HomeAccessTelcos need to be less exclusive and divisive - ITU/Unesco report

    Telcos need to be less exclusive and divisive – ITU/Unesco report


    Joint action plan agreed for universal smartphone access 

    A third of the global population cannot access the internet, according to a study by the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development. The study is the first step by an industry-wide group effort to take practical actions to give 3 billion more people Internet access through a smartphone by 2030. 

    The report, Strategies Towards Universal Smartphone Access (STUSA), was the first multi-stakeholder study of its kind and took a year to complete. Putting theory into practice may prove more difficult. The study found an ‘adoption gap’ for mobile internet. This phenomenon arises when individuals do not use the internet even when there is mobile network coverage in an area, because handsets and subscriptions are beyond their price range. This humiliating event is now over seven times more frequent than the global coverage gap and is most frequent in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. 

    Broadband Commission Working Group on Smartphone Access was co-chaired by Nick Read, CEO of Vodafone Group, Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of the ITU and Heidi Schroderus-Fox and Rabab Fatima, UN High Representatives for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS). The Working Group also included representatives from the governments of Benin and Ghana. 

    The STUSA report revealed that over-priced and exclusively marketed smartphones, low consumer confidence and a lack of basic digital skills are limiting internet adoption. It identified three areas where interventions will have the most immediate impact on smartphone adoption: telcos could offer more flexible device financing, government could cut taxes and import duties and vendors could stop excluding rural communities through their distribution models. The report also recommends further investigation into the use of device subsidies and the re- use of pre-owned smartphones. 

    “This report is just the first step,” said Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of the ITU, “The next phase [includes] a five-point action plan to reduce the device gap for the underserved communities globally.”