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UNDP launches online global dialogue on breakthrough digital ideas

The UNDP launched the online global dialogue in order to advance discussions on digital ideas that could facilitate the realisation of sustainable development goals (SDGs). The objective of the online dialogue is to assess the challenges and explore solutions that digital technologies could offer on global development issues. The online discussion is open to concerned stakeholders including UNDP’s donors, researchers as well as individuals, and the outcomes of the dialogue will be presented at the upcoming 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Study shows that the “Internet is unavailable” to visually impaired users

A study published by Deque Systems - a digital accessibility company and conducted by Nucleus Research shows that 70% of Internet websites in certain industries such as e-commerce, e-government, news and information, etc. are unavailable to visually impaired users. According to the report, 7 out of 10 blind persons cannot access e-government services whereas 8 out of 10 users experience difficulty accessing news websites.The research therefore highlights the existing digital divide despite measures taken to make the Internet more accessible to visually-impaired users, and emphasises a missed market opportunity for the concerned websites given that they lose roughly USD 6.9 billion to accessible e-commerce competitors annually. 

The report found that well-known e-commerce actors including Amazon, Target and Best Buy lead the way in addressing accessibility issues in the e-commerce space. 

High cost of internet access leaving low-income families behind, report finds

A Canada based organization, ACORN Canada, is calling on the government to act to save the situation since their research findings are showing that the cost of internet access in the country is posing a threat of leaving low-income families without the means of taking part in the digital economy.

news report that gave the main highlight of ACORN Canada’s report dubbed “Barriers to Digital Equity in Canada” captured the need of making “digital equity” federal priority by the government.  According to the report, online access has become critical to “apply for jobs, complete school work, download government forms, pay bills and connect with family and friends.”   This makes the case for internet access as a basic human right that must be protected.

Among other things, the report suggested that the government should expand the
Connecting Families program, which was launched in 2017 to deal with the widening digital inequality in Canada

FCC proposes establishing $20.4 billion rural digital opportunity fund.

The U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has in a press release proposed a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund aimed at expanding broadband access to unserved or underserved rural areas across the U.S. The proposal contained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking document, and open for comments, is considered by the FCC as its single biggest step since its establishment to bridge the rural digital divide gap that exists in the U.S. The FCC notes in its proposal that if it is approved, at least 4 million rural homes and small businesses that currently lack modern broadband service will have access to ultra high speed connectivity of at least 25Mbps/3 Mbps, with incentives for faster speeds.

Tokyo unveils 2020 Olympic medals made of recycled e-waste

Aimed at promoting sustainability and recycling, the organizing committee for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo have unveiled the new Olympic medals made out of recycled phones and other discarded electronic devices.

Namely, between April 2017 and March 2019, people all over Japan donated their small electronic devices. Over 78,000 tons of electronics were collected, including over 6 million old mobile phones. According to the committee, engineers were able to recover 32kg of gold, 3,500kg of silver and 2,200kg of bronze.

APEC: Close the Digital Skills Gap by 2025 through Collaboration

The forum, taking place in Singapore, gathered 16 APEC economies with the aim to examine policy solutions to strengthen digital skills and the digital economy. Whereas the digital economy is evolving at a great rate, education systems are not adapting accordingly. 

‘Skills mismatches hurt workers and the broader economy. Productivity declines when key jobs remain vacant. APEC requires more skills training programs to reduce the global shortage of highly-skilled workers, which may soon exceed 38 million people,’ noted Professor Dong Sun Park. Professor Park, Chair of the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group.

In addition, a survey was launched with the aim to showcase skill mismatches that affect the digital economy. Namely, according to the survey, 75 per cent of respondents, consisting of employers, government officials and academics, report significant skills mismatch. 

High-level Panel on Sustainable Development addresses the relationship between digital transformation and the SDGs

The seventh edition of the High-level Panel on Sustainable Development (HLPF) was concluded on 19 July. The HLPF was convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) under the theme of ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’ between 9 July and 19 July 2019. The two week event was dedicated to the review of six SDGs, namely Goal 4, Goal 8. Goal 10, Goal 13, Goal 16 and Goal 17. A number of sessions were addressed the interlinkage between digital transformation and the realisation of the SDGs. Among other things. discussions explored the relationship between the youth and technology, ICTs and inclusiveness, the opportunities and challenges of the digital revolution as well as the role of data in ensuring decent work. 

DFID supports access to mobile phone technologies in underserved regions

The Department of International Development launched a GBP 38 million partnership with GSMA to improve access to essential digital services to over 26 million people around the world over the next 3.5 years. The ‘Partnership for Inclusion, Innovation and Scale’ aims to uphold GSMA efforts vis-à-vis digital inclusion, digital identity, energy, water, sanitation, and the reduction of the mobile gender gap as well as new areas of support including disability and climate. It further meant to introduce critical insights on the needs of the underserved and promote mobile-enabled innovations and business models aiming at espousing inclusion at scale. “This landmark partnership with DFID reinforces the joint power and potential of the private and public sectors working together and ensures that we will continue our crucial role of stimulating digital innovation to deliver both sustainable business and large-scale socio-economic impact for the underserved. This project reinforces our commitment to supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and using the power of technology to reduce global inequalities,” noted GSMA Director General Mats Granryd.

Mobile Internet connectivity to be delivered to unconnected communities in Ghana through a new partnership

GSMA partnered with Vodafone Ghana and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) to connect rural areas in Rwanda through the deployment of innovative mobile internet connectivity solutions. The GSMA-led project will be implemented from July 2019 to late 2020 to finance the vendors of mobile network equipment to use innovative solutions aiming at fostering mobile operator efforts in Ghana. Through this project, imported equipment will be exempted from up to 30% tax in order to promote reinvestment and improve coverage extensions. “This collaboration is a pioneering, first-of-its-kind project that aims to connect unconnected communities in rural locations and deliver a range of essential digital services,” said GSMA Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Akinwale Goodluck. The project targets rural areas with economic potential which were designated by GMSA through its coverage mapping tool. “As we explore this partnership to deliver connectivity for communities in the Northern and Upper West regions of Ghana, the last mile of connecting the unconnected will be achieved to create avenues for digital inclusiveness,” noted GIFEC CEO Abraham Kofi Asante.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile economy is booming

According to GSMA new study, Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile economy valued at more than USD 150 billion in 2018 and it is expected to generate USD 185 billion by 2023. This means that Sub-Saharan Africa will be the world’s fastest-growing mobile region seeing that million African youth are penetrating the market as new consumers. As per the study, more than 160 million new unique mobile subscribers will be added across the region by 2025, bringing the total to 623 million, representing around half of the region’s population, up from 456 million (44 per cent) in 2018. “With mobile technology at the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa’s digital journey, it is essential for policymakers in the region to implement policies and best practices that ensure sustainable growth in the mobile industry, and enable the transition to next-generation mobile networks,” noted GSMA Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Akinwale Goodluck.

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