The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: UN Seeks 40 Percent Internet Access

The Broadband Commission for Digital Development, formed last year by the UN and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), has set four ambitious targets with faster Internet penetration as the leading tool in a bid to realize the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Amongst the key targets, the Broadband Commission wants to have 40 percent of homes in developing countries connected to high- speed Internet in the next five years.

Uganda is one of the developing countries, whose governments committed to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September, 2000 and set a 15-year deadline to achieve them.

The eight MDGs include combating poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS and malaria, reduce child mortality, maternal health, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.

However, progressive reports in the two years show that most countries are far behind the schedule and unlikely to accomplish the goals.

Faced with such reality, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon last year asked UNESCO and ITU to bring in the aspect of technology and internet to fasten progress. This led to the formation of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

In a statement last week, the Broadband Commission argued that access to Internet at home is the most inclusive way of bringing people online. If connected to the Internet, the Commission explained, all household members can improve the livelihoods of households.

Research has shown that children with internet access at home perform better in school, the Broadband Commission noted, because "[they] are usually under parental guidance and therefore better-protected against online dangers."

In developed countries, more than two thirds of households have Internet access compared to around 16% in the developing world. The Broadband Commission is optimistic that Internet access is likely to increase significantly by 2015, especially with the rise of mobile Internet.

The Commission believes that high speed and capacity broadband connections to the Internet are an essential element in modern society, conferring broad social and economic benefits. Without broadband infrastructure and services, developing countries risk exclusion from participation in the burgeoning global digital economy.

The Commission aims to promote the adoption of broadband-friendly practices and policies to allow everyone exploit the immense opportunities therein.

The other targets, which the Commission says 'look ambitious but achievable' include making the Broadband Policy universal, whereby every country will have a national strategy, making it cheaper for people to pay for the broadband services and connecting up to 60% of the world's population by 2015.

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