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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the priorities of your organization?

The COVID-19 crisis has not only highlighted the critical role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for continued functioning of societies, but has also brought to the fore the startling digital inequalities between and within countries. Bound by the powerful belief that technology can be a source of good for everyone, ITU Members have stepped up and engaged in activities that have proven essential in saving lives and keeping economies going. ITU is helping countries to fully utilize digital technologies to respond to and recover from COVID-19, and to build preparedness for similar future global emergencies. Now more than ever, the world needs to be able to rely on ICTs and ITU's leadership in promoting universal, secure, reliable and affordable connectivity. For more information: ITU COVID-19 response and recovery home page


2. In 2020/2021, how has your organization endeavored to support Member States to build back better from COVID-19 while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda? Please select up to three high-impact initiatives to highlight, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs. How has your organization cooperated with other UN system organizations in those efforts to achieve coherence and synergies?

ITU responded to the UN Secretary-General’s call to “build back better”, calling on the international community to “Connect2Recover” and recalls that its Member States have agreed on the Connect 2030 Agenda as a way to expand quality digital infrastructure in countries for the benefit of all people everywhere. ITU collaborations with sister UN agencies in responding to Covid-19 include with UNESCO on e-learning, with the World Health Organization and UNICEF on health messaging, and through the Broadband Commission’s Agenda for Action.

Name: “Connect2Recover”
Partners: (please list all partners)  
Relevant SDGs SDGs 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 
Member States benefiting from the initiative: Global
Description: Information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure has proven vital in helping countries and consumers adapt and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. ICTs have enabled them to continue working and learning remotely, and to access the latest health information, updates and directives from local and national authorities. Connect2Recover is a global initiative that aims to reinforce the digital infrastructure and digital ecosystems of beneficiary countries. In addition, its objective is also to provide means of utilizing digital technologies such as telework, ecommerce, remote learning and telemedicine to support the COVID-19 recovery efforts and preparedness for the 'new normal' (and potential future pandemics). Connect2Recover also assesses risks due to natural disaster in strengthening resilience of digital infrastructure. Connect2Recover seeks to galvanize action for affordable and reliable connectivity as part of COVID-19 recovery strategies. Whereas it heralds the beginning of ITU's transition from COVID-19 response activities to helping countries to prepare for and adjust to the new circumstances caused by the pandemic, it also reinforces continuity of ITU's core work and mission, which is to extend connectivity to everyone.


Name: “ICT Case Repository”
Partners: (please list all partners)  
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 , 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17
Member States benefiting from the initiative: Global
Description: How are you using ICTs to help your community respond COVID-19, ensuring the impactful use of the WSIS Action Lines in advancing SDGs? What projects and activities has your organization introduced during the Coronavirus disease to continue working efficiently and to create a social impact helping other stakeholders? As a part of the WSIS Stocktaking ongoing efforts to promote the good use of ICTs in making social impact, and in order to provide useful, replicable and actionable information to all WSIS community and beyond, the platform is now available for collecting projects and activities on how ICTs are assisting stakeholders in their everyday life, work, and combating challenges caused by this extraordinary pandemic. The aim of this repository is to help you to continue to partner, collaborate and implement in these exceptional circumstances. Once received, the projects will be reviewed and will be featured on the WSIS Stocktaking Platform and promoted through various channels including the WSIS Flash newsletter, WSIS TalkX and social media channels.  
Website: s/Submit/15863048637525604  


Name: "The Global Network Resiliency Platform (#REG4COVID)"
Partners: (please list all partners)  
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 , 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17
Member States benefiting from the initiative: Global
Description: REG4COVID is the ITU's community platform gathering policy and regulatory initiatives worldwide to improve COVID-19 response through ICTs  


3. Has your organization published or is it planning to publish any analytical work or guidance note or toolkits to guide and support recovery efforts from COVID-19 while advancing SDG implementation at national, regional and global levels? Please select up to three high-impact resources to highlight, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs.

Name: How many children and young people have internet access at home?  
Publishing entity: GIGA (ITU UNICEF initiative)  
Relevant SDGs SDGs 4 and 10
Target audience: All public
Resource description: At the height of nationwide lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 1.6 billion children were affected by school closures, causing the largest mass disruption of education in modern history. Yet, even before schools shuttered their doors, one in five school age children (3 to 17 years old) was out of school, and even children in schools were not necessarily learning, with 617 million children and adolescents worldwide failing to reach minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. To address these gaps, more than 90 per cent of the world’s education ministries have adopted some type of remote learning policy, and stakeholders have sought to “reimagine education” by harnessing technology. However, 2.2 billion — or two thirds of children and young people aged 25 years or less — do not have internet access at home, according to the How Many Children and Youth Have Internet Access at Home report, a joint effort by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Using the latest available household survey data, the report finds significant inequities between countries, regions, wealth groups and urban-rural settings. For example, only 5 per cent of children and young people in West and Central Africa have internet access at home compared to the 33 per cent global average. Differences are starker yet between rich and poor countries, with only 6 per cent of children and young people in low-income countries having internet access compared to 87 per cent in high-income countries. Significantly expanding internet access is vital for ensuring that all children and young people are learning and acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to support a sustainable future. To this end, UNICEF has joined forces with ITU to launch Giga, an ambitious global initiative to connect every school to the internet. With the support of Generation Unlimited, UNICEF is also working under the Reimagine Education initiative, which aims to address the learning crisis and transform education by giving children and young people equal access to quality digital learning. 
Language: English


Name: Digital tools and strategies in COVID-19 infodemic response: Case studies and discussion  
Publishing entity: ITU
Relevant SDGs SDGs 8, 9 and 10
Target audience: All public
Resource description: This report brings to light some of the important aspects of dealing with health misinformation in the digital age. Digital communication channels and online platforms can serve as a highly cost-effective means of delivery and promotion for public health guidance; but they can also act as a breeding ground for rumours, conspiracy theories and misbeliefs about a novel health threat. It should therefore be the objective of policymakers and infodemic managers to leverage Information and communication technology (ICT) in a way that empowers people so that they can access reliable and useful content, while identifying and avoiding misinformation and disinformation. The report looks at experiences of selected countries in leveraging ICTs in COVID-19 'infodemic' response, discusses available solutions, and identifies some of the key enablers for effective digital policy implementation.  
Language: English  


Name: The Economic impact of broadband and digitization through the COVID-19 pandemic – Econometric modelling   
Publishing entity: ITU
Relevant SDGs SDGs 8, 9 and 10
Target audience: All public
Resource description: Building on a study published by ITU in 2020 this report examines the impact of fixed and mobile broadband penetration and digitization levels on the global economy from 2007 through to the end of 2020, in an effort to measure the contribution of digital to social and economic resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This research outlines the most noticeable trends identified in 2020 and their policy implications. Download your free copy now! 
Language: English  

More than 3 resources to highlight?

Pandemic in the Internet age: From second wave to new normal, recovery, adaptation and resilience: 


4. How has your organization engaged with stakeholder groups to support SDG implementation and COVID-19 recovery at national, regional and global levels? Please provide main highlights, including any lessons learned. If your organization has established multi-stakeholder partnerships in this regard, please describe them (objectives, partners involved, relevant SDGs, Member States benefiting from the partnership) and provide links to relevant websites, if applicable.

Main highlights and lessons learned:

1. Opening the WSIS Forum 2020 final week on 7 September 2020, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao noted that “as we recover from this crisis and try to build back better in the wake of COVID-19, we need to ensure that no one is left offline”. The first ever virtual WSIS Forum had the highest participation ever and the best ever balance between stakeholders, regions and gender. Over 160 workshops, around 800 speakers and 15,000 attendees paid special attention to how the power of ICTs can overcome severe challenges such as COVID-19. Many lessons were learned which will help us further improve WSIS Forums - even when we return to physical events - to make them more participatory and inclusive.

1.2. The weekly virtual WSIS TalkXs have delved into many aspects of the global response to COVID-19. Building on the expertise of the WSIS community, this webinar and podcast series provided WSIS Stakeholders with a platform to create partnerships for on-the-ground action. As a part of the WSIS Stocktaking efforts to promote the innovative use of digital technologies in making social impact, the ICT Case Repository has collected projects and activities dedicated to responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

1.3. ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao also addressed the Extraordinary Meeting of G20 Ministers responsible for the digital economy on 30 April 2020 and urged the Ministers to seize the unique opportunity presented by the COVID-19 crisis to speed up the development of the digital society, saying that he was “confident that the message sent by the Ministers from G20 countries will play a historic role in the fight against COVID-19 and the role of digital technologies in the achievement of the SDGs.”

2.4. In collaboration with the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, ITU organized a series of webinars entitled “Digital Cooperation during COVID-19 and beyond” that focused on how to secure safe, stable, affordable and inclusive connectivity. The series helped identify possible solutions and common approaches and strategies from different nations and stakeholders. The five webinars which begun on 15th April 2020, were concluded on 13th May 2020. More information can be found here.…

For more information, see: ITU COVID-19 initiatives, activities and partnerships

Multi-Stakeholder partnerships established

1. Ad-hoc group on digital technologies for COVID health emergency (ITU, WHO): This FG-AI4H ad-hoc group is collecting effective ways and cases on AI and other digital technologies to combat COVID-19 covering the entire cycle of an epidemic emergency, encompassing the following: prevention and preparedness, outbreak early detection, surveillance and response, recovery, rehabilitation, mitigation, etc (Reference: Emergency Risk Management/ Disaster Risk Reduction of the ERF Sendai Framework). The outputs are expected to evolve towards a more generalizable mechanism on the health emergency continuum, eventually applicable to other pandemics.

2. Broadband Commission Agenda for Action (ITU/UNESCO): The Broadband Commissioners committed to champion and implement an agenda for action: resilient connectivity, affordable access and safe use of online services.

3. Unleashing information technology to defeat COVID-19 (ITU/WHO/UNICEF): This initiative builds on current efforts to disseminate health messages through the joint WHO-ITU BeHe@lthy BeMobile initiative.

4. A Digital Development Joint Action Plan and Call for Action (ITU /World Bank/GSMA/WEF) The initiative set concrete and immediate actions to promote network resilience, ensure access and affordability of digital services and help governments, private sector and every citizen cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. The Telecommunication Development Bureau strengthened its resource mobilization efforts in order to finance projects that would result into more meaningful connectivity, access and use of ICT tools and solutions. In 2021, a total of more than USD$ 20 million was mobilized. For more information, see: ITU COVID-19 response and recovery home page

Following the adoption of the 2019 SDG Summit declaration (GA resolution 74/4), where Member States outlined ten priority areas for accelerated action in SDG implementation, please highlight any major integrated and innovative policies or initiatives that your organization may have adopted in the following areas:

5.1 leaving no one behind;

1. ITU has published guidelines on how to ensure that digital information, services and products are accessible by all people, including persons with disabilities, during COVID-19.…

2. The Partner2Connect Digital Coalition is a multi-stakeholder alliance launched by ITU in close cooperation with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, and in line with the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the hardest-to-connect communities, with a focus on, but not limited to, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

3. ITU joined the COVID-19 Global Education Coalition led by UNESCO to ensure that learning continues for more than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet affected by school and university closures. The pandemic has revealed startling divides in digitally based distance learning. Nearly 830 million learners globally do not have access to a computer, while more than 40% have no Internet access at home.

4. The ITU Smart Villages Platform has been used to establish interactive voice services on COVID-19 to everyone in Niger. The service, created in collaboration with operators and SMEs, is available via the short code 701 in the five local languages in Niger. Through the service, citizens have been able to access important messages from the Ministry of Health regarding prevention and diagnosis of COVID-19.

5. Cities house over half of the world’s population and risk amplifying the COVID-19 pandemic. The United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) ─ a UN initiative coordinated by ITU, UNECE and UN-Habitat, and supported by other 14 UN bodies ─ has created a new workstream exploring the solutions and best practices used by cities to address COVID-19.

6. ITU published guidelines to accelerate inclusive digital transformation through agile, responsive and collaborative regulation learning from the pandemic and preparing for the post-COVID.

7. As part of ITU’s series of Economic Experts Roundtables, ITU published a report on the Telecommunication industry in the post-COVID-19 world exploring the different operational and business models for ICT infrastructure deployment in unserved areas, and the financing strategies and instruments to be considered by stakeholders in financing required ICT infrastructure.

5.2 mobilizing adequate and well-directed financing;

5.3 enhancing national implementation;

5.4 strengthening institutions for more integrated solutions;

5.5 bolstering local action;

5.6 reducing disaster risk and building resilience;

1. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, as in any other emergency, the speed and efficiency of our response is proportional to the level of preparedness. ITU launched new guidelines to assist countries develop national emergency telecommunication plans.…

2. On March 23, 2020, ITU launched the Global Network Resiliency Platform (REG4COVID) to deal with the stress being put on telecommunication networks as more countries, companies, and individuals turned to digital technologies to respond to and cope with the impact of COVID-19. The platform helps policy makers, regulators, and industry players ensure that networks are kept resilient and telecoms services are available to all, to the maximum extent possible.

3. ITU’s latest initiative – Connect2Recover – aims at reinforcing the digital infrastructure of beneficiary countries and better means of utilizing digital technologies (e.g. teleworking, ecommerce, remote learning and telemedicine) to support COVID-19 recovery efforts and preparedness for the “new normal”, as well as potential future pandemics.

5.7 solving challenges through international cooperation and enhancing the global partnership;

1. The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development adopted an Agenda for Action outlining immediate measures that governments, industry, the international community, and civil society can take to shore-up digital networks, strengthen capacity at critical connectivity points like hospitals and transport hubs, and boost digital access and inclusion.

2. ITU joined the World Bank, GSMA and the World Economic Forum in setting in motion concrete and immediate actions ranging from promoting network resilience to ensuring access and affordability of digital services in order to help governments, private sector and every citizen cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. A Digital Development Joint Action Plan and Call for Action was launched to better leverage digital technologies and infrastructure during the pandemic.…

3. Building on the joint WHO-ITU BeHealthy BeMobile initiative, and with support from UNICEF, ITU worked with telecommunication companies to text people that might not have access to Internet directly on their mobile phones with vital health messaging to help protect them from COVID-19.…

4. On 19 April 2020, ITU joined G20 Health Ministers to address the impact of COVID-19 on the global health sector and society. The virtual meeting addressed the necessary actions to improve pandemic preparedness and emphasized the importance of utilizing digital solutions in current and future pandemics.

5. ITU has been leveraging the work of the ITU-UNICEF GIGA initiative to accelerate the development of financing structures in a number of countries, including Niger, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and East Caribbean countries, with an aim to catalyze the funding required to bring connectivity to schools.

6. Due to COVID-19, for many parents the question of how to ensure their children’s online safety became more pressing than ever before. On 23 June 2020, ITU launched the 2020 Guidelines on Child Online Protection (COP), a comprehensive set of concrete recommendations for children, parents and educators, industry and policymakers on how to contribute to the development of a safe and empowering online environment for children and young people.

7. An Agenda for Action launched by eight UN agencies, including ITU, places children’s protection from violence in the context of COVID-19 as top priority for governments and provides concrete recommendations to safeguard children’s well-being.…

8. As member of the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, ITU also contributed to the Statement on COVID-19 and Youth. 9. The ITU Focus Group on AI for health (FG-AI4H) is a collaboration with WHO to establish a standardized benchmarking framework for the evaluation of AI-based methods for health, diagnosis, triage or treatment decisions. Several topics have been pursued to provide support to fighting COVID-19 and future pandemics by using AI for detecting outbreaks (TGOutbreaks), for detecting counterfeit or adulterated medicines (TG-FakeMeds), whereas a new ad-hoc group on digital technologies for COVID health emergency aims to establish best practices in the use of AI at each lifecycle of a public health emergency. The group will review AI and other digital health technologies’ performance in combatting COVID-19 and future health emergencies.

5.8 harnessing science, technology and innovation with a greater focus on digital transformation for sustainable development;

1. To help build a secure and trustworthy environment for those relying on ICTs during the COVID-19 crisis, ITU has been working with partners to make cybersecurity-related tools and resources available, and launched CYB4COVID, a comprehensive repository of cybersecurity expertise related to COVID-19, assisting countries, businesses and citizens in their response to amplified and new threats in the digital space during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Building on its Digital Transformation Centres Initiative, ITU, in collaboration with Cisco, organized a free-of-charge programme providing trainers with tools and skills on how to conduct remote teaching in the context of COVID-19. So far, 658 people from 28 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America have been trained in Bahasa, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.…

3. Several innovation solutions are sought to tackle the challenges posed by COVID-19. ITU is a key partner in several hackathons and currently leads the ITU Innovation Challenges. The overall theme of this year’s challenges was Rethinking the digital economy’s value chains during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5.9 investing in data and statistics for the SDGs; and

In the context of the implementation of the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, ITU is developing a baseline and targets to allow countries to track progress towards achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity.

5.10    strengthening the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).


6.  In the lead up to the 2023 HLPF to be held under the auspices of the General Assembly (or 2023 SDG Summit), please provide your organization’s recommendations on how to overcome challenges to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the SDGs, taking into account the thematic reviews and voluntary national reviews conducted to date.

To achieve No One Left Behind, we need to increase digital inclusion, promote digital skills, and promote more affordable universal connectivity. We need digital solutions to re-energize sustainable development and help countries get on track to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. An estimated 37 per cent of the world's population – or 2.9 billion people – have still never used the Internet. New data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) also reveal strong global growth in Internet use, with the estimated number of people who have used the Internet surging to 4.9 billion in 2021, from an estimated 4.1 billion in 2019. This comes as good news for global development. However, ITU data confirm that the ability to connect remains profoundly unequal. Of the 2.9 billion still offline, an estimated 96 per cent live in developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries(LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries(LLDCs), and Small Island Developing States(SIDS). And even among the 4.9 billion counted as 'Internet users', hundreds of millions may only get the chance to go online infrequently, via shared devices, or using connectivity speeds that markedly limit the usefulness of their connection. Connecting the unconnected and bridging the digital divide is at the forefront of our efforts. For more information, see : Only by working together – across industries and across borders – will we bring the power of ICTs to all nations, all people and all segments of society. To continue in a positive direction, countries need to consider what ITU Secretary-General Mr. Houlin Zhao has called the ‘4 Is’: infrastructure, investment, innovation and inclusiveness. All countries have to extend infrastructure to those areas not enjoying these ICT services yet, but we also have to upgrade to the current infrastructure, with new technologies such as 5G. Investment is also important because people want services at affordable prices, and industry needs to upgrade their systems. To attract investment, countries must nurture a good regulatory environment for that investment. The third ‘I’ is innovation. We cannot continue doing business the same way we did in the past. We must have innovative ways to do business. Entrepreneurs are a rich source of innovation. Particularly in today’s environment, young people know technologies; they know the market; they know the challenges and have a lot of marvelous, innovative ideas to help us extend newer technologies with local solutions to connect local communities. The last ‘I’ is inclusiveness. To ensure no one is left behind, this includes working with groups like persons with disabilities, older persons, children and youth, and those who live in remote areas, to overcome the obstacles they face to getting meaningfully connected.

7.  Please review your organization's information contained in the UN System SDG Implementation Database. If you wish to submit any updates, please share details below.

ITU is currently reviewing this information and will submit updates shortly.

ECESA Plus Member
Year of submission: 2021