President Paul Kagame has said that all the challenges countries face can be addressed faster, better and fairer by investing in universal and affordable broadband.
He delivered the speech at the meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, which he co-chaired with Carlos Slim, a Mexican billionaire, on June 5.
For the third time in Kigali, the meeting brought together several officials including; Houlin Zhao, vice-co-president of the International Telecommunications Union, and Tawfik Jelassi, representing the director general of UNICEF, and various ministers.
“We are still living in difficult times, economically, politically and in terms of global public health. The immediate future is full of uncertainties and risks,” Kagame said.
Since 2011, he said, “we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go to achieve universal and affordable broadband. It is very encouraging to see that our Broadband Commission community is as energetic and focused as ever.
The Commission defines the Internet as affordable when 1.5 gigabytes of mobile data does not represent more than 2% of average income.
While referring to the World Telecommunication Development Conference to be held in Rwanda, Kagame hailed its “notable feature” – the launch of Partner-to-Connect, a platform to mobilize new resources and partnerships for the universal connectivity.
“Over 200 pledges have been made so far, including 12 from broadband commissioners,” he revealed.
He said that Rwanda has already benefited from these partnership efforts as the lead country of the Giga initiative, led by the International Telecommunication Union and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).
“The pilot project in 63 schools resulted in a quadrupling of capacity and a 55% reduction in costs.
The Giga Initiative is an ambitious United Nations endeavor with the goal of bringing internet connectivity to every school in the world by 2030.
Slim, the co-chair of the Commission, said the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the need to use broadband connectivity in different areas of life such as work, learning, communication and access to health.
“Millions of people logged on at that time and it was very impressive to see that the usage was so heavy,” he noted.
Globally, between 2020 and 2021, he said, connectivity has increased by 17% and the experience of this pandemic clearly shows that “we must go for universal connectivity”.
Zhao said one of the challenges is to reduce the cost of broadband subscription and digital devices, especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries.
“I hope we can use this moment to accelerate the achievement of the goals and break down these remaining barriers to connectivity,” he added.
In 2018, the Broadband Commission set seven goals for 2025 to “connect the other half” of the world’s population, and it aims to expand broadband infrastructure to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs).