Director-General promotes the power of broadband for education and content sharing
The annual meeting of the Commission for Digital Development was held on Sunday, 23 September 2012, in New York, with the participation of Carlos Slim, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation, Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General and around sixty commissioners including entrepreneur and economist Muhammad Yunus, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and Josh Nesbit founder of Medic Mobile.
The debate opened by highlighting the rapid development of broadband worldwide. "No other technology has grown as rapidly throughout history. By 2017, 3 billion people will be connected to the Internet on smartphones. This is an unprecedented shift in the ways we communicate, learn and participate in economic and social life," said Mr Carlos Slim, Co-chair of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, in opening the conference.
Faced with the surge of this new technology, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, co-vice chair of the Commission, emphasized that broadband is, above all, a human challenge, not just an industrial issue. "We all know the potential of broadband for education, for knowledge sharing. This is the most powerful transformational technology in history. The real question is how to ensure access to broadband for all, especially the most marginalized, and how to give them the means to exploit the potential of these new tools”.
The Director-General highlighted that the development of technologies is inseparable from the development of quality content: "We cannot just invest in tools, we need to invest in an ecosystem”.
Reflecting the importance of disseminating quality content, actress Geena Davis intervened to ask the Commission to mobilize the potential of broadband for gender equality. "The content and programmes for children show deep gender inequalities and persistent stereotypes against girls and women. There are fewer of them, and they are less often in the leading roles. What message are we sending to our children with this type of content? Dissemination of content on the internet, by broadband, can play a major role in striking a better balance." UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark also expressed concern about the inequalities between men and women in access to Smartphones: in today's world, a woman has 21% less chance of owning one of these devices compared to a man.
Interventions followed to illustrate the role of broadband in access to medical care in remote areas, for the transparency of democratic elections, participation in social life and access to banking services. One billion people in the world today live in extreme poverty, without any access to health services and quality education. This population will also be the next to be equipped with Internet technologies. In 1995, Bangladesh hardly had any mobile phones. Today 85 million people - one in two residents in the country - own one. This represents a considerable change in daily life. "Future opportunities are huge, with the creation of virtual universities, distance education, connected libraries. This future is being prepared now, and we need to support the development of new skills, training teachers, creating new educational content and new public policies for sharing knowledge," said the Director-General. Earlier in the morning, Mrs Bokova signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General, for the achievement of these objectives.