[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]
More than four million people, nearly 50% of the global population, lack broadband Internet access. In some countries, the share of people without access is as high as 95%. In today’s world, Internet access is no longer a luxury; it is an essential part of economic growth and development, like roads and electricity. Therefore, meaningful commitments have to be made by all in order to permit countries lagging behind to reach a situation nearest to 100% broadband Internet access.
Mr David Renz (Senior Advisor, US Department of State, Office of International Communications and Information Policy) introduced participants to the Global Connect Initiative (GCI). He emphasised that the world is in the 4th and entering the 5th digital revolution. The whole planet should therefore work hand-in-hand to permit everybody have a fair share of this latest revolution. Regarding highlights of recent meetings such as the World Bank/IMF meeting, Renz said that the US government offers multiple programmes to encourage and support industry-driven ICT solutions.
Addressing the long-term goals of the initiative, we need to create policy environments which contribute to the connectivity principles that every country can follow, be it in their regional organisations or working with the institutions and projects. By promoting US private sector investment in the global ICT economy, these programmes help address critical development challenges outside the USA.
Renz added that the US Department of State launched the GCI to promote and support action from key stakeholders, including governments, industry, civil society, and the technical community, to help bring an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020. Under this initiative, every partner country or stakeholder contributes what they can to bring everyone towards the same goal, be it infrastructure, technology, best regulatory practices, great opportunities, and financial or technical support in these areas. GCI supporters also have to subscribe to a set of core connectivity principles.
GCI activities linked to the WSIS Action Lines include (C2): Information and communication infrastructure. Connecting an additional 1.5 billion people to the Internet by 2020 is an ambitious goal with profound economic and development implications. The GCI is helping to promote this goal by changing the policymakers’ perception of broadband connectivity to recognise it as core infrastructure that is as important for economic growth and development as transportation and power infrastructure.
Other GCI activities linked to the sustainable development process include Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation. Expanding access to broadband connections is foundational to fully exploiting the power of ICT to help us achieve the SDGs. The GCI brings together policymakers, international development resources, and private stakeholders to promote prioritisation and accelerated deployment of connectivity infrastructure.
by Antony Namanga