‘Stronger ICT Skills Needed to Connect People Everywhere’

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Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Houlin Zhao

Emma Okonji

International Telecoms Union (ITU), the United Nation agency for global telecoms regulation, has said although more people have access to the internet, stronger information and communication technology (ICT) skills are needed to connect people everywhere.

At the same time, ICT prices have dropped globally in the last decade. Improved ICT regulation and policy-making have played a pivotal role in creating the conditions for the reduction of prices, ensuring that part of the efficiency gains of higher ICT adoption are passed on to consumers, according to ITU recent report.

According to ITU Secretary-General, Mr. Houlin Zhao, “The report shows how increased investment in broadband technologies is driving the global digital transformation and enabling more people to access a myriad of services at the click of a button.

“At the just concluded Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) held in Dubai, ITU Member States approved the four-year Strategic and Financial Plan, which includes a strong commitment to ITU’s statistical work. We will work together to build the ICT infrastructure and develop ICT skills necessary to foster inclusive economic growth, drive innovation and bridge the digital divide.”

Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou, said: “Our analysis shows that digital technologies are fundamentally transforming the way we live and offering important opportunities for boosting economic growth, enhancing communications, improving energy efficiency, safeguarding the planet and improving people’s lives.”

In addressing the current state of global ICT, the report finds that there continues to be a general upward trend in the access to and use of ICTs. Most importantly, the world has crossed the halfway line in terms of internet use, with 51.2 per cent of the world population using the internet by the end of 2018.

The report, however, said lack of or inadequate ICT skills remained a major impediment for people to access the internet. ITU data and other cross-nationally comparative data sources show that there are considerable gaps across the board in the skills needed. A third of individuals lack basic digital skills, such as copying files or folders or using copy and paste tools; a mere 41 per cent have standard skills, such as installing or configuring software or using basic formulas on spreadsheets; and only 4 per cent are using specialist language to write computer programmes, the report further said.

The report suggested that inequalities in ICT use reflect other inequalities, such as those related to education, wealth and gender between the different regions of the world.