Broadband plays critical role in sustainable development: Report
By Digital News Asia September 26, 2013
- Report says that over the next 15 years, broadband's contribution to sustainable development will only increase
- Shows how countries use national broadband plans as key policy instruments for broadband as an enabling infrastructure
THE world has changed significantly since 2000 when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted, with advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) having radically transformed the way people communicate and lead their lives.
Now ICT can play a vital, transformative role in helping to put the world on a more sustainable path, according to a new report by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, a joint initiative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and UNESCO.
The new report looks at several aspects of broadband and its positive effects on people, environment and society. The task force which delivered the report was led by Hans Vestberg (pic), president and chief executive officer of Ericsson.
“As the post-2015 sustainable development agenda process evolved, we felt an urgent need to see action,” said Vestberg.
“We see so many opportunities for broadband to transform all aspects of society. Technology evolves faster than policy, and we wanted to make a concerted effort to do everything we could to raise awareness of the potential,” he added.
The report, entitled ‘Transformational solutions for 2015 and Beyond: The report of the Broadband Commission Task force on Sustainable Development,’ analyses national broadband plans for 138 countries and identifies best government practices, urges governments to act now and to include broadband in their national development agenda.
It also makes a number of supporting recommendations, Ericsson said in a statement.
In its executive summary, the report notes that while strong economic growth in the developing world has helped lift millions out of poverty; global population growth, modern lifestyles and consumption are now stretching the limits of the planet’s resources.
Recent crises in the financial, global food and energy sectors have highlighted the fragility in global systems, as well as weaknesses in governance and persistent inequalities among vulnerable or disadvantaged populations.
In addition, constraints to development have become apparent, such as climate change, increasing environmental degradation and population growth.
Together with complex societal issues like rising inequality, ageing, infrastructure, gender equality, childhood development and education, as well as a lack of decent jobs for youth, these challenges point to an urgent need for an integrated, single sustainable Post-2015 development agenda, the report said.
As well as continuing to drive progress against the MDGs to 2015 and beyond, the Post-2015 sustainable development agenda needs to refocus efforts on reaching vulnerable or marginalised groups and tackling the interrelated root causes of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation.
It must shift technology and behaviour towards sustainable consumption and production patterns to decouple continued growth and improved living standards from the unsustainable use of resources.
Business-as-usual is simply not an option, the report said. The world needs to adopt a more integrated and comprehensive approach to development – and in this, ICT and broadband can make a major contribution.
“Through this work, the Broadband Commission would like to encourage the international community to recognise the need for transformative solutions in the post-2015 development agenda; and this report makes the case,” said Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of the ITU.
“The report presents for the first time new research showing how countries around the world use their national broadband plans as key policy instruments to leverage the full potential of broadband as an enabling infrastructure to accelerate sustainable development; yet there are also many missed opportunities, not least within poverty reduction and food security,” he added.
The 10 recommendations are:
- Make ICT and high speed broadband universally available at affordable cost for all.
- Ensure that ICT and broadband are embedded in all of the universal goals and national targets to be defined as part of the Post-2015 global development agenda to fully capture transformative, sustainable solutions.
- Deploy national development policies and plans to actively drive cross-sector integration of economic and social outcomes deliverable and scalable through ICT and broadband.
- Create a streamlined and enabling regulatory environment for the broadband era that accelerates removal of barriers to market entry for broadband ICT uptake.
- Provide consumer incentives and harness government procurement to drive demand and stimulate private sector innovation and investment.
- Twin broadband innovation and investment with sustainable multi-stakeholder business models to capitalise on the transformative potential of universal ICT.
- Drive the game-changing potential of mobile broadband through the optimised use of radioelectrical frequency spectrum for universal ICT for development penetration.
- Promote the utilisation of global standards to enable the harmonisation and interoperability of ICT and broadband-enabled services and applications, putting special emphasis on affordability and accessibility.
- Establish a comprehensive monitoring framework for broadband deployment and robust accountability mechanisms to track development progress via industry-wide broadband ICT metrics and indicators.
- Develop appropriate solutions to maximise resource mobilisation, innovation and investment in broadband for both developed and developing countries.
The task force credits a spirit of collaborating across all sectors of governments and including the private sector to realise shared aims, Ericsson said.
The Philippines: Digitally empowered nation
Best practices are highlighted from five countries -- Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Rwanda and Sweden – that have successfully integrated a wide range of development goals into their national broadband plans.
According to the UNDP Human Development Index, 18% of the Philippine population lives in poverty. To reduce the digital divide, new technologies must therefore be affordable.
To tackle this, the Philippines developed The Philippine Digital Strategy, which envisions affordable and secure information systems to empower a competitive knowledge economy and inclusive society, supported by an accountable and responsive government.
The Philippine Digital Strategy (PDS) identifies increased broadband integration as a means to improve and sustain national competitiveness, equip a new generation with ICT skills for the global workforce, and improve workplace participation of women, minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and foreign workers by 50% by 2016.
Considering these groups are at the highest risk of living in poverty, it is important they are not excluded from broadband skills training and access to education through ICT.
All national broadband policies are embedded among various ministries, addressing gender and environmental aspects of ICT, and ICT awareness as cross-sectorial themes, the report said.
The Digital Strategy aligns with the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 and the Asean ICT Master Plan 2015, both building on the Philippine Strategic Roadmap for the ICT Sector 2006-2010 and progress is benchmarked against MDG indicators.
Education is an important part of the Philippines broadband plan. Most students in the country lack access to ICT due to a lack of infrastructure supporting broadband connectivity.
Funding plans are critical: The Universal Access and Service Fund has had some success in connecting schools; however, long-term challenges persist such as inadequate in-school maintenance.
Community e-centres have been established under public-private partnerships and these introduce users to ICT, increase access for low-income remote communities, and provide skills training.
The plan also features a national indicator on digital literacy (i.e. digital literacy rate), the implementation of an incentive-based professional development programme for teachers, educators and trainers to strengthen and standardise teacher training, integrate ICT into education and the launch the National ICT Competency Development and Certification Programme, a 5-year training programme for civil servants in the use of ICT.
To download the full report, click here.
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