We’d like to congratulate the U.S. State Department on its demonstration of leadership with the Global Connect initiative. The Internet and the Web have transformed our lives – the way we find information, the way we communicate, how we run our businesses, how we entertain ourselves, how efficiently we use resources – the list is endless.
But the sad fact is that nearly two-thirds of the global population has no access to the Internet and the social, economic, educational and other benefits it enables. For the past five years the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission on which I sit has worked to stimulate broadband deployment globally. By initially establishing targets for broadband policy, affordability, homes connected, individual use, and gender equity in access, the commission sought to raise awareness and stimulate action. That work has been important. But, as we noted in the commission’s latest report, “The State of Broadband 2015: Broadband as a Foundation for Sustainable Development,” the global target of 60 percent penetration is unlikely to be achieved by 2021. We need to do more.
That’s why the new Global Connect initiative led by the U.S. State Department is so important. Against the backdrop of the newly agreed U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the ambitious effort to connect an additional 1.5 billion people within the coming five years is remarkable – not just as a policy statement, but because of its focus on harnessing the combined efforts of development agencies, funders, the private sector and other governments towards a common goal that will benefit all.
Our technology optimism has been transformative – driving trillions of dollars of investment, economic value and improvement in national GDP; creating entirely new categories of jobs; and putting nearly anything just a click away. Cloud computing is literally transforming our world by making it possible for anyone to access massively scalable computing resources that once were available only to those with the money and skills to build and operate their own data centers. That has fueled a wave of innovation marked by constantly emerging applications offering a wide array of services most of us never knew we needed, but now can’t do without. By working together as part of the Global Connect initiative, we can enable these benefits for those not yet connected.
We have a strong history collaborating with partners around the world. Today, through our affordable access initiatives and 4Afrika program, Microsoft and its partners are delivering Internet connectivity to communities in 16 different countries, across five continents. These projects are leveraging new wireless technologies like TV white spaces and new forms of Wi-Fi to reduce the cost of Internet access and make it easier for people to access online applications and services, and matching the right technologies to the human, social and environmental need. As an example, in Kenya, our partner uses solar energy to power network equipment and provide device charging to consumers.
These projects are bringing amazing benefits to people around the world:
- In Botswana, bringing lifesaving, specialized medicine to women at local clinics.
- In Ghana, delivering affordable campus-wide Internet and device financing to university students for the first time.
- In Namibia, connecting three provincial areas across 9,000 square kilometers, and bringing 28 schools online.
- In Kenya, enabling business models requiring consumers to pay only $3 per month for Internet access, an affordable rate even for the least developed areas.
- In Jamaica, we are working with the mobile operator Flow, as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Jamaican Universal Service Fund, to bring Internet access and cloud services to rural schools, libraries, and police stations.
- In the Philippines, we are working with the Philippine Information and Communications Technology Office and USAID to connect communities and use cloud applications to enable fisheries licensing and enforcement.
- In Bhutan, we are working the government of Bhutan and the Asian Development Bank on an eHealth service delivery platform piloting TV white spaces as the last-mile connectivity solution.
One thing is clear – together, we need to innovate in the way we enable connectivity, and the ecosystem that supports it, if we are to achieve the goal of truly global, affordable broadband. We congratulate the U.S. State Department on its leadership. As a company with the mission to enable every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, we embrace big challenges. We look forward to working with the Global Connect initiative to reach the goal.