The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has issued a worldwide appeal to increase the value of pledges for digitalizing the world from the current US$30 billion to US$100 billion by 2026.
The appeal by the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies includes a focus on raising the level of resources for universal and meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the world's least developed countries (LDCs).
The announcement of the target was made on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, observed annually to mark the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the ITU's founding in 1865.
“Tech is at the top of the global agenda, but the benefits of digital technology are still out of reach for too many people," said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “If we are serious about digitalizing the world in a way that is meaningful and sustainable, we must take action to accelerate digital transformation for everyone."
In 2023, the ITU's anniversary is focused on empowering the least developed countries through information and communication technologies using the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition and its online pledging platform.
The ITU appeal to the public and private sectors encompasses a campaign launched in February 2022 by Partner2Connect to mobilize direct funding or other contributions for connectivity projects in countries registering the lowest levels of development. Of the US$30 billion already pledged overall, Partner2Connect has identified commitments worth US$12 billion to bring the LDCs online as quickly as possible.
The United Nations defines LDCs as countries that have low levels of income and face severe structural impediments to sustainable development. The call for resources, which comes as the UN strives to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, emphasizes the need for the globe's digital transformation to be environmentally friendly.
“The digital revolution is a defining force of our era," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “As the Internet becomes ever more central to value creation and innovation, least developed countries risk falling further behind. We must dramatically improve accessibility and inclusivity and eliminate the digital divide."
According to ITU data, 2.7 billion people worldwide were offline in 2022. The digital connectivity divide separating the least developed countries from the rest of the world is widening on key factors such as access, digital skills and affordability.
Though the globe's 46 least-developed countries are home to almost one-third of the world's offline population, the Internet is considered affordable in only two of those countries.
At the event marking the ITU's anniversary in Geneva, ITU Secretary-General Bogdan-Martin announced SDG Digital Day, scheduled for September 17 in New York in advance of the UN SDG Summit to review the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The SDG Digital Day, powered by ITU on behalf of the UN system, will showcase high-impact, sustainable, digitally based solutions that have a game-changing potential to accelerate progress on the SDGs.