The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges that the spread of information and communication technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies. ICTs have become an essential part of long-term social and economic development, and new online services, such as e-health, e-government, and e-education, have enlightened people’s lives. For users, there is an ever-expanding variety of services and applications to serve their information, communication and entertainment needs. All the above relies on strong, resilient, available, secure and trustworthy communications infrastructure and services. Promoting access to ICTs is ITU's core mandate, and we truly believe in the need to foster greater access for everybody.
It is recognized that the Information and Communication Infrastructure is indispensable in expediting Broadband Access to new technologies by developing countries and countries with economies in transition on a non-discriminatory basis. We celebrate the fact that between 2000-2015, global Internet penetration grew 7 fold from 6.5% to 43%. ITU figures show that over three billion people are now online. However, statistics show that much more needs to be done. (However, 4 billion people from developing countries remain offline, representing 2/3 of the population in these countries) Internet use continues to grow steadily, through fixed and especially through the rapid adoption of mobile broadband, and the increased adoption of smartphones around the world, reaching a global average 6.6 percent growth in 2014. However, it is also true that the Internet’s worldwide penetration is still only 40%. Rural and remote areas remain largely unconnected to this essential public asset as they face challenges in attracting private sector investment. The absence of regional connectivity between states with access to submarine cables and landlocked countries, and the scarcity of cross-border backbone links is causing gaps in access.
It’s also important to remember that stakeholders in emerging economies are equally, if not more, at risk from cyber threats, as the remaining billions of Internet users will primarily come from developing and least developed countries. While it is true that infrastructure roll-out is essential, targeted policies and effective regulations remain key to make broadband even more secure and to make roll-out more affordable by reducing the cost of deploying ICT networks while creating an enabling environment that encourage trust, security, investment and growth. Regulators and policy makers need to keep pace with and carry out a delicate balancing act between creating the right incentives and enforcing necessary rules.
This ITU-organized High Level Dialogue brings together high-level policy makers, decision makers from the private sector, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to present and discuss their perspective on these different aspects, identify any gaps, and also give recommendations for further enabling a trusted connected world for all.