U.S. Leadership in Bridging the Digital Divides

06/03/2022 02:04 PM EDT


Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

This Administration is deeply committed to a vision of global development that is inclusive, driven by innovation, and focused on those most in need. The United States is a longstanding leader in promoting sustainable, equitable, and transformational development. Today, we are continuing that leadership in the digital space by announcing trailblazing pledges in support of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s Partner2Connect (P2C) initiative.

This initiative, spearheaded by Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), is designed to catalyze new partnerships and mobilize the resources needed to connect the 2.9 billion people who remain offline and unconnected. P2C brings stakeholders together to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally, with a focus on but not limited to hardest-to-connect communities in Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States. Universal connectivity is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and improving the lives and futures of us all.

In that context, the United States is making ambitious, concrete pledges to the P2C initiative. We will present those commitments at the June 6-16 World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) in Kigali, Rwanda.

Those pledges include:

Supporting Digital Public Goods: We will continue to play a leading role in championing the development and use of digital public goods as a catalyzing force for sustainable development. This work is supported by the partnership between the United States and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), and others to develop the Digital Public Goods Charter, in which governments, civil society, software engineers, and technology companies declare principles for open-source technology products that respect human rights. This commitment reinforces the P2C pillar “Value Creation: Building Digital Ecosystems.”

Expanding Digital Connectivity in Rural States in Kenya: As a follow up to the ITU and UNICEF’s Giga initiative, which aims to connect schools to the Internet, the United States and the Government of Kenya are exploring the expansion of digital connectivity to communities and anchor institutions in rural states in Kenya. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing financial support from its Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub to work in partnership with the Alliance for Affordable Internet to help reduce the digital divide in these communities, supporting the P2C pillar “Access: Connecting People Everywhere.”

Providing Capacity Building and Technical Assistance: Through the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership, the United States will provide technical assistance and capacity-building to help developing country governments establish information and communications technology (ICT) policy and regulatory frameworks that enable a vibrant and inclusive digital economy. To date, the USG has invested over $47 million to these efforts; this assistance aligns with the P2C pillar “Value Creation: Building Digital Ecosystems.”

Investing in Connectivity Providers and Fintech Companies: Through the Digital Invest program under the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership (DCCP), the United States is mobilizing private capital for digital connectivity infrastructure and digital financial services that strengthen open, interoperable, reliable, inclusive, and secure digital ecosystems in emerging markets. This program aligns with the P2C pillar “Accelerate: Incentivizing Investments.”

Closing the Gender Digital Divide: The United States will continue its collaboration with the Microsoft Airband Initiative, a public-private partnership bringing improved Internet access to women in Guatemala, India, Ghana, Colombia, and Kenya in order to expand economic opportunities and enable digital development services. This activity supports P2C pillar “Adoption: Empowering Communities.”

Support for Youth Led Innovation: The United States will continue support for YouthMappers, a global community of students, researchers, and educators across 65 countries and 320 universities using public geospatial technologies to support development advances worldwide. YouthMappers prioritizes women’s economic empowerment, digital mapping literacy, and youth engagement, and it currently works on mapping solutions associated with climate, urban services, and electric power access. This program aligns with the P2C pillar “Access: Connecting People Everywhere.”

Connecting People and Empowering Communities: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will consult with teams in developing countries to improve their own work products and deliverables, as well as provide support for implementation of 2022-2025 ITU Development Sector work programs and BDT activities. NTIA will also work to improve telecom/ICT development through increased resources and educational training workshops provided by senior NTIA experts. These trainings may include specialized sessions through the U.S. Telecommunication Training Institute, ongoing collaborative academic or research projects, and policy assistance through symposia, toolkits, public engagement assistance, or multi-stakeholder broadband training sessions.

Continue Information Sharing: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through its International Visitors Program (IVP) will offer expanded consultations, information sharing, and capacity building with regulatory counterparts from around the world on a range of telecommunications regulatory issues, through expanded DCCP funding support. The enhanced IVP will include sharing of best practices on U.S. domestic efforts to close the digital divide, including gender considerations, and on tribal lands. The enhanced IVP will also include youth visitors and feature women, girls, and persons with specific needs. This program aligns with the P2C pillar “Access: Connecting People Everywhere.”