When connectivity is not enough: the key to meaningful digital inclusion

Sponsored Content

Register Now-1000x500px-smartBusan.png

(ITU, 2017)

Smart is the adjective of our modern world, a world where applications, solutions, products and even entire industries are making innovative use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the quality of our lives and the efficiency of our services.

The potential of smart is enormous. In a smart city, for example, everything from transport to urban planning, electricity supply, local government services and infrastructure management can be improved through the use of ICTs. Smart technologies are essential to create sustainable urbanization, protect the environment and manage living spaces. Smart banking is poised to bring the billions of unbanked worldwide into the global economy. Smart transport can reduce congestion and pollution, increase road safety and widen mobility options to an unprecedented degree. Industry 4.0 offers a manufacturing revolution with individually-tailored goods produced at low cost and in high quality. And remote or mobile health options delivered by smart technologies will increase the range, availability and reliability of healthcare solutions for us all.

Smart is disrupting our world for the better – as ITU Telecom World 2017 recognises in its annual debate, networking and exhibition event, focusing this year on “Smart digital transformation.” But a smart society is dependent upon ICT infrastructure and networks like never before. And in a world where some 3.9 billion citizens remain offline, there is a very real danger that smart transformation will improve the lives of those in developed markets to a far greater extent than those in emerging nations. The digital divide will deepen into a smart chasm, leaving the unconnected ever further behind, ever more remote from the multiple socio-economic benefits access to ICTs offers.

It is imperative to work on closing that gap, on increasing the deployment and use of the broadband networks which are so critical to delivering key services to improve quality of life. In today’s world, there’s no disputing the social and economic benefits broadband brings with it. Whether fixed, mobile or hybrid, broadband networks kick-start development, producing a direct, positive and measurable impact on economies. Broadband improves efficiency, communications and the circulation of goods and services, creating new markets, innovations and access to the knowledge economy.

So expanding and extending broadband infrastructure must be the first principle of development, particularly in those emerging economies where smart technologies offer such enormous potential to make a difference. The ICT sector has set itself the ambitious goal of connecting the next 1.5 billion citizens by 2020 – a goal which can only be met by innovative approaches to universal access including new technologies, new business models and new public-private-civic partnerships.

The central challenge remains one of investment in broadband. Outside of heavily-populated urban areas, the market for network deployment is often unpromising or simply unviable. Distances are too great, terrain too dramatic, populations too scattered and average income far too low. Even in the cities, lack of consumer education, low incomes and complex government regulations create major difficulties for private sector investment.

Government is thus the single most important stakeholder in broadband deployment, whether directly through fiscal regulatory or policy measures, or through creative partnerships with the private sector and local communities. A new balance between taxation and fiscal incentives in the ICT sector may well prove key to increasing large-scale investment in infrastructure, weighing the enormous positive impact of ICT against the wider needs of society as a whole. It is easy to draw tax revenue from a sector as stable, structured and generally well-regulated as ICT; but there is a very real danger of increased prices for the consumer and significantly less capex earmarked for next-generation networks.  Governments could look to adopt measures such as revived Universal Service Funds, or new approaches to local and national rights of way, site sharing, licence fees or even the partnering of ICT infrastructure with other buildings or utilities within a more holistic public services ecosystem.

But even once the network is there, it is not enough. Connectivity alone does not drive broadband take-up. Rolling out networks does not automatically mean rolling out opportunity and information. For connectivity to bring the socio-economic benefits it promises, it has to be meaningful. And making it meaningful means driving demand, through affordability, awareness, capacity and relevant content.

We need an explicit focus on creating demand to drive broadband adoption with all the socio-economic benefits it brings – and with an eye to a fairer, more equitable and wider-reaching experience of the smart future. Content is critical, content that is in local languages and relevant to local contexts and communities. This may include compelling services and applications in health, education, banking or entertainment.  Access to improved public services may prove key, the killer piece of content.

Then there’s the need to provide affordable devices, as well as training and capacity-building to enable users to understand not only how to work the technology, but to appreciate its capabilities, get creative, unleash untapped local human potential. But even training and education programmes will prove unsuccessful without a drive to increase awareness, in particular amongst the marginalized groups that are disproportionately unconnected, the rural, low-income, illiterate, elderly and female. And without ensuring sufficient power supplies and bandwidth, access to broadband will not produce the transformative effect of which it is capable.

Connectivity alone is not enough in the fight to increase digital opportunity, access to the information economy and the human advancement that ensues.  Digital inclusion can only be effective and meaningful when there is awareness of the benefits of connectivity, the skills and confidence to exploit it, and affordable, attractive content. The progress being made towards that goal, and the stumbling blocks that are emerging, will be central to the debate at ITU Telecom World 2107 in Busan, Republic of Korea, this September – an event which will balance the perspectives of the unconnected globally with those of a pioneering smart city and global leader in enhanced technology ecosystems. It promises to be fascinating.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

Inflation keeps falling in Eurozone

This afternoon Britain will be once more isolated from mainland Europe

A Sting Exclusive: “Sustainable development goals: what role for business?” Commissioner Mimica asks live from European Business Summit 2015

European Union disenchanted with Turkey

EU Parliament: Deposit guarantee and trading platform transparency sought

Youth platforms call on German Government to break down legal barriers for young volunteers and pupils

Presidents of pan-European youth organisations call upon the European Council to preserve the Schengen principles

Brexit casts a shadow over the LSE – Deutsche Börse merger: a tracer of how or if brexit is to be implemented

How close is the new financial Armageddon? IMF gives some hints

The European giant tourism sector in constant growth

Memoirs from a unique trip to China: “my new old dragon” (Part II)

Four things Turkey did for business in the G20

Parliament seals 2014 EU budget and the spending ceiling until 2020

Data show EU Economy in a stubbornly subdued state

The Sting’s Team

Italy’s Letta: A European Banking Union soon or Eurozone collapses

The race for Driverless vehicles: where is the industry heading?

Eurozone 2013: Where to?

China’s impact as a global investor; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Commission to decide definitely on genetically modified Maize 1507 seed

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “We need more Schengen but reinforce control!”, France’s Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron emphasises from Davos

The ASEAN Community sees the light: the genesis of a new powerful economic and political bloc and EU’s big opportunity

Financiers can turn the world into a dirty and dangerous place

The Parliament accuses core EU countries of exploiting their dominant political position

Deep chasm still divides Athens and Brussels; can Eurozone use the nuclear arm of liquidity against Greece?

“TTIP can boost the European project”; the Sting reports live from EBS 2015 on TTIP

G20 LIVE: The European Sting covers online world news and the latest developments at G20 from Antalya Turkey

European Banking Union: Like the issue of a Eurobond?

Athens searches frantically for a new compromise between politics and economic reality

The Parliament sets the way for the European Banking Union

Eurozone stagnates after exporting its recession to trading partners

European Investment Bank to borrow €70 billion in 2013

The EU Commission vies to screen Chinese investment in Europe

European Youth Forum @ European Business Summit 2015: Why interns should matter to business

How Germany strives to mold ECB’s monetary policy to her interests

EU summit: Are the London Tories planning an exit from the EU?

ECB embarks on the risky trip to Eurozone banking universe

Azeri natural gas will keep the EU warm soon

EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement sees the light as Moscow’s reaction once more looms

Can Eurozone’s uncertain growth answer the challenges that lie ahead?

The Shifting Rhythms of Harmonious China: Ancient, Modern & Eternal

EU’s tougher privacy rules: WhatsApp and Facebook set to be soon aligned with telcos

Who may profit from the rise of the extreme right in the West?

Twenty days that may remold the future of Europe

Digital Single Market: New EU rules for online subscription services

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: Europe’s children urge leaders to commit to climate action at UN Climate Summit in Paris

Is it impossible to place the banks under control?

Preparing the future today: World Health Organisation and young doctors

Parlamentarians to “break up” with reality in the Google antitrust case

So different, so close – for two twinning cities

19th EU-China Summit: A historical advance in the Chino-European rapprochement

A shortened EU Summit admits failures, makes risky promises

EU responds to terror fallout by eroding borderless Europe and molesting the refugees

How the EU sees its own and Russia’s role in Ukraine

The European Youth Forum needs better signal for its “call” for Quality Internships

An EU first: youth Ministers debate youth participation in live broadcast

COP21 Breaking News_10 December: the final sprint of the Final Agreement Negotiations

GREXIT final wrap-up: nobody believed Aesop’s boy who cried wolf so many times

CDNIFY @ TheNextWeb 2014

JADE Testimonial #3: Sebastian @ Fundraising

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s