Broadband the enabler for digital health

Staff writer
26 Oct 2010
Broadband has become more than just a fast way to go online. It has become the critical enabler of the 21st century, much as electricity was in the early 20th century.
In wealthy countries broadband drives productivity growth and supports new kinds of commerce, social connections and entertainment.
But it is in the developing world, with its limited physical infrastructure and pressing social and economic needs, where broadband can make the biggest impact.
Recent studies have shown that increased internet adoption is an economic growth multiplier. A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study of Bangladesh, for example, says that a 10% increase in internet penetration would lead to a cumulative 2.6% annual expansion of the GDP each year until 2020.
For this reason ICTs are at the center of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set by the United Nations ten years ago, aimed at halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
The key underlying technology is mobile broadband. It is the platform for all other apps and services, and it is also close to ubiquitous. According to the ITU, by year-end mobile networks will cover 90% of the world’s population, most of it 2.5G or 3G.
But the network alone is not enough. The UN Broadband Commission said in a report issued in September 2010 that while broadband infrastructure was crucial, “connectivity and content go hand in hand.”
It urged world leaders to help find ways to “develop local content and applications in order to meet the MDGs and other development priorities.” It pointed to health, education, agricultural and environmental information as sectors that should become integrated into mobile broadband.


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