unctad.org | Making Silicon Valley's success more inclusive and sustainable
Making Silicon Valley's success more inclusive and sustainable
15 May 2019
Project Loon
Half of the global population is online. "Digital giants" can help to bring more people online but new policies are needed to make benefits from the digital economy more inclusive.


“The world needs a new business model to make the global goals a reality,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi at the Sonoma County Public Library during a recent tour of public initiatives that are part of the Silicon Valley digital ecosystem.

Dr. Kituyi was visiting Silicon Valley with other UN heads for discussions with some of the digital economy’s major players on how to put innovative technology to work for the benefit of those who have been left furthest behind by the new global digital landscape.

Also on the tour were Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union Houlin Zhao, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries Fekita K. Utoikamanu and Executive Director of the International Trade Centre Arancha González, among others.

Silicon Valley 

Among the highlights was a visit to Google’s “Project Loon” that provides internet access to rural and remote areas using high-altitude balloons.

It was named Project Loon because even Google itself found the idea of using balloons to provide internet access to the remaining half of the world’s population unprecedented and "loony".

Dr. Kituyi praised the spirit of innovation, empathy and public service on display after visiting technology laboratories and projects showcasing how broadband can be used for agriculture and rural development.

Expanding broadband for development

Silicon Valley

The tour was part of the spring meeting of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development of which Dr. Kituyi is a commissioner, which took place 28 and 29 April at Facebook headquarters in San Francisco, California.

The Broadband Commission’s visit to Silicon Valley was timely, as “big tech” companies are increasingly among the largest companies in the world accounting for a quarter of the market capitalization of the world’s top 100 multinationals.

These global “digital giants” are also concentrated geographically in the United States and China. International support and collaboration are therefore needed on a massive scale to prevent digital divides from widening.

Dr. Kituyi joined fellow commissioners representing the broadband industry, governments, academia and United Nations agencies in examining future trends and developments now that more than half of the global population is online.

Held under the theme "Shaping the Future of Broadband for Sustainable Development", the meeting explored how collaborative approaches could contribute to faster digital transformation.

The commissioners explored how investment strategies and people-centred approaches enable people to get and remain online in an informed, inclusive, secured and sustainable manner.

They also examined the use of innovative partnerships and business models to enable the expansion of broadband networks and foster secured uptake and the development of digital skills in remote and rural areas to ensure widespread access to the benefits of broadband.

The commission was created in 2010 in response to former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to step up efforts to leverage information and communications technology and broadband-based technologies to accelerate development.

Commissioners, who combine perspectives from both policymaking and the private sector, engage in high-level advocacy to promote broadband in developing countries and underserved communities. They gather twice a year.


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