Précis – The International Telecommunications Union’s Broadband Commission has recently released a report entitled “The Broadband Bridge: Linking ICT with Climate Action”. The report aims to raise awareness of the role that ICT, and in particular broadband networks, can play in helping to create a low carbon economy of the future.

What? The report focuses on the vital role that broadband has to play in relation to climate change and provides examples of how the use of broadband can, amongst other things, contribute to diminishing greenhouse gases, mitigate and reduce the effects of climate change and assist in conserving physical resources. The report also highlights a number of ways in which ICT can be utilised to assist in creating low carbon economies, including by replacing physical goods with electronic goods (where possible), encouraging the development of smart cities and the use of smart grids and employing smart work solutions (for example, telecommuting, to help reduce carbon emissions), or by using early warning systems and disseminating weather information to farmers and others who are threatened by climate-induced risks. The report also sheds some light on a selection of government practices for utilising ICT to create a more “green” economy, and presents a number of case studies from a range of countries including Australia, India, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Sweden.

How? The Broadband Commission considers that the integration of ICT has a clear benefit in relation to climate control and has therefore identified the following four clear targets to be achieved by 2015 to help harness the power of broadband to enable a low carbon future:

  1. Making broadband policy universal - all countries should have a national broadband plan/strategy or include broadband as part of their universal access or service conditions;  
  2. Making broadband affordable - entry level broadband services need to be made affordable in developing countries whether by means of adequate regulation and/or market forces;
  3. Connecting homes to broadband - 40% of households in developing countries should have internet access; and  
  4. Getting people online – internet user participation should reach 60% worldwide, 50% in developing countries and 15% in less developed countries.

The Broadband Commission has also put forward the following ten recommendations for policymakers and global leaders to help accelerate global progress towards low carbon economies and to assist in reaching the targets set out above:

  1. Lead with vision by adopting long-term National Broadband Plans or Strategies based on universal affordability and accessibility, open markets and innovation;
  2. Bring convergence to ICT policy so that it aligns with other policy areas, such as energy, health, education and climate, in order to maximise its impact;  
  3. Ensure regulatory certainty on climate and broadband regulatory policy to create a framework for investment certainty;
  4. Drive cross-ministry collaboration and integrated decision-making to align climate and digital goals as well as using government procurement to send the right market signals;  
  5. Foster flexibility by identifying and removing the regulatory and policy barriers that hinder research and investment in ICT-based broadband infrastructure and low carbon solutions;
  6. Provide incentives to encourage uptake of low-carbon solutions and support market changes by rewarding/incentivising desired consumer behaviours and to spur innovation;  
  7. Build the market  by funding and facilitating scalable projects that demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of broadband as an enabler of low carbon solutions and build a strong business case to attract private investment;
  8. Form partnerships across public, private and non-governmental sectors to develop a collaborative mindset and cultivate connectivity and co-creativity across public, private and non-governmental organisations;  
  9. Develop and standardise metrics for calculating and measuring ICT’s environmental impacts and positive contributions to other sectors;
  10. Actively disseminate project findings, share best practice and learn from any mistakes made to identify successes and to enable countries to learn from each others’ experiences whilst communicating the benefits that can be realised from integrated, trans-sector approaches to digital development and ICT.

It is the Broadband Commission’s belief that adopting the recommendations set out above will ultimately allow broadband’s transformational powers to contribute towards low carbon solutions worldwide.