The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development at its 2018 Spring Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda 6-7 May, committed to concrete actions that will advance the roll-out of broadband around the world – and with it, much-needed digital connectivity, which is necessary for the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
During the two-day event, 34 Commissioners – representing the broadband industry, governments and United Nations agencies – convened to discuss key issues related to the role of broadband in advancing the SDGs.
The meeting was held at the invitation of H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, an association which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide.
President Paul Kagame said: “Africa’s economic transformation requires broadband infrastructure with an emphasis on both access and affordability. The reality is that all other digital services whether in commerce or education or healthcare run on top of broadband. Africa’s size, geography and settlement patterns mean that we must rely on a variety of different technologies to deliver broadband including satellite, fibre optic and mobile. It is up to us to lead the way in driving innovation both in policy and business models in order to speed up the provision of broadband where it has been slowest to reach.”
The meeting as it happened
On Sunday, 6 May, Commissioners took part in onsite sessions of four Broadband Commission Working Groups — Vulnerable Countries, Epidemic Preparedness, Digital Entrepreneurship and Digital Health. This was followed on Monday, 7 May, with the full-day annual Spring Meeting of the Commission.
During the meeting, the Working Group on Vulnerable Countries, chaired by Commissioner Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative, United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), issued a synthesis report on broadband for national development in four least developed countries (LDCs) – Cambodia, Rwanda, Senegal and Vanuatu. The report draws on evidence from country case studies and an UN-OHRLLS/ ITU report on achieving universal and affordable Internet in the least developed countries.
The synthesis report highlights that despite their different market environments, broadband coverage has increased notably and become more affordable for users in all four countries over the last few years. However, it also raises concerns that the demand for broadband and its productive use in least developed countries has not matched the growing supply. The full report is scheduled for release 12 July 2018 during the United Nations High Level Political Forum in New York.
“I was honoured to join President Kagame in hosting this meeting of the Broadband Commission as we examine how we can accelerate the adoption of mobile broadband globally, but more importantly, how we can better equip society to participate in the digital world,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.
“As we will soon see the first 5G networks rolling out, it is more important than ever that governments and industry work together to ensure that all citizens benefit from this new era of hyper-connectivity.” Granryd concluded.
A lead up to Transform Africa Summit 2018
This year’s meeting took place on the eve of the Transform Africa Summit 2018, being held 7-10 May, enabling the Commission to make available to Summit participants, its valuable expertise.
The 2018 Spring Meeting also comes on the heels of the release by the Commission of its new 2025 Targets, which seek to fast-track the digital connectivity of the millions worldwide that remain unconnected.
Comprised of leaders from government, industry, international organizations and academia, the Broadband Commission was established in 2010 as a top-level advocacy body promoting broadband as an accelerator of global development. The Commission is chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helú. In September 2015 it was re-named the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development with the specific purpose of working to help achieve, through the power of broadband connectivity, the Sustainable Development Goals.