ITU announces investment to boost global connectivity

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye

The International Telecommunications Union has announced investment commitments totaling $4.8 billion to enhance global connectivity.

This announcement was made on Monday during the plenary of the 2024 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+20) forum in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to the ITU, these new commitments bring the total pledges aimed at closing the digital divide through its Partner2Connect Digital Coalition to $50.96 billion.

This marks a significant step towards the $100 billion goal set for 2026, with total commitments now exceeding half of this target.

At the WSIS Forum event, it was revealed that the new investments would leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to improve digital access, adoption, and inclusion.

ITU Secretary-General, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, expressed her enthusiasm about the progress, stating, “Closing the digital divide requires a team effort, and today we scored a huge win for global connectivity. I am thrilled to see these amazing new commitments and that we have united P2C and WSIS to break through the halfway point in our goal to help bring the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone, everywhere.”

Bogdan-Martin added, “Because of the leadership, vision, and ambition of P2C’s pledgers, millions of people will have access to more affordable digital technologies for socio-economic growth, improved health, and everything that makes connectivity meaningful. It’s extremely exciting to see new pledges begin to leverage the power of artificial intelligence to transform the inclusive digital societies we all aspire to build.”

Among the latest investors, American telecom company AT&T committed $3 billion to help 25 million people in the hardest-to-connect areas in the United States by 2030.

This brings AT&T’s total commitment since 2021 to $5 billion. The government of Canada is investing CAD 2 billion (USD 1.46 billion) through the AI Compute Access Fund to support AI businesses and researchers, along with an additional CAD 400 million ($292 million) to promote AI adoption across Canada’s economy.

This includes helping small and medium-sized enterprises incorporate AI, protecting workers with skills development, and creating a new Canadian AI Safe Institute.

Microsoft also made a new pledge to support projects and prioritize partnerships to rapidly accelerate the inclusion of people with disabilities in the systems, designs, and features of technology, including AI.

The WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event, which runs from May 27 to 31, addresses challenges and achievements over the past two decades since the establishment of the multi-stakeholder WSIS process.

The forum includes participation from government ministers and officials from over 160 countries, as well as representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia, the technical community, the UN System, and intergovernmental organizations.

They are analyzing key trends shaping the world, including AI, space for sustainable development, and other fast-evolving topics.

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, is representing the country at the ongoing forum. The outcomes of the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event will inform the UN General Assembly WSIS+20 review scheduled for September 2025, aimed at identifying how WSIS processes can support the Global Digital Compact expected to be agreed upon as part of the Summit of the Future later this year.

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