Why leaders need new tools to connect rural citizens

*The following is a Foreword published in the new ITU toolkit, “ICT infrastructure business planning toolkit.”

Our increasingly digital society, built around high-speed always-on access to services, applications and content, depends on ubiquitous, affordable, modern, and resilient ICT infrastructure.

Extending broadband Internet access to unserved and underserved populations to fast-forward progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals is one of the core pillars of telecommunication and ICT public policy and regulation around the globe.

At the end of 2018, ITU revealed that, for the first time, more than half the global population now uses the Internet. While that figure is encouraging, we must remember that half the world connected also means half the world unconnected.

Chronic lack of network infrastructure is one of the principal reasons – a dearth of transport networks, access networks, the inability of end-users to acquire terminal devices and equipment, or even to pay for services if they are available – all translate into a lack of providers willing or even able to offer access and services.

Putting in place the right regulatory arrangements, connectivity measures and appropriate tools to foster infrastructure deployment, particularly in rural and remote areas, is vital to promoting full digital inclusion through universal access to fast, reliable online technologies and services.

This new toolkit offers regulators and policymakers a clear and practical methodology for the accurate economic evaluation of proposed broadband infrastructure installation and deployment plans. We believe that the expert guidance offered here will greatly facilitate the development of a credible and coherent business plan that is adaptable to a wide range of broadband infrastructure deployment projects.

I hope that this new toolkit will quickly come to be recognized as an invaluable manual for regulators and policymakers everywhere, in their efforts to bring broadband networks and access to all.