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ITU remains concerned despite US$24bn collected for global connectivity

By , ITWeb
Africa , Rwanda , 15 Jun 2022

UN specialised agency for ICT, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said while 364 pledges from 196 entities has amassed US$24.15-billion towards global connectivity between September 2021 and June 2022, it remains concerned that “the potential of digital connectivity is still largely untapped.”

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, said based on the ITU Global Connectivity Report, there is clear reason why the organisation cannot be satisfied.

“First, because 2.9 billion people remain offline, deprived of the enormous opportunities offered by the online world. Second, because among those 5 billion we count as online, many only enjoy very basic connectivity. And third, because we simply cannot wait another 30 years to connect everyone who is not yet connected,” said Bogdan-Martin.

An already unacceptable world of digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ has become even less acceptable in the wake of the global pandemic. COVID-19 has dramatically increased the cost of digital exclusion and contributed to deepening economic and social inequalities. How can a child engage in remote learning with only a basic mobile device on an unreliable, costly 3G connection – presuming she or he even had one? So, where do we go from here? Bottom line: we need to shift the narrative. We need to put ‘universal and meaningful connectivity’ at the very centre of digital development. We need to make it the imperative for this Decade of Action.”

Part of this action, according to Bogdan-Martin, is the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition. “The global community has really stepped up and answered the call to connect the unconnected, and the variety of pledges is staggering! From pledges to scale up affordable access and build people’s digital skills, to reinforcing crucial connectivity infrastructure in remote and rural areas and putting policies in place to try and close the many different digital divides.”

Rwanda acknowledges ITU head

From Kigali, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame has conferred one of his country's highest civilian honours on the Secretary-General of the ITU, Houlin Zhao.

ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.
ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.

According to the African country’s Presidency Zhao has provided “distinguished service as the leader of ITU during a very consequential period for the globalisation of telecommunications technology.”

His induction to the National Order of Honour, or Agaciro, came during the second week of ITU's landmark World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), which has brought digital leaders and decision-makers and other stakeholders to Kigali for high-level global discussions.

"I am deeply honoured by, and sincerely grateful for, this recognition from the President of the Republic of Rwanda, who is a respected African leader and global ICT promoter," Zhao said upon receiving the award.

“When I was first elected Secretary-General in 2014, only about one third of the world's population was online. Today, nearly two thirds are connected, while a persistent digital divide leaves one third of humanity still unconnected. The President's special award to me will inspire and encourage all to tackle digital development challenges and ensure no one is left behind. I would like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to President Kagame for his vision for the digital future, as well as his capable leadership in ICT adoption to transform Africa and facilitate global ICT development." 

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