Boosting development with broadband and ICTs

Boosting development with broadband and ICTs (UN Photo/UNHCR/H J Davies)

A growing body of evidence suggests that broadband can boost GDP and income, helping to combat poverty and famine across the globe. Communications for Development (C4D), and its crucial role for development within sectors such as the environment, agriculture, health, governance and education, were in focus of a special meeting on 12 November.

Arranged as a joint meeting of the UN General Assembly’s Second and Third Committees and moderated by UNICEF’s Chief of Communication for Development, Mr. Rafael Obregon, the discussion focused on the economic and social impact of broadband and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), mainly mobile phones and the Internet.

Besides the prospect of broadband boosting GDP and income, growing employment opportunities in the ICT sector constitute key elements for both national and international development. All panelists and discussants stressed the importance of full accessibility to broadband and ICTs for all persons, including girls and women, those with disabilities and marginalized groups such as ethnic and indigenous minorities.

The meeting also identified that girls and women were currently largely excluded from benefits of ICTs. Mr. Martin Mogwanja, Deputy Excutive Director of UNICEF, said that “women in sub-Saharan Africa are 24 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone. And in South Asia, it’s 37 per cent less likely.”

The participants called on all stakeholders to aim for the elimination of the digital divide and highlighted a few key suggestions to create equal access to broadband and the use of ICTs. This includes establishing a global policy agenda to support C4D’s strategies to strengthen programs at local and national levels and ensuring free and fair access to information and knowledge resources.

The need for identifying and supporting partnerships between ICT-oriented private organizations and national governments for promoting equal education and employment opportunities for girls and women was also stressed.

At the recent Internet Governance Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan, DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo also stressed the importance of ICTs, saying “the emerging trend of intensified connectivity points to increased benefits – for business, government, public services and for the daily lives and livelihood of hundreds of millions of people, including those in developing countries.”

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