Doreen Bogdan-Martin 
ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau​ 

Welcome to ITU’s Global Connectivity Report 2022, which presents a unique and comprehensive global assessment of digital connectivity and its enablers.  

Forty years ago, in 1982, ITU set up the Independent Commission for World-Wide Telecommunications Development, chaired by Sir Donald Maitland. In its seminal report, The Missing Link, that Commission called for bringing “all mankind within easy reach of a telephone” by the early part of the twenty-first century, noting that: “It cannot be right that in the latter part of the twentieth century a minority of the human race should enjoy the benefits of the new technology while a majority live in comparative isolation.”  

It was clear that it was no longer enough for ITU to simply accompany the development of telecommunications through spectrum management and technical standardization. We needed to actively promote connectivity as part of our role as a United Nations specialized agency working towards a more equal and equitable world. 

The result was the establishment of the ITU Development Sector in 1992. When that Sector was set up, 30 years ago, there were fewer than 10 million Internet users. When the very first World Telecommunication Development Conference was held, two years later, there were only 20 million, or about 0.3 per cent of the world’s population.

Over the intervening years, we have made tremendous progress in connecting humanity. The Internet is now woven into the entire fabric of our societies, and the minority has become the majority: two-thirds of humanity now accesses the online world.   

And yet, to a large extent, the link is still missing. A full one-third of the world’s population remains totally offline, and many among the online population are not “meaningfully connected” because of connectivity that is too slow, or unreliable, or costly, or because they lack the digital skills needed to get the most out of devices and services.  

At the same time, the “missing link” has morphed into multiple divides: across and within countries; between men and women; between youth and older people; between cities and rural areas; between those linked to fibre and those who struggle on an intermittent 3G connection; and between the technology savvy and those who risk falling victim to the Internet’s dark side.  

The Internet offers a world of truly extraordinary possibilities. With digital now at the heart of every country’s socio-economic development and prosperity, it is simply not acceptable that vast swaths of humanity remain digitally excluded.  

Universal and meaningful connectivity – defined as the possibility for everyone to enjoy a safe, satisfying, enriching, productive, and affordable online experience – has become the new imperative in the 2020-2030 Decade of Action.  

In everything we do, people must be at the centre. As Sir Donald and his colleagues acknowledged, ‘“telecommunication is not an end itself”. Connectivity must be “for the people” – a principle illustrated so beautifully in the cover of this report. 

We, in ITU, are committed to working ever more closely with our partners and to using all our experience, expertise, creativity, and passion to bring universal and meaningful connectivity to everyone, everywhere. We look forward to working with you!