The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) released “Build back better with broadband,” a report featuring information on how communities can rebuild with resilient digital infrastructure, at the 17th Internet Governance Forum (IGF).
Alongside the report, ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies, presented 15 companion research papers highlighting actions for improving digital livelihoods in the wake of crisis.
Taken together, the publications underscore the importance of meaningful connectivity as well as the technological solutions, policy and regulatory approaches, and capacity-building requirements to accelerate digital access in rebuilding efforts.
“Recovery from crisis is challenging but can also provide the opportunity to build back better with digital technologies,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Broadband approaches that are resilient and inclusive should be at the centre of efforts to rebuild telecommunications infrastructure after crisis hits.”
ITU’s Connect 2Recover is a global initiative established in 2020 to help countries rebound from COVID-19 by expanding access to affordable and reliable connectivity.
“Expanding access to affordable and reliable digital connectivity is an essential part of strategies for COVID-19 recovery and enhancing resilience,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau and the organization’s Secretary-General-elect. “Hopefully, the findings from this research can support programmes that increase access, adoption, affordability, and resiliency of broadband services in rebuilding efforts and as we seek to connect the 2.7 billion that remain offline.”
Connect2Recover international competition
The 15 research papers were launched at IGF during a Connect2Recover workshop on digital inclusion and resilient infrastructure. They are the result of an international competition organized by ITU in 2021 to identity the most promising proposals to accelerate digital inclusion for recovery from COVID-19.
The competition sought to attract the attention of the global research community to approaches that highlight resiliency of digital infrastructure as a part of recovery efforts that ensure digital inclusion. The competition also aimed to build a global research community to exchange best practices, knowledge sharing and innovation while recovering from the pandemic.
The winning research papers were shortlisted from over 300 proposals from 80 countries representing all six ITU regions. Twelve out of 15 research papers focus on Africa covering themes of digital inclusion in healthcare, education, enterprises and jobs, and affecting vulnerable groups highlighting the importance of digital connectivity and resiliency as well as lessons learnt from COVID-19.
Providing connections to the future
The workshop concluded with promising interest from researchers to further engage with ITU through further research, as well as the possibility of pilot projects with industry, to test innovative technologies and solutions for ensuring meaningful connectivity.
Through Connect2Recover, ITU aims to reinforce the digital infrastructure and ecosystems of beneficiary countries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and to remain resilient in hazardous times.
Connect2Recover initiative focuses on countries with low connectivity levels that are vulnerable to the socio-economic impact pandemics and other crises, including natural hazards.