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ITU’s global connectivity fund enroute 2026 target, hits $50b

The UN Agency for digital technologies, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on Monday, announced $4.8 billion in investment commitments toward global connectivity. The announcement brings the total pledges aimed at closing the digital divide through ITU’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition (P2C) to $50.96 billion, over half the $100 billion goal set for 2026.

  The pledges to Partner2Connect, ITU’s platform to advance universal meaningful connectivity, were announced during the opening day of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+20 Forum High-Level Event in Geneva, Switzerland.   Among the new commitments announced at the WSIS Forum event are pledges that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance digital access, adoption and inclusion.   ITU Secretary-General, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said: “Closing the digital divide requires a team effort, and today we scored a huge win for global connectivity. I am thrilled to see these amazing new commitments and that we have united P2C and WSIS to break through the halfway point in our goal to help bring the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone, everywhere.”   ITU informed that AT&T will help 25 million people in the hardest-to-connect areas in the United States to get and stay connected by 2030 through a commitment of $3 billion. This brings to $5 billion the total committed by AT&T since 2021 to narrow the digital divide. The additional $3 billion commitment will address the main barriers to connectivity – affordability and adoption – for those who need it most.   The government of Canada will also be investing in computing infrastructure to support AI businesses and researchers in the country through the CAD 2 billion ($1.46 billion) AI Compute Access Fund. Also, an additional commitment to invest CAD 400 million ($292 million) in the adoption of AI across Canada’s economy; help small and medium-sized enterprises introduce AI into their businesses; protect workers with skills development; and create a new Canadian AI Safe Institute to help Canada better understand and protect against the risks of advanced AI systems.   ITU said Elle International has three pledges worth $106 million to improve the quality of life of 20 million women and girls in South Africa through the provision of digital platforms, smart solutions, data, and AI models that drive connectivity, digital transformation, and open science in women’s health.   According to the UN arm, Microsoft pledged to support projects and prioritise partnerships to rapidly accelerate how people with disabilities are included in and represented by the systems, designs and features of technology, including AI. This raises to five the total number of P2C commitments from Microsoft.   “Because of the leadership, vision and ambition of P2C’s pledgers, millions of people will be allowed to have more accessible, more affordable digital technologies for socio-economic growth, improved health and everything that makes connectivity meaningful,” said Bogdan-Martin. “It’s extremely exciting to see new pledges begin to leverage the power of artificial intelligence to transform the inclusive digital societies we all aspire to build.”

The WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event is meeting from May 27 to 31 to address challenges and log achievements in the two decades since the multi-stakeholder WSIS process was established.   At the WSIS Forum event, government ministers and officials from over 160 countries as well as representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia, the technical community, the UN System and intergovernmental organizations are analysing key trends shaping the world, including artificial intelligence, space for sustainable development, and other fast-evolving topics.   The WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event outcome will inform the UN General Assembly WSIS+20 review scheduled for September 2025 to identify how WSIS processes can support the Global Digital Compact expected to be agreed as part of the Summit of the Future later this year.

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