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UN hails $4.8 bn in new pledges to boost global connectivity

By AFP

May 27, 2024 11:45 PM


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The United Nations said Monday that it had raked in $4.8 billion in new pledges towards closing the global digital divide, bringing total pledges to over $50 billion.

Around 2.6 billion people, or one-third of the global population, remained offline in 2023, according to data from the International Telecommunications Union, the UN's telecoms agency.

"Closing the digital divide requires a team effort, and today we scored a huge win for global connectivity," ITU chief Doreen Bogdan-Martin said in a statement.

The ITU has been leading efforts to rectify a situation where a third of the world's population has never connected to the internet, and is being left out of the advantages that digitalisation can provides.

In 2021, the Geneva-based UN agency launched the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, with the aim of using public-private partnerships to help increase digitalisation in the world's hardest-to-connect communities.

It has set a target of raising $100 billion by 2026, and ITU hailed Monday that it was now more than halfway to that goal, with a total of $50.96 billion in pledges so far.

The new pledges were announced on the first day of this year's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), being hosted by the ITU in Geneva this week.

Among the new commitments was a $3-billion-pledge from US telecom giant AT&T.

The company, which had previously pledged $2 billion to the project, vowed to help 25 million people in the hardest-to-connect areas of the United States to get and stay connected by 2030.

The Canadian government meanwhile pledged $1.46 billion towards investment in computing infrastructure to support artificial intelligence (AI) businesses and researchers in the country.

Canada also committed to spend an additional $292 million to among other things help facilitate the adoption of AI across the country's economy, and to create a new Canadian AI Safe Institute to examine and protect against the risks of advanced AI systems.

And Elle International made three pledges worth a total of $106 million to help improve the quality of life of 20 million women and girls in South Africa through the provision of digital platforms, smart solutions, data and AI models.

"Because of the leadership, vision and ambition of P2C's pledgers, millions of people will be given the opportunity to have more accessible, more affordable digital technologies for socioeconomic growth, improved health and everything that makes connectivity meaningful," Bogdan-Martin said.


AFP


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