September 19, 2021

Education, digital skills and leveraging existing mobile network infrastructure are key to digital inclusion

Case Study By

Mr. Erik Ekudden

Chief Technology Officer, Ericsson

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.

Education, digital skills and leveraging existing mobile network infrastructure are key to digital inclusion.

COVID-19 underscored why digital connectivity is foundational to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The pandemic showed that connectivity – increasingly enabled via mobile broadband – provides opportunities to learn, earn and socialize online. It also placed in sharp focus the experiences of the unconnected and the growing digital divide.

Pandemic experiences should spur efforts to provide connectivity and opportunities to people in developing and developed countries alike, whilst unlocking tools to provide sustainable economic growth.

The road to the 2030 Agenda

The Broadband Commission’s 2025 targets provide milestones toward 2030. Hitting the targets requires affordable, ubiquitous and meaningful broadband connectivity, as well as sufficient access and applications. Where can we collectively deliver impact?

> Deliver affordable, ubiquitous networks by rolling out existing, proven and scalable network technology.

Mobile broadband is forecast to provide network coverage to 91 percent of the world’s population by 2026. Where coverage shortfalls exist, a proven, affordable and ubiquitous solution is used the world over: radio base stations.

Through selective investment in mature mobile broadband technologies, communications service providers can sustainably expand coverage by upgrading existing 2G (GSM) sites, as well as targeting uncovered areas with new 4G (LTE) and 5G deployments.

> Unlock access through education and digital literacy. Get with GIGA.

Literacy and skills represent the single biggest, self-reported barrier to internet access with around one third of people in Africa, Latin America, East and South Asia reporting it as their top barrier.

Let us focus on empowering the next generation with digital skills, essential for their socio-economic development. Ericsson is playing a key role, for example through its Digital Lab Program (introducing children to digital skills and new technologies), as well as supporting initiatives such as GIGA, which works to connect every school to the Internet. We urge others to support GIGA and the fight to provide digital skills and education. 

> Set the digital bar high for everyone, and always

People are taking advantage of 5G’s possibilities, with 5G users, for example, using AR and VR applications more than people on 4G, whilst enterprises are unlocking novel uses putting them at a competitive advantage.

If we are to ensure that the digital divide does not become a chasm, let’s increase the pace of rolling out at-scale, proven, affordable, modern networks whilst ensuring people have the skills and education to access them.