Universal connectivity gets a $9 billion private sector boost


The mobile phone industry has pledged over $9 billion towards the goal of connecting the world, said the chief of the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on Monday, addressing the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“Universal meaningful connectivity is within our grasp,” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “Thanks to these new commitments, millions of people will benefit from accessible and affordable connectivity across the world.”

Fresh investments from e&, China Telecom, Ooredoo and VEON build on strong industry support for the UN digital agency’s efforts to “connect the world”, she said.

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Bridging the digital divide

Around 2.6 billion people remain offline worldwide, according to data from the specialized UN agency, which drives innovation in communications technology.

As telecommunications infrastructure forms the backbone of connectivity and digital transformation, it is vital for closing the global digital divide and overcoming development impediments in areas from education and health to government services and trade, the agency said.

To achieve that, ITU has called for $100 billion in overall investments by 2026 to provide the expertise and resources required to extend universal, meaningful connectivity and sustainable digital transformation to every corner of the globe.

ITU also launched Partner2Connect in 2021 to reach this goal. Today, more than 400 organizations have committed to investing over $46 billion in the coming years to realize this shared vision.

Fresh private-sector investments

The fresh commitments aim to make strides across the world.

That includes accessible and affordable network connectivity and digital services across countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia as well as providing information and communication services to over 80 million people in remote villages across China and building infrastructure in Ukraine by providing connectivity and digital services essential to the country’s reconstruction.

The UN digital agency also announced that it now has over 1,000 industry, academia and organizational members in addition to 193 Member States, a milestone in its 159-year-old history, ITU said.

This multistakeholder model of collaboration will continue to be a strong force in the UN system to bridge the digital divide and build an inclusive, safe and sustainable digital future for all,” the ITU chief said.

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