By Paula Bernier, TMC Executive Editor
Forty-three percent of the world’s population has some form of regular access to the Internet – which means that 57 percent do not.
Ninety percent of those 4.2 billion people without access live in the developing world, and in the least developed countries less than one person in 10 is online. Meanwhile, in the developed world, 82 percent of the population is online.
These statistics are laid out in a new blog by Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs and the CTO of Alcatel-Lucent, who in his piece calls on people and companies to do their part to help the Broadband Commission achieve its goals to flatten the digital playing field across the globe and among different groups of people. In his blog, Weldon talks about the problem that the “digital deserts” that exist today play in setting up a long-term environment in which one set of people can collaborate, communicate, and conduct commerce, and another group of people – to whom he refers as “an analog underclass,” operate primarily in physical space, and if they do want to connect digitally have to wander from connected oasis to connected oasis.
“If we want to avoid this dystopia, we all need to do more to help the [Broadband] Commission and its incredibly laudable goals. And this must start at home – in the organizations for which we work and in which we are involved,” writes Weldon, who has already has offered Bell Labs resources to help the Broadband Commission create and build on projects to bring connectivity to those who lack it.
The Broadband Commission has been around since 2010, but was just re-chartered with the aim of helping achieve the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
“The UN Sustainable Development Goals will stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet,” explains ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “All three pillars of sustainable development – economic development, social inclusion, and environmental protection – need ICTs as key catalysts. That is why the Commission believes that ICTs, and particularly broadband, will be absolutely crucial for achieving the SDGs.”
The ITI Secretary-General made those comments last month during The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, an ITU and UNESCO gathering at which high-profile people representing academia, government, and industry came together to discuss and debate how to accelerate the adoption and availability of broadband around the world. The event had a special focus on developing and less developed nations and groups such as the disabled, non-English speakers, rural dwellers, and women.
Communications business magnate Carlos Slim Sr. and the president of Rwanda chair the commission. Other members include former FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who is now with Facebook; Bharti Enterprises CEO and founder Sunil Bharti Mittal; MIT Media Labs founder Nicolas Negroponte; Jeffrey Sachs, who is the special advisor to the U.N. Secretary General and an expert on poverty; and several operator and vendor CEOs, and telecom ministers from around the world.