A report from the United Nations Broadband Commission emphasizes the prominent role broadband development plays in both economic growth - and reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG).
While most broadband reports cite the role broadband plays in the pursuit of economic benefits, this report touts the environmental benefits of increased broadband deployment. The report makes the point that policies which support a low-carbon environment will also result in a strong economy because of rising energy prices.
According to the UN report, broadband plays a key role in climate change in the following ways:
Transformation: helping other sectors of society to reduce GHGs through dematerialization of physical products and systems, for example, substituting travel with collaborative tools or substituting need to produce physical products by delivering e-products and services
Climate mitigation: reducing the sector’s own emissions, often referred to as Greening ICT, for example, specific efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases within the ICT industry itself, such as developing energy lean products and solutions, setting and delivering on tough reduction targets
Climate adaptation: changes in processes, practices and structures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change effects. Broadband can provide viable solutions, for example, weather information and disaster alerts.
The report goes further than correlating broadband deployment with sound climate change and sustainable development policies. It also highlights barriers which prevent broadband deployment, and makes recommendations for world leaders to take to advance the deployment and adoption of broadband in their countries.
According to Sunil Mittal, Founder, Chairman and Group CEO, Bharti Enterprises:
“There are barriers such as taxes, high license fees, spectrum charges, high tariffs that can discourage investment and expansion. The government has to decide what it wants: on the one hand it says broadband has the power to change society; on the other it wants to maximize revenue. Broadband needs to be seen as a public good. The industry needs to do its job while the government needs to promote e-governance, online public services, and provide the impetus for private investment.”
One of the main obstacles cited in the report is the global digital divide which exists in the world, and even within countries themselves. According to the report, in 2010 only 25% in developed countries had fixed broadband access, and more than 50% had access to mobile broadband. By contrast, adoption rates for developing countries were only 4.5% for fixed broadband and 5.4% for mobile broadband.
There are ten broadband recommendations made in the report:
- Lead with Vision: Recommends a national broadband strategy modeled on the concept of universal broadband affordability and access which intersect with climate goals.
- Bring convergence: Bring convergence to ICT policy formulation so that it aligns with other policy areas such as energy, health, education and climate in order to maximize impact.
- Ensure regulatory certainty: Ensure regulatory certainty with regards to policy and regulations on climate and broadband to create a framework of investment certainty.
- Be an example: drive cross-ministry collaboration and integrated decision-making to align climate and digital goals and use government procurement to send the right market signals.
- Foster flexibility: identify and remove the regulatory and policy barriers currently hindering research and investment in 21st century ICT-based broadband-enabled infrastructure and low carbon solutions.
- Provide incentives: encourage uptake of low-carbon solutions and support market change by rewarding or incentivizing desired consumer behaviors. Spur innovation among individuals, companies and sectors.
- Build the market: fund and facilitate scalable pilots to demonstrate feasibility and effectiveness of broadband as an enabler of low-carbon solutions and build a strong business case to attract private investment.
- Form partnerships: cultivate ‘connectivity’ and ‘co-creativity’ across public, private and non-governmental sectors and industries to help develop a collaborative mindset, shared goals, common language and break down silos.
- Measure & standardize: develop harmonized metrics and measurements and common standards for calculating both ICT’s environmental impacts and the positive contribution it can make to other sectors—from individual products to systems, and from individual households to city or national levels.
- Share knowledge & raise awareness: actively disseminate project findings, share best practice and learn from mistakes to identify success factors and facilitate leapfrogging, especially among lesser developed markets. Communicate the opportunities and synergies that can be achieved through an integrated, trans-sector approach to digital development.