Telcos require $428bn investment to connect all humans to Internet by 2030: Report

*Meeting the investment necessary to bring every person online by end of this decade will require an unprecedented, concerted effort from public and private sectors ─ Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU

*COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that action is needed across the globe to speed up progress and bring everyone online, says Web Foundation

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In assessing the investment needs of connecting humanity to the Internet by 2030, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), an initiative of the Web Foundation, has restated its commitment to collaborating with global partners to move the needle closer to universal affordable access and meaningful connectivity.

It disclosed in a report on its Web site, that as part of these efforts it joined the World Bank in 2019 advocate the $100+ billion investment needed to connect everyone on the African continent by 2030.

ConsumerConnect gathered the group states while improving connectivity in Africa is a significant piece of the puzzle to secure Internet access for all, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that action is needed across the globe to speed up progress and bring everyone online.

“We must work urgently to connect the nearly 4 billion people still offline,” it said.

Specifically, the Foundation has asked what it would take to connect everyone in the world to the Internet by 2030.

It partnered with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for the new report, ‘Connecting Humanity – Assessing Investment Needs of Connecting Humanity to the Internet By 2030’.

Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU, said: “Meeting the investment necessary to bring every person online by the end of this decade will require an unprecedented and concerted effort from the public and private sectors.

“The new Connecting Humanity study, led by ITU, is the much-needed roadmap that will guide decision-makers on the journey towards accessible, affordable, reliable, and safe digital technologies and services for all.”

The Foundation’s research revealed that nearly $428 billion would be required to achieve universal connectivity to quality broadband Internet in the next 10 years. According to the organisation, Internet infrastructure will require a major portion of the investment, whereas the remaining funds are dedicated to policy development, regulatory reform, digital skills training, and local content production.

It noted in terms of the investment needed to achieve universal access to broadband connectivity by 2030, the 25 top countries in need of investment account for nearly 75% of required funding — and are mostly low and lower-middle income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia/Pacific and South Asia.

While investment in infrastructure is essential, 85% of the global population is already covered by global broadband networks, and around 70% of the unconnected population are within an area of 4G coverage.

That means it isn’t just a scarcity of internet infrastructure that keeps the majority of those unconnected offline.

Other reasons include that access is too expensive, people don’t have the digital skills they need to benefit from internet use, and there’s often a lack of relevant, local content to engage people online.

Therefore, to achieve meaningful connectivity for all, we must also dedicate funds to enhancing Internet affordability, bringing down the cost of mobile devices, and providing digital skills training and local content with a focus on closing the digital gender divide.

The Foundation stated that delivering universal access and meaningful connectivity is a key element of the Contract for the Web, an action plan for the future of the web launched in 2019 by Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Web Foundation said: “Connecting everyone on earth is a daunting endeavor that no one can undertake alone.

“We look forward to continuing our work with national, regional, and international partners to make universal access and meaningful connectivity a reality for all.”

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