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Broadband now seen as essential service: UN

Paul Brislen, Editor. 12 September 2018, 5:00 am

The UN's Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has released a new report looking at how countries oversee the development of broadband, the policies that support deployment and how we all address key issues facing countries around the world.

Access to broadband is becoming an essential form of infrastructure.

"The importance of broadband Internet for sustainable development is clear, as our societies continue to grow and develop. Broadband infrastructure is now vital infrastructure, as essential as water and electricity networks, but it is also becoming more invisible and integrated in utility networks in 'smart' infrastructure. According to ITU, nearly 4.4 billion active mobile broadband subscriptions are expected by end 2018, strengthening the power of the mobile digital economy," says the report.

Artificial intelligence comes under scrutiny in the report, but thankfully 15 countries now have strategies in place for the safe deployment of AI, including New Zealand.

New Zealand scores well in terms of the number of fixed broadband customers per 100 inhabitants (33.6) but really stands out with 101.6 users of mobile broadband per 100 inhabitants. More than 88% of us regularly use broadband internet.

The report spells out a series of policy goals that the Commission feels are essential to a well developed national strategy.

  • Making broadband policy universal (Target 1)
  • Making broadband affordable (Target 2)
  • Getting people online (Target 3)
  • Acquiring minimum digital skills and literacy (Target 4)
  • Using digital financial services (Target 5)
  • Getting businesses online (Target 6)
  • Achieving gender equality in access to broadband (Target 7)

The Commission has introduced a new target for 2025 in terms of affordability, reducing the affordability threshold from 5% of monthly gross national income per capita to less than 2%.

"This new target will particularly assist lower income groups in developing and least developed countries to gain connectivity."

Unfortunately, the digital gender divide has grown slightly - up from 11% in the 2013 report to 11.6% in 2016. Women are 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men.

The full report can be downloaded from the UN Broadband Commission's page.


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