September 19, 2021

Closing the digital divide to reach universal connectivity

Case Study By

Mr. Patrick Masambu

Director General, ITSO

State of Broadband 2021

The ideas and opinions expressed in this insight are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of ITU and UNESCO or the Broadband Commission. The mention of specific companies, products or services does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by ITU or UNESCO or Broadband Commission in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

The Broadband Commission’s work, through detailed compilation of data and elaboration of policy and regulatory recommendations, supports the global agenda for bridging the digital divide and reaching the global connectivity aspirations. One of the reasons the Broadband Commission has been able to achieve very commendable results is its guiding principles, especially the collaborative process. Under high-level leadership, the community of commissioners, both current and former, represents a diversity of information and communication technologies (ICTs) stakeholders: top CEOs & industry leaders, civil society, international organizations, senior policymakers, that is uniquely positioned to drive the global broadband agenda.

The International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO), that I represent within the Broadband Commission as a commissioner, is an intergovernmental organization comprising of 149 member-states. It was created by the member-states to guarantee, through the ITSO Agreement, non-discriminatory access to international satellite communications while at the same time ensuring that through the use of satellite technology, their global broadband needs for connectivity and coverage can be met, especially in remote and hardest-to-reach areas. The international treaty also guarantees the use of highly valued scarce resources, namely the Common Heritage assets, composed of a set of frequency assignments associated with orbital locations, to enable global connectivity.

Today, despite the diverse public-private partnerships that have been developed over time and the commitment of stakeholders, regional and international organizations, there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the goal of enabling access for the 3.6 billion people who remain unconnected. The necessity of reaching universal connectivity is more important than ever in order to give all the communities around the world more equitable access to sustainable development. Satellite communications resources have a key role to play towards achieving the targets of the Commission for 2025 and participation in meeting the UN Sustainable Goals by 2030. Reaching a Broadband-Internet user penetration of 75% worldwide, with 65% in developing countries and 35% in Least Developed Countries, will require the use of the three primary different technologies (satellite technology, fiber optic cables, and terrestrial wireless systems) for the design, implementation and operation of broadband systems optimized on a case-by-case basis.

Over the years, ITSO has been advocating with the ITU and other partners to create awareness amongst policymakers and regulators about the criticality of broadband access and in particular the use of satellite technology, as a major complement to other technologies for reaching the unconnected and achieving total access. The ITSO community’s regular high-level meetings involving senior policy and regulatory officials have continuously offered unique opportunities for collaborative networking, policy development and creation of partnerships that address broadband issues.

The Broadband Commission’s work is crucial, and as such ITSO is committed to continued participation and playing an appropriate role in enabling the Commission to achieve its mission.

The Commissioners’ case studies and articles reflect the views of their authors alone and do not reflect the views of the Broadband Commission