Newsletter Issue No. 9 2017

Broadband Commission Activities Overview

On 10th July, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development issued a statement urging policymakers, the private sector and other partners to make deployment of broadband infrastructure a top priority in strategies to accelerate global development and progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The statement was presented to the 2017 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which met in New York City 10-19 July 2017 to guide global efforts on the achievement of the SDGs. HLPF Forum meets annually under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council for eight days, including a three-day ministerial segment and every four years at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the General Assembly for two days.

A side-event co-organized by ITU and GeSI, titled “ICT for sustainable development: How digital solutions can drive progress towards the SDGs”, took place on 13 July. Panel discussions on how ICTs can catalyze achievement of the SDGs explored the challenges and opportunities of using digital solutions to drive progress and generate meaningful impact in our societies. The session featured the work and the findings of the Broadband Commission Working Group on Digital Health report, “Digital Health: A call for Government Leadership and Cooperation between ICT and Health”.


The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development welcomed four new Commissioners to its membership: Mr. Boris Koprivnikar; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Patrick Masambu; Director General and CEO of ITSO, Mr. Stephen Spengler; CEO of Intelsat, and Mr. Achim Steiner; Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Our Commissioner, Mr. Denis O’Brien, Chairman of Digicel Group, participated in the Leadership debate – Drivers of Digital Transformation, which took place during the Global Symposium for Regulators held in Nassau, Bahamas, from 11 to 14 July 2017. This debate examined, among others topics, the policies and regulations needed to sustain digital transformation. In this regard, Mr. O’Brien called for regulators to address the unregulated nature of the Internet, and making particular reference to the developing world’s needs, he said that “Apart from regulation, in order to bring broadband to the next 4 billion people, we need a new deal where everybody who builds a network will share in the revenues of the network…”

During the same event our Commissioner Mr. Kevin Martin, Vice President of Mobile and Global Access Policy of Facebook, participated the session on “Collaborative Regulation in a Digital Ecosystem: New Regulatory Paradigms. This session examined issues such as the social and economic Impact of a digital connected society; how to anticipate the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digitization; the regulatory paradigm shift.

Other News

The 17th edition of the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) – the top technology policy conference, was held in Nassau, Bahamas, from 11 to 14 July 2017. Under the theme of “Living in a World of Digital Opportunities” the conference included debate on the emerging issues for the ICTs ecosystem such as: artificial intelligence, virtual reality and robots, collaborative regulation in a digital world as well as the development aspects of ICTs for SDGs. As part of the GSR-17 consultation process, regulators were invited to identify innovative and collaborative policy, regulatory and business measures needed to lift the barriers and achieve affordable access to the digital world. Read about the outcomes here.

GSMA was part of the second annual SDG Business Forum Organizing Committee, which took place at the United Nations on 18 July 2017 during the ministerial segment of the HLPF. Co-hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), and the UN Global Compact, this forum convened leaders from business and government, heads of UN agencies, key international organizations, and civil society groups and reported on significant achievements and commitments undertaken by business, as well as private sector efforts to catalyze sustainable growth and development.

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of India held that right to privacy though a fundamental right, is a qualified one and has to be weighed against various benefits such as financial inclusion that the sharing of information may offer to the citizens of the country. The judgment is considered landmark as it is expected to substantially impact further development of Aadhar in India. Aadhar is a mandatory biometric ID card program that helps identify the citizens with a unique 12-digit ID.

Novartis Foundation and Intel Corporation have launched a ‘Better Hearts Better Cities’ project on the World Hypertension Day 2017. The initiative seeks to employ an innovative approach to prevent, minimize and control non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular and hypertension in low-income urban communities.

Ericsson recently awarded the Ericsson Innovation Award 2017 to a team of students from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. The team developed an innovative solution to minimize cost and enhance efficiency of soil sample analytics by offering farmers with real-time data. The insights allow farmers to select suitable fertilizers and thereby keep the soil healthy and rich in minerals. The theme of the competition ‘Future of Food’ addressed United Nations SDG2 ‘No hunger’ and SDG12 ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’. In addition to cash prize, Ericsson offered selected participants mentoring opportunities.

On 11 July 2017, Microsoft announced a rural broadband initiative to bring high-speed internet to millions of rural Americans through unused television airwaves. With this initiative, the company expects to eliminate the rural broadband gap by 2022. Huawei announced at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa conference, that it is ready to partner with African governments, operators and private companies to advance economic and social development on the continent through enhancing mobile broadband.

Market and Policy Insight

Microsoft officially listed artificial intelligence as one of its top priorities in a financial filing, and added AI into its corporate vision statement, too: “Our strategic vision is to compete and grow by building best-in-class platforms and productivity services for an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge infused with AI,” the company wrote in the annual report.

According to a recent worldwide survey by M-Lab, in Africa, Kenya has the fastest average fixed-line broadband speed at 8.83 Mbit/s. Worldwide though, the country ranks number 51 with Singapore leading the list with an average speed of 55.13 Mbit/s. The African sub-continent, as it emerges from the study, is more focused on offering access through mobile broadband rather than fixed-line broadband. 17 of the world’s 30 slowest broadband countries in the world are located in the African sub-continent.


On 23th July, the publication Fast-forward progress: Leveraging tech to achieve the Global Goals was launched, during the meeting of the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which is the voluntary review process of the 2030 Agenda, including the SDGs. This publication gathers the views and perspectives of more than 20 UN heads on how and why “ICTs for SDGs” is critical.

The World Bank launched the report “Reaping Digital Dividends: Leveraging the Internet for Development in Europe and Central Asia”. One of the main messages is that ECA countries are in a unique position to reap the digital dividends. For example, governments in the east can adapt the successful policies that the new EU members implemented to improve and even outperform the richer economies of the west in terms of internet access.

On 31st July, ITU released its 2017 edition of ICT Facts and Figures. This much-anticipated annual release of global ICT data reveals that mobile broadband subscriptions have grown more than 20 per cent annually in the last five years and are expected to reach 4.3 billion globally by the end of 2017. The number of fixed-broadband subscriptions has increased by 9 per cent annually in the last five years with up to 330 million subscriptions added. ITU’s ICT Facts and Figures demonstrates that ICTs continue to play an increasingly critical role in achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In a recent econometric study by Shehata, Helwan University, Egypt, the author investigates how ICT can contribute to closing of gender employment gap in Middle-East and North African countries. Results of the study indicate that to attain equality, the policy makers should focus on promotion of higher ICT usage, boosting GDP per capita and enhancing openness – three factors that substantially and positively impact gender equality in employment.

Nardotto, University of Cologne , Valletti, Imperial College London and Verboven, KU Leuven and Ecole Polytechnique analyze the UK Broadband market to assess the impact of unbundling on broadband penetration and find that in the early stages of deregulation, unbundling positively impacts broadband penetration. Once the markets reach maturity, local loop unbundling (LLP) positively impacts the quality of services as entrants try to differentiate themselves from the incumbent operator. Competition from cable, a different and unregulated form of technology, positively impacts the quality of access and rate of internet penetration.

In a recent study, Women20 (W20), the official G20 dialogue focusing on women’s economic empowerment, supported by Emerging Market Sustainability Dialogues (EMSD), analyses how the digital revolution will impact gender equality in G20 countries and what positive governmental and non-governmental measures may possibly contribute to narrow these gaps. Results of the study underscore the need to offer universal and open broadband internet access, focusing on women’s e-education; encouraging women to enter in tertiary education and STEM occupations (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and financial empowerment of women through innovative digital finance tools and e-government.

Econometric study on the impact of broadband infrastructure by Czernich, Falck, Kretschmer and Woessmann from Institute for Economic Research, University of Munich study the impact of high-speed internet on economic growth in OECD countries and find that a 10 percent increase in broadband leads to annual per capita growth of 0.9-1.5 per cent points.

Columns and Blogs

In a press release on 7 July 2017, OECD announced that mobile broadband penetration is at 99% in the OECD area. High-speed Internet use continues to grow in OECD countries with mobile broadband penetration reaching 99 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in December 2016, up from 91 per 100 a year earlier, according to data released by the OECD.

Blog by Ericsson “Superfast broadband everywhere is changing the world” talks about the benefits that broadband can bring to people, businesses and societies.


ITU Telecom World will be taking place in Busan, Republic of Korea, on 25-28 September 2017 and will feature several sessions with the Broadband Commissioners.

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

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) will be convened in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 9 to 20 October 2017.

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