First ITU/UN ESCAP Interactive Terrestrial Transmission Information Superhighway maps to help bridge digital divide

Powerful digital tool to take stock of ICT metrics

Ground-breaking new maps of the Global Information Superhighway, which will help bridge the digital divide in Asia-Pacific, were today jointly released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

For the first time ever, the ITU Interactive Terrestrial Transmission/ESCAP Asia Pacific Information Superhighway Maps will show policy makers and investors where the missing links in terrestrial transmission are across the region, assisting ESCAP in its efforts to bring affordable information communication technology (ICT) and broadband connectivity for all.

Only 7 per cent of people in the Asia Pacific region have fixed broadband access and it is the most digitally divided region in the world, with Republic of Korea at 37.56% fixed broadband penetration, compared to Myanmar with only 0.01%.

In addressing today’s Connect Asia Pacific Summit in Bangkok, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP said the Information Super highway mapping will play an important role in addressing this digital divide.

“In Asia and the Pacific, what we call the ‘digital divide’ is in fact an income divide, a gender divide, an education divide and a knowledge divide,” Dr. Heyzer explained.

“Rising inequality – both income and non-income – poses one of the greatest challenges in Asia-Pacific and technological progress has often widened these gaps, separating those with education and knowledge from those without.

“Together we must bridge the ICT divide by building a seamless information and communication space in the region through the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway. Our efforts must be global in ambition, regional in scope, and local in execution.”

“We have seen significant progress in the area of broadband connectivity with the landing of submarine cables in many countries, along with the expansion of national and cross-border fibre backbone networks, as well as mobile and wireless services,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “The ITU Interactive Terrestrial Transmission/ESCAP Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway maps will demonstrate the current status of ICT connectivity around the globe, empower network planners, policy-makers and regulators from developing countries, while also industry with a powerful tool to assess market opportunities.”

Public-private people partnerships critical

In closing, Dr. Heyzer stressed the importance of public-private people partnerships, saying the full potential of ICTs will only be realized if transformative technologies are accompanied by shared values, shared commitment, and shared solidarity for inclusive and sustainable development.

The need to synchronize the deployment of fibre-optic cables with the construction or maintenance of railways and roads was also highlighted at today’s launch, as up to 90% of the costs of laying out fibre are associated with civil-engineering work that is regularly performed when roads or railways are constructed.

The Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway maps will feature the region’s main transport networks – the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railways –as it is critical that fibre-optic cables can be laid in coordination with the construction of railways and roads to ensure appropriate cost savings.

The ITU Interactive Terrestrial Transmission/ESCAP Asia Pacific Information Superhighway Maps are available at: www.unescap.org/idd/maps/asia-pacific-superhighway