Newsletter Issue No. 10 2017

Broadband Commission Activities Overview

©ITU/ D. Prospero

The Broadband Commission held its annual meeting on September 17 in New York in parallel to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. 46 Commissioners and 6 Special Guests addressed the important duty of supporting the development of new broadband technologies and connecting people, in particular those who remain unconnected, to the resources needed to improve their livelihoods, and driving transformation towards a more sustainable world, keeping in mind the global importance of bridging the digital divide.

The meeting included two substantive sessions examining “The Changing Face of the Digital Divide” and “Enabling Digital Entrepreneurship for 2030”. Four Working Groups reported on the conclusions of their groups, including the Education group, which released its report Digital Skills for Life and Work; the Technologies in Space and the Upper-Atmosphere group, which released its report Identifying the Potential of New Communications Technologies for Sustainable Development; and the Digital Gender Divide group, which released its report Bridging the Gender Gap in Internet and Broadband Access and Use (all available here). Additionally, three new Working Groups were created on the topics of Digital Health, Epidemics Preparedness, and Digital Entrepreneurship.

The Broadband Commission issued the 2017 edition of its flagship State of Broadband report on 14 September, a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data for over 160 economies worldwide measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.

The report confirmed that according to latest ITU figures, by end 2017, 48% of the global population will be online, though some 3.9 billion people will still not have access to the Internet – with the digital gap growing between developed and developing countries. According to ITU estimates, Internet penetration in the developing world is projected to reach 41.3% by the end of 2017, while Internet user penetration is projected to reach only 17.5% in Least Developed Countries in 2017.

©ITU/ D. Prospero

On 16th September 2017, the Broadband Commission Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide launched its progress report “Bridging the gender gap in internet and broadband access and use”, during the Annual Meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development in New York.

The progress report provides an update on progress against the commitments of the Working Group members to take forward the four groups of recommended actions outlined in the March 2017 “Recommendations for action” report, aimed for stakeholders to address the gender gap in Internet access and use. The progress report “Bridging the gender gap in internet and broadband access and use” also introduces new commitments to action by members of the Working Group.

©ITU/ D. Prospero

On 17th September 2017, the Broadband Commission Working Group on Technologies in Space and the Upper-Atmosphere launched its final report “Identifying the potential of new communications technologies for sustainable development”, during the Annual Meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development in New York.

The report’s conclusions outline several steps governments, industry, and other stakeholders can take to promote the further development and adoption of space-based and upper-atmosphere communications technologies in the service of development.  Specifically, the report’s recommendations focus on three key areas: Spectrum, Regulation, and Promoting Technology.

©ITU/ D. Prospero

On 17th September 2017, the Broadband Commission Working Group on Education launched its final report “Digital Skills for Life and Work”, during the Annual Meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development in New York.

The report observes that in today’s broadband society, digital skills are key ‘literacies’ and competencies needed by all people. It also examines how the education sector can ensure that all people develop essential digital skills for life and work, and points out that broadband technologies can help accelerate progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. The report offers a series of pointed policy recommendations and advises governments to maintain public involvement in digital skills development and redouble efforts to address inequalities in the provision of digital skills and competencies.

©ITU/ D. Prospero ©ITU/ M. Jacobson – Gonzalez (right)

The Broadband Commission Commission’s annual meeting in New York concluded with a special tribute to outgoing UNESCO Director-General and Commissioner, Ms. Irina Bokova, for her seven years of committed service to and support of the Commission, since 2010. In her parting words, she reminded the Commissioners of the importance to make “technology work for people”, a hallmark of her commitment to using broadband to improve livelihoods around the world.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development welcomed 11 new Commissioners to the annual meeting in New York:

• Amani Abou Zeid, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure & Energy, African Union
• Andrus Ansip, Vice-President in Charge of Digital Single Market, European Commission
• Borje Ekholm, CEO, Ericsson
• Arancha González Laya, Executive Director, International Trade Centre
• Mukisha Kituyi , Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
• Boris Koprivnikar, Deputy Prime Minister, Slovenia
• Patrick Masambu, Secretary-General, International Telecommunications Satellite Organization
• Stephen Spengler, CEO, INTELSAT
• Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme
• Masahiko Tominaga, Vice-Minister for Policy Coordination (International Affairs), Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan
• Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, United Nations Under Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.


The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) took place in Buenos Aires and featured the participation of several Broadband Commissioners in its High-Level Segment. H.E. Mr Boris Koprivnikar, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia spoke about Slovenia’s initiatives for finding new ways to use digital tools at a system level to improve the quality of life of their citizens and the quality of businesses in the country.

H.E. Mr Masahiko Tominaga, Vice-Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan expressed that ICTs are a “driving force for socioeconomic activities in various fields” and an “engine for economic growth and the prosperity of mankind”. H.E. Minister Tominaga also stated that “we should promote to bridge the digital divide by improving the quality and affordability of ICT infrastructure, and also should promote to enhance accessibility and digital literacy for everyone by providing all people with affordable and high-quality access to communication networks and opportunities of developing ICT skills”.

Mr Philipp Metzger, Director General of the Federal Office of Communications of Switzerland (OFCOM) conveyed that Switzerland is “confident that the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda (Agenda 2030) embodies a very promising approach to solving many of the world’s problems and that ICTs will play a decisive role in achieving the 17 SDGs by 2030”.

Other News

The EQUALS in Tech Principals Meeting took place in New York on September 16th, where coalition leaders highlighted the status of their coalitions, and participants shared proposals to ensure the long-term sustainability of EQUALS, and commitment to bridging the digital gender divide.

The ITU Telecom World Awards 2017 prize ceremony was held on the closing day of the leading tech event ITU Telecom World 2017 in Busan, Republic of Korea. The Global SME Awards recognized the best innovative information and communication technology (ICT) based solutions with social impact from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) present at the event in five classes – Best Business Model, Most Scalable, Most Innovative Use of ICT, Greatest Social Impact and the Global SME Excellence Award, for the SME with the highest all-around score.

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 9 to 20 October 2017, under the theme ICT for Sustainable Development Goals. The agenda of WTDC-17 included a High-Level Segment where high-ranking officials from Member States, shared their views on emerging trends and on matters of strategic importance to the development of the ICT sector.

The celebration of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector’s 25th Anniversary was also held on 11 October, in the framework of WTDC-17. The event featured two ministerial roundtable discussions: one on the impact of ICTs to accelerate the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and the other on the future of the digital economy. Both were chaired by Andres Ibarra, Minister of Modernization of Argentina.

Market Insight

GSMA’s Global Cellular Market Trends and Insight – Q3 2017 – an insightful quarterly review of latest mobile data trends about networks; financials such as Opex, Capex, EBITDA and ARPU; number of users and broadband penetration on a global as well as regional level provides noteworthy news about 2G, 3G and 4G as a percentage of total connections worldwide, which stands at 41%, 29% and 30% respectively. North America leads the number of 4G connection with 68% of its population on a 4G network. This stands in contrast to 3% of the least developed countries on 4G, whereas 66% of its population continues to depend on 2G networks.

According to OECD’s Digital Economy Outlook 2017, access to internet and average speed are increasing and prices are falling. Usage of mobile data is widely varied across the countries with Finland and Latvia leading the usage. Government policies though, have failed to keep pace with the rate of digital innovation. In order to empower citizens, governments need to work on reducing digital inequalities and review labor laws, trade agreements and other legislation that strengthens digital security and minimizes privacy risks.

Empirica Gesellschaft für Kommunikations- und Technologieforschung mbH and TÜV Rheineland recently prepared a Fixed Broadband Prices in Europe study for the European Commission’s Digital Single Market. The study offers a detailed data on 2016 retail broadband offers for consumers across EU28, Iceland, Norway, Japan, South Korea, Canada and the USA. Applying a price normalization technique in Euros, the study found that the least expensive countries for fixed broadband in the EU in 2016 were Lithuania, Sweden, Latvia, Romania and Finland. From 2015 to 2016, the countries experienced a small decrease in prices in general. Significant difference in prices exists in the least and most expensive countries in the EU.

The European Parliament has signed the WiFi4EU legislation – an initiative that will provide access to free and high-speed internet in public spaces of some 6,000 to 8,000 local communities across the EU by 2020. Once the legislation enters force, municipalities across the EU may register and apply online for funding of up to 120 million euros. The funding is available on a ‘first-come first-served basis’ and will be allocated in a geographically balanced manner across the EU.

To develop a robust ICT ecosystem – robust design and development of data centers, centralized centers where information is stored and processed, are vital for both private stakeholders as well as the governments in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries. The study by Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): ‘Data Centers and Broadband for Sustainable Economic and Social Development: Evidence from Latin American and the Caribbean’ undertakes a comparative assessment of data centers and related infrastructure across 26 IDB borrowing countries and seeks to answer some key questions such as the optimal number and location of data centers, associated public policy and regulatory challenges, role of traditional telecommunications firms and how policymakers can promote the development of big data and Internet of Things (IoT)-based services and applications.

To improve the broadband connectivity for over 21 million globally dispersed refugees, ‘A Global Broadband Plan for Refugees’ by the Migration Policy Institute studies refugee hosting countries’ broadband strategies and various private sector philanthropic initiatives. It identifies that over 80% of the refugees live in developing countries where connectivity is a challenge for the local population as well. Even in the new broadband plans of developing and developed countries, the refugees ‘risk being overlooked in these expansion plans’. To overcome the challenge of connectivity, the study recommends various models such as a global broadband strategy, multi-stakeholder participation and a systematic approach leading to targeted actions leveraging from technological advancements to offer access to essential services and generate economic advantages for the host countries in closing the connectivity gaps.

Togo’s new Finance Act for 2017 for ICT abolished VAT on personal computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. With this move, the Togolese government hopes to make ICT equipment affordable for the local population and set up a digital hub in the region. As part of its digital transformation strategy, the government had earlier initiated projects such as WARCIP (West African Regional Communications Infrastructure Program) to develop access to internet bandwidth; the E-government project to connect administration buildings, hospitals and schools to fiber optics and the free Wi-Fi project.


The report ‘Signs of Digital Distress’ by the Brookings Institution, studies two components of digital divide framework – broadband availability and broadband subscription – across every metropolitan area and neighborhood in the USA to identify the level of digital disconnect in the American society. The study underscores the role that federal policy (such as the policies by Federal Communications Commission in the USA) and local stakeholders (from public, private and civic sectors) can play in balancing the availability and adoption objectives to overcome the digital divide.

UNCTAD’s Information Economy Report 2017 on Digitalization, Trade and Development highlights the valuable role ICT can play in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report highlights how lack of high-speed broadband connectivity can widen the digital chasm and create additional challenges. Digitalization promises to substantially disrupt the traditional value chain across sectors as diverse from agriculture to production of garments. To benefit from the internet and new multi-platform economy, digital connectivity as well as a pragmatic all-embracing policy making at national and international level can facilitate a more egalitarian and inclusive digital society.

UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2017 talks about digital multinationals and their impact on host countries. The report presents convincing arguments on how a well-rounded approach of an aligned investment policy with digital development strategy by developing countries can facilitate attainment of 2030 agenda on sustainable development.

Columns and blogs

In the blog, ‘Digital Financial Inclusion: What Works and What’s Next’, Kristalina Georgieva, CEO World Bank highlights the role that digital technologies can play to assure financial inclusion of over one billion unbanked women worldwide. Over 25 countries in the developing world are home to 70% of world’s unbanked population. Different countries have taken different approaches to ensure financial inclusion. Brazil, Mexico and Turkey for instance have digitized government-to-person payments such as salaries, whereas India has emphasized on developing a digital infrastructure such as national digital IDs. The blog underscores the role digital tools, interoperable open technology systems and national digital IDs can play in achieving the SDG financial inclusion for all.

To ensure Financial Inclusion for 40% of the world’s excluded financial population, ITU in association with the World Bank has launched the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium. FIGI symposium will be held annually from 2017-2020 and aims to provide a platform for concerned stakeholders to share their insights and views on achieving digital financial inclusion.

Rwanda seeks to ensure 92% high speed internet coverage by end 2017 by deploying 4G broadband network to rural areas beyond its capital city of Kagali. Deployment of 4G LTE broadband network across the country is expected to facilitate easy access to various broadband services, including applications such as e-governance, e-banking, e-learning and e-health and help Rwanda become a middle-income nation by 2020.


The Regional Meeting on Broadband Connectivity for the Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries will take place on 26 -27 October 2017 in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The topic of this meeting will be “Accelerating the Implementation of the IPOA within the Context of the 2030 Agenda: A Focus on Broadband Connectivity.” The meeting will feature 5 sessions focused on broadband, from investment to infrastructure to applications and services.

The 12th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) will take place between 18 and 21 December 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. The IGF is an open platform for multistakeholder dialogue on digital policy issues. Titled “Shape Your Digital Future!” the IGF 2017 will address questions relating to cyber security, the data economy, sustainable development, human rights on the internet, as well as the influence of digitization on our economy, the media landscape and the political system.