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ITU Connect - The Power of Public-Private Partnerships

At the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York in the year 2000, information and communication technologies (ICTs) were identified as a critical facilitator of human development.

The resulting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) mandated access to advanced ICTs as one of the key elements of a new Global Partnership for Development centred around cooperative efforts between government and private industry.

In response, ITU launched its Connect the World initiative just ahead of Phase 2 of the UN World Summit on the Information Society, held in Tunis in 2005. Conceived as a multi-stakeholder public-private partnership, Connect the World showcases existing development activities and helps stimulate new partnerships, in a bid to accelerate the bridging of the 'digital divide'.

Connect the World partners include governments, leading public sector organizations like the European Commission, UN agencies such as UNESCO, UNDESA and UNESCAP, and development-oriented organizations including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Private sector partners include major players such as Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Huawei, Intel, KDDI, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Sun Microsystems, Telefonicà and many more.

Globally, Connect the World currently embraces over 150 different projects targeting improved connectivity and accessibility for underserved regions and communities. Flagship projects include Connecting Children, the ITU Wireless Broadband Partnership, Connecting Villages, and the ITU Academy Partnership.

 

ITU is the pre-eminent international organization charged with fostering global development of ICTs. Its work in regions around the world is a true reflection of its slogan: Committed to Connecting the World.

Supported by a network of Regional Offices in key locations, ITU initiates and manages projects spanning a huge range of ICT-related activities, from consulting on spectrum management, network design or best practice regulatory policy, to the active promotion of e-strategies to drive ICT uptake, to vital capacity building programmes targeting both ICT professionals and grassroots users.

Driving development worldwide

In 2007, in a bid to inject fresh impetus into regional efforts to foster cooperative ICT development initiatives, ITU further strengthened Connect the World with the launch of its series of ITU Connect regional events. Conceived as a new platform for partnership, rather than another drive to attract development aid, ITU Connect events focus on identifying and forging investment and business development opportunities at the very highest level of government and the private sector.

 

"ICT is a business. The only way to ensure sustainability and large-scale positive benefits is to provide an environment that lets business deliver the services communities want and need."
Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General

 

In 2007, in a bid to inject fresh impetus into regional efforts to foster cooperative ICT development initiatives, ITU further strengthened Connect the World with the launch of its series of ITU Connect regional events. Conceived as a new platform for partnership, rather than another drive to attract development aid, ITU Connect events focus on identifying and forging investment and business development opportunities at the very highest level of government and the private sector.

The first ITU Connect event focused on Africa, the continent in greatest need of ICT connectivity, and which is home to 31 of the 49 UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Designed as a kind of 'Marshall Plan for ICT infrastructure development', ITU Connect Africa attracted unprecedented levels of interest, welcoming over 1,000 top-level delegates and US$ 55 billion in investment commitments targeting intra-regional connectivity.

Held in Kigali, Rwanda, ITU Connect Africa ambitiously brought forward ICT connectivity goals to 2012, with a view to accelerating progress towards the eight core MDGs. It saw commitments to interconnect all African capitals and major cities with ICT broadband infrastructure and strengthen connectivity to the rest of the world by 2012, and to extend broadband and ICT services to all African villages by 2015.

 

"With less than 6 years left to meet the 2015 targets of the MDGs, drastic steps are needed. Meeting ICT connectivity targets will act as a catalyst in achieving other MDGs. ICTs are a powerful means of creating wealth and sustainable economic growth."
Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General

 

The next event, ITU Connect CIS, will take place in Belarus in November 2009.

Why CIS?

The CIS is one of the world's fastest-growing mobile markets, sustaining an average annual growth rate in the five years from 2003-2008 of 44%. Mobile penetration in the region as a whole has risen from under 20% in 2003 to over 100% in early 2009. That said, the CIS harbours wide disparities between countries in terms of ICT development. So while mobile penetration in Russia and the Ukraine is nearing exceeding the 120% mark, in the largely rural state of Turkmenistan it is still below 10% - under that of some LDCs.

The Internet has been enthusiastically embraced in the more industrialized nations of the CIS, though most users still access the web via slow dial-up connections. Broadband access remains limited, despite strong demand from both business and the region's younger population.

The CIS is nonetheless fast emerging as an important ICT innovation hub, with a growing number of new companies quickly becoming leaders in their fields, and a well-educated class of young entrepreneurs keen to exploit the many business opportunities ICT offers.

While the sheer size of the market makes it attractive to investors - CIS is home to a total population of over 275 million - reforming further the sector to introduce greater competition, reduce barriers to entry by simplifying the licensing regime and, guarantee access to bottleneck network facilities by all market players on a non-discriminatory basis are some of the regulatory measures that can drive development of broadband in the region and further ICT penetration.

ITU Connect CIS will therefore strive to build a shared vision for the region that embraces regulatory reform, capacity building and the leveraging of the many untapped opportunities these high-growth markets offer.

The Summit programme includes prominent speakers from the region and around the world, and will feature televised session coverage by a broadcast network, webcasts of sessions and roundtables, and the chance for journalists to interview international and regional political leaders and ICT decision makers.

Future ITU Connect events will target other developing regions around the world.

For more information please visit the ITU Connect the World homepage.

Connecting the unconnected by 2015

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Updated : 2009-09-29