Broadband Commission Proposes Action Plan to Achieve SDG Target 9c

In a report on connectivity in Africa, the Broadband for All Working Group offers a strategy for achieving SDG target 9.c (Significantly increase access to information communication technologies (ICTs) and strive to provide universal and affordable access to internet in least developed countries (LDCs) by 2020).

The authors note that significant progress has been made towards this target, particularly in Asia. However, in Africa, where most of the LDCs are located, the 2020 target is expected to be missed on the dimensions of both access and affordability. Less than a third of the population in Africa has access to broadband connectivity.

The report titled, ‘Connecting Africa Through Broadband: A strategy for doubling connectivity by 2021 and reaching universal access by 2030,’ was published during the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group, which took place from 14-20 October 2019, in Washington, DC, US.

According to the publication, achieving universal, affordable and good quality internet access across Africa by 2030 will require bringing about 1.1 billion more people online and an investment of USD100 billion. The authors note that the lack of access to reliable and affordable electricity and other challenges that slow broadband penetration will require “exceptional and coordinated” efforts from governments, the private sector, development partners and civil society. Connecting the 100 million people in rural and remote areas that live out of reach of traditional cellular mobile networks, the report finds, will require “strong private sector involvement, innovative business models, and alternative technologies,” such as satellite and Wi-Fi based technical solutions.

The report provides practical insights and suggestions on achieving SDG target 9.c, including an action plan for universal broadband connectivity in Africa. The action plans calls to:

  • Ensure that the commercial broadband market is open and structurally prepared for competitive private investment;
  • Provide public/donor funding support for larger, high-cost infrastructure investments to reduce risk and increase commercial viability;
  • Provide direct funding support for extending affordable broadband access to commercially challenging rural and remote areas, and to women and low-income users under a “Mobilizing Finance for Development” approach;
  • Reduce non-economic costs and risks of market entry and investment;
  • Expand the market through government procurement and implementation of broadband-based digital services, networks and facilities; and
  • Ensuring that the technical skills needed to operate and maintain digital infrastructure are increasingly available in the region.

The Working Group on Broadband for All: A Digital Moonshot Infrastructure for Africa, led by the World Bank, was established in 2018 under the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development to identify investment requirements and policy roadmaps for increase connectivity and reaching full coverage in Africa.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and includes CEOs and industry leaders, senior policy-makers and government representatives, international agencies, academia and organizations concerned with development.