Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development in Dubai: Decisions on the way forward

On 14 March 2016, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development met in Dubai, in the context of the Global Education and Skills Forum, to foster for the power of broadband networks and services for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"Broadband must be a force for human rights and dignity, a power for human development, for all societies, all men and women" said Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General and Commission co Vice Chair.

"We need a new focus on bridging both digital and knowledge divides," she said.

In 2015, 44 percent world population remains offline, including 36 percent of LDC population -- while there are 200 million fewer girls and women online than boys and men.

The Commission is co-chaired by H.E. Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Mr Carlos Slim, and co vice chaired with Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU. President Kagame was represented on this occasion by Minister of Youth and ICTs of Rwanda, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana.

The discussion focused on sharpening the targets of the Broadband Commission to support States on taking forward the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs led the debate around new targets, which focused extensively on the need for new scalability in approaches. The technology is there but there is a need for national platforms to drive actual progress across the SDGs.

The need to break out of the pilot level was underlined, to set national scale frameworks that are tailored to advancing progress across the 2030 Agenda.

ICTs for education featured large in the discussion. The importance of connecting not just schools but classrooms and learners came out strongly from the discussion -- along with teacher education and new competences and skills for learners. Fareed Zakaria joined the discussion here, highlighting the transformational power of education.

Irina Bokova stressed also the importance of content for genuine empowerment -- a point that was echoed by all Commissioners.

"Relevant content is content in local languages," she said, underlining the need for great linguistic diversity.

This is the importance also of key enablers, such as frameworks for access to information, and the environment for the Internet as rights-based, open, accessible and multi-stakeholder shaped.

The discussion in Dubai set the ground for new concrete, measurable broadband targets to be agreed for the next full meeting of the Commission in September at the New York meeting.

“Agreement on new targets in September would serve as the next stepping stone on the Commission’s vision of ‘broadband for all’, said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

“The world is going through a staggering wave of technological breakthroughs -- Klaus Schwab's 4th industrial revolution -- that can open vast new horizons for growth and development,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “There remain 1.3 billion people without electricity today, and over four billion people without access to the Internet. Access and the capacity to make full use of broadband are absolutely crucial for societies across the world. This is why the message of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development is so important.”

"This is why the Broadband Commission is not just good idea," echoed Jeffrey Sachs, "it is an indispensable idea."

The Dubai meeting of the Commission was held at the invitation of Broadband Commissioner Sunny Varkey, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, in the context of the Global Education and Skills Forum, and right after the joint ITU/UNESCO Policy Forum during UNESCO Mobile Learning Week.

For the full list of Broadband Commissioners.