The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has marked a historic milestone as it announces an expanded membership exceeding 1,000 entities, alongside its 193 Member States. This announcement, made at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, is complemented by over USD 9 billion in investment commitments from leading mobile operator groups, signaling a concerted effort to extend global connectivity.

ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin expressed optimism, stating, “Universal meaningful connectivity is within our grasp.” These new commitments, totaling over USD 46 billion, are set to fuel infrastructure, services, and support initiatives under ITU’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition.

Among the notable commitments announced at MWC:

  • e& pledges USD 6 billion to bolster accessible and affordable network connectivity and digital services across regions spanning the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
  • China Telecom commits over USD 1.4 billion to deploy fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), serving over 80 million people in remote Chinese administrative villages.
  • Ooredoo earmarks USD 1.1 billion for connectivity initiatives in developing markets across North Africa to the Indian Ocean.
  • VEON allocates USD 600 million to fortify Ukraine’s infrastructure, crucial for the country’s reconstruction efforts.

These commitments come at a crucial juncture as ITU data reveals that 2.6 billion people remain offline globally. Bridging this digital divide necessitates substantial investments in telecommunications infrastructure, which underpin digital transformation across various sectors.

ITU’s call for USD 100 billion in investments by 2026 underscores the urgency to extend universal, meaningful connectivity and sustainable digital transformation worldwide. Beyond infrastructure, Partner2Connect commitments aim to address critical needs such as digital skills development and increasing digital inclusion.

Moreover, ITU celebrates its most diverse membership base in history, comprising industry, academia, and organizational members. This expanded membership underscores ITU’s commitment to fostering a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to bridge the digital divide and build an inclusive, safe, and sustainable digital future for all.

ITU’s industry members play a pivotal role in developing international standards and guidelines, shaping the future digital economy through collaboration with governments, academia, and civil society. With two-thirds of its sector members hailing from industry, ITU’s global reach spans developed and developing economies, driving innovation and connectivity worldwide.

As the specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs) within the United Nations, ITU remains dedicated to connecting the world through broadband networks, wireless technologies, satellite communication, and more.

The announcements made at MWC signal a collective commitment to advancing global connectivity, underscoring ITU’s pivotal role in driving innovation and inclusivity in the digital age.