Shola Taylor, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, believes the internet is the solution to more inclusive growth in the Commonwealth, and considers the challenges to universal internet access, finance and security.
There is no doubt that significant efforts have gone into making information and communication technologies (ICTs) universally accessible to all Commonwealth citizens. Highly encouraging results are being achieved in a number of areas, such as the narrowing access gap between men and women in mobile ownership. But, as with the rest of the world, very significant gaps still persist within our member countries, with perhaps the most striking of all being those yet to use the internet: 74 per cent in Africa, 65 per cent in the Pacific region, 55 per cent in Asia, 35 per cent in the Americas, and 20 per cent in Europe. For those lucky enough to use the internet, broadband penetration figures paint an even more sombre picture.
Among the factors that delay universal access to the internet in most countries are end-user affordability, market uncertainty caused by disruptive technologies, longer payback periods for investors, and insufficient regulatory visibility.
Altogether, these access gaps considerably limit the impact ICTs should have in areas such as health, education or financial inclusion and, more generally, on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. For the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as challenges vary; for instance, difficulties faced by small island developing countries differ considerably from landlocked ones. However, a combination of solutions could be explored…
Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation