G20 nations told: Bring broadband to the world

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?In the Information Society of the 21st century, countries must make the necessary investments to enable their citizens to participate in and benefit from the digital economy and global innovation ? or risk exclusion,? the letter warned. Equating the importance of broadband to essential utilities like water, roads, rail, and electricity, the letter stated that governments have a key role to play in stimulating broadband deployment by putting in place pro-competitive and pro-investment policies, lowering barriers to entry, and making direct investment, where appropriate. It also stressed the fundamental role of the private sector in driving the roll-out of networks and services, and fuelling ongoing innovation. The Broadband Commission was set up by the ITU and Unesco in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon?s call to step up UN efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Commission was established in May 2010, five years after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and ten years after the launch of the MDGs. ?This meeting of the G20 is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the need to promote ?broadband inclusion for all? and move it to the top of the international policy agenda,? said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Tour?. ?We must act now to ensure that future generations from all countries, and across all social strata, can take full advantage of the unprecedented power of broadband to extend access to knowledge, to culture, and to vital social services like healthcare, education and e-government.? Several G20 leaders, such as Pres. Barack Obama are already prioritizing this leadership challenge: ?[A key] step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information ? from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet,? he said. G20 member Australia was one of the first nations to make broadband a priority, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently stating that the Australian National Broadband Network will ?make a difference for everyone around the nation ? in terms of our economy, we know that every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration delivers in the order of a 1.3 per cent one-off growth boost to the economy.? Latest ITU figures show that 2.4 billion people are using the Internet. There are now over one billion mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide, and mobile is set to be the access platform of choice for most people in the developing world, where fixed line penetration remains low. However, over half the world?s people ? from those in developing countries, to those living in geographically isolated communities, to marginalized groups like persons living with disabilities, the elderly, the illiterate and house-bound women ? are yet to get online. ?That makes digital inclusion an important issue that needs to be tackled by every country, not just the world?s poorer nations,? said Tour?. ]]>

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