These transformations are the result of both scale and innovation. However, they have been set in motion without concentrated government efforts. If these examples were deliberately and specifically considered by the 110 countries that have national broadband plans (and those that still do not), we would be much more likely to achieve the positive transformations that we all want.
This shift in awareness among policymakers will be crucial not just for socio-economic improvement, but also for creating a low-carbon economy, which will require moving from the energy-intensive physical infrastructure of the last century to the connected, information-based infrastructure of the 21st century. We need a new paradigm that enables us to decouple GDP growth from carbon emissions, thereby ensuring further poverty reduction without causing greater environmental damage.
The potential is there, but too often government talks to government and industry talks to industry. Public-private partnerships are essential to solving these shared challenges. Development agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector should work more effectively together to create scalable and maintainable solutions.
Two forums are making great strides. One is the Broadband Commission, which advocates for broadband as a key infrastructure of the 21st century. The other is the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which seeks to leverage the private sector’s wealth of resources — its innovative capacity, research and development, management skills, and know-how — to turn policy ideas into reality.
Already, industries that have traditionally operated independently — from energy to utilities to transportation — are moving quickly toward cross-sector collaboration, radically altering the business environment and creating opportunities for new low-carbon business models to thrive.
With concentrated public-private efforts, and proactive governments like those of Sweden, Australia and India, to name a few, the networked society will produce transformative solutions that lift billions of people out of poverty and help us to sustain our planet. We may not be able to imagine what the future holds, but we know that the networked society will shape its possibilities.
Hans Vestberg is CEO of Ericsson.
Copyright: Project Syndicate