Partner2Connect Program Mobilizes USD 18.5 Billion to Connect the Unconnected

Partner2Connect. Photo: ITU
Partner2Connect. Photo: ITU

A global pledging event organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has rallied support from governments and companies to expand Internet access everywhere as a key aspect of sustainable development.

The Partner2Connect (P2C) Digital Development Roundtable taking place in the Rwandan capital concluded on June 9 with the announcement of over 360 pledges representing an estimated combined financial value of USD 18.55 billion.

The ambitious pledging event, held between 7 and 9 June, has been a highlight of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), which aligns global connectivity strategies with the wide-ranging Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The drive for universal and meaningful connectivity represented in the P2C pledges will directly benefit billions of people around the world, especially in developing countries where connectivity is lagging.

The funding, services, technical support, and other assistance detailed in the pledges will improve people’s access to – and readiness for – digital technologies, as well as fostering digital ecosystems and incentivizing investment in digital transformation.

“The Partner2Connect Digital Development Roundtable will prove to be a tipping point,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao at the close of the pledging sessions. “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.”

Some 2.9 billion people – or more than one third of the world’s population – have still never connected to the Internet.

Rwanda’s Minister for ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, Chair of the WTDC, said: “We need everybody to pull together in the same direction if we are to successfully address the challenge of ensuring universal meaningful connectivity globally. Partner2Connect is one of the best avenues through which we can catalyze and engage in productive partnerships towards sustainable connectivity for all.”

The P2C pledges come at a critical inflection point, with the protracted Covid-19 pandemic underlining the importance of fast, reliable broadband connectivity as an essential service.

In a major announcement during the 3-day Roundtable programme, ITU’s host country Switzerland pledged that Geneva would host the headquarters of Giga – a joint ITU-UNICEF initiative to connect every school in the world to the Internet by 2030. 

Announcing the plan, the Swiss Confederation said the new Giga Office in Geneva would serve as a unique collaboration point, bridging the world of finance with the world of international relations and development.

The Partner2Connect interactive dashboard, newly launched at the P2C Roundtable, will enable users to search for specific pledges and contributors, as well as view overall tracking analytics.

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Rakesh Raman