SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s CEO Bocar BA, as chair of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's Working Group on 21st Financing, Funding and Investment Models moderated a session on “Financing the Digital Transformation” during GSMA’s MWC22 Ministerial Programme. The session focused on three themes: (1) additional sources of financing, collaboration and shared investment, (2) pro-investment policies for connectivity expansion and (3) synergies and collaboration between telco operators and other beneficiaries of the digital ecosystem. It included speakers from the OECD, Mr. Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, Deputy Secretary General of the OECD, Her Excellency Ms. Vianna Maino, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Society of Ecuador, Mr. Sunil Mittal, Founder and Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, as well as key leading industry representatives Mr. Denis O’Brian, Chairman Digicel, Mr. Lacina Koné, CEO of Smart Africa, and Dr. Alicia Abella, Managing Director of Telecom, Media and Industry Solutions, Google.
In his introductory remarks, BA praised the efforts made by the BBCom WG members and fellow Commissioners to put together a groundbreaking report that embraces the changed market realities of the 21st century and which has created a foundation for catalyzing investment, collaboration, and paved a way forward for innovative partnerships, essential for future broadband development and usage based on four strategic recommendations: (1) broadening the base of contributors, (2) earmarking proceeds from ICT sector participants, (3) reforming universal service and access funds and, (3) the creation of an international fund. BA stressed “that the work of the BBCom’s WG on 21st Century Financing Models and recommendations act as a foundation for driving connectivity and focus on a growing narrative around connectivity – one that emphasizes the shared benefits we all enjoy, our collective responsibility, the commitment required, the reforms we must carry out, and the opportunity to enable global connectivity for all.”
OECD outlined the key aspects of its 2021 Council Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity, highlighting that a sound regulatory framework is key. The Minister of Telecommunications and Information Society of Ecuador gave an overview of its more recent far-reaching reforms of its telecommunications regulatory environment, and Sunil Mittal of Bharti Enterprises urged the broadening of the base of contributions and contributors to ensure that digital infrastructure can be expanded. The panel discussion delved into the recommendations of the report, with Digicel urging a reduction in sector-specific taxes and the creation of a level playing field calling into responsibility Internet platforms, which was mirrored by Smart Africa emphasizing on the need for concerted and structured ways of contributions by all beneficiaries of digital infrastructure and Google highlighting its various ways that it already contributes to expanding infrastructure.
BA also pressed on the need to reflect and acknowledge that now is the right time to adopt the right strategies and funding and financing approaches that support the spirit of collaboration, multi-literalism, mutual responsibility sharing and creativity. There is an urgent need to work together very closely and leverage the large pool of insights, recommendations, and ideas to address the challenges of speeding up the world’s digital transformation in a sustainable, more predictable, equitable and structured manner to achieve the 2030 UN Agenda and the SDGs.
The Working Group for 21st Century Financing and Funding Models for Sustainable Broadband Development was established as a cross-sector group of thought-leaders with representation from national regulatory authorities, telecommunications operators, financial institutions, trade associations, academics and not-for-profit development organizations operating under the auspices of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development. Its objective was to explore and identify new and innovative funding, financing, and investment strategies to address the challenge of extending broadband connectivity and services to the 3.7 billion people who remain unconnected today, particularly in Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands. The Working Group was co-chaired by Scott Gegenheimer, former CEO – Operations of Zain Group, and Bocar A. BB, CEO of SAMENA Telecommunications Council.
The Executive Summary of the aforementioend report can can be downloaded from the UN BBCom’s website here:
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