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ITU to G20 leaders: Follow Australia's broadband policy

It might just heal crocked economies

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Western economies buffeted by the Great Recession and subsequent Euro-crises can accelerate out of their current fiscal fug if governments invest in a jolting dose of fast broadband, says the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The Union has made that case in an open letter (PDF) to the leaders of the G20, who have gathered Mexico to wring their hands over the parlous state collectively find solutions to kickstart the world's economy.

The letter urges the G20's leaders to “... support the development of the broadband infrastructure and broadband-enabled applications and services which enable digital economies to grow and provide benefits to societies across the globe.” The letter also states new wires alone won't be terribly useful, instead insisting investments in broadband must “... also provide for advanced online services, locally relevant content and services, and support for media and information literacy development to address inequity and deliver broadband inclusion for all.”

The ITU is also rather keen on freedom of expression, saying that without it investment in broadband will have a lower yield. That desire is expressed in the paragraph below.

For global broadband roll-out to contribute most to development, human activity must transform information into knowledge that can support individual empowerment and sustainable social and economic development, including institutional and political transformation and the development of knowledge societies that rest on four pillars: freedom of expression; quality education for all; universal access to information and knowledge; and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity. Broadband development cannot be limited to technical infrastructure; the availability of relevant broadband-enabled content, applications and services in multiple languages should also be ensured.

With that lot in place, the ITU expects entrepreneurs to invent whole new industries that make life easier for small-and-medium-sized businesses, at which point the economy presumably goes up several gears.

The letter concludes with four targets it wants G20 leaders to adopt to make this all happen. The four are:

  • Target 1: Making broadband policy universal. By 2015, all countries should have a national broadband plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access / Service Definitions.
  • Target 2: Making broadband affordable. By 2015, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces (amounting to less than 5% of average monthly income).
  • Target 3: Connecting homes to broadband. By 2015, 40% of households in developing countries should have Internet access.
  • Target 4: Getting people online. By 2015, Internet user penetration should reach 60% worldwide, 50% in developing countries and 15% in LDCs.

Australia is singled out as a nation that already gets this, with the preamble to the letter pointing out Prime Minister Julia Gillard's belief that “ every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration delivers in the order of a 1.3 per cent one-off growth boost to the economy.” ®

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