Press Release

Press Release

SAMENA Council highlights key policy-, legal- and regulatory enablers for digital services to address demand-side Internet adoption barriers during the UN Broadband Commission’s Thematic Workshop “Trusted universal connectivity and innovative partnerships to drive inclusive digital transformation” during UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week

Geneva, April 3, 2019 - SAMENA Telecommunications Council, represented by Chief Economist and Director of Sector Development, Ms. Imme Philbeck, was invited to speak at the UN Broadband Commission’s Thematic Workshop on “Trusted universal connectivity and innovative partnerships to drive inclusive digital transformation” during UNCTAD eCommerce Week, which was held on 2 April 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The thematic workshop discussed the theme of Trusted Universal Connectivity and innovative partnership to drive inclusive digital transformation with experts representing some of the Broadband Commissioners’ organizations: Mr. Lars Erik Forsberg DG CONNECT, European Commission, Mr. James Howe, International Trade Centre, Mr. Ashley Lumsden, Huawei Technologies UK & Ireland Office and Ms. Imme Philbeck, SAMENA Telecommunications Council with Ms. Nancy Sundberg and Ms. Anna M. Polomska from the ITU Broadband Commission Secretariat who moderated the discussion.

The session opened with a presentation of the Broadband Commission partnership and some reflections on its Global Advocacy Targets 2025 and the post 50/50 moment: with more than 51% of the global population online, how can the remaining part of the population be connected in a meaningful and sustainable way; wow can people not only be brought online, but also ensure affordable access to all, meaningful internet use and relevant content in a safe and innovative environment. Since its inception in 2010, the Broadband Commission has been dedicated to putting broadband technologies at the service of sustainable development worldwide in partnership with international organizations, governments and the private sector.

Ms. Philbeck, as SAMENA Council's representative, presented the importance of digital services to address demand-side barriers to the adoption of internet. She highlighted initiatives aiming at broadening consumers demand by ensuring relevant content for the remaining 49% who mostly come from rural and poor areas (e.g. e-government services). In the context of work that SAMENA Council’s Working Group on Digital Services is currently undertaking, she further stressed the importance of the right policy-, legal-, and regulatory framework that reflects a broader than national scope, including key elements such as (1) an overall digital strategy; (2) an enabling approach to the use and protection of data; and (3) an enabling mechanism for cross-border data and content flow.

The audience was left with key messages from each of the speakers. The importance of intelligent technologies accessible to all was highlighted by Mr. Lumsden while Ms. Philbeck stressed the need to have the right enabling environment for digital services to thrive. Mr. Howe put forward the necessity to develop trust among consumers, taking into account its cultural and sociological basis and the importance of cross-sector partnerships to drive universal connectivity. Echoing this observation, Mr. Forsberg stressed the importance of regional and global collaboration to face the challenges of the digital economy. Connecting the other half will not be business as usual, we need to be innovative and put people and consumers at the center for them to benefit fully from the digital transformation.