Newsletter Issue No. 7 2017

Broadband Commission Activities Overview

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development held this year’s Spring Meeting in Hong Kong, SAR of China, from 15 to 17 March, at the invitation of Ms Sun Yafang, Chairwoman of the Board of Huawei. On the first day, Commissioners took the opportunity to attend on-site sessions of the four Broadband Commission Working Groups: Education; Digital Gender Divide; Digitalization Scorecards; Technologies in Space and the Upper-Atmosphere. The Commission meeting was held on the second day, and the event concluded with a very interesting visit to the Huawei Headquarters in Shenzhen. During the meeting, Commissioners and broadband stakeholders agreed on a new deal for a renewed commitment to strive to ensure that broadband access reaches the almost 4 billion people in the world who are still to this day unconnected.

The Broadband Commission Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide, chaired by Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, and co-chaired by Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), launched its final report on 15 March. The report includes a number of recommended actions to inspire concerted efforts among all stakeholders to reduce the global gender gap in Internet access and identifies four specific action areas: benchmarking and compiling detailed evidence; integrating a gender-perspective into policy; addressing the barriers women face; and supporting multi-stakeholder cooperation.


From 24 to 28 April, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), held E-Commerce week in the United Nations Office in Geneva with the theme “Towards Inclusive E-Commerce”. The “High-level Event on Digital Transformation for All: Empowering Entrepreneurs and Small Business” featured high-level speakers, including: Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD; Mr Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU, and Mr Jack Ma, Chairman of the Alibaba Group and Special Adviser to UNCTAD for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Broadband Commissioner H.E. Dr Anusha Rahman Khan – Pakistan’s Minister of State for Information Technology − provided an overview of how e-commerce is becoming widely recognized as an important driver of innovation, competitiveness, job creation and growth, and its huge potential for entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized enterprises worldwide.

A session on Broadband Connectivity for E-Commerce, co-organized by UNCTAD, ITU and the Internet Society (ISOC), included speakers from: Japan, ITU, Huawei, the World Economic Forum (WEF), ISOC and Telenor, and focused on actions required to facilitate e-commerce to ensure an all-inclusive, connected, networked society, and digital economy.

With support from Mr Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market, the European Commission has urged organizations to attract more girls and women to digital careers, and an appeal was made to International Girls in ICT Day celebrations.

The European Commission has also proposed to enhance its cooperation with Africa on peace, security and job creation for youth. Among other important tasks, the EU suggests improving youth employment on the continent by launching an African Youth Facility, which will expand the scope of Erasmus+, or to support digital innovation in Africa.

On 26 April, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) celebrated World Intellectual Property Day, and Director General, Mr Francis Gurry, during his annual speech, stressed the importance of technological innovation for paving the way to social and economic wellbeing.
Other News

The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13 to 24 March, highlighting the top priorities for women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

In conjunction with the Commission on the Status of Women − Women20 − one of the most recent G20 dialogue processes − presented its framework and goals to 120 representatives of governments and NGOs present at the event. The civil society and women’s policy dialogue of Women20 (W20) began as Germany took over the chair of the G20 on 1 December 2016.

On 27 April ITU celebrated International Girls in ICT Day. To date, over 240,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 7,200 truly inspiring International Girls in ICT Day celebrations in 160 countries worldwide.

The G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Conference took place in Dusseldorf, Germany from 6 to 7 April, and concluded with a general agreement on how to maximize the benefits of digitalization, highlighting the importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as the backbone of today’s digital economy.

Market Insights

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has formally approved the National Broadband Plan (NBP) , which intends to extend and accelerate the rollout of fiber-optic cables and wireless broadband technologies throughout the country.

The Saudi telecoms regulator, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), has awarded Phase I of the broadband coverage expansion project to Zain. Under the new contract, the operator is set to increase high-speed broadband coverage in the kingdom’s underserved areas to 70% by 2020.

The Bangladesh Government has undertaken a project to extend fiber-optic connectivity to an additional 772 union councils – the country’s smallest rural administrative sub-divisions – by the end of 2018, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared the remote island of Moheshkhali a “Digital Island”, targeting to make it a model for the world in five years, in collaboration with KT.

Uruguay’s national telecoms operator, the Administración Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Antel), is aiming to complete the nationwide deployment of its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network within the next five years. Coverage of the high-speed network currently reaches 70% of the country, but this will be expanded to 100% by 2022.

According to the EU Digital Economy and Society Index 2017, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium are the current European champions in connectivity, measured by fixed broadband, mobile broadband, speed and affordability.

European travellers are experiencing the last few weeks of roaming charges. As of 15 June 2017, you will no longer have to pay extra for mobile data and connection when travelling within the EU.


UNCTAD has launched an ICT-focused policy review programme, which conducts assessments of any given country’s capabilities, taking into account the ICT policy framework, as well as implementation and institutional frameworks. The programme aims to help you build a policy framework with a solid ICT infrastructure, human resources and skills, ICT use in education, and local content in key ICT applications.

As part of its support to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the European Commission is mainstreaming the use of digital technologies and services to broaden the reach of the EU’s Development Policy. The Digital4Development approach promotes digital solutions as part of the fight against poverty and inequality. Recently the EU Commission has published the first Staff Working Document on Digital 4 Development, where the priorities for digitalization mainstreaming are put forward.

Akamai has presented its most recent State of the Internet report, featuring global, regional and country trends, connection speeds, as well as case studies of recent Internet disruptions.

Columns and Blogs

The UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform features ITU Secretary-General Mr Houlin Zhao’s statement about how ICTs can fast-forward progress on the SDGs, in which he explains how the next-generation of ICT infrastructure will power the evolution of smart, sustainable cities and communities worldwide.

Microsoft’s blog sets forth ideas on how to attract girls and women to pursue careers in the science, technology and math (STEM) field with targeted actions to narrow the digital gender gap. To this end, Microsoft launched a movement last year calling on girls to #MakeWhatsNext to raise awareness of the reasons behind girls dropping out of, or losing interest in, science, technology and math (STEM), and to encourage girls to opt for STEM education.

Upcoming Events

The Transform Africa Summit will take place from 10 to 12 May, in Kigali, Rwanda, under the heading “Smart Cities. Fast Forward”. This year’s event will focus on the advancement of smart cities, digital services, and the barriers to broadband access in Africa.

On 22 May, alongside the 70th World Health Assembly, the African Ministerial Dialogue on Digital Health Leadership, hosted by African ministers of health, and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Novartis Foundation and PATH, will take place in Geneva, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

ITU will be hosting the first annual AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva from 7 to 9 June. The Summit, co-organized with XPRIZE, aims to accelerate and advance the development and democratization of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that can address specific global challenges related to poverty, hunger, health, education, the environment, among others.

The annual World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS), co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, will take place from 12 to 16 June, in Geneva, under the theme: Information and Knowledge Societies for Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17th edition of the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), open to regulators, policy-makers and members of ITU’s Development Sector, will be held in Nissau, Bahamas, from 11 to 14 July under the theme: “Living in a World of Digital Opportunities”.

Finally, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development will be holding its annual Fall Meeting in New York from 16 to 17 September 2017.