ITU’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition has identified new connectivity projects worth $7-billion worldwide in 2023, the UN tech agency announced at ​Partner2Connect’s second annual meeting in Geneva.

The new commitments increase to nearly $37-billion the value of resources mobilised by Partner2Connect (P2C) since the pledging platform opened in March 2022.

ITU reported earlier this year that 2,6-billion people around the world still live without a connection to the Internet. The new resources are expected to help increase access to affordable and meaningful connectivity for those that who​ remain offline.

“Partner2Connect is about big numbers but even bigger human impact stories,” says Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU secretary-general. “Behind the numbers are people and organizations committed to making a difference in the lives of hard-to-connect communities.”


Closing the digital divide 

Data presented at the annual meeting show strong focus on programmes targeting the gender digital divide and benefitting the globe’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Women are specified among the beneficiary groups in over half of the pledges in the Partner2Connect platform. Earlier this year, ITU’s Facts and Figures 2023 showed that only 65% of women use the Internet compared with 70% of men.

One-third of the pledges target at least one of the world’s Least Developed Countries. The Internet is currently considered to be affordable in only two of the 46 LDCs.

In 2023, ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau held a series of regional matchmaking roundtables to ensure that the needs or priorities of individual countries and regions were matched with partner pledges to help operationalise the announced commitments.

“The Partner2Connect Digital Coalition is one of ITU’s key global multi-stakeholder initiatives,” says Dr Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “The matchmaking roundtables are crucial for guaranteeing tangible impact on the ground and enhancing people’s quality of life through universal and meaningful Internet connectivity.”


Funding the way forward 

Earlier this year, ITU called for $100-billion in pledges by 2026 to mobilize the experti​se, resources, and investment for projects to reach those in the hardest-to-connect communities.

Overall, the number of pledges received by Partner2Connect this year increased by 55%, with the number of pledging entities rising by close to 60%. By the end of 2023, almost three-quarters of the 280 pledges ​reported on were in progress.

Among other commitments highlighted at the annual meeting were pledges dedicated to providing connectivity for refugees and advancing digitally-driven climate action. The commitments related to refugee connectivity were made ahead of UNHCR’s Global Refugee Forum, at which additional pledges involving ITU will be announced.

Updates on existing pledges and announcements of new pledges were also made by the P2C Champions – Amazon, Microsoft and ZTE – organisations who have all committed to helping maximize the impact of the P2C Digital Coalition, broaden support for its activities, and strengthen coordination with similar platforms.


EQUALS in Tech Awards

The second Partner2Connect Annual Meeting closed with the 10th EQUALS in Tech Awards Ceremony, introduced by Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York, a prominent advocate for women’s rights who has championed initiatives that promote inclusivity and equality.

The EQUALS in Tech Awards celebrate initiatives, projects, organisations, and institutions that have displayed extraordinary commitment to bridging the gender divide in the realm of digital technologies.

The award winning projects in their respective categories and countries are:​

* Thaki: Unlocking Potential (Access/Lebanon)

* IT and Entrepreneurial Skills Training Great Lakes Region (Skills/Democratic Republic of Congo)

* Centro de Géneros en Technología (Leadership in Tech/Argentina)

* (Re)building Ukrainian Businesses (Leadership in SMEs/Poland-Ukraine)

* Preventing and Mitigating Gender Bias (Research/Mexico)

To mark the 10th anniversary of the awards, finalists were selected from more than 132 nominated initiatives from 54 countries.