Table of Contents

  • In September 2015, UN Member States and the UN General Assembly formally agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and set out a global agenda for development based on economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, known as the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

  • Since its establishment in 2010 by ITU and UNESCO, the Broadband Commission has sought to promote the adoption of effective and inclusive broadband policies and practices in countries around the world, with a view to promoting development and empowering each and every individual and society through the benefits of broadband.

  • Broadband and ICTs have a unique potential to support countries to meet the SDGs by 2030. However, fulfilling this potential needs continued investments in the necessary networks and services to expand access to broadband for all. A range of broadband technologies are available to achieve the SDGs, including mobile broadband, licensed cellular and unlicensed Wi-Fi technologies in the access network, supported by fixed broadband or satellite backhaul networks. At the global level, the total number of mobile cellular subscriptions will reach 7.4 billion by the end of 2016, according to the latest ITU estimates, with almost half of these subscriptions for mobile broadband (excluding cellular Machine-to-Machine or M2M connections).

  • The Broadband Commission first launched its targets in 2011, at the Broadband Leadership Summit, with an initial end-date foreseen for 2015. Today, in mid-2016, progress in the growth of Internet towards meeting these targets has been mixed, with most targets not yet achieved over the initial timeframe. The third target and target 4 (for LDCs) will be achieved by 2016, with good progress in the first and second targets. The fourth target has not been achieved in the original timeframe (except for LDCs). Regrettably, there seems to be backwards progress in the fifth target calling for gender equality in access to broadband Internet.

  • A broad range of ICTs, including basic voice, mobile data services, Internet and Big Data analytics can now be used pervasively in global development projects in a field often known as ICT for Development (ICT4D). Many different stakeholders are involved in ICT4D projects on the ground to deliver services and improve development outcomes, including industry members, universities, NGOs and tech start-ups. Broadband is driving significant improvements to human wellbeing in healthcare, water, agriculture, natural resource management, resiliency to climate change and energy, as reflected in the UN’s post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

  • Today, over half the world’s population lives in cities and this may increase to over 70% over the next thirty years. Sustainable urban development centred on people and the respect of human rights is therefore one of the major priorities and challenges of today’s societies. Although cities occupy only 2% of total land surface, they account for 54% of the world population (World Bank, 20161), 70% of GDP, 60% of global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste (UN-Habitat, 20162). Habitat III, the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development taking place in October 2016, is pushing for urbanization to be understood as a strategy for development, rather than just an accumulation of problems (Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda).

  • A range of policy options are available to maximize access to broadband, and to maximize its benefits. These policy options can broadly be divided into broad framework conditions to improve the telecom sector more generally, and measures to improve broadband coverage more specifically (although a comprehensive and effective NBP would typically cover both).