By Doreen Bogdan-Martin Chief of the ITU Strategic Planning and Membership Department in the General Secretariat
The UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development’s State of Broadband report, calls for the universal adoption of broadband-friendly practices and policies, so that everyone can take advantage of the benefits offered by broadband.
The report seeks to answer a number of questions, which can help us realize the potential of universal broadband connectivity. It contains featured insights from thought leaders and case-studies that can help to answer the ever pressing question: How best to connect everyone?
Mobile Internet as a Game-Changer
The marriage of mobile devices and the Internet is transforming how we do things and, in turn, is helping many developing economies leapfrog the PC era. As we continue to make advances in network management and connectivity, we are paving the way for the ‘Internet of Things.’
Today, there are around 9 billion connected devices, which ITU forecasts could reach 25 billion connected devices by 2020 (ITU 2012). To help ensure the vision of the ‘Internet of Things’ becomes a reality, it is vital to ensure affordability and create the necessary supportive ecosystem, including: a conducive regulatory environment; reduced disparities in access, speed, and functionality; improved availability of spectrum at reasonable cost; affordable devices; more local language content; and a range of new apps.
Universal Broadband Can Revolutionize Entire Sectors
Mobile broadband service is not simply about giving people access to search engines and social networks. Universal broadband is about enabling mobile solutions that can change entire sectors.
In the field of e-health, mobile solutions are connecting doctors and patients through wireless devices such as heart monitors and enabling elderly people to live at home, self-sufficiently, for longer. Automotive applications are beginning to save lives through automated emergency call services (AECS). In the fight against climate change, smart meters are raising energy efficiency and could potentially save millions of tonnes of carbon emissions.
Innovation in Spectrum Helping Promote Development
Availability and affordability gaps affect people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America disproportionately. However, innovations in broadband are helping the world’s poor bridge the digital divide and are contributing to economic, social and cultural development.
For example, the Mawingu project (literally meaning “cloud” in Swahili) in Kenya aims to reduce access costs, so more people can come online affordably. Project partners are working to identify the most crucial services and ensure their delivery and deployment via low-cost, affordable Internet access. The social impact will also be significant. From e-health to education to improved communications, Mawingu is delivering benefits via public computer labs and tablets. Through low-cost innovations in broadband, rural communities can connect to the Internet, and hence, with the world.
Republic of Korea Launches Public WiFi Project
To ensure equitable Internet access in rural and urban areas in the Republic of Korea, the Government has initiated the public WiFi project providing free-of-charge WiFi service in public places such as parks, museums and libraries. In cooperation with operators, the Government is implementing WiFi network in public places and shares the network to reduce the burden of service costs, and manage mobile data traffic. Three mobile carriers in Korea have so far built more than 2,000 public WiFi zones nationwide, and aim to deploy 10,000 zones by 2017.
Reaching the Next Billion Broadband Users, Challenges and Opportunities
When considering the challenge of reaching the next billion broadband users, Alcatel Lucent’s primary research on the demand for 4G services suggests that there is strong interest in entertainment services among consumers, in new services among business customers, in greater capacity for mobile transport networks and in cost-effective delivery infrastructure for the next billion users.
Despite the challenges and the overwhelming and increasing scale of demand, the socio-economic benefits of mobile and broadband services remain clear.
Mobile services generate significant economic and social benefits, in both developed and developing countries. Either directly, by investment in infrastructure deployment, or indirectly through the use of the infrastructure to start new business activities, improve efficiency and productivity, and by ensuring access to information, IT literacy, and links to remote markets.
In developing nations, mobile broadband can connect remote populations and improve the livelihoods of marginalized populations. The current edition of the State of Broadband report further focuses on the impact of universal broadband access in the following sectors: education, health, SME growth, entrepreneurship and job growth, agriculture, financial inclusion and government services.