The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has suggested that efforts to bridge the digital divide should shift from providing connectivity to ensuring access to affordable devices and education that will help people achieve them. put to work.

The Commission was created in 2010 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and charged with promoting Internet access.

This effort is reflected in internet user penetration rates of 51% globally, but only 19.5% of people in the world’s least developed countries, as detailed in the organization’s 2021 report on the state of broadband. [PDF].

3.7 billion people are therefore not connected to the Internet, but the report indicates that 85% of them are within range of a mobile network.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who co-chairs the Commission, said: “Digital cooperation must go beyond broadband access. We also need to close the gap in the adoption and use of affordable devices and services, in digital literacy. “

Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union and Co-Vice-President of the Commission, added that “digital technologies and services, which have proved so essential during the crisis, are still out of reach, unaffordable, irrelevant, too complicated to use, or not secure enough for far too many people around the world. “

The State of Broadband report describes many tactics designed to address Zhao and Kagame’s concerns.

ITU, for its part, will launch three working groups to tackle the issues described in the report. One will focus on access to smartphones, another will focus on “building AI capacity” and the third will focus on “data for learning”.

The Vodafone group will co-chair the Smartphone Access Working Group, alongside ITU. Vodafone has also committed to “two device accessibility pilot projects” and recommended that digital inclusiveness requires ubiquitous 4G and recycling of the spectrum used by 2G to enable deployment of the new standard. ®

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