ITU to Enhance Internet Access for Two Billion Unconnected People

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Emma Okonji in Durban, South Africa
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is worried that nearly two billion of the five billion mobile subscribers in the world do not have access to internet connectivity and do not benefit from it.
ITU lamented that they are unable to enjoy the social and economic opportunities of the internet.

MTN Group CEO, Rob Shuter, in his opening address at the ongoing ITU Telecom World 2018, quoted the recent GSMA report that the global mobile subscriber base is expected to increase by nearly one billion more users in the next few years, having surpassed the five billion connected people in 2017.
He however noted that despite significant mobile internet penetration growth in recent years, many lack internet connectivity.

Shuter said great efforts were needed to heed the call of organisations such as the ITU to bridge the digital divide and foster a digital inclusive world.

According to him, “We cannot tackle the challenge of bridging the digital divide without addressing barriers around coverage, affordability and access of handsets and services as well as education of our users. This endeavor is too complex to be addressed solely by governments or just the operators or society. This needs to be a shared goal, and we must all work together for greater global connectivity.”

Shuter further said: “MTN’s theme for this year’s ITU conference is ‘anything is possible when we are connected’. This stems from our company’s core belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern, connected life. Since my appointment as MTN Group CEO, I have been travelling to MTN’s different operations and I have been able to see the impact of mobile connectivity across our sub-Saharan Africa and Middle-Eastern markets. I have also seen the real impact of mobile solutions, enabled by data, and how this is changing the lives of people across all of our markets.”

In his remark, Secretary General of ITU, Mr. Houlin Zhao, who spoke on the need to connect more people to the internet, said: “ITU is creating different platforms to connect more people to the internet. ITU is particularly interested in growing the global number of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents and benefit from the global connectivity initiative of ITU.”

President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his welcome address at the ongoing ITU Telecoms World 2018, commended ITU for giving Africa the right to host ITU Telecoms World for the first time, and he was particularly happy that South Africa became the first African country to host ITU Telecoms World.

According to him, Africa is at the dawn of a digital revolution that will reshape the way Africans work, the way they live and the way they relate to each other.

“Technological change is proceeding at a pace far greater than anything humanity has experienced before.

“It is through forums like this that we are able not only to anticipate technological change, but also to harness it for the advancement of humanity,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “It is through bodies like the ITU that we craft a digital agenda for inclusivity, sustainability and development. We have the means and the responsibility to direct the evolution of information and communications technology (ICT) towards the achievement of a better life for all the peoples of the world.

“It is therefore our task to ensure that the 4th Industrial Revolution improves the human condition and that no one is left behind.”