ICC White Paper on Delivering Universal Meaningful Connectivity
Despite enormous progress in expanding connectivity in recent years, 2.9 bn people still remain unconnected. Bringing them online requires an appropriate mix of economic, technical and regulatory approaches—and hinges largely on private sector investment.
Connectivity has rapidly become one of the most defining features of our everyday lives, the way we study, work, do business, consume content or connect with our communities. The digital economy is worth US $11.5 trillion globally, equivalent to 15.5% of global GDP, and it has grown two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are also transforming essential social services, such as education and health care, as well as the ways in which people interact with their governments.
In recent years we have seen enormous progress in expanding connectivity and the opportunities it brings across the globe. Today, 94% of the world’s population is covered by a mobile broadband network, effectively reducing the number of people living in areas without a mobile broadband network to 450 million. However, only 63% of the global population (around 4.9 billion) were using the Internet in 2021. To help bridge this gap, dedicated and effective actions are needed on both the supply and demand side of connectivity. It takes more than access to the Internet to fully benefit from the opportunities it offers. An interoperable, seamless ICT ecosystem is crucial to help populations reap the benefits of ICT and further development opportunity.
This paper explores various barriers to this ecosystem and showcases innovative approaches to overcome them. It is built on real-life case studies: projects across the world implemented by businesses and private-public partnerships to provide meaningful connectivity to unconnected or underserved communities of different demographic, geographic and economic circumstances.
Based on the learnings and strategies derived from the private sector’s experience, we offer the following two basic principles for policymaking and highlight three priority areas for improvement:
- Policy and regulatory mechanisms should promote the value of the entire communications and digital services ecosystem.
- Policies should be non-discriminatory, technology-neutral, and supportive of innovative business models and the development and deployment of a wide range of technologies, standards, and system architectures.
To incentivise rapid and efficient action to close the connectivity gap, governments, in collaboration with businesses worldwide, should:
- Facilitate investment across the entire digital value chain
- Effectively manage spectrum
- Ground policies in evidence and data