UN Sets Targets to Bring 5.7 Billion People Online by 2025

Fifty percent of the world’s population is expected to be connected to the Internet by the end of 2019.

That means that the other 3.8 billion people will be unconnected and unable to benefit from key social and economic resources in an increasingly digital world. This was revealed by International Telecommunication Union in a press briefing released earlier today.

The statement said that the United Nations’ Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, in response to the situation, has set seven ambitious yet achievable 2025 targets in support of  “Connecting the Other Half” of the world’s population.

The targets were reportedly launched at a joint meeting of the Commission and the World Economic Forum, held during the 2018 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The 2025 targets specifically seek to expand broadband infrastructure and Internet use by populations around the world in support of achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations and the international community in September 2015.

Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development 2025 Targets

  1. By 2025, all countries should have a funded national broadband plan or strategy, or include broadband in their universal access and services definition.
  2. By 2025, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries, at less than 2% of monthly gross national income per capita.
  3. Broadband / Internet user penetration should reach 75% worldwide, 65% in developing countries and 35% in least developed countries by the mentioned time.
  4. By 2025, 60% of the youth and adults should have a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills.
  5. 40% of the world’s population should be using digital financial services by the first quarter of 21st century.
  6. By 2025, lack of connectivity in Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises should be reduced by 50%.
  7. Gender equality should be achieved across all targets by the mentioned time.

Current Situation in Pakistan

  • Pakistan has a funded national broadband plan (Reference: USF)
  • Pakistan’s monthly gross national income per capita stands at around Rs. 14,000; which means we need to have basic internet offering for masses at less than Rs. 280 per month by 2025 (at current GNI rates)
  • Pakistan’s internet penetration currently stands at around 25%, which means that Pakistan needs to have nearly 130 million internet users by 2025.
  • There don’t seem to be any reliable statistics about the minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills, but Pakistan is evidently far behind the target of 60% people with basic minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills

This is a clear indicator that Pakistan still needs to do a lot for the uptake of broadband in the country. While the private sector is making attempts to improve the situation, government should at least contribute by removing taxes on internet services. The authorities can also help internet expansion and usage by lowering taxes on telecom equipment.

Other than making internet accessible to the masses, Pakistan also needs to work on enabling people to make productive use of the Internet. Ministry of IT’s proposed DigiSkills program is one such effort that needs to be replicated to achieve the said targets.