The 32 landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) face unique development challenges derived from their geographical positioning. They lack direct territorial access to the sea, are remote and isolated from world markets and depend on neighbouring and coastal countries for access to undersea cables and international internet bandwidths, and for their communication connectivity. Long routes, complicated administrative transit procedures, multiple border crossings and inadequate infrastructure all substantially increase the transport and trade transaction costs incurred by LLDCs.
ICT plays a particularly valuable role in helping LLDCs tackle these issues and in addressing the three pillars of sustainable development. The digitalization of many logistics services and regulatory border controls increases the efficiency and the ease of doing trade. ICTs can assist the LLDCs improve efficiency and competitiveness and to exploit economies of scale and network effects, to raise labour and capital productivity, and to access global value chains. They make it easier for businesses or consumers to connect with potential trade partners and get information about regulations and standards as well as about consumer preferences. Goods and services can increasingly be purchased or delivered through digital platforms.
The importance of ICT for LLDCs is highlighted in the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024 (VPoA) which calls on LLDCs to make broadband policy universal, promote open and affordable internet access for all and actively engage to address the digital divide.
Despite the importance of ICTs to LLDCs, they still lag behind other groups of countries on ICT indicators, there is also significant digital divides between the LLDCs, between rural and urban areas including the gender digital divide. The United Nations General Assembly decided to convene a comprehensive high-level midterm review on the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action to be held in December 2019.
The aim of the event was to take stock of progress and share best practices in promoting ICT connectivity and digitalization of LLDCs, identify constraints and suggest recommendations to help improve the connectivity of LLDCs, to support their efforts towards achieving the SDGs; and bridge the digital divide. The event was expected to come up with concrete recommendations which will feed into the preparations of the Midterm Review of the Vienna Programme of Action.