A plan for ubiquitous smartphone access that would enhance global connection has the support of the United Nations (UN). A number of proposed measures to close the connectivity gap by promoting smartphone adoption were supported by the UN through its arm responsible for global communications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), including flexible financing from operators, lower device duties, and improved rural distribution routes.
According to a Vodafone Group announcement, the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has adopted a study written by its working group on smartphone access that outlines strategies for achieving the target of extending usage to three billion more people by 2030.
The working group, which is co-chaired by Vodafone CEO Nick Read, discovered that the limited affordability of devices, their poor availability, and problems with customer confidence, including a lack of fundamental digital skills, were impeding the uptake of smartphones.
Only roughly 44% of Nigerians, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), currently have access to cellphones. According to the research, only 29.5% of Nigerians who live in rural areas have smartphones, compared to 58.2% of those who live in metropolitan areas.
The report “Meaningful Connectivity for Rural Communities: Geographic Barriers and Policy Strategies for Digital Inclusion” by A4AI made this information available.
However, ITU includes addressing the affordability of new gadgets through reductions in tax and import levies, as well as looking at the usage of device subsidies and promoting used devices, among the recommendations given in the UN report.
The working group is made up of a variety of representatives from nonprofit organizations, businesses, and governments. There are also officials from America Movil, Millicom, Intelsat, ZTE, and the GSMA in addition to Vodafone.
It also engaged a variety of outside specialists for the “Strategies Towards Universal Smartphone Access” research, including handset suppliers to nations with usage disparities.
The ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development is planning to establish a taskforce to finish an action plan after the document is published and the findings are subsequently supported.
The following topics will be covered: establishing cooperative relationships throughout the digital value chain; various initiatives to enhance recycling legislation and impose quality standards on used devices; research into the use of government subsidies and its Universal Service Fund; and examination of the financial advantages of lowering smartphone taxes.
Read cited a need for “focused partnerships between business, government and civil society to drive smartphone adoption, through the five actions we have identified, to ensure we enable the transformative benefits of internet adoption for billions of people.”
In a related development, the ITU is working to promote global digital collaboration and transformation. It announced this at the ITU’s 21st Plenipotentiary Conference, also known as “PP-22,” which includes elections for the 48-member ITU Council, the 12-member Radio Regulations Board, the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, and Directors for Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization, and Telecommunication Development.
Through the most challenging COVID-19 phases, digital networks and technology have enabled billions of people around the world by facilitating trade, business, education, government services, and social interactions. 2.7 billion people, or one-third of the world’s population, are still not online as a result of a slowdown in Internet adoption over the past year.
“We are in the midst of a digital revolution that enables and gives the means for the creation of new industries and integrated services, such as smart vehicles, healthcare, smart cities, and homes,” declared Sorin Grindeanu, vice prime minister of Romania.
“At this turning point in technological development, we must not forget our essential duty to respect the human being,” he added, stressing the need “to protect the freedom and prosperity of future generations, in whose lives the technologies we see today as emerging will play a determining role.”
The ITU is a specialized institution for information and communications technologies within the United Nations (ICTs). ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said efforts must be increased to make technology accessible and affordable to everyone, everywhere, as the conference got underway Monday morning in the capital of Romania.
“Equitable access to ICTs is not just a moral responsibility, it is essential for global prosperity and sustainability,” said Zhao, who has led the organization for the past eight years. “The decisions made here in Bucharest will determine our direction and priorities in line with the evolving needs of ITU’s diverse and growing global membership, helping shape the future of the information society in both developed and developing countries,” he added.