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The session on the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development focused on the role of the Broadband Commission and work towards achieving the SDGs. The panellists acknowledged the leadership role of the Broadband Commission and the benefits of the multistakeholder model. Many of them asked for a wider inclusion of various actors in order to gain knowledge and momentum. Development banks and political leaders especially should support Internet connectivity more.
The moderator Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Chief of the Strategic Planning and Membership Department at the ITU, explained the role of the Broadband Commission which was established by the ITU and UNESCO. The broadband Commission has changed its name recently and added new perspectives to its goals. Some of the new topics that are in focus now include broadband in science, broadband in education, broadband in gender, cloud computing in the SDGs, and a group on technologies in space. Bogdan-Martin spoke about the Commission’s annual State of Broadband report that tracks and measures the success of achieving its targets.
Mr Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General Communication and Information at UNESCO, gave UNESCO’s perspective of the Broadband Commission by acknowledging the different mandates of ITU and UNESCO saying they complement each other. LaRue said that access to information and communication through ICTs is relevant for all 17 SDGs. UNESCO identifies some priorities, such as gender equity, cultural heritage in digital form, and public access to information. A positive impact of the multistakeholder model is in its ability to confront challenges if everyone has the possibility of speaking their mind and stating their priorities, added La Rue.
Mr Manu Bhardwaj, Senior Advisor on Technology and Internet Policy, Global Connect Initiative (GCI), US Department of State, highlighted an important role of the Commission in leadership and its ability to move the Global Connect Initiative (GCI) forward. Bhardwaj suggested three ideas to move forward.
- Offer help. The GCI should find a way to move beyond the listening approach. It is time to offer help and respond to expressions of interest raised by some countries (Tunisia, India, Liberia, and others).
- Accelerate involvement. It is important to accelerate the involvement with multilateral development banks. Budgets that account 1–2% for ICT Internet connectivity are insufficient.
- Reinforce the multistakeholder model. Inviting more actors to the table is essential. Internet connectivity should be advocated at top-levels.
Mr Alex Wong, Head, Global Challenge Partnerships at the World Economic Forum, suggested that we cannot be talking about the fourth Industrial Revolution until we make sure everyone benefits from the third one, let alone the second one. Wong expressed his concerns as to whether society is ready for changes and able to create the matching regulatory frameworks. Is the policy framework going to allow Uber or the self-working economy, or the sharing economy? Will privacy laws allow a photo to be shared across the Internet? Wong reiterated the need to get other people at the table; otherwise we are just preaching to the converted, he noted.
Mr Paul Mitchel, Senior Director, Tech Policy, Microsoft, recommended a book by Robert Gordon – The Rise and Fall of American Growth – and compared the uniqueness of the scale of innovations between 1870 and 1970 to current situation on the Internet. A baseline must be established everywhere for the economic change to be real. We cannot achieve the SDGs at all without achieving universal connectivity. To achieve universal connectivity, we must address the broader ecosystem of employment inequity, social inclusion, and social level, and we have to equalise social baselines.
Mr José Ayala, Head of Government and Industry relation for Latin America at Ericsson, reported on Ericsson’s activities of in the field of connectivity and access in the Latin America region. Ayala spoke about the report published by Ericsson in 2015 that focused on how ICT can accelerate the reach of the SDGs by 2030.
Mr Indrajit Banerjee, Director, Knowledge Societies Division at UNESCO, requested that we not use the word connectivity and rather turn towards access. Connectivity suggests a concept of one-purpose services like plumbing, electricity grids, cables, etc. While connectivity to the Internet means access to the whole world, from banking, knowledge, education, communication, and so on. Banerjee then described UNESCO’s R.O.A.M. principles which advocate for a human-Rights-based, Open, Accessible Internet governed by Multistakeholder participation.
The discussion with other members of the audience included the topics of disability and the need for mapping initiatives that put all the information, actors, and resources together.
by Radek Bejdák