and case studies of best practice in regulation of the digital economy.

Thematic areas include:  

  • Regulatory governance and independence 
  • Competition and economics  
  • Access for all 
  • Consumer affairs 
  • Data protection and trust 
  • Spectrum management 
  • Emerging technologies
  • Technical regulation
  • Emergency communications 

Please visit the Digital Regulation Online Platform for more regulatory analysis and approaches! 

Broadband Commission member Nokia continues its commitment to reaching universal connectivity. This year they have published an e-book entitled, How do we create inclusivity in a digital future?: Building a better world with broadband technologies. The book defines the digital divide, bringing light to the considerable impact broadband can have in developing communities and suggests solutions through alternative technologies and policy reform.  

The ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference, known as WTDC, sets the strategies and objectives for the global digital development agenda. Held every four years, it represents a unique opportunity for the international community to gather and discuss the future of the tech sector and its contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The next WTDC will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 8 to 19 November 2021. Hosted by the Government of Ethiopia, WTDC-21 will be preceded by a Youth Summit. 

On 9 November, a special virtual session, hosted by ITU, formally launched the WTDC-21 countdown and the Road to Addis series and introduced the role of WTDC in helping to advance connectivity for all. The session presented today’s global digital development challenges and opportunities and proposed solutions for discussions at WTDC. 

The Road to Addis is building momentum towards WTDC, strengthens partnerships and engagement and helps to shape with key stakeholders the WTDC agenda. The events focus on specific issues relevant to digital development and feature the participation of key stakeholders.

Published by the Web Foundation, the Women’s Rights Online report — Closing the digital gender gap for a more equal world — illustrates barriers that prevent women from accessing and using the internet, as well as the challenges limiting their experience online. It calls for governments and companies to embrace policies that can bridge this divide and help make the internet a driving force for equality. 

We are excited to highlight the work of the Working Group on AI & Health as an example of “best practices” for Working Group communications and continued outreach. We hope that this example can provide both inspiration as well as a template for organization of future communications. 

Since its publication this September, we have seen active promotion from Working Group Members as well as links to related events!  

The very nature of the Internet – a layered architecture, a common protocol, a global routing system, and an architecture that supports innovation – has proven its importance. The Internet has become a lifeline for those that have it, and it no longer is an option. the Internet Society has been deploying efforts over the years to grow the Internet and make it stronger. 

The new pandemic, COVID-19 has been spreading all around the world, causing a huge impact on economic and social crisis. While the world is still fighting against the COVID-19 over the past few months, find out why South Korea has been touted as one of the most successful countries in responding to COVID-19. 

A lot has happened since the launch of the Microsoft Airband Initiative in 2017. This case study highlights important progress and lessons learned, including in facing a pandemic.  These experiences have reinforced Microsoft’s belief that the rural broadband gap can be eliminated by 2022. 


The government of Japan has promoted various strategic plans for broadband deployment since 2000. As a result, as of March 2019, the coverage of high-speed fixed broadband capable of delivering at least 30 Mbps download had reached 99.5%, and wireless broadband had reached 99.9%. This was achieved by developing a competitive environment in the telecommunications business field with the private sector’s investment as the main principle. In addition, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, in partnership with local governments, has supported broadband deployment in disadvantaged areas in order to bridge the digital divide. Japan believes that these achievements could contribute towards progress for No.1 and No. 3 of the Broadband Commission’s 2025 targets. 

AI platform in São Paulo, Brazil helps diagnose COVID-19 patients faster. See how the Novartis Foundation is partnering with the local government and University Hospital of São Paulo to help develop a national ecosystem for innovation, data science and AI in health. 

The ORANGE strategic plan called Engage 2025 renews its environmental and societal commitments and formulates ambitious engagements (1) to fight global warming by achieving carbon neutrality in 2040 – 10 years before the mobile industry commitment through GSMA – and (2) to reduce the digital divide by expanding network coverage, providing inclusive offers and affordable smartphones, offering training and coaching. 

The availability of advanced digital communication infrastructure and advanced digital services is integral to preparedness for embracing a sustainable future. Likewise, building a sustainable 5G ecosystem, in which Telecom Operators have a significant role to play, is critical for driving digital transformation in any given economy, and for meeting national socio-economic transformation objectives. See how the SAMENA Council is approaching the implementation of broadband and 5G in this region.  

The SMART Broadband 2025 Strategy led by the republic of Senegal is an ambitious initiative to deliver increased affordability and access to broadband connectivity by 2025 to Africa that will unleash opportunities of emerging digital economy and position Africa as a player in the 4th Industrial Revolution. It achieves this by enhancing broadband interconnectivity in Africa, breaking cross border barriers and being a foundational building block to realize a Single Digital Market by 2030. This case study details this strategy’s initiatives in addition to their COVID19 Response

It is now irrefutable that access to the internet is an essential public service. While most vulnerable countries have made progress towards increasing access to ICTs, particularly mobile service, the majority have no access to the Internet. The gap in Internet usage between more developed countries and the vulnerable countries is very stark. Most people in vulnerable countries, especially LDCs, do not fully benefit from the rapid expansion of digital technology and the opportunities it offers. This study explores barriers and solutions to closing the digital divide.  

The Equals in Tech Awards are given every year to organizations and individuals working to help girls and women gain equal internet access, digital skills and opportunities in the tech industry.  

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists of the 2020 Equals in Tech Awards! 

Tue, Nov 24, 2020 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM EST
Ask UNICEF Fund: Child Online Safety Register Now!

Newsletter Issue No. 5 2020

State of Broadband report 2020 Broadband Commission

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s 2020 State of Broadband report, released at the Commission’s 10th anniversary meeting earlier today, includes a rallying call to world leaders and heads of industry to place universal broadband connectivity at the very forefront of global recovery and sustainable development efforts.The State of Broadband 2020: Tackling Digital Inequalities, A Decade for Action, highlights stark disparities in access to high-speed connectivity that have prevented billions of adults and children from benefiting from remote working, learning and communication. The report also takes stock of progress made in expanding access to and adoption of broadband infrastructure and services, and achieving the Commission’s seven 2025 advocacy targets.   

Read it.

Access the interactive report on Foleon

Download it.

Download the PDF here

Share it.

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The Commission Manifesto calls on the global community to recognize digital connectivity as the foundational element of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Manifesto affirms the commitment of the Broadband Commission to mobilize efforts to achieve the ‘Global Goal of Universal Connectivity’ in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and other connectivity initiatives.  

Finally, it calls on all stakeholders to collaborate to: 

    • Establish a baseline for universal digital connectivity. 
    • Identify and support public-private financing of universal broadband, pioneering innovative hybrid and/or complementary, replicable and sustainable financing and investment models for all types of networks, and catalyzing impactful partnerships. 
    • Advocate for enabling regulatory environments in the field of ICTs, ICT capacity-building, and online safety and security, especially for children, as integral to efforts to achieve the Global Broadband Targets 2025 and the SDGs.
Download the report in English
Download the report in Spanish

Download the report in Russian

Download the report in French
Download the report in Chinese
Download the report in Arabic
The @UNBBCom Manifesto calls for collaboration in the #broadband community. “We, the members of @UNBBCom reaffirm our commitment to help achieve #UniversalConnectivity as a fundamental element of an inclusive and sustainable world” #digitalcooperation ➡  
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This week is the online edition of Mobile Learning Week 2020 hosted by UNESCO and co-hosted by ITU. This year’s theme is Beyond Disruption: Technology Enabled Learning Futures. Mobile Learning Week 2020 is set against the backdrop of COVID-19 education disruption and response and will shine a light on prospects for technology-enabled futures of learning.

The program began on October 12th with high-level representatives of UN agencies, ministers, and experts sharing knowledge about ‘What worked?’ with regard to distance learning policies and specific policy advice on the way ahead. Broadband Commission Executive Director Doreen Bogdan-Martin delivered the opening remarks highlighting that, “at ITU, the critical importance of skilling present and future generations is driving an increased emphasis on digital skills development and capacity building” adding that “because school connectivity has never mattered as much as it does now, building on the work of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development Working Group on School Connectivity, which we were pleased to chair with UNICEF, and UNESCO, ITU has also added a bold new initiative to our digital skills portfolio. The Giga partnership between ITU, UNICEF and others has the ambitious goal of connecting every school on the planet to the internet, and every young person to information, opportunity and choice.”

The programming continues on October 13th, as the focus shifts to innovative technology solutions with featured solutions from event sponsors and members of the Global Education Coalition. Finally, Day 3, October 14th, is an opportunity to take stock of what still needs to be learned and explore how education systems can emerge from the crisis stronger and more resilient to future disruptions.  

To join the rest of Mobile Learning Week click here!  

On 2 October 2020, the High-Level Security Council Arria Formula Meeting entitled, “Access to education in conflict and post conflict contexts: Role of digital technology and connectivity” took place as part of the 75th UN General Assembly. With participation of Executive Director Doreen Bogdan Martin, and Commissioners Henrietta Fore and Paula Ingabire, speakers shared lessons learned and best practices in relation to expanding connectivity to children in conflict, post-conflict and post-disaster situations; and discussed how the Security Council and the UN System can support the implementation of resolutions aimed at expanding access to education to children in conflict and post conflict situations and affected by other major shocks. 

To watch the complete meeting video click here.

This timely new report is a carefully curated collection of the best strategies to strengthen the capacities and skills needed to help everyone benefit fully from digital transformation, no matter where they live and no matter what their level of digital skill development.  

Click  here  to access the ITU Digital Skills Insight Report 2020 page or  here  for direct PDF download. 

For more information, please also see 


On 30 September 2020, the Child Online Safety Webinar hosted in Brazil and moderated by famous Brazilian TV reporter, Sandra Annenberg was broadcasted live on YouTube and Facebook. This event included the participation of ITU Regional Director Bruno Ramos, UNESCO Brazil Representative, Marlova Noleto, Childhood Brazil President, Roberta Rivellino and Queen Silvia of Sweden. 

Queen Silvia took the “stage” focusing on the importance of protecting our children and teenagers online and the difficulty of speaking about sexual abuse, stating that the abuse suffered by our children is real, not virtual or imaginary.  

Followed by ITU Regional Director Bruno Ramos, who in his opening speech, explained in detail the origins and work of the Broadband Commission, highlighting the objective of defending empowering regulatory environments in ICTs, capacity building in ICTs and online safety, especially for children. Quoting the BDT Director, Ramos reiterated, 

“What this data shows us is that there is a clear and urgent global need to work together to ensure that connectivity embellishes our children’s experience of the world, rather than impairs it.”   

After opening statements, speakers debated the issue of education and the importance of teaching children and teenagers to protect themselves online, and adults to better understand what online safety entails to guide the children around them was mentioned several times. With Director Ramos highlighting the role of industry taking on responsibility by creating safe products from the design stage. 

The Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Child Online Safety was launched in September 2018, it has since published a report to help guide a coordinated and global approach to combating the harms and risks associated with internet usage and children. The team continues to make sure the report is available across all UN languages, and is officially available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic. 

To read the report click here 

The UN Broadband Commission Working Group on Freedom of Expression and Addressing Disinformation, co-chaired by UNESCO & Dr. Hessa Al Jaber was launched April 2019 to provide insights that stimulate creativity and innovation in tackling problems in broadband use while reinforcing freedom of expression and sustainable development, as well as help set agendas for future research. In addition to providing useful resources for stakeholders. 

On 29 September 2020 UNESCO hosted a webinar to discuss the impacts of online disinformation on universal access to information, and join with UN Broadband Commissioners Dr. Hessa Al Jaber and Piotr Dmochowski-Lipski, authors and experts to highlight key findings and practical uses of the new Broadband Commission Working Group report.  

To watch the full meeting click here – 

Working Group Publications

Case Studies


Azerbaijan: A glimpse into the experience of Azerbaijan in broadband internet development, past achievements, current work and future plans.  

Carlos Slim Foundation: An overview of the Carlos Slim Foundation’s response to COVID-19 including, digital education initiatives, employee trainings and emergency healthcare responses. 

Digicel: How Digicel has developed experience in providing immediate assistance and support for Governments and providing sustainable aid, support and care for the citizens of countries experiencing natural disasters. 

Ericsson: Addressing the key socio-economic challenges the world faces in reaching universal connectivity; identifying barriers, proposed solutions and an Australian case study. 

Facebook: A look at Facebook’s commitment to advancing connectivity through its mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. 

GSMA: GSMA’s role in supporting and amplifying the vital work of the technology sector and contribution to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development 2025 Targets like gender equality in access to broadband, expanding digital financial services and providing youth with digital skills.  

Huawei: A brief overview of the State of Broadband and how the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how full-fiber and 4G/5G networks, will be the indispensable cornerstone for propelling the digital economy forward. 

Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore: An explanation of the oversight and coordination of Singapore’s digitalization push and examination of how Singapore’s COVID-19 initiatives align with the three pillars of the Commission’s Agenda for Action. 

Intelsat: The Role of Geostationary Satellite Networks in Meeting the Rural Connectivity Challenge. An argument for integrating satellite backhaul into strategies to deploy mobile and Wi-Fi networks into rural and remote communities to close the digital divide.  

Report of the UN Economist Network for the UN 75th Anniversary Shaping the Trends of Our Time 

“The last 75 years have brought fundamental changes in the human condition. The global community has achieved a level of prosperity unimaginable a mere two generations ago. Global poverty has declined substantially, particularly since the dawn of the twenty-first century, and people everywhere are living longer and healthier lives. Democratic institutions have been strengthened around the world and become more efficient at delivering effective public services. The concept of universal human rights has evolved from an aspiration to the guiding principle of most societies and governments. “ 

Building on the last 75 years and looking forward to how we will shape the next 75, the Report of the UN Economic Network for the UN 75th Anniversary: Shaping the Trends of Our Time, has four key recommendations for effective policymaking to steer megatrends – like climate change, environmental degradation and aging populations – in the right direction.  2. Interventions with regressive effects in another area should be avoided.  

  1. Policies should build on the causal links among the megatrends. 
  1. Interventions with regressive effects in another area should be avoided.  
  1. Coordinated and well-sequenced interventions in different areas can exploit potential co-benefits and generate greater positive impacts. 
  1. Effective policymaking requires balancing trade-offs between gains and losses.

EQUALS Award Ceremony 

AWARDS | equals
  • The Equals in Tech Awards are given every year to organizations and individuals working to help girls and women gain equal internet access, digital skills and opportunities in the tech industry.  
  • The Awards Ceremony will be held virtually 6th of November 2020 at 1-2PM UTC. It will include networking, facilitated by a networking platform, before and after the event.

Newsletter Issue No. 4 2020

The Annual Meeting brings together Broadband Commissioners – leaders across ICTs sectors to discuss the newly released State of Broadband Report 2020 (#SoBB2020): “Tackling Digital Inequalities: A Decade For Action” and to devise a plan to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. In this milestone report Commissioners confront the realities of the year as the world faces a pandemic disrupting Global and local economies, healthcare and education systems. Working Group Chairs will present publications bringing to the forefront the crucial role that broadband plays in connecting the world and keeping societies safe, strong and healthy. Together we will continue our work towards universal connectivity, making sure to leave no one behind. 

Access the meeting agenda here.

In the wake of the global health pandemic, and with less than ten years remaining to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, now is the time to make digital the fundamental foundation of our shared Global Goals. Digital has emerged as the hidden hero of this unprecedented global crisis – for those who have access. The crisis and its widespread serious socio-economic impacts have underscored the urgency of concrete and coordinated actions across sectors and geographies. 

The Commission passionately believes that achieving universal digital connectivity will be essential for achieving the 17 SDGs and making good on our pledge to Leave No-one Behind.

Stay tuned for more information on the 2020 Broadband Commission Manifesto

AI & Health

The report of the Working Group for AI & Health, entitled “Reimagining Global Health through Artificial Intelligence: The Roadmap to AI Maturity” holds that while low- and middle income countries may have the most to gain from the radical potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform health systems, they may also have the most to lose.

“AI-powered solutions are participating in more and more medical tasks traditionally performed by healthcare practitioners. AI capabilities can assist with tasks performed by highly skilled medical workers and tasks that go beyond human cognition (e.g., processing big data to diagnose illness), as well as tasks that support humans but are often subject to inattention, cause fatigue, or are physically difficult to perform. Across the entire care spectrum, AI capabilities in healthcare are performing hard work… Yet, there are also risks associated with the use of AI in health, particularly for vulnerable populations, youth, and children. Successful integration of AI into health and care delivery depends on appropriate risk management processes that have been defined and operationalized for AI development, deployment, and continuous improvement.”

Read the report here.

School Connectivity

The report of the Working Group on School Connectivity, entitled “The Digital Transformation of Education” identifies a set of core principles, which aim to help governments and other interested stakeholders to develop more holistic school connectivity plans. It focuses on school connectivity and introduces a methodology and framework for connecting primary and secondary schools to the Internet based on a four pillars approach: map, connect, finance and empower. 

Report planned to be published September 2020

Freedom of Expression & Disinformation

The report of the Working Group on Freedom of Expression and Addressing Disinformation on the Internet, entitled Balancing Act: Responding to Disinformation and Defending Freedom of Expression” focuses on how States, companies, institutions and organisations around the world are responding to the disinformation phenomenon, broadly conceived. The work includes a novel typology, making holistic sense of the disinformation crisis on an international scale, including during COVID-19. It also provides a tool to assess disinformation responses, including their impact on freedom of expression.

Report planned to be published September 2020

This year’s State of Broadband Report reflects the realities of 2020 as the world has confronted a global pandemic that has disrupted Global and local economies, healthcare systems, education and most pertinently brought to the forefront the crucial role that broadband plays in connecting the world and keeping societies strong and healthy.

“As the Broadband Commission reaches its ten-year milestone and recognizing that only a decade remains for the global community to reach the SDGs, the 2020 State of Broadband report provides an important venue to reflect on progress made in directing broadband internet deployment for social development and economic growth across the world. And the challenge of this unprecedented global pandemic has demonstrated the unquestionable centrality of access to connectivity for all in order to effect sustainable development, economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion. COVID-19 also uncovered and highlighted the inequalities among and within countries, and the urgency of accelerating achieving the goal of universal access to broadband connectivity. This serves as an opportunity to re-commit the Broadband Commission and the global community in leveraging information and communications technologies to accelerate interventions for human progress, as exemplified by the considerable beneficial interventions initiated by the Commission’s own members during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The achievement of the SDGs will require affordable, ubiquitous and meaningful broadband connectivity with the associated essential competencies and applications.

The full report will be released at our annual fall meeting on 18 September 2020

Within the context of the 10th anniversary celebration of the ITU UNESCO Broadband Commission on Sustainable Development and complementing the State of Broadband 2020 edition, case studies were prepared highlighting initiatives taken by contributing Commissioners to making an impact in two areas:  supporting progress towards the achievements of the Commission’s 2025 targets, and in implementing the Commission’s Response to COVID-19 Agenda for Action identifying lessons learned so far for better preparedness.

The full report will be released at our annual fall meeting on 18 September 2020

Reimagining Global Health through Artificial Intelligence: The Roadmap to AI Maturity by Ann Aerts of the Novartis Foundation

I am excited to share the newly released report from the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development Working Group on Digital and AI in Health – co-chaired by the Novartis Foundation and Microsoft.

Titled Reimagining Global Health through Artificial Intelligence: The Roadmap to AI Maturity, our report clearly demonstrates that AI offers the greatest opportunity to transform health systems from being reactive to proactive, predictive, and even preventive. From global pandemics to health worker shortages, the world is facing growing challenges that call for game-changing capabilities that only AI can offer. Yet, although AI is revolutionizing healthcare, it should not replace humans and health workers but rather enhance capabilities. Humans and machines should work together to improve patient outcomes, strengthen health systems, and drive progress toward universal health coverage (UHC).

Low- and middle-income countries that grapple with systemic health challenges (shortage of health workers, dual burden of disease, underserved populations, rapid urbanization, disinformation, etc.) have the most to gain from AI – but they also have the most to lose. For example, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic shows how global health is now data-dependent. However, most countries still need to build these data or make available data interoperable, and governments who do not invest risk widening existing health inequities in their populations.

The Roadmap to AI Maturity is the third report in a series that began in 2017 with a blueprint for how the technology sector, health leaders, and policy-makers could collaborate to digitize health systems. Our 2018 report then outlined recommendations for digital solutions to address noncommunicable diseases. The new report builds on that previous work to offer practical recommendations for how countries can realize mature use of AI in their health systems.

It presents five use cases of how AI is already successfully addressing global and public health priorities, strengthening health systems, and improving outcomes for patients in: population health; R&D; clinical care pathways; patient-facing solutions; and optimization of health operations.

Before assessing whether AI offers solutions tailored to their needs, countries must first identify the health problems they want to address. Only then can they prioritize the six steps needed to reach AI maturity in health: people and workforce; data and technology; governance and regulatory; design and processes; partnerships and stakeholders; and business models.

To fight health challenges, we need to systematically integrate AI-enabled tools into healthcare delivery; without AI, UHC will not be achieved. Policy-makers, donors, private companies, and other stakeholders should work together to foster an AI-enabling environment that enables them to accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3 and health for all.

Download The Roadmap to AI Maturity here

Forbes Article: UNICEF And ITU’s Giga Initiative Aims To Connect The World’s Schools To The Internet by Sarah Ferguson

This article addresses the serious effect that the COVID19 pandemic has had on global education systems, focusing on how remote learning not only requires access to resilient broadband connectivity but also necessitates technology like computers or alternatives like TV or radio to reach learners.

Highlighted in the article is the joint work of ITU and UNICEF in launching the Giga initiative. The mission of this initiative is to connect every school in the world to the Internet and every student information, opportunity and choice by 2030.

“Digital technologies can dramatically improve the lives of people and communities and deliver on the promise of the United Nations Agenda 2030 to leave no one behind,” says Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “Multi-stakeholder collaboration and partnership will be key to connecting the 3.6 billion people still off-line. We all have to work together and increase our efforts to bring technology to the people, in every area and every walk of life.”

Continue reading here.

Broadband Commission Annual Meeting 18 September

The Annual Meeting brings together Broadband Commissioners – leaders across ICTs sectors to discuss the newly released State of Broadband Report 2020 (#SoBB2020): “Tackling Digital Inequalities: A Decade For Action” and to devise a plan to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. In this milestone report Commissioners confront the realities of the year as the world faces a pandemic disrupting Global and local economies, healthcare and education systems. Working Group Chairs will present publications bringing to the forefront the crucial role that broadband plays in connecting the world and keeping societies safe, strong and healthy. Together we will continue our work towards universal connectivity, making sure to leave no one behind.

United Nations General Assembly 22 September – 2 October

The UN General Assembly, led by its President, has been carrying out its work via novel means to guarantee business continuity and mitigate the spread of the disease.

Year in year out, every September, Member States have met in the General Assembly Hall at Headquarters in New York for the annual session and its highly visible general debate. The modalities of the 75th session will however differ in light of the global health crisis.

WEF Sustainable Development Impact Summit 21—24 September 2020

Taking place in the context of the United Nations General Assembly, the World Economic Forum’s fourth and, for the first time, fully virtual Sustainable Development Impact Summit will convene leaders from government, business, international organizations and civil society along with a diverse group of experts and innovators to initiate, accelerate and scale-up entrepreneurial solutions to tackle climate change and advance sustainable development.

Global Digital Cooperation Event Series 23 September 

“Digital Cooperation: Action Today for Future Generations” will be convened by the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, UNICEF and Generation Unlimited, the International Telecommunications Union, UNDP, and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Digital Cooperation. This high-level virtual event will focus on concrete actions to safeguard the technological era for future generations. It is our global shared responsibility to find a path forward and to build back better digitally.


The Equals in Tech Awards are given every year to organizations and individuals working to help girls and women gain equal internet access, digital skills and opportunities in the tech industry.

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

Newsletter Issue No. 2 2020


The world is shifting from analog to digital faster than ever before, further exposing us to the vast promise and peril of new technologies. While the digital era has brought society many incredible benefits, we also face many challenges such as growing digital divides, cyber threats, and human rights violations online.

This UNSG’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation lays out how all stakeholders can play a role in advancing a safer, more equitable digital world, one which will lead to a brighter and more prosperous future for all. Following  its launch the Broadband Commission continues its mission to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through Broadband connectivity and inclusion. The work of the Commission contributes to the Roadmap’s Key Areas through its current Working Group initiatives to: increase access to broadband, e.g. with Working Group on School Connectivity featuring Gigaconnect partnership to connect every school in the world to the Internet; establish tools to minimize the risk of online violence of most vulnerable, e.g. with its Child Online Safety report; and to promote digital health and AI technology that has proven to be essential in this time of global health crises.

Download the full report here

The roadmap is currently available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.


The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will launch its 2020 Guidelines on Child Online Protection (COP) this Wednesday, 24 June 2020. The guidelines are an updated comprehensive set of concrete recommendations for children, parents and educators, industry and policy-makers on how to contribute to the development of a safe and empowering online environment for children and young people. The COP Guidelines serve as a blueprint that can be adapted to national or local customs and laws.

 The new guidelines were re-designed from the ground up to reflect the significant shifts in the digital landscape in which children find themselves, such as the Internet of Things, connected toys, online gaming, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. In addition, this new edition addresses an important lacuna: the situation faced by children with disabilities, for whom the online world offers a particularly crucial lifeline to full and fulfilling social participation. Consideration of the special needs of migrant children and other vulnerable groups has also been included.

The Broadband Commission is proud to announce the participation of its commissioners in this initiative, including Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau who will be speaking during the Press Conference on 23 June 2020. The Broadband Commission Child Safety Working Group formed in September 2018 and published the Child Online Safety Report in four languages in October 2019. In addition, with the participation of Queen Silvia of Sweden, Children & the Digital World: Threats and Opportunities, was included in the launch of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development Report on Child Safety Online. We are proud to continue our work in this area and support collaboration to make the internet a safer space for young people.

Key resources:

Press Release    Webinar   Website

*Register for the webinar here.


Continue to follow the Broadband Commission’s response to the Coronavirus epidemic through the Agenda for Action page. Here you will find several initiatives started by Broadband Commissioners which help compile and disseminate a repository of tangible actions based on the three pillars of resilient connectivity, affordable access, and safe use of online services for informed and educated societies.


Read more community responses here  

Director General of UNESCO and Broadband Commission Co-Vice chair, Audrey Azoulay, launched the Global Education Coalition to supp​ort countries in scaling up their best distance learning practices and reaching children and youth who are most at risk.
Commissioner Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon, has released a number of initiatives to support first-responders a​nd maintain connectivity to vital services, including building new COVID-19 hotlines and deploying Verizon Response Teams to provide on-demand services. Verizon also partnered with the New York Times to offer students free access to Times journalism.
Commissioner Leong Keng Thai, Director-General (International Affairs) of the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), shared Singapore’s efforts to ensure access to timely and accurate information, help citizens​ acquire digital skills, and enable businesses to access digital solutions.​
CEO ​of Samena Telecommunications council, Bocar Ba, published a press release calling for a united technology-policy-collaboration to expedite the implementation of 5G across the world in order to deal with the aftermath of COVID-19.

ITU and UNICEF have joined forces in a bid to connect every school to the Internet by 2030. Giga will bring the power of meaningful connectivity to fast track young people’s access to educational resources and opportunities. GIGA will make sure every child is equipped with the digital public goods they need, and empowered to shape the future they want.​

GIGA is supporting the immediate response to COVID19, as well as looking at how connectivity can create stronger infrastructures of hope and opportunity in the “time after COVID.”

GIGA Initiatives supporting communities during COVID-19

Critical Software and Content: We’re identifying, strengthening, and scaling proven and new innovations in software, learning systems, and content that support telework, tele-education, tele-health, and financial services –all of which can be deployed at low-cost, scale, and customized to local languages.

  Broadband Connectivity: GIGA is developing a comprehensive strategy to: map unserved schools; develop better and/or new financing programs to bring together diverse public and private funding; initiate large-scale procurement and improve transparency in monitoring.

 Digital Financial Services: Since GIGA will use public blockchains for monitoring and managing payments, we are able to work with governments and providers to explore how connectivity infrastructure can also lead to extensions of online banking and electronic financial networks, potentially, enhancing the efficiency and accountability of government programs that disseminate payment.


Read more about the GIGA COVID-19 response  


The Broadband Commission Working Group on Digital Health, co-chaired by Ann Aerts (Novartis Foundation) and Paul Mitchell (Corporate Affairs Microsoft), is tasked with identifying countries that have successfully integrated health information systems, ICT infrastructure, and health ICT application, showcasing best practices and tools. Their second report to be published, The Promise of Digital Health, will offer recommendations for how to address NCDs to accelerate universal health coverage in low- and middle-income countries. 

Follow the initiatives of the Working Group  

High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 14-16 July 2020

The High-level Political Forum, United Nations central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, provides for the full and effective participation of all States Members of the United Nations and States members of specialized agencies.

“The 2030 Agenda is our roadmap and its goals and targets are tools to get there.” – Secretary-General António Guterres

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 and use 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, has proven to be an efficient mechanism for coordination of multi- stakeholder implementation activities, information exchange, creation of knowledge, sharing of best practices and continues to provide assistance in developing multi-stakeholder and public/private partnerships to advance development goals. This 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 the submissions received during the Open Consultation Process.

Furthermore, the 2020 WSIS Forum (WSIS+15) will provide an opportunity to serve as a platform to track the achievements of WSIS Action Lines in collaboration with the UN Agencies involved and provide 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.

Deep Impact meets The Day After Tomorrow; Broadband in the Post COVID World


Deep Impact and The Day After Tomorrow are two well-known disaster-genre movies from the 1990s. When the reality of COVID-19 started to become clear, many remarked: “It feels like I’m living in a movie.” It was ironic: at the very time the virus prevented the world from going to the movies, our daily lives began to resemble a Hollywood potboiler. The rapid escalation of events, the spiraling daily death toll, and the near-global need to self-isolate – all conferred a drama and unreal quality that made many feel like they had woken up in the middle of a misadventure movie.

The screen metaphor is a particularly apt one because for many, home confinement, isolated from all but partners, children and pets, meant that the sole window on the world became a screen. Not the big screen, but the more diminutive screens of phones, tablets and computers. Those of us lucky enough to have a broadband connection are using our screens for work, for entertainment and distraction, and to keep connected to distant friends and loved ones. And while our attention tends to be on the screen itself, what actually connects us – what is ultimately feeding our screens with all that content and interactive capability – is our remarkable, powerful, and until now, perhaps underappreciated, broadband networks.

COVID-19 has demonstrated how vital reliable and fast internet really is. Without getting bogged down in technical jargon, broadband is simply fast internet. Sufficiently fast to download large work files, view graphics-heavy webpages without long delays, play internet-based games, stream audio and video, or interact over video-conference platforms.

5G promises to bring ultra-fast broadband not only to mobile phones, but to billions of other connected devices. 5G broadband will make possible such innovations as smart cities and self-driving cars. Behind every 5G infrastructure – or indeed, any broadband infrastructure – is a mountain of research, standardization and other international agreements, and regulatory work. This is the domain of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN specialized agency for digital technologies, based in Geneva, Switzerland. 

For 155 years, ITU’s mission has been “to connect the world”. ITU was born back in the days of the telegraph, and while communications technologies have evolved and multiplied, the organization’s basic raison d’être has never changed. Nor is its work anywhere near done. Despite the organization’s instrumental role in helping connect more than half the world to the internet, the reality is that just under half of the world has yet to be connected. Around the world, an estimated 3.6 billion people remain still totally shut out from access to online health, education and government services, online marketplaces, vital web-based information resources, and the ability to connect and exchange with family, friends and colleagues.

There is already widespread recognition that progress towards many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be greatly accelerated through digital solutions. That is why, almost a decade ago, ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, in response to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s call to step up efforts to meet UN development goals.

Now renamed as the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, to reflect core UN goals, the Commission comprises more than 50 high-level Commissioners from government, international organizations, world-leading businesses, and civil society organizations, who work together to promote broadband connectivity for all. The Commission stresses the importance of developing a clear strategy – beginning with a National Broadband Plan – that focuses holistically on the “4 i’s”: infrastructure, investment, innovation and inclusiveness. As we embark on this final Decade of Action towards the SDGs, one thing is clear: connecting the second half of the world’s population will be less straightforward than hooking up the first, and will require innovative and intelligent interplay between these four elements.

If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it is that we are all connected. Any ‘walls’ we put up are fictitious, easily brought down by a microscopic virus that recognizes no boundaries. Tackling this global health challenge, and the many other challenges that face humanity, will mean embracing this connectedness. No one can do it alone. Enabling everyone to get online and access to life-enhancing and life-saving services will require private and public partnerships and international cooperation, knowledge sharing and support.

When the Broadband Commission was created ten years ago, it launched with the campaign B More with Broadband, highlighting how fast internet could make life safer, more interesting and more meaningful. Now, ten years and billions of connections down the road, the Commission is launching a new campaign – The Right to B – recognizing that broadband and the many benefits it brings is a resource that should be equally available to everyone, regardless of location, income, gender, language or ethnicity.

Addressing the tremendous challenges facing the world right now, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on society to ‘build back better’ – that is, take this current crisis and use it as an opportunity to create a better, safer and more egalitarian world. Expanding on this theme, we are calling on the world to ‘build back better with broadband.’ COVID-19 has demonstrated that being connected to fast internet and the services and information that it delivers in real time, is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity for everyone, every community and every society. Connectedness ultimately makes us stronger, safer and – if we do it right – better. 

We will eventually emerge from COVID-19. Perhaps we will still say, “I feel like I’m in a movie” – but this time, not of the disaster kind. In many a romantic comedy, the protagonist ultimately falls for the love interest who has been there the whole time, unrecognized and underappreciated, until a crisis shines a new light. Perhaps COVID-19 is the crisis that will shake our world up enough to enable us to finally see broadband as more than just an attractive friend, and to recognize it as our indispensable life-partner, enhancing our world, and everything we do. Wouldn’t that be a better ending to this movie we’re currently all starring in? And doesn’t everyone, everywhere, deserve a ‘happily ever after’? 

For more updates, follow our social media!

The Broadband Commission Community responds to COVID-19

In moments of crisis, Broadband Commissioners come together to offer immediate support to communities worldwide

The Agenda for Action was adopted by over 50 Broadband Commissioners and their organizations to accelerate the collective response around COVID-19. It includes immediate efforts that governments, global industry, civil society, and international organizations can undertake to support the development and strengthening of digital networks that remain so inherent to keeping our economies and societies working. The three pillars of resilient connectivity, affordable access, and safe use of online services provide a framework for all commissioners to mitigate the immediate adverse effects of COVID-19 through new commitments.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, our Commissioners and their organizations have launched a number of initiatives to provide immediate support to communities worldwide.  Listed below are their responses, organized by sectors of society and marked by the pillars of the Agenda for Action that they uphold.

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Commissioner Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon, has released a number of initiatives to support first-responders and maintain connectivity to vital services, including building new COVID-19 hotlines and deploying Verizon Response Teams to provide on-demand services. Verizon also partnered with the New York Times to offer students free access to Times journalism. 

Broadband Commission Co-Chair, CEO of Grupo Carso, and President of the Carlos Slim Foundation, Carlos Slim released a statement on the allocation of one billion pesos through the Foundation to support health measures, education learning platforms, and employees and clients of Grupo Carso.

ITU Secretary General and Broadband Commission Co-Vice Chair, Houlin Zhao, launched a global platform to sustain and ensure continuity of telecommunication networks during the COVID-19 crisis. The Global Network Resiliency Platform will assist governments and the private sector in ensuring that networks are kept resilient and telecommunication services are available to all.

Broadband Commission Co-Chair and President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, emphasized resilience in his written statement for the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders Summit, stating “Let’s work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic and build resilient health systems to keep our people safe in the future.”

Director General of GSMA, Mats Granryd recognized the contributions made by mobile providers to deliver affordable access, provide vital services through cooperation with local governments, and help monitor and limit the spread of disease through the leverage of big data capabilities.

CEO of Samena Telecommunications council, Bocar Ba, published a press release calling for a united technology-policy-collaboration to expedite the implementation of 5G across the world in order to deal with the aftermath of COVID-19

Director General of UNESCO and Broadband Commission Co-Vice chair, Audrey Azoulay, launched the Global Education Coalition to support countries in scaling up their best distance learning practices and reaching children and youth who are most at risk. 

Commissioner Marcin Cichy, President of the UKE, released a statement on new measures to manage network congestion and guarantee service continuity. In addition, UKE entered into a joint agreement on the special protection of users against data phishing sites, including for personal data.

President and CEO of MTN, Rob Shuter, is prioritizing keeping people connected. Through the Y’ello Hope package, MTN is providing relief products to support mobile and digital platforms that relay vital information, offering free school and university sites to facilitate distance learning, and zero-rating some transactions on Mobile Money platforms. 

Smart Africa Director-General, Lacina Koné has called for proposals and Digital Solutions for Governments to Tackle the #Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic in #Africa.

Commissioner Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, launched#BuildforCOVID19 hackathon to promote the development of software to take on challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally,  WHO launched a Health Alert to bring COVID-19 facts to billions via WhatsApp.

Dr. Amani Abou Zeid, African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, has released a joint continental strategy to limit transmission and minimize harm In Africa, amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia, confirmed the launch of a Coronavirus Global Donation Fund to provide financial assistance to charities, hospitals, health clinics, and other frontline non-governmental organizations who are leading the fight against COVID-19 and trying to mitigate its effect on communities. 

President and CEO of the Web Foundation, Adrian Lovett, released a statement on the Contract for the Web, a plan of action to increase access to the web, fight misinformation, and ensure the responsible and effective use of data. 

UN Global Pulse director, Robert Kirkpatrick,  joined forces with researchers from WHO and the MILA- Quebec AI institute to map the landscape of artificial intelligence applications that are being built to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in the latest research paper. 

Commissioner Al Mansoori, Director General of TRA released a number of initiatives launched by the government of the UAE to enhance the ICT sector, including free mobile phone internet data to enable distance learning and access health platforms, and extension of wireless authorizations and provisions.

Commissioner Paul Mitchell of Microsoft shared the company’s efforts to provide assistance in the areas of: community support, remote working, education & family, technical support, and research & academia.

Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, President and CEO of Childhood USA is leading and participating in several efforts to protect children during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is co-signatory of the Leaders’Statement issued together with UNICEF, WHO, End Violence Partnership and others calling for actions to reduce the risk of violence against children. Together with global partners, Childhood USA developed and released a Technical Note with recommendations for governments, private sector and educators for child online safety, and in partnership with experts developed Parenting Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online during COVID-19. Childhood USA is also working with the City of New York and the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer to provide Resources to minimize the risks of online violence against children.

UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, published a new analysis that provides snapshots of how technology is being used as a critical tool in maintaining business and life continuity, and reveals inequalities in digital readiness.

Commissioner Leong Keng Thai, Director-General (International Affairs) of the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), shared Singapore’s efforts to ensure access to timely and accurate information, help citizens acquire digital skills, and enable businesses to access digital solutions.

Chairman of Digicel Group, Denis O’Brien, ensured the activation of business continuity plans and protocols aligned with WHO recommendations and teamed up with Health Ministries to assist the public with timely and accurate information. 

Internet Society (ISOC) President & CEO, Andrew Sullivan wrote an article on how the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to deploy access and network-improving technologies according to the needs of the communities.

FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu, rolled out a toolkit for smart policymaking during the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that policymakers can rapidly review and assess options through the Food and Agriculture Policy Decision Analysis (FAPDA) platform.

Commissioner Sun Yafang of Huawei shared the company’s initiatives to fight the spread and impact of the virus in the fields of artificial intelligence assisted healthcare, online education, and enterprises on Cloud.

Dr. Ann Aertes, head of the Novartis Foundation, announced that the Novartis COVID-19 Response Fund will allocate $20 million to help impacted communities worldwide, including programs to strengthen digital platforms for data collection and dissemination of important public health information.

CEO of Intelsat, Stephen Spengler, released a statement sharing Intelsat’s commitment to protecting its employees and ensuring continuity of its global operations through the establishment of a COVID-19 Task Force, activation of the Intelsat Emergency Broadcast System, and comprehensive testing of remote-work capabilities.

Newsletter Issue No. 5 2019

Recent Broadband Commission Activities

The Broadband Commission held its Annual Fall Meeting in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly on 22nd September in New York, during the 74th session o​f the UNGA. 

Press Release available here:

This year’s event highlighted the importance of leaving no one behind in a fast changing digital world. The agenda included on the top the meaningful universal connectivity, access and use themes also a new financing strategies to drive network expansion in developing markets, and presentations by the Commission’s two current Working Groups, which are both set to release their final reports next month.

Our Commissioner Mr Marcin Cichy, President of UKE in Poland presented the The State of Broadband Report 2019 during the ITU EKIP Regional Regulatory Forum for Europe on “Future Regulation for Inclusive Connectivity”

The World Radiocommunication Conferences are held every 3 to 4 years to review, revise Radio Regulations. Al revisions are made on the basis of a determined agenda by ITU council, taking into account previous recommendations made by WRC.

Hosted in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, from 28 October to 22 November 2019, the event will debate on how to optimize the use of radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbits to improve the lives of millions of people.

New Commissioners

Makhtar Diop is the World Bank’s Vice President for Infrastructure, a position he assumed on July 1st, 2018. The Infrastructure Vice Presidency comprises Energy & Extractives, Transport, Digital Development as well as Infrastructure Finance, Public-Private Partnerships and Guarantees. In this global role, Makhtar Diop leads efforts to develop sustainable solutions and help close the infrastructure gap in developing and emerging economies.

Prior to this appointment, Mr. Diop served for six years as the World Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region, where he oversaw the delivery of a record-breaking $70 billion to Sub-Saharan Africa to help tackle development challenges such as increasing access to affordable and sustainable energy; boosting women’s and youth’s economic empowerment; and promoting an enabling environment for more innovation and technology adoption. A passionate advocate for Africa’s right to clean and affordable sources of electricity, he also called for greater investment in renewable energy and pushed for greater regional interconnectivity in the power and transport sectors.

Reports & Articles

The State of Broadband 2019was launched at the annual Fall meeting of the Commission in New York, just ahead of the 74th UN General Assembly.

Despite the measured growth in 2018 in Internet users, an estimated 3.7 million people remain unconnected. This year’s report focuses on new approaches and methods to breach the Digital divide.

The notion of ‘meaningful universal connectivity’ used to advocate for new digital strategies encompasses:  broadband that is available, accessible, relevant and affordable, but also that is safe, trusted, user-empowering and leads to positive impact.  Check the interactive version of the report here.

This year, ahead of the 10th Anniversary celebrations, Commissioners shared their insights in video messages.

The Broadband Commission Working group on Child Safety Online launched its report: Minimizing the Risk of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation Online on October 1st at the United Nations headquarters in New York. H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore and The Director of the ITU Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin delivered keynote speeches.

The report was developed by the Commission’s Working Group, co-chaired by CEO-Operations of the Zain Group, Scott Gegenheimer, and Joanna Rubinstein, President and CEO of World Childhood Foundation USA; two of the 60 Broadband Commissioners. The report is accompanied by a Child Online Safety Universal Declaration, which we hope will serve as an instrument for growing the army of child protectors.

“We need meaningful connectivity that can help us to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 of which SDG 16.2 calls for ending abuse, exploitation and all forms of violence against children.” Dr. Joanna Rubinstein mentioned in Samena trendespublication highlighting the increasing number of children getting online and the need bring awareness of the risks that come along.Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden says “The complex problem of online violence against children requires a multistakeholder interdisciplinary approach” which puts the Broadband Commission at the heart of the issue to help resolve it.

Under the leadership of the World Bank Group, and combined efforts of other Commissioners, the group Broadband for All: A Digital in​frastructure Moonshot for Africa“. with the objective  to achieve universal and affordable access to ICTs for Africa issued its final report during the World Bank Annual Meetings on October 17 at the World Bank headquarters in Washington ​DC.

Panelists Included Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, H.E. Aurélie Adam Soulé, Minister of Digital Economy and Communications of Benin, Makhtar Diop, Vice President of Infrastructure at the World Bank, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of BDT, H.E. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the AUC and Peter Ib, CEO of Bluetown.

The session was moderated by Lerato Mbele, presenter at BBC World News.

The report “Connecting Africa through Broadband: A strategy for doubling connectivity by 2021 and reaching universal access by 2030” was mentioned by Quartz Africa, highlighting the fact that $100 billion will be needed in the next decade to bring Broadband to all Africans by 2020. An estimated 70% of the population has access to mobile internet connectivity. Even though the access is available in all urban areas, there’s an estimated 100 million people in rural areas that remain unconnected, and need to be via a range of alternative means including satellite and wifi.

ITU reveals that in most countries worldwide women are still trailing men in benefiting from the transformational power of digital technologies.
Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2019 the first publication in ITU’s new Measuring digital development series, estimates that over half the total global female population (52 per cent) is still not using the Internet, compared to 42 per cent of all men.

Upcoming Events

The Brighthood conference will be hosted on November 6 in Stockholm. It is one of the largest conferences in the world that focuses on concrete, innovative and effective solutions to fight child sexual abuse. Bringing together important stakeholders to demonstrate how each sector has a role in ending children’s abuse.

This year’s event focuses on how technologies and SDG’s are drivers in ending the abuse. Our Commissioner Mats Granryd, will be showcasing how SDG’s impact children and their importance moving forward. Dr Joanna Rubinstein will aslo be present to highlight the importance of governments, private sector and civil society in ending sexual abuse of children. Commissioner Rubinstein will also be presenting the Child safety online report and its recommendations.

This year is the 14th edition of the Internet Governance Forum, hosted by the government of Germany in Berlin from 25 to 29 November 2019 under the theme: One World, One Net, One Vision. The primary objective of the forum is to facilitate constructive dialogue between various representatives. Delegates discuss topics such as future opportunities and challenges presented by the internet, as well as analysing how to make full use of the internet’s potential.

Every year, the EQUALS in Tech awards are given to people who are helping girls and women get equal access, skills and opportunities online and in the tech industry. This year’s