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.
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.
*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.
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
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.Critical Software and Content:
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.Broadband Connectivity:
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.
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.
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’?
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