Another 1.5 billion people to get internet access by 2020

A new global dialogue focused on getting the next 1.5 billion unconnected people online was forged at a special session of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development held at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The session was part of the Commission’s efforts to build momentum and reach out to world leaders to push the issue of broadband connectivity to the top of the global agenda.
It is the first time that so many world leaders have affirmed the vital importance of broadband to national growth and coalesced around a common broadband vision. The session welcomed not just leading figures from the Broadband Commission, but prominent leaders from across government, industry and the finance sector, including the World Bank.
They participated in a lively debate around investment challenges linked to building out broadband infrastructure in underserved communities. A new Discussion Paper developed by ITU as a contribution to the work of the Commission presented at the session estimates that it will take global investment of $450 billion in network infrastructure to connect the next 1.5 billion unconnected people worldwide.
The session culminated in the release of a Joint Statement by the group entitled Working Together to Provide Internet Access to the Next 1.5 billion by 2020. The statement notes that only 3.2 billion people currently have online access, while 4.2 billion people remain offline. In the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries, Internet penetration is less than 10%, falling to under 2% in six of the world’s most disadvantaged nations.
The Joint Statement pledges a concerted global effort to connect 60% of the world’s people to the Internet by the year 2020, in line with ITU’s Connect 2020 Agenda agreed by the organization’s 193 Member States in 2014.
At present, the statement notes, only 5% of the world’s languages are represented online, an estimated 781 million adults are illiterate, and 100 million children have not had access to complete primary education – creating large pockets of the ‘digitally excluded’.
 “Market forces have been sufficient to connect the world’s wealthier nations, where a strong business case for network investment can easily be made. Our big challenge now is to find fast and effective ways of connecting the next 1.5 billion people, who still lack the benefits of Internet connectivity, by 2020, and this will be the key focus of the Broadband Commission going forward.”

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