Friday, 22 January 2016 13:17

Getting the world connected online is an expensive business

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A global investment of US$450 billion in network infrastructure will be needed to connect the next 1.5 billion unconnected people worldwide, according to a report from the ITU presented to the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development at the World Economic Forum currently being held in Davos, Switzerland.

At the Davos forum a new global dialogue aimed at getting the next 1.5 billion unconnected people online was forged at a special session of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.  .

The ITU discussion paper looks at key reasons for lack of connectivity and identified them as lack of infrastructure, lack of affordable services, lack of online skills, and lack of suitable digital content.

The paper’s global broadband connectivity cost estimate is based on the Broadband Commission’s own research combined with recent studies undertaken by governmental bodies such as the European Commission, global organisations including the World Bank, and industry bodies such as the GSMA, which represents many of the world’s mobile operators.

A joint statement by a working group at Davos said the aim was to provide Internet access to the next 1.5 billion by 2020, while noting that only 3.2 billion people in the world are currently online – and 4.2 billion remain offline.

The working group pledged to connect 60% of the world’s people to the Internet by 2020, while stressing the importance of “striving for meaningful access, so that all those connected can take full advantage of the power of the online world”.

At present, the statement notes, only 5% of the world’s languages are represented online, an estimated 781 million adults are illiterate, and 100 million children have not had access to complete primary education – creating large pockets of the ‘digitally excluded’.

The 2015 edition of the Broadband Commission’s State of Broadband  report confirms that global Internet roll-out is failing to reach those who could benefit most, with Internet access reaching “near-saturation in the world’s rich nations but not advancing fast enough to benefit billions of people living in the developing world – especially in rural and remote areas”.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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