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Roll out broadband to poor countries: Global report

Veronica C. Silva | June 15, 2011
Case studies and analytical data see broadband as catalytic in achieving Millennium Development Goals.

A new global report on broadband technologies is recommending the deployment of broadband technologies to poor countries worldwide to boost their economies.

The report titled 'Broadband: A Platform for Progress' is the second since last year to be produced by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, a joint commission by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The new report seeks to assess how new technologies can help countries achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are due by 2015.

Using about 100 research studies, the Broadband Commission report noted that broadband is catalytic in spurring economic development, including job creation and growth in the gross domestic product (GDP).

Additional growth

The Broadband report cited an institutional report on China which revealed that every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration resulted to an additional 2.5 per cent growth in GDP.

Another research report cited in the Broadband report showed that if broadband is promoted in Thailand, where in 2010, only some three per cent of households had it and 12 per cent of individuals, it could add 2.4 per cent to the country's GDP growth rate.

In Japan, another study said that "if the Japanese economy grows and the potential of ubiquitous networks is fully utilised, the real GDP growth rate will be about 1.0 to 1.1 points higher than otherwise."

Not broadband alone

However, the report also noted that broadband - defined in terms of speed and technologies used - are not enough to boost growth. For so-called "knowledge societies" to develop with the help of broadband, four principles have to be present:

- Freedom of expression

- Universal access to information and knowledge

- Respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, and

- Quality education for all.

Furthermore, the broadband network has to be maximised in order to reap rewards from the technology infrastructure investments.

The Broadband Commission noted in its report that application and services such as e-commerce, telemedicine and distance learning are some examples of good uses of broadband which can create an impact on society.

New Delhi-based Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) was cited for using broadband to deliver course contents to 2.5 million students in India and 34 other countries. The course contents can be downloaded on mobile phones via third-generation (3G) network which was built with the help of Ericsson.

The report also cited Malaysia as an example of a successful public and private sector partnership to roll out national broadband.

Malaysia first announced its National Broadband Plan in 2004 for a 10-year rollout, starting with major cities and towns. In early 2010, Malaysia said the aim was to have broadband connections to 3.2 million homes across the country by the end of the 2010, which it saw as adding one per cent to GDP and 135,000 new jobs.


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