In May 2011, the global community adopted the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA), to be implemented by 2020. The main objective of the IPoA is to overcome the structural challenges faced by the least developed countries (LDCs) in order to eradicate poverty, achieve internationally agreed development goals and enable graduation from the LDC category.

Half way through the implementation of the IPoA, the majority of LDCs are growing at less than 7 per cent per annum, the target set in the IPoA (and also incorporated in SDG 8). The number of LDCs that grew at 7 per cent or more has been showing a declining trend. In 2014, only eight grew at 7 per cent or more, down from 14 and 16 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The percentage of LDC exports in total world exports accounted for roughly 1.1 per cent of world’s exports in 2014, which is well below the targets of the IPoA and SDGs of 2 per cent.

Given the importance of broadband connectivity for this group of countries, many LDCs have made progress in improving access to internet and mobile telephony although average access levels remain low. Broadband penetration in LDCs is much lower, relative to developing countries and abysmally low when compared with developed countries. In 2016, the percentage of fixed and mobile broadband subscriptions in LDCs represented only 0.8 per cent and 19.4 per cent, respectively. On the other hand, in developed countries, fixed and mobile broadband subscriptions were about 30.1 and 90.3 per cent, respectively.

Investing in broadband can lead to among others: employment creation in sectors that are likely to be using ICT in transformative ways, such as finance, education and healthcare; increased innovation and productivity; and, better governance. Therefore, investing in broadband would contribute towards meeting some of the IPoA priorities (e.g. IPoA, paragraph 47.1.c) and SDG 9.c. that calls for significantly increasing access to information and communications technology and providing universal and affordable access to the Internet in LDCs by 2020.