Rural Area in India. Photo: Rakesh Raman / RMN News Service
Traditional approaches to driving internet network roll-out and uptake are failing to reach the remaining half of the global population still lacking online access, according to a new report issued on September 22 in New York by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
To counter slowing global growth, the report advocates for new collaborative strategies to drive the concept of ‘meaningful universal connectivity’ through greater emphasis on resource sharing and a more holistic approach that treats broadband as a basic public utility and vital enabler of global development.
The notion of ‘meaningful universal connectivity’ encompasses broadband that is available, accessible, relevant, and affordable, but also that is safe, trusted, user-empowering and leads to positive impact. The report advocates for this new concept to underpin policy makers’ new digital strategies, as governments seek to find new ways to finance network roll-out and reach unconnected populations.
The State of Broadband 2019: Broadband as Foundation for Sustainable Development reveals that global growth in the percentage of households connected to the internet is slowing, rising only slightly to 54.8% from 53.1% last year. In low-income countries, household internet adoption improved by a mere 0.8% on average.
Data on individuals using the internet also indicated slowing global growth in 2018, as well as a slowing growth in developing countries, which are home to the vast majority of the estimated 3.7 billion still unconnected.
The report also presents updated data measuring progress towards the Commission’s seven advocacy targets (Making broadband universal; Making broadband affordable; Getting people online; Acquiring minimum digital skills and literacy; Using digital financial services; Getting businesses online; and Achieving gender equality in access to broadband by 2025).
At current rates of progress it seems unlikely that all the Commission’s targets will be reached by 2025.