Broadband Commissioners are actively engaged in various international, regional, and national events worldwide, united in their commitment to achieving universal meaningful connectivity. Their collective efforts underscore the importance of digital access and inclusion and its potential to drive economic growth, innovation, and opportunity across different geographies.
Mobile World Congress in Kigali, Rwanda
On October 17-19 2023, the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, celebrated Africa’s remarkable progress in digital connectivity and its increasing use of frontier technologies. The event under the main theme: “Velocity: Unleashing Tomorrow’s Technology – Today” brought together policymakers and global business leaders for three days of discussion on innovations in mobile technology and Africa’s rapidly evolving connectivity ecosystem. The agenda featured a number of sessions and activations aimed at shining a light on key issues surrounding the policy agenda as well as showcasing the talent disrupting the regional mobile ecosystem The congress, formally opened by H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Co-Chair of the Broadband Commission, highlighted the continent’s record-breaking achievements, as African tech startups raised over $3 billion in funding in 2022. The conference key technology themes of Powering Digital, Accelerate Africa, FinTech and Health Tech focused on connectivity expansion and the adoption of groundbreaking technologies like AI, AR/VR, Web3, and the Metaverse, while also addressing challenges such as affordable handsets and broadband access for the remaining unconnected 15 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population.
The Broadband Commission actively participated in various thematic sessions at the conference. On the topic of digital inclusion, Commissioners highlighted strategies to bridge the digital usage gap in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly among underserved communities. Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, and Co-Vice Chair of the Commission, together with Hon. Ms Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, Rwanda, discussed the challenges faced by marginalized groups, such as women, rural populations, and the less educated and offered solutions for ensuring everyone can benefit from mobile connectivity.
Additionally, Commissioners explored the broader landscape of digital connectivity in Africa. They discussed the significance of 5G technology and its potential to drive innovation, economic growth, and societal development across the continent. Commissioners, including Mr Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA and the convener of MWC Kigali 2023, Mr Lacina Kone, CEO of Smart Africa, and Mr Bocar Ba, CEO of SAMENA Council, H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission, and Mr Ralph Mupita, Group President and Chief Executive Officer, MTN Group, emphasized the critical role of reliable, scalable, and affordable digital infrastructure and devices. Echoing the findings of the State of Broadband 2023, Commissioners emphasized that pragmatic actions need to be taken to enable inclusive connectivity in Africa by leveraging investments to ensure that digital transformation doesn’t exacerbate existing inequalities.
Building Foundations for an Inclusive Digital Future
At the 2023 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Marrakech, Morocco, Broadband Commissioners H.E. Ms Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ghana, and Mr Makhtar Diop, Managing Director of IFC, were featured in the session titled “Building Foundations for an Inclusive Digital Future.” This session underscored the vital importance of digital access in daily life, particularly in developing countries where 1.4 billion people lacked access to banking services and 850 million lacked official identification. The discussion emphasized the significance of investment, innovation, and public-private collaborations to accelerate digitalization, expand broadband connectivity, develop digital infrastructure, and enhance digital skills, all of which are essential for fostering a more inclusive digital future.
H.E. Ms Ursula Owusu-Ekuful stressed the financial challenges in funding large-scale infrastructure projects, pointing to the fact that only 30% of the population of Ghana has access to high-speed broadband.
She further highlighted the critical role of cybersecurity in protecting the digitally connected sectors, acknowledging the importance of building capacity to secure the digital infrastructure, applications, and services being put in place.
Mr Makhtar Diop stressed the growing significance of content and the need for ethical considerations in the digital realm. He underscored the vital role of civil society, stating:
Furthermore, he highlighted the increasing impact and influence of artificial intelligence and pointed out that the UN Broadband Commission’s recent focus has been on understanding how digital technologies can impact society and the importance of ensuring responsible use of these technologies.
Spotlight on Latin America
The “Spotlight on Latin America” event, organized by the Financial Times in collaboration with Millicom Tigo, took place on September 20th in New York and featured the participation of Broadband Commissioners Mr Mauricio Ramos, CEO of Millicom, and Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary-General of the ITU and Co-Vice Chair of the Commission. The session centered on driving growth, innovation, and opportunity in Latin America through strategic partnerships. The discussions underscored the economic benefits of diversifying global supply chains and export markets in the region.
Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin emphasized the potential of digital technologies, stating, “I firmly believe that digital technologies can actually help this region accelerate further when it comes to things like education, healthcare, agriculture, and this gathering brings together all the right stakeholders from government, international organizations, the private sector, investors, and more to focus on those key areas that will contribute to further economic growth.”
The event provided a platform for diverse stakeholders to explore collaborative opportunities and strategies to drive economic growth and innovation in Latin America.
Grateful for the contribution of @ITUSecGen @DoreenBogdan to our #SpotlightLatinAmerica event in collaboration with @FTLive. Her perspective on the strategies to boost sustainable and innovative digital projects in Latam and the Caribbean with @aleboterob @ericfarns… pic.twitter.com/mhFwQ2tCfS— Millicom (@Millicom) October 19, 2023
GITEX Global 2023
Broadband Commissioners’ entities were also engaged at GITEX Global 2023, the world’s largest and most inclusive tech event, held in Dubai for its 43rd edition. The event brought together leading voices in AI, tech, and business to explore the potential of cutting-edge technologies, paving the way for a future driven by innovation and connectivity. SAMENA Council contributed to the event with this publication, which featured Broadband Commission reports such as The State of Broadband 2023 and Working Group outcomes, and ITU, which was represented by the AI for Good team. With the theme of “The Year to Imagine AI in Everything,” the discussions revolved around the profound impact of AI in various sectors, preparing for transformative changes in the age of AI, and leveraging private sector expertise to advance United Nations initiatives.