At the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), over 360 pledges were made to improve access to digital technologies

This week, the ITU has announced the major success of its Partner2Connect programme, finding major support from both the public and private sectors, which pledged over $18.5 billion to improve internet access for the global population. 

According to the ITU, around 2.9 billion people worldwide remain unconnected to the internet, often leaving them unable to access vital services and participate in the international economy. The digital divide has only been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions on movement exposing countries having disproportionately negative effects on nations with poor connectivity.

As a result, the ITU devised its Partner2Connect programme to help align the global community with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, seeking to encourage organisations to provide funding, services, and technical support to build digital ecosystems and improve internet accessibility. 

Now, following the WTDC in Kigali, Rwanda, over 360 pledges have been made to improve connectivity for the unconnected, with an estimated combined financial valued of $18.55 billion according to an ITU press release.

In fact, according to the Partner2Connect website, the figure today stands at 266 pledges from 198 entities in 90 countries, with the combined estimated financial value increasing even higher, to $24.15 billion.

“The pledges and commitments made in Kigali and in the months leading to this roundtable send a powerful message that together we can ramp up investments in ICT development to leave no one offline," said ITU secretary general, Houlin Zhao, describing the Partner2Connect Digital Development Roundtable as ‘a tipping point’.

“After months of collective work developing the Partner2Connect Action Framework and the pledging platform, together with ITU Member States, civil society groups, philanthropic organizations, private and youth-led organizations, we are now setting a major milestone by gathering under one umbrella an unprecedented number of commitments to advance universal and meaningful connectivity," said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

A breakdown of the individual pledges can be found here.

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