Broadband technologies are driving substantial transformation in a range of sectors, including health, education, financial inclusion and the environment, making them a key accelerator towards achieving of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to The State of Broadband 2018: Broadband Catalyzing Sustainable Development report.

The report was released ahead of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s autumn meeting in New York City on 23 September.

Issued annually, The State of Broadband report is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.

According to the report, although a majority of the world’s population (52% or 3.7 billion) currently remain unconnected, the number of total Internet users continues to grow strongly, with annual Internet growth rates above 5%. The report predicts that there will be nearly 4.4 billion active mobile broadband subscriptions globally by end 2018, showcasing the potential for expanding the reach of the mobile digital economy.

Meanwhile, Ooredoo a primary comms company operating across the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia, said that in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders, it will continue its delivery of universal broadband services to developing regions and nations. The firm added its sustained investments in infrastructure and innovation aimed to bridge the digital divide.:

“The report shines light on the crucial role of broadband connectivity in advancing sustainable development,” said Ooredoo Group CEO H.E. Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser Al Thani. “As we deploy the power of digital technology to give people access to the services and support they need, we urge governments, operators and regulators to continue working closely together to address the deepening digital inequality in global connectivity.”

The report also found that 48% of the global population is now online but there are still some 3.7 billion people who do not have Internet access. While it recognizes the strong growth in broadband markets that is being accompanied by rapid technological innovation, it also raises concerns for the growing inequalities in access to broadband that exist between developed and developing countries.

Emphasizing the importance of building an inclusive digital society that is accessible by all, the Commission outlines “4 I’s” –  Infrastructure, Investment, Innovation and Inclusivity –  which are central to the Commission’s strategy of expanding access to broadband and helping accelerate the achievement of all United Nations’ SDGs.

Ooredoo said its investment is recognised in the report, which highlights its advancement toward 5G and collaboration with Nokia on early 5G trials in Qatar. “Ooredoo has invested heavily in rolling out the next generation technology to deliver superior mobile experiences for its customers and ensure that Qatar is at the forefront of 5G developments and the 5G ecosystem,” it added.