Global broadband network 'may end poverty'

An international commission is to consider how broadband networks might be extended into the poorest regions of the world.

The Broadband Commission will report to the United Nations in September with recommendations intended to bring less developed countries onto the global network, lessen their isolation and increase their opportunities for progress.

The study will consider Internet access for disadvantaged parts of of a world in which 2.5 billion, more than a third of all people, live on less than $2 a day, in which average annual incomes range from a low of $280 to more than $60,000 per person, and life expectancy varies between 44 years to 83 years.

The International Telecommunications Union, which leads the broadband initiative, said on opening the Commission this week that ubiquitous broadband networks would become as critical a public infrastructure as water, power and transport in even the poorest parts of the world.

The organisation dismissed the suggestion that there were many people who had more pressing problems than connecting to the Internet.

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré (pictured) told THINQ, via his press office, that he became frustrated when presented with the binary view that people were either too poor or just wealthy enough to get Internet access.

The Internet is a means to deliver better healthcare and education to developing countries, and therefore a means by which people could overcome the problems that accompany poverty, he said.

Ban Ki-Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, said world-wide broadband might help the UN make more rapid progress to its Millennium Development Goals, a plan to close the gap between the poorest and richest countries by a number of measures. The UN is labouring to meet its development targets by 2015. The Broadband Commission's proposals will be submitted in time for a UN review of its targets.

The Broadband Commission will consider how public broadband networks might be funded in countries were people do not have the private means to sustain them.

It is co-chaired by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Carlos Slim Helú, honorary chairman of Grupo Carso, a Mexican industrial conglomerate and sometime richest man in the world.

It consists of numerous government ministers and agency heads. It also includes the CEO's of Telefonica, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, and the director-general of the Universal Postal Union.