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May 8th, 2018

UN Broadband Commission Commits to Broadband Digital Connectivity for All 

After this meeting of UN officials and their agreed commitment, it resulted in them becoming closer to their United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of advancing the roll-out of broadband around the world, and digital connectivity.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development at its 2018 Spring Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, May 6-7, committed to concrete actions that will advance the roll-out of broadband around the world, and with it, much-needed digital connectivity, which is necessary for the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The meeting was held at the invitation of H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, an association which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. 

During the two-day event, 34 Commissioners, representing the broadband industry, governments and United Nations agencies,  convened to discuss key issues related to the role of broadband in advancing the SDGs. 

President Paul Kagame said that Africa's economic transformation requires broadband infrastructure with an emphasis on both access and affordability. The reality is that all other digital services whether in commerce or education or healthcare run on top of broadband. Africa's size, geography and settlement patterns mean that they must rely on a variety of different technologies to deliver broadband including satellite, fiber optic and mobile. It is up to them to lead the way in driving innovation both in policy and business models in order to speed up the provision of broadband where it has been slowest to reach.

On Sunday, May 6, Commissioners took part in onsite sessions of four Broadband Commission Working Groups

  • Vulnerable Countries
  • Epidemic Preparedness
  • Digital Entrepreneurship
  • Digital Health


This was followed on Monday, May 7, with the full-day annual Spring Meeting of the Commission. 

During the meeting, the Working Group on Vulnerable Countries, chaired by Commissioner Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa 'Utoikamanu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative, United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), issued a synthesis report on broadband for national development in four least developed countries (LDCs) — Cambodia, Rwanda, Senegal and Vanuatu. The report draws on evidence from country case studies and an UN-OHRLLS/ ITU report on achieving universal and affordable Internet in the least developed countries. 

The synthesis report highlights that despite their different market environments, broadband coverage has increased notably and become more affordable for users in all four countries over the last few years. However, it also raises concerns that the demand for broadband and its productive use in least developed countries has not matched the growing supply. The full report is scheduled for release July 12, 2018 during the United Nations High Level Political Forum in New York.

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA stated that he was honored to join President Kagame in hosting this meeting of the Broadband Commission as they examine how they can accelerate the adoption of mobile broadband globally, but more importantly, how they can better equip society to participate in the digital world. As they will soon see the first 5G networks rolling out, it is more important than ever that governments and industry work together to ensure that all citizens benefit from this new era of hyper-connectivity.

This year's meeting took place on the eve of the Transform Africa Summit 2018, being held May 7-10, enabling the Commission to make available to Summit participants, its valuable expertise. 

The 2018 Spring Meeting also comes on the heels of the release by the Commission of its new 2025 Targets, which seeks to fast-track the digital connectivity of the millions worldwide that remain unconnected. 

Comprised of leaders from government, industry, international organizations and academia, the Broadband Commission was established in 2010 as a top-level advocacy body promoting broadband as an accelerator of global development. The Commission is chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Mexico's Carlos Slim Helú. In September 2015 it was re-named the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development with the specific purpose of working to help achieve, through the power of broadband connectivity, the Sustainable Development Goals.