Geneva â€“ Broadband infrastructure, applications and services have become critical to driving growth, delivering social services, improving environmental management, and transforming peopleâ€™s lives, according to a new Manifesto released by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development and signed by 48 members of the Commission, along with other prominent figures from industry, civil society and the UN family.
â€œOvercoming the digital divide makes sense not only on the basis of principles of fairness and justice; connecting the world makes sound commercial sense,â€ the Manifesto reads. â€œThe vital role of broadband needs to be acknowledged at the core of any post-2015 sustainable development framework, to ensure that all countries â€“ developed and developing alike â€“ are empowered to participate in the global digital economy.â€
Broad Range of Signatories
Signatories to the Manifesto include Commission Co-Chairs President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and business magnate Carlos Slim, co-Vice Chairs Dr Hamadoun I. TourÃ©, ITU Secretary-General, and Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, along with prominent members of the Commission including European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, business leaders including Anne Bouverot (Director-General, GSMA), Michel Combes (CEO, Alcatel-Lucent), Sunil Bharti Mittal (CEO, Bharti Airtel), Denis Oâ€™Brien (CEO, Digicel), Hans Vestberg (CEO, Ericsson), and Sun Yafang (Chairwoman, Huawei), UN heads of agency including Kathy Calvin (CEO, UN Foundation), Helen Clark (Administrator, UNDP) and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Executive Director, UN Women), and prominent technology advocates including Academy-Award winning actor Geena Davis, Mo Ibrahim (Chairman, Mo Ibrahim Foundation), Youssou Nâ€™Dour (musician and Minister for Tourism & Leisure, Senegal), Jeffrey Sachs (Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for the Millennium Development Goals & Director, Earth Institute, Columbia University), Muhammad Yunus (Founder, Grameen Bank and Nobel Laureate) and many others.
The Manifesto will be presented at a side event of the fifth session of the United Nations Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, to be held at UN headquarters in New York. It follows on the heels of a new report, Transformational Solutions for 2015 and Beyond, which was prepared by a Broadband Commission Task Force and launched at the 8th meeting of the Commission on September 21, 2013.
Mobile Broadband Fastest Growing Segment
ITU figures released last month show mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets has become the fastest growing segment of the global ICT market. By end 2013 ITU estimates there will be 6.8 billion total mobile-cellular subscriptions â€“ almost as many as there are people on the planet â€“ and 2.7 billion people connected to the Internet.
Meanwhile, mobile broadband connections over 3G and 3G+ networks are growing at an average annual rate of 40 percent. Almost 50 percent of all people worldwide are now covered by a 3G network.
â€œITU research clearly shows that governments are prioritizing ICTs as a major lever of socio-economic growth,â€ said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. TourÃ©. â€œNow, as we strive to define a new model for sustainable global development, we need to identify ways to enable all countries to deploy the networks and services that will help lift them out of poverty.â€
Fixed Broadband Prices Drop by 30 Percent in Developing Countries
In the four years between 2008-2012, fixed-broadband prices fell by 82 percent overall, from 115.1 percent of average monthly income per capita in 2008 to 22.1 percent in 2012. The biggest drop occurred in developing countries, where fixed-broadband prices fell by 30 percent year on year between 2008 and 2011. The global broadband affordability target set in 2011 by the Broadband Commission aims to bring the cost of entry-level broadband service to less than 5 percent of average monthly income.
ITU research shows that while the number of households with Internet access is increasing in all world regions, large differences persist. Penetration rates at end 2013 are set to reach 80 percent in the developed world, compared with under 30 percent in the developing world. An estimated 1.1 billion households worldwide are still not connected to the Internet; 90 percent of these are in the developing world.