Helen Clark: Remarks at the 8th Meeting of the Broadband Commission

21 Sep 2013

Remarks UNDP Administrator Helen Clark
8th Meeting of the Broadband Commission
21 September 2013
Yale Club, New York City


•    Good morning.  It is a pleasure to be with you today, to meet everyone in person again, and to discuss issues that will have significant impact on the future we all want.

•    I recently launched with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a report titled “A Million Voices: The World We Want” which is based on the global conversation that the UN Development Group facilitated.  The effort enabled grassroots communities, NGOs, and broader civil society around the world, including women and girls, to be heard on the shaping of the post-2015 development agenda.

•    We have a unique opportunity before us: deliberations on this agenda will be central at this year’s General Assembly discussions.   We can help inform and shape this agenda through our collective efforts, framing the strategic deployment of broadband and the widespread use of ICTs as enablers of sustainable development.

•    We can do much together to advance this agenda, including in the efforts where you asked me here last year to lead, the Working Group on Gender.   I am pleased to announce the achievement of its first goal, its Report titled “Doubling Digital Opportunities: Enhancing the Inclusion of Women and Girls in the Information Society.”

•    The Report frames the diverse perspectives of the various sectors within the Group, and articulates what we all rally behind -- gender equality and the empowerment of women.

•    The Report calls attention to issues critical to the shaping of the Post 2015 development agenda.  First and foremost, it states that gender matters.  It then frames the importance of addressing ‘digital gender gaps’, and poses recommendations to move us all forward.  It points out that:

o    Over half the world’s 57 million out-of-school children are girls.  So the prospects of 31 million girls are dimmed by their lack of opportunities to learn to read and write.

o    By 2015, 90% of formal employment across all sectors will require ICT skills, but basic literacy required for this remains a challenge for too many countries.  Across the developing world, only 75% of women are literate, compared to 86% of men.

o    Access to broadband and ICTs remains a concern.  Intel estimates that the Internet gender gap is larger in developing countries, where 16% fewer women than men have access to the global network, compared to 2% in the developed world.

•    I would like to share with the Commission what I highlighted at the meeting of the Working Group yesterday.  In a recent TedX conference, I stressed that gender-lens is crucial to gender sensitive policy-setting. In India, a survey showed that councils led by women are more likely than councils led by men to prioritize basic needs of the entire society, such as health and water.

•    In sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of farmers are women and, unlike men, they could not own the land they cultivate, could not inherit it, could not borrow money to support farming, and did not have access to productive solutions.

•    If we consider these alongside what our Report notes, that women invest an average of 90% of their income back into their families and communities, which helps to reduce poverty and improve health and education outcomes, we immediately see the importance of enhancing opportunities for women.

•    The Report points to the potential of broadband and ICTs to support and amplify the impact of those opportunities, noting that:

o    every 10% increase in access to broadband results in 1.38% growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for developing countries (World Bank);

o    bringing 600 million additional women and girls online could boost GDP by up to US$ 13-18 billion (Intel).  

•    The Report stresses that policy is critical and notes that:

o    ICT policy development is usually seen as a technical matter with seemingly no relation to other key development areas.  This needs to change.

o    Many countries have gender-centred policies and initiatives in place but, in most cases, they do not consider the use of ICTs or broadband as a key element. We need to close this gap.

o    Likewise, this gap is seen in national broadband policies.  A recent ITU analysis indicates that only 29% of the 119 countries with broadband policies make a reference to gender.

•    Our Report recommends:

o    Integrating gender and National ICT and broadband policies.  To make this happen, we need to take the lead to bring concrete policy proposals and solutions to policymakers.

o    Improving gender-disaggregated data.  This is necessary to effective policy-making.  There are already efforts underway, so we should explore ways to link with those.

o    Boosting affordability and usability of ICT products and services.  Women in particular need access to affordable, pervasive broadband services, and the equipment necessary to use it.

o    Improving relevant and local online content.  There is an urgent need to address needs of people in marginalized areas or areas far from commercial or industrial centres.

o    Calling on governments and partners to advance gender parity on broadband access by 2020.  We need to lead the development of Action Plans focused on such priorities as digital literacy, affordability and accessibility, empowerment, and development of content relevant for women and girls.

•    Now that the Report is here, what next?

•    Certainly we will mobilize action on its recommendations.  I encouraged members, and would like to encourage the entire Commission, to start the mobilization right here among ourselves.  We need to act jointly on our own recommendations and commit our respective expertise and resources to make significant impact.

•    The Commission endorsed the Working Group goals to:

o    develop benchmarks and indicators for the target of gender equality in access to broadband by 2020;

o    include more successful women from developing countries to enrich our WG efforts; and,

o    identify priority areas for innovative programmes in developing countries we and our partners can support.

•    The WG resolved early on to identify innovative strategies using ICTs to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women to accelerate development progress overall.

•    The Working Group met yesterday and we are pleased to report that the meeting was very well attended.

•    The Report was well received by the members, and everyone looks forward to launching it later today.

•    The Working Group also came up with  three concrete proposals, pulling together various suggestions and ideas from members:

1.    Integrate gender into broadband national plans and jointly explore concrete ways to influence policy-makers to make this happen.  By the same token, approach existing gender equality policy-makers and initiatives to bring broadband and ICT into their agendas.

2.    Given the existing e-skills gender gap, work on an initiative to address this gap by building on existing ICT, broadband and gender national plans, and focusing on building the ICT skills of women, especially young girls.  This will enhance their opportunities for empowerment in the medium and long term.

3.    Support new efforts to look at affordability with a new lens, and in the context of the developing world, addressing policy and regulation issues; and enhancing research efforts along these lines to strengthen the work on indicators.

•    The Working Group will refine these further through online discussions.

•    UNDP remains committed to goals of the WG and the Commission, and can:

o    Harness its presence on the ground in 177 countries and territories, foremost to identify national development challenges and how broadband and ICTs can offer innovative solutions to address them.

o    Help link broadband policies to national priorities effectively to ensure the tangible impact we aim for;

o    Promote the development of innovative public-private partnerships with stakeholders on the ground, leaning on our long-standing relationships with them.

o    Capitalize on UNDP’s significant ICT for development portfolio in around 90 countries.  Let us explore synergies where we can, starting with collaborative initiatives among ourselves.

•    The deliberations on the Post 2015 development agenda begin here at the General Assembly this week. Things of immense impact will happen, and happen fast.

•    The Commission can certainly play an active role and help shape the new development agenda.  Working together, we can make a difference.

•    Thank you.

Leadership

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization.

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