COVID-19 has plunged the world into an unprecedented crisis, with billions of people now relying on information and communication technologies (ICTs) for access to education, healthcare, work , and essential goods and services. Besides highlighting the critical role of ICTs to keep societies functioning, the crisis has brought to the fore startling digital inequalities between and within countries.
ITU has helped marshal the global ICT community in mounting a strengthened, multilateral, collective digital response to the pandemic through a range of initiatives, partnerships and activities:
- Ensuring resilience, safety and availability. The Global Network Resiliency Platform (#REG4COVID) enabled ICT regulators and policy-makers to share information and introduced initiatives to help communities stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Shoring up critical connectivity points. The The Broadband Commission Agenda for Action outlines short- and medium-term measures for governments, industry, the international community and civil society to shore up digital networks, strengthen capacity at hospitals and transport hubs, and boost digital access and inclusivity.
- Coordinated response. Discussions involving the World Bank, GSMA and the World Economic Forum identified how to bring together communities to support ITU and its membership in their response to COVID-19. Under the ‘Speedboat Initiative’ the four istitutions, issued a COVID-19 Crisis Response: Digital Development Joint Action Plan and Call for Action to better leverage digital technologies and infrastructure in support of citizens, governments and businesses during the pandemic.
- Stable, affordable access for the unconnected. ‘Digital cooperation during COVID-19 and beyond’ webinars assessed connectivity, and identified actions designed to enhance stable, affordable access for the unconnected.
- Reinforced digital disease prevention. Connect2Recover has provided country-specific support to reinforce digital infrastructures – for telework, e-commerce, remote learning and telemedicine – to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Accelerating digital connectivity. Within the UN75 Global Governance Forum framework, ITU together with the EMEA Satellite Operators Association, Facebook, GSMA, Loon, Microsoft, SpaceX, UN Global Compact, UNICEF and the World Economic Forum agreed on concrete actions to Accelerate Digital Connectivity in the Wake of COVID-19.
- Global health messaging. ITU, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and with support from UNICEF – as part of the Be Healthy, Be Mobile (BHBM) initiative – sent vital health messaging via mobile phones texts, reaching millions of people unable to connect to the Internet.
- Health outreach and distance learning. The ITU Smart Villages platform has established interactive voice services on COVID-19 for everyone in Niger.
- AI for health. ITU’s AI for Good webinar series has featured use cases of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare and global pandemic response.
- The COVID-19 Global Education Coalition led by UNESCO, ensures continued learning for more than 1.5 billion students affected by school and university closures. ITU is offering a free programme that provides trainers with tools and skills in regard to remote teaching.
- WSIS builds COVID-19 response – and leverages more than 80 workshops. The ICT Case Repository collects projects and activities dedicated to responding to the COVID-19 crisis. A draft zero version of the special ICT Case Repository: The Coronavirus Response is available. More than 80 workshops at the WSIS Forum 2020 were indicated by Stakeholders as directly linked to COVID-19.
- New ITU Guidelines for national emergency telecommunication plans. ITU has launched new guidelines> to help countries to develop national emergency telecommunication plans in the face of emergencies such as COVID-19.
- Helping countries, businesses and citizens to combat cybersecurity threats. ITU launched CYB4COVID, a comprehensive repository of cybersecurity expertise to help countries, businesses and citizens respond to threats during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Seven ways to keep children safe online. The latest version of ITU’s Guidelines for Parents, Carers, Guardians, and Educators for Child Online Protection offers tips for parents to minimize online risk to their children, particularly in times of COVID-19.