ITU and the Broadband Foundation jointly launched a project to assist countries in South Eastern Europe to map broadband infrastructure and services to help countries advance their digital transformation.
will help advance the digital transition of the Western Balkans into a digital economy to bring the benefits of digital transformation to all. Beneficiary countries of the project are Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.
"Today 3.6 billion people remain totally unconnected from the online world," said Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. "This project is launched at a critical time in human history, where the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically illustrated the vital and essential importance of connectivity. Mapping the available infrastructure, services, and investment opportunities in each country is a critical first step, and once we have this information, we would welcome the opportunity to explore how GIGA, a project between ITU and UNICEF to connect every school to the internet, can help in this region."
ITU's research shows that broadband mapping systems have played an essential role in fostering the development of broadband infrastructure. In order to bridge digital divide in the Europe region, it is key that non-E.U. countries are not left behind in the region's efforts to build a Gigabit Society.
"ICT infrastructure requires long-term strategic investment in order to ensure that the vision of the Gigabit Society becomes a reality not only for the European Union, but for the whole of Europe. To boost investment in broadband roll-out necessitates the establishment of an appropriate enabling environment and building upon good practices of other countries," said Mr Attila Tòth, Chairman of the Broadband Foundation.
"Even though Europe leads the broadband challenge at the global level, reaching 32% of fixed broadband penetration and 97.4% of mobile-broadband subscriptions, there is a lot to be done to close digital divide at the regional level," said Jaroslaw Ponder, Head of the ITU Office for Europe. "The Europe Region consists of 46 countries and shows significant diversity in terms of connectivity and use of ICTs".
This project will provide useful tools for the harmonization of mapping systems and will increase the transparency of information on broadband infrastructure, strengthen private sector investment, and offer greater opportunities for delivering public aid. It will also enhance cross-data on broadband infrastructure to ensure that all sectors are appropriately connected.
More specifically, the project will take into account regional harmonization efforts carried out by the European Union and Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). Countries will be assisted on technical requirements and system design, from a regulatory standpoint.
Mr. Ákos Bóna, Vice President of International Markets at the Broadband Foundation said that "Successful digital transformation belongs to those with ultimate access to high-speed broadband. Continuous investment in broadband deployment to Europe's citizens, institutions ensuring that all benefits of the Internet are widely available to everyone, promoting digital equity and opportunity for all. Gigabit Broadband Connections will pave the way to technology breakthroughs, green innovation and for digital transformation of all industries."
To ensure the sustainability of the process, assistance to National Regulatory Authorities and other competent authorities will be provided on how to harness mapping systems to support countries' digital transformation.
The project, to be completed in 2022, will also produce guidelines on the establishment, improvement, maintenance and utilization of mapping systems, which can be applied worldwide.