Sustainable Development Goals and Broadband

sdgIn 2000, the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight development targets to be achieved by 2015. Each goal had associated metrics and timelines.

Progress towards the goals was uneven at both a country and international level. Some goals were not achieved (such as reductions in child and maternal mortality rates), while other goals were actually achieved early (such as global reduction in poverty, mostly thanks to China and India).

In addition to mixed success, the goals prompted debate about whether the best, most legitimate eight goals were chosen. There was a parallel debate around the chosen success metrics.

Despite the shortcomings or disputes, however, the MDGs are widely credited with increasing attention, funding, and coordination around fundamentally important global milestones.

As the end of the 15 year window approached, the United Nations launched a follow-on effort entitled the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Careful to avoid criticism of a hasty selection of targets, the UN considered literally hundreds of possible goals, eventually (and painfully) winnowing down to 17 goals — including 169 “targets” and 304 “indicators”. (The large number of goals, targets and indicators unleashed a new wave of criticism.)

So what does all of this have to do with broadband everywhere? A lot, actually.

It’s quite easy to point to the key role broadband will play in achieving each of the goals. Goal 1, for example, “elimination of poverty”, will be directly impacted due to increased economic growth. Goal 2, “zero hunger”, will be directly impacted through better communications, coordination, and policy implementation.

Some goals stand out as particularly tied to broadband access. Goal 3, “good health and well-being”, and Goal 4, “quality education”, are particularly intertwined with the internet. Goal 8, “decent work and economic growth”, is as well.

Broadband indeed plays such an important role across the SDGs that the UN’s Broadband Commission updated their name in 2015 to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

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