June 02, 2016

WASHINGTON – ITI, the global voice of the tech sector, and the Newseum are proud to launch a new initiative, sponsored by Microsoft, entitled, “Connecting the Unconnected,” which will bring leading technology companies, broadband and development experts, multi-lateral development banks, academics and policymakers together to develop a series of tools to expand Internet access globally and promote connectivity. More than half of the world's population lack access or affordable access to the Internet, limiting opportunities Internet connectedness can provide to enhance education, communication, job creation and economic growth. In launching the initiative, ITI and the Newseum said Internet access is a vital development tool, enabling countries and people to fully participate in an increasingly data-driven and digitally-based economy.

The Connecting the Unconnected initiative will convene thought leaders for at least four closed-door discussions over the course of the rest of year to discuss existing efforts to expand Internet access and share best practices, with the intention of creating a “policy toolbox” to motivate and assist other countries still at the digital starting gate. The sessions are designed to allow for robust discussion and will be held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

In addition to Microsoft, other initial participants in the “Connecting the Unconnected” session will include technical experts and representatives from the embassies of Argentina, Estonia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Uruguay, representatives from the World Bank, as well as independent thought leaders from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State. Additionally, representatives from private industry will participate, including Akamai, Apple, Facebook, Nokia, and Qualcomm.

“The Internet has become increasingly necessary to participate in the global economy as digital technologies make development more inclusive, innovative, and efficient,” said ITI President and CEO Dean Garfield. “Yet the transformative power of information and communication technologies are not realized in many countries around the world, in part because of a persistent digital divide between the ‘connected’ and the ‘unconnected’.”

"The Newseum is honored to partner with ITI on this important initiative," said Newseum President and CEO Jeffrey Herbst. "As the world becomes an increasingly connected place internet access plays a critical role in enabling all people to express themselves freely.”

Of a global population of 7.4 billion people, more than 4 billion still lack access to the Internet. However, studies like the World Bank’s 2016 Digital Dividends report have shown that simply providing Internet access does not automatically trigger the governmental and societal changes necessary to leverage the Internet. Without essential building blocks like smart national policies and regulations, as well as the development of digital literacy skills, nations are unable to reap the benefits of a digitally enabled economy.

The Connecting the Unconnected Policy Toolbox is expected to be published in December 2016, at the culmination of the series.

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Public Policy Tags: Broadband, Communications, & Spectrum, Internet Governance