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How AI Can Facilitate Global Connectivity

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to help bring online the 2,6-bil­lion people still not con­nected to the Internet, according to The State of Broadband 2024 from the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

The first part of the Broad­band Commission report reviews how AI solutions can accelerate progress on broadband advocacy targets aimed at getting every­one online and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Emerging technology trends such as artificial intelligence are anticipated to add trillions to the global digital economy,” says Pau­la Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation.

“The ability to harness artifi­cial intelligence to revolutionise access to broadband and other services as well as boost produc­tivity for different sectors will re­quire massive investments in the building blocks including power, connectivity and computing re­sources, particularly in emerging economies.”

According to The State of Broadband 2024: Leveraging AI for Universal Connectivity, emerging technologies stand to revolutionise the way decisions are taken and services are pro­vided.

The report highlights how AI is already reshaping the delivery of traditional services for human well-being in sectors such as gov­ernment, education, healthcare and finance.

The analysis also identifies challenges associated with AI and other emerging technolo­gies. These include energy con­sumption, misinformation, rein­forcement of biases and gender discrimination. Commissioners focused on how to mitigate risks of emerging technologies while maximising the benefits.

“The use of AI is not new, but recent advancements in data, computing power, and algorithms are driving innovative services,” says Carlos Slim, founder and president of Grupo Carso and co-chair of the commission.

“The rapid development of generative AI (GenAI) highlights its potential for original content and new applications. We must redesign talent and retrain work­ers in digital skills to maximise these benefits.”

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In Nigeria for instance, Ar­tificial Intelligence, the simu­lation of human intelligence in machines, is rapidly gaining traction. AI technologies, such as machine learning and natural language processing, are being utilized across various sectors, including healthcare, finance, agriculture, and education.

In healthcare, AI is used to enhance disease diagnosis, drug discovery, and patient care. In­telligent algorithms can analyze vast amounts of medical data, leading to quicker and more ac­curate diagnoses.

In addition, AI-powered chat­bots and virtual assistants im­prove patient engagement and provide 24/7 medical support.

The finance sector leverag­es AI for fraud detection, risk assessment, and personalized banking experiences. Intelligent algorithms can detect suspicious patterns, identify potential risks, and enhance security measures.

AI-powered chatbots are also being employed for customer ser­vice, offering real-time support and personalized recommenda­tions.

In agriculture, AI is helping farmers optimize crop yield and improve resource management. AI-based systems can analyze soil data, weather patterns, and crop conditions to provide actionable insights for better decision-mak­ing. This technology is instru­mental in mitigating the effects of climate change and improving food security.

The education sector benefits from AI through personalised learning platforms, intelligent tu­toring systems, and adaptive as­sessments. AI algorithms can an­alyze student performance data and tailor educational content to individual needs, enabling more effective and engaging learning experiences.

An estimated 2,6-billion people around the world remain offline, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN Agency for Digital Tech­nologies.

While overall Internet use is increasing, the benefits of ac­cess are unevenly distributed, reinforcing persistent digital di­vides affecting women and peo­ple in countries with lower eco­nomic development. The elderly and people with disabilities are among other groups being left behind.

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“Broadband is fundamen­tal to ensure that everyone can benefit from digital technologies when so many people are still offline around the world,” says ITU secretary-general Doreen Bogdan-Martin, co-vice chair of the commission. “AI and other emerging technologies can help efforts to achieve universal mean­ingful connectivity, and it’s our job to make sure this happens in a way that is responsible for people and the planet.”

The Broadband Commission reviewed progress on its 2025 Advocacy Targets, comprising seven objectives for action in broadband development and uni­versal connectivity. One target for mobile broadband affordability is close to being achieved. A tar­get for gender equality in access to broadband has been achieved for some countries, although not globally.

The commission notes that AI and emerging technologies can drive progress on broadband and the SDGs. However, balancing the promotion of AI benefits while managing the challenges is a key task for policy-makers who are “racing to catch up” to the impli­cations of the technologies.

“Having two thirds of the world’s population now online is a cause for celebration. But with only half as many connected in least-developed countries, and even less among women, the new report shows the urgent work still to be done,” says UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay, co-vice chair of the commission.

“We must also address the risks faced by those online, through better governance of digital platforms, ethical use of AI and massive upscaling in dig­ital skills, including media and information literacy,” he added.

Source: Independent

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