US seeks to bring 1.5 billion on line by 2020

Just less than 2% of people in Sub-Saharan African countries are online

Just less than 2% of people in Sub-Saharan African countries are online

The week at the ongoing United Nations General Assembly in New York, the U.S. Department of State announced an ambitious project dubbed “Global Connect” that aims at bringing 1.5 billion people online in the next five years.

Unveiling the mega project at the UN Headquarters, US State Department Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli said through Global Connect, major U.S. development agencies will begin to make Internet access a top priority in their work around the world.

“We will also urge international development banks to recognize the Internet as an essential element of every country’s infrastructure – as the World Bank has already done. We will also partner with other governments from highly connected countries and enlist their expertise,” she stated.

The US plans to work with the private sector to ensure people in remote areas on the planet access the internet.
Ms. Novelli revealed the US intends to pitch the “Global Connect” project government leaders and other players early 2016.

“We hope to develop country-specific strategies that can create enabling environments that spur connectivity and also entrepreneurship, cross-border information flows and open and competitive marketplaces,” she added.

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The development follows a new White House report that says classifies internet connectivity as “Core Utility” like water and electricity rather than an optional service.

Also a new UN report says more than half of the world’s population, mostly in developing nations, is essentially offline. The United Nations recently revealed about 4 billion people are not connected to the internet and this includes 90% of people in the developing world.

The new UN’s The State of Broadband report shows that all the top ten countries with highest Internet connectivity are in Asia or the Middle East; South Korea (98.5), Quatar (98%) and Saudi Arabia (94%).
The report finds countries with lowest connectivity levels are all located in Sub-Saharan Africa “with Internet available to less than 2 per cent of the populations in Guinea, Somalia, Burundi and Eritrea.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also teamed up with Philanthropist Bono to push for universal connectivity by 2020, and the social media giant has been aggressive in wanting to bring the billions people on line through its internet.org project and other silicon valley heavy weights like Google, Intel, Microsoft are all seeking to bride the digital divide.

Critics however, argue that these Silicon Valley companies all they want is to make an extra dollar off the people they bring on line, and users say Facebook’s much hyped free internet project offers just Facebook and Wikipedia and not much more.