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 Monday, June 06, 2011
New Broadband Commission report advocates catalytic mix of appropriate technologies, innovative financing, training and locally relevant content

Governments around the world need to rapidly formulate and implement national multi-sectoral broadband plans – or risk being seriously disadvantaged in today’s increasingly high-speed digital environment, according to a new report released today by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development at its third meeting, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

The report, entitled Broadband: A Platform for Progress, argues: “To optimize the benefits to society, broadband should be coordinated on a countrywide basis, promoting facilities-based competition and with policies encouraging service providers to offer access on fair market terms...efforts should be coordinated across all sectors of industry, administration and the economy. Developing isolated projects or piecemeal, duplicated networks is not only inefficient, it delays provision of infrastructure that is becoming as crucial in the modern world as roads or electricity supplies.”

The report also makes a strong case for broadband as a driver of economic growth and new jobs, citing country case studies and reports by leading consultancies.

One study suggests that in China, for instance, every 10% increase in broadband penetration could contribute an extra 2.5% to GDP growth. Other data cited in the report suggest that, for low- and middle-income countries, a 10-percentage-point rise in broadband penetration could add up to a 1.4-percentage point rise in economic growth.

Concerning jobs, an analysis for the European Commission estimates that broadband could create more than two million jobs in Europe by 2015, while a study in Brazil reports that access to broadband has already added up to 1.4% to the employment growth rate.

Offering much more than faster access to web pages, broadband networks are a crucial element of the ‘Internet of Things’, by which ordinary inanimate objects communicate with one another using technologies like RFID, without the need for human intervention. Such networks are already revolutionizing inventory control and fleet management, and are set to play a growing role in key social sectors like healthcare, through e-health applications, education, through remote learning and teacher training, and environmental management through applications like smart grids, monitoring systems and smart buildings.

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