SDGs

UN telecomms agency chief: One third of humanity still offline

The benefits of cutting-edge technology remain out of reach for around 2.6 billion people globally who are still waiting for an Internet connection the head of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said on Thursday, outlining the agency’s plans to narrow the gap. 

Doreen Bogdan-Martin underscored ITU’s wide-ranging brief, emphasizing its pivotal role in fostering connectivity across the globe. 

Founded in 1865 as an international telegraph association, today ITU champions two paramount goals: universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation.

The first woman in the post, Secretary-General Bogdan-Martin highlighted the stark digital divide impacting women and marginalized communities. Women still account for a disproportionate share of those offline, outnumbering men by some 20 per cent.

Women losing out

In Least Developed Countries, only 30 per cent of women have access to the internet, she added.

“I’ve seen women who can’t afford a smartphone, women in countries where entry-level handsets can exceed 70 per cent of the average household’s monthly income,” she said reflecting on the time spent in office, on the eve of the International Women’s Day.

© UNICEF/Srikanth Kolari

Women still account for a disproportionate share of those offline, outnumbering men by some 20 per cent.

Speaking about generative artificial intelligence (AI) – an area where ITU holds a leading role among the UN-family agencies – the Secretary-General stressed there are clear pros and cons.

Citing AI’s potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent and advance progress across the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, she cautioned against the threat AI poses, including cyberattacks and erosion of trust caused by dis and misinformation.

Multiple threats

“Emerging technologies, like AI, can be used to erode trust in our elections, in our institutions, and it can threaten our jobs, our privacy, and I think also our very future,” she said adding that more than 2200 cyberattacks happen each day. An ITU study indicates, that attacks are increasing by some 80 per cent year on year.

Amidst the challenges, Ms. Bogdan-Martin exuded optimism, citing recent commitments by the private sector and multilateral institutions totalling $46 billion towards accessible network connectivity, bound to reach the goal of $100 billion in overall investments by 2026. 

Moreover, in certain regions some positive trends are observed. A recent ITU report shows that Internet use in the world’s 57 small island developing states and territories – or SIDS – has outpaced the world average of 6.7 per cent over the past decade, increasing by 8.4 per cent annually between 2014 and 2023. 

Proper investments, coupled with initiatives and decisions made at ITU’s venues such as the AI for Good Global Summit and the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly can help bridge the digital divide, the agency chief said. 

Source

5 Comments

  1. As a woman, I fully support Secretary-General Bogdan-Martin’s emphasis on narrowing the digital divide and ensuring universal connectivity. It’s disheartening to know that so many women, especially in Least Developed Countries, still lack access to the internet due to economic constraints. We need to work towards making technology more accessible to everyone, regardless of gender or background.

  2. As a woman myself, it’s disheartening to hear that so many of us are still left offline in this digital age. It’s crucial for organizations like ITU to prioritize closing this gender gap in internet access, providing equal opportunities for all. Women deserve to have the same access to information and resources as men do.

  3. Why is there still such a large percentage of the population without access to the internet in today’s digital age?

  4. As the first woman in the post, I believe it is crucial to address the stark digital divide impacting women and marginalized communities. We need to ensure universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation for all, especially considering that women still account for a disproportionate share of those offline, outnumbering men by some 20 percent. In Least Developed Countries, only 30 percent of women have access to the internet. I have seen firsthand the challenges faced by women who can’t afford a smartphone, especially in countries where entry-level handsets can exceed 70 percent of the average household’s monthly income.

  5. How can we ensure equal access to the internet for all women, especially those in Least Developed Countries?

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