Broadband networks are as vital to the world's economic and social future as transport, water or power, according to the United Nations-backed Broadband Commission for Digital Development.
The group met yesterday in Geneva to discuss its vision for accelerating the development of broadband networks across the globe, and will present two reports to the UN in September.
The first will look at input from the commissioners at the event, and the second will analyse the challenges and opportunities in deploying broadband in all types of economies.
The second report will also look at the local needs, financing constraints and technical hurdles in areas where broadband is needed, and offer proposals on possible means of deploying networks in every country worldwide.
"In the 21st century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water and power," said Dr Hamadoun I Touré, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union.
"Just as connection to the power grid is now seen as a basic element of social and economic empowerment, so ubiquitous connectivity to broadband networks will be vital to the ongoing development of every nation worldwide."
Unesco director general Irina Bokova added that, while ICT is helping to provide new opportunities for the creation, preservation, dissemination and use of information, more needs to be done to ensure that this is true across the board.
"We aim for the construction of inclusive knowledge societies in which people can transform information into knowledge and understanding that empowers them to improve their lives and contribute to social and economic development," she said.
"Universal access to broadband-enabled applications will be vital for achieving this goal."
In the UK, the government yesterday gave its backing to a new drive to get the entire UK population online by 2015, as outlined by UK Digital Inclusion Champion Martha Lane Fox.
There are currently around ten million citizens in the UK without internet access.
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