Nº 2 2013 > Editorial
Shaping the future of broadband
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary‑General
The seventh Meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development was held in Mexico City on 16 and 17 March 2013, hosted by its co-Chair Carlos Slim Helú, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation. Once again, I was bowled over by the passion and enthusiasm of the Commissioners.
The Commission set a target calling for “gender equality in broadband access by the year 2020” based on the outcome of the first face-to-face meeting of its Working Group on Gender, which took place on 16 March. The working group was launched in New York just last September by Geena Davis, actress, advocate and ITU’s Special Envoy on Women and Girls.
With this new target, the Commission hopes to raise awareness of the gender imbalance in access to information and communication technologies (ICT) and to make sure that an advance on this front becomes a key pillar of the post-2015 global development agenda. As a Commission, we have therefore mandated the working group to implement a project “dashboard” to track gender and technology initiatives worldwide.
The Commission’s meeting coincided with Aldea Digital (Digital Village), a technology fair staged in Zócalo — Mexico City’s most iconic square. The “village” was in fact a huge exhibition enabling ordinary people to experiment with computers and broadband.
On 16 March, I joined the other Commissioners in the opening ceremony and tour of Aldea Digital, alongside President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is also the Commission’s co-Chair, the Mayor of Mexico City Miguel Angel Mancera, Mexico’s Secretary of Transport and Communications Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, and the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova, who is also the Commission’s co-Vice-Chair.
Based on the vision of Mr Slim’s Digital Libraries, where citizens can borrow laptops and games as readily as books, the Digital Village was a powerful statement to all Mexico that broadband matters, and that broadband is vital for Mexico’s future competitiveness and welfare. The look of sheer wonder on children’s faces, as they designed their own cartoon characters in the specially-equipped classrooms, will stay with me for a long time.
This was a remarkable time to be in Mexico, where President Enrique Peña Nieto has launched a raft of reforms, including in education and telecommunications. As I have said before, education cannot nowadays be separated from technology.
A new report from the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Education, presented to the Commission on 17 March, emphasizes the importance of deploying broadband as a means of accelerating progress towards education for all. The report Technology, Broadband and Education — Advancing the Education for All Agenda also features case studies offering fresh insights into how education around the world is being transformed by technology (see https://itunews.itu.int/En/3748-Broadband-the-missing-link-inglobal-access-to-education.note.aspx and https://itunews.itu.int/En/3749-Case-studies.note.aspx).
Keeping tabs on trends is essential if we are to measure progress towards our goals. This issue of ITU News turns the spotlight on the findings in The World in 2013: ICT Facts and Figures, a report released by ITU in February. The statistics confirm strong sustained demand for ICT services, but also highlight a gender gap (see https://itunews.itu.int/En/3741-Mobile-subscriptions-near-the-78209billion-markbrDoes-almost-everyone-have-a-phone.note.aspx and https://itunews.itu.int/En/3742-Highlights-from-The-World-in-2013-ICT-Facts-and-Figures.note.aspx).
Figures from ITU’s sister agencies — particularly UNESCO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — also show gender gaps in access to technology varying between 15 and 40 per cent, depending on technology and region. We need to eliminate such imbalances to ensure that all people are empowered through ICT to take control of their own destinies.
As technology continues to advance ever more rapidly, the Commission provides an invaluable platform for dialogue between top industry leaders and policy-makers. Together, the Commission is succeeding in building momentum around our message that broadband can help accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, sow the seeds of development, and enable people to improve their own lives.