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Achieving Broadband Access for All in Africa Comes With a $100 Billion Price Tag

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Across Africa, where less than a third of the population has access to broadband connectivity, achieving universal, affordable, and good quality internet access by 2030 will require an investment of US $100 billion. This is according to a report launched at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group, which calls for urgent action to close the internet access gap while providing a roadmap to reach this ambitious goal.

The report from The Broadband for All Working Group  gives practical insights and suggestions of what is needed to attain this objective, including an action plan for universal broadband connectivity in Africa. To achieve universal broadband access, African countries will need to bring about 1.1 billion more people online. This will require exceptional and coordinated efforts from governments, the private sector, development partners, and civil society, the report says, but the investment is worth it.

The digital agenda is first and foremost a growth and jobs agenda,” says Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Infrastructure. “The working-age population in Africa is expected to increase by some 450 million people between 2015 and 2035. If current trends continue, less than one quarter will find stable jobs. Broadening internet access means creating millions of job opportunities.”

While the number of broadband connections in Africa crossed the 400 million mark in 2018 (nearly twenty times 2010 levels), the regional average broadband penetration —including 3G and 4G connections— is only 25% in 2018. Mobile broadband coverage in Africa is still at 70% of the population. Even in North Africa, there is ample room for growth with 4G networks covering only about 60% of the population. Additional challenges, such as the lack of access to reliable and affordable electricity, make accelerating Africa’s digital transformation journey even more difficult.

According to the report, nearly 80% of all required investments are directly related to the need to roll out and maintain broadband networks. However, connecting the unconnected is about more than just infrastructure: about 20% of required investments consists in building the user skills and local content foundations, and another 2-4% should be allocated to setting up the appropriate regulatory framework, the report notes. While the private sector has driven most successful broadband initiatives, public agencies play a crucial role by implementing effective sector regulation, addressing potential market failures, and creating the conditions for an open, competitive broadband sector. 

“In large parts of Africa, we are witnessing a lack of progress in extending access and network coverage. Affordability is also declining in many nations. Promoting greater digital inclusion is going to require more effective and innovative collaboration,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Executive Director of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “We need to leverage our strengths and expertise. Governments can help with policies enabling new technologies, new business models and investment. The right policies will, in turn, provide the private sector with the incentives to build out infrastructure and explore new technologies and applications that will drive demand.”

Connecting the 100 million people in rural and remote areas that live out of reach of traditional cellular mobile networks will require strong private sector involvement, innovative business models, and alternative technologies, such as satellite and Wi-Fi based technical solutions, the report notes.

Let us be clear: no single actor will be able to meet Africa’s 2030 target and carry the burden of a $100 billion investment funding requirement alone. All stakeholders must work together to make sure that every African has affordable and reliable access to the internet”, says Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region. This includes: the African Union and regional economic communities; African governments and respective public investment agencies; sector regulators; multilateral development banks and regional development banks; the United Nations and other development agencies; the private sector; and civil society groups and nongovernmental organizations.

* The Working Group on Broadband for All: A Digital Moonshot Infrastructure for Africa, led by the World Bank, was established in 2018 under the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development with the primary objective of identifying investment requirements and policy roadmaps to increase connectivity and to reach full coverage in Africa. This report draws upon the expertise of Broadband Commissioners and experts from around the world.

About the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development: ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010 with the aim of boosting the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda and expanding broadband access in every country as key to accelerating progress towards national and international development targets. Following adoption of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, the Commission was re-launched as the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development to showcase and document the power of ICT and broadband-based technologies for sustainable development. Its members include top CEO and industry leaders, senior policy-makers and government representatives, international agencies, academia and organizations concerned with development.

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Building Emerging Technology Governance Key to Realizing Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

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Governments and companies around the world are investing heavily in emerging technologies to boost growth. The Middle East and North Africa region could see approximately $400 billion added to its economies over the next 15 years if artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are adopted. In Saudi Arabia alone, investment in AI is forecast to add 12.4% to GDP.

To help accelerate the development and implementation of emerging technologies while mitigating risks, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) today announced the launch of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Saudi Arabia with the World Economic Forum.

As the latest Affiliate to join the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network, this new hub will benefit from the agile governance methodology designed in San Francisco and will apply it to pilot projects in the country. The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Saudi Arabia will be run and managed locally to help the country achieve its Vision 2030.

“To use the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as AI and blockchain, and many others, for driving economic development and social progress, we need global cooperation,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “On the eve of its G20 presidency, we welcome the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the establishment of a new Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Riyadh, to shape those technologies in a way that serves society.”

In the region, Saudi Arabia has been undertaking large-scale digitalization efforts as part of its National Transformation plan and in the run-up to its G20 presidency. The commercial 5G roll out, recent establishment of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence and the high percentage of mobile phone and internet use show that the country is taking steps towards shaping the trajectory of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

The World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network was founded in 2017 to accelerate the development of emerging technologies by bringing together a multistakeholder community to co-design agile governance policies. To facilitate this process, the Forum launched an Affiliate Centre programme in early 2019 to help countries develop national Fourth Industrial Revolution strategies and public-private initiatives.

Affiliate Centres tap into and share research across the Forum’s global network. The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Saudi Arabia will focus on the following emerging technology portfolio areas: artificial intelligence; blockchain; data policy; internet of things, smart cities and robotics; and mobility.

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PwC rated as a Leader among European and Asia Pacific Cybersecurity Consulting Providers

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PwC announced that it was cited as a Leader in in both The Forrester Wave™: Cybersecurity Consulting Services In Asia Pacific, Q4 2019 and The Forrester Wave™: European Cybersecurity Consulting Providers, Q4 2019.

In the APAC-focused report, Forrester stated that: “PwC shines with impressive IP-based consulting. PwC targets its impressive range of assets — like its value-at-risk offering and virtual-reality simulated cyber crisis environments — at boards and executives. It aims to use these assets to create a deeper understanding of and support for key security challenges among those stakeholders. PwC also has strong intellectual property (IP)-based consulting offerings for CISOs, such as its identity and access management automation and ethical hacking bot. PwC regularly engages regulators throughout Asia Pacific and provides thought leadership sessions to board institutions in the region, such as the Australian Institute of Board Directors.” 

The APAC report goes on to say that: “PwC has a demonstrated ability to use its global strengths to adapt to agile ways of working. Reference clients were happy with the firm’s expertise, noted that PwC was a true partner and advisor across the region, and praised the firm’s positive internal culture.” 

Paul O’Rourke, Asia-Pacific and Global Financial Services Cyber Leader, PwC said:  “We are really pleased with this result. Our comprehensive cybersecurity solutions assist businesses with assessing, building and managing their cybersecurity capabilities and enabling effective incident response to a myriad of potential threats. With our successful track record across various domains of cybersecurity, we help our clients to strategically assess, design, implement, operate and improve cybersecurity programs from strategy through execution.”

Grant Waterfall, EMEA Cybersecurity and Privacy Leader, PwC said “PwC, and specifically each member of our teams that work with clients each day to build business and consumer trust through a more secure digital society, are extremely proud to receive this recognition from Forrester Research. Over the past year, cybersecurity has been elevated to Firm-wide platform at PwC, representing a formal commitment to our clients, markets, and employees, that cybersecurity will be top priority for how we serve each of them and grow our brand for the future.”

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New Partnership Aims to Accelerate Technology Innovations and Scale-Up the Circular Economy

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The World Economic Forum is creating a new partnership to harness the potential of technology innovation and smart policy to fast-track the circular economy.

Launched today, SCALE 360 will collaborate with government, business, civil society and entrepreneurs around the world to find bright new ideas that will help us cut the waste in our economies.

A circular economy is a regenerative approach to production and consumption, in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts. Research shows that this transition could generate $4.5 trillion in additional economic output by 2030.

The concept has caught the attention of businesses and governments but is far from being mainstream. Today, only 9% of extracted materials are re-used. Meanwhile, the extraction and processing of natural resources continues to add to half of global greenhouse gas emissions and is projected to more than double by 2050.

SCALE 360 is affiliated with the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy. It aims to create new markets for circular goods, services and revenue by surfacing, supporting and connecting entrepreneurs and innovations through nationally-led challenges and partnerships. The idea is to help them scale up solutions in partnership with government ministries, impact investors, experts, and companies. The first of these national partnerships launches today in the United Arab Emirates. The next national partnership will launch in Chile with a long-term goal of growing a global network of change makers.

“This partnership aims to trigger a worldwide movement for radical change by identifying new technologies and business solutions that break our dependency on natural resource extraction while marrying targets for protecting the environment with ones for boosting economies,” said Dominic Waughray, Head of the Centre for Global Public Goods, Member of Managing Board, World Economic Forum.

The announcement comes as innovations like blockchain-enabled asset tracking, digital business models, new materials and recovery systems enabled by artificial intelligence emerge across the world.

“SCALE 360 will fast track our global efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to ensuring the conservation of our natural resources, a circular economy will step up our reliance on clean energy, enhance the consistent implementation of sustainable development standards, and generate greater opportunities for the youth in the region,” said H.E. Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change & Environment of the United Arab Emirates.

“Artificial Intelligence and advanced technologies have incredible potential to change our relationship with natural resources by applying it in new ways. This partnership provides an important opportunity to trigger new solutions and applications of these technologies” said H.E. Mr Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence of the United Arab Emirates.

SCALE 360 builds on research developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Accenture Strategy to explore the potential for Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to accelerate the circular economy transition for plastics and electronics.

The World Economic Forum will host the partnership with an initial investment of CHF 1 million from the UAE Government and will tap into the Forum’s networks of experts, civil society, government and industry leaders, PACE and the network of Centers for the Fourth industrial revolution.

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