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Broadband Liberation

NEW DELHI – In July, I was among 30 men and women from around the world – government ministers, bureaucrats, technologists, and strategic thinkers – who gathered at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva to discuss how broadband can transform the world for the better. This “Broadband Commission” met under the Chairmanship of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the Mexican communications mogul Carlos Slim.

The ITU, a United Nations body, established the Commission in partnership with UNESCO, and the joint chairmanship was no accident. The UN recognizes that if the information revolution is to advance further, it will take a public-private effort. As ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré has put it, “In the twenty-first century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water, and power.”

The Swiss writer and playwright Max Frisch once dismissed technology as “the art of arranging the world so that we need not experience it.” Today, however, technology is essential to effective participation in our world. And, although mankind cannot live by technology alone, the information revolution has liberated millions of people.

Information is liberating in the traditional political sense of the term: the spread of information has had a direct impact on the degree of accountability and transparency that governments must deliver if they are to survive.