United Nations (UN) has backed move for universal smartphone access plan that would improve global connectivity. UN through its arm in charge of global communications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), backed a range of proposed measures to close the connectivity gap by boosting smartphone adoption, including flexible financing from operators, lower device duties and improved rural distribution routes.
In a development publicised by Vodafone Group, the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development approved a report compiled by its working group on smartphone access identifying ways to reach a goal of expanding usage to three billion additional people by 2030.
The working group, which is co-chaired by Vodafone CEO, Nick Read, found out that smartphone adoption was being hampered by limited affordability of devices, low availability and issues with consumer confidence, including a lack of basic digital skills.
Already, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) said only about 44 per cent of Nigerians have access to smartphones. The report also disclosed that 58.2 per cent of Nigerians living in urban areas have smartphones, while only 29.5 per cent of those living in rural areas have the device.
A4AI disclosed this in its report titled, ‘Meaningful Connectivity for Rural Communities: Geographic Barriers and Policy Strategies for Digital Inclusion.’
But ITU, in the recommendations made in the UN report, include addressing the affordability of new devices through cuts in tax and import duties, along with investigating the use of device subsidies and promotion of pre-owned devices.
The working group comprises various officials from governments, companies and non-profit groups. Along with Vodafone, it includes representatives from America Movil, Millicom, Intelsat, ZTE and the GSMA.
For the ‘Strategies Towards Universal Smartphone Access’ report, it also consulted a range of external experts including handset manufacturers supplying countries with usage gaps.
Following the document’s publication and subsequent support for the findings, the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development is set to create a taskforce to complete an action plan.
Points to be covered are: initiating mutually beneficial partnerships across the digital value chain; various measures to improve recycling regulation and impose quality standards on used devices; investigation into using subsidies from governments and its Universal Service Fund; and exploring the economic benefits of cutting duties on smartphones.