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Network rollouts strong in LEDCs but more digital literacy required - UN

Network rollouts strong in LEDCs but more digital literacy required - UN
Dakar, Senegal

A new report commissioned by the UN has found that broadband uptake in some of the least economically developed countries in the world has been slowed by a number of societal factors, despite good progress in the deployment of infrastructure.

The UN agency Broadband for the Most Vulnerable Countries was created to evaluate the progress being made to provide broadband in less economically developed countries, with a specific focus on Cambodia, Rwanda, Senegal and Vanuatu – four markets considered representative of this bracket.

The department, which functions as part of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, identified a pervasive low level of digital literacy as a major factor limiting adoption in these markets, but also apportioned blame to high tariffs for broadband connections and a lack of locally relevant content.

All of the markets have made good progress in terms of network deployments, with rollouts being driven by government programmes as well as public-private partnerships. Mobile money services and the use of SMS services – particularly through programmes in the agriculture and health sectors – are also driving digital literacy.

The agency also made several recommendations for boosting service uptake in the markets, such as introducing initiatives aimed at raising the profile of digital offerings as well as educating people on their benefits. Closing the digital divide was a key focus, which the agency noted would require solutions for connecting remote rural locations as well as “striking a balance between coverage, affordability and digital literacy.”

The group’s chair Fekitamoeloa Utoikamanu said that if less economically developed countries adopted their recommendations, it would “help to unlock the myriad potential benefits that broadband can bring to communities, so that we leave no one behind as we strive to connect the most vulnerable of countries.”

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