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2018

Ofcom, the UK telecommunications regulator has proposed BT and KCOM as the sole universal service providers in the UK. This proposal has come up because Ofcom is responsible for the implementation of a legislation introduced in March by the UK government for a broadband universal service obligation (USO).

The USO aims to give eligible homes and businesses a decent broadband connection. The proposal will see BT as the universal service provider across the whole of the UK except the Hull area, which will be provided for by KCOM.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launchedits heaviest and most-advanced high throughput communication satellite named GSAT-11. The launch was made on the back of a French rocket from the Spaceport in the French Guiana.

According to Dr KailasavadivooSivan, ISRO chairman, ‘GSAT-11 will boost the broadband connectivity to rural and inaccessible Gram Panchayats in the country coming under the Bharat Net Project, which is part of Digital India Programme’. The Bharat Net Project is the Indian government’s flagship programme that aims to enhance public welfare with schemes such as e-banking, e-health, e-governance among others.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on 3 December, celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018. In an article published on ITU’s news page, it was underscored that this year’s theme of ‘Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’, resonated with the ITU’s efforts to empower persons with disabilities (PwD) through information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The article went on to site features such as captioning, screen-readers, assistive robotics technologies, and navigational tools as examples of how ICTs can provide opportunities and benefits for people with visual, hearing or motor disabilities and persons with specific needs to overcome difficulties in going about their most ordinary everyday activities.

The UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development 2018 – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities shows that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage regarding most Sustainable Development Goals, but also highlights the growing number of good practices that can create a more inclusive society in which they can live independently”, noted UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The report further underlines the digital divide between persons and disabilities who still can’t share the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This gap amounts to 30% for internet use and 10% in access to internet in the household in some countries due to accessibility and affordability issues. This further poses challenges for disabilities to reap the benefits of internet technologies to improve their lives and hence realize the various SDGs for persons with disabilities. The report pinpoints some recommendations to strengthen the ICT ecosystem to ensure inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities which includes: promoting the principles of Universal Design in the mainstream ICT industry and the public sector, adopting national ICT accessibility policies and regulations, involving all relevant stakeholders and increase funding to support low-cost ICTs for persons with disabilities, and develop and publish comparable data on access to and use of ICTs disaggregated by disability as well as on accessibility of ICTs.

In an article published on 3 December 2018 on nocable.org, the author gives an explanation of the impact of the revelation by the recent US Federal Communication Commission’s report that there are 34 million Americans without access to high-speed Internet services. According to the article, ‘digital deserts’ refer to areas with few or no broadband service providers, that offer download speeds similar to dial-up and early DSL. The impact is that about 10% of the population of the USA is without reliable Internet access and where they are available, it is not good enough to access contents online.

During the G20 Summit in Argentina from 30 November – 1 December 2018, the leaders of countries and global organisations reached an agreement on areas for development and economic growth through an agenda that is people-centred, inclusive, and forward-looking. The G20 Leaders’ declaration building consensus for fair and sustainable development focuses on digitalisation and emerging technologies for innovative growth and productivity. To this aim, it endorses different measures that include, but not limited to, overcoming the digital gender divide, promoting digital inclusion, and enhancing digital government, digital infrastructure as well as measurement of the digital economy. Additionally, The G20 leaders marked a desire to embrace the G20 Repository of Digital Policies aiming at espousing the adoption of innovative digital economy business models. In that sense, the declaration emphasises the importance of the interface between trade and the digital economy. It further calls upon the digital industry to collaborate to combat the exploitation of the internet and social media for terrorist purposes.

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