While some 30% of people in wealthy countries in Western Europe now have a broadband subscription, which costs around 1% or less of monthly income, in BRIC countries penetration is still below 10% and broadband access can cost 5% or more of average monthly income. In many of the world’s poorest countries, fixed broadband penetration is below 1% and broadband access costs more than 100% of average monthly income.
Fixed broadband subscriptions
Affordability of fixed broadband,
These figures lend weight to findings soon to be announced in the forthcoming reports of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which urge governments and development agencies to make broadband a top development priority.
“Broadband is today’s truly transformational technology,” says Dr Hamadoun Tour, Secretary-General of the ITU. “As with the dawn of other inventions that profoundly reshaped our society, most of us are yet to see the tremendous power and potential of these networks. It’s not just about fast web browsing. Through e-health, e-education, e-government, smart grids, smart transport systems and much more, broadband will power economic and social progress in the 21st century. When we first harnessed electricity, we thought: ‘lighting’. But the advent of the power grid was the tipping point that led to the building of skyscrapers, the rapid rise of large-scale industry, mass mobility, and even – through labour-saving home appliances – the emancipation of women.”
ITU’s statistics lend urgency to the Broadband Commission for Digital Development’s belief that high-speed, high-capacity broadband is an essential element in modern society, with wide economic and social benefits, and that broadband will help accelerate progress towards meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015.
Dr Tour will be presenting the outcome report of the Broadband Commission to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on 19th September 2010, just ahead of the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York.
Dr Tour is also delivering a keynote speech in London tomorrow on “Britain’s digital development and driving international progress” at the Westminster Media Forum seminar on Britain’s Digital Future.
At least thirty countries have now included broadband as part of their universal access/service definition – meaning they consider broadband as a public service to which every citizen should have access.
About the Broadband Commission for Digital Development
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development is a top-level group of international experts comprising leading figures from a range of industry and public sectors, including Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group; Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP; high-tech leaders such as John Chambers (Cisco), Paul Otellini (Intel), Paul Jacobs (Qualcomm), Sunil Bharti Mittal (Bharti Airtel), Wang Jianzhou (China Mobile), Ben Verwaayen (Alcatel-Lucent); Denis O’Brien (Digicel); and Hans Vestberg (Ericsson); industry gurus like Vint Cerf and Jeffrey Sachs; European Commissioner and Vice President for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes; development leaders including heads of UN agencies, politicians, Nobel Laureate Dr Muhamad Yunus, and even artists such as Youssou n’Dour. It is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Mr Carlos Slim, Chairman and CEO of Mexican operators Telmex, Telcel, and America Movil, and recently named by Forbes magazine as the world’s wealthiest man.
Its formation in May 2010 was driven by Dr Tour’s passionate belief in the power of broadband to improve our world.
The Commission’s mission is to promote the adoption of broadband-friendly practices and policies so that the entire world can take advantage of the benefits broadband can offer.
More specifically, the Broadband Commission wants to demonstrate that broadband networks:
- have the same level of importance as roads and electricity networks; they are basic infrastructure in a modern society;
- are uniquely powerful tools for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
- are remarkably cost-effective and offer an impressive return-on-investment (ROI) for both developed and developing economies;
- underpin all industrial sectors and increasingly are the foundation of public services and social progress must be coordinated nationally by governments in partnership with industry, in order to reap the full benefit of these powerful tools.