How broadband and digitization impact the global economy

Carmen Prado-Wagner, Senior Programme Officer, ITU Regulatory and Market Environment Division

As the global economy reels from the shock of COVID-19, decisions taken now that impact social and economic recovery and growth will be of the utmost importance for the decade ahead.


The ITU report ‘How broadband, digitization and ICT regulation impact the global economy’ looks at how fixed and mobile broadband as well as digital transformation impact the economy, globally and at regional levels.

This report shows how broadband technologies and effective ICT regulation can both help grow national economies and power prosperity.

Countries should leverage regulatory frameworks and institutions in accelerating digitization – forging sound ICT policies that maximize economic impact within a simplified institutional structure.
At a glance: Key findings

  • Mobile broadband generates a larger economic contribution than fixed broadband, when examined globally.
  • Developing countries benefit more from mobile broadband than industrialized countries.
  • Developed countries with a high penetration of fixed broadband enjoy a greater benefit from technology than developing nations.
  • The economic contribution of digitization is higher in advanced economies than in emerging countries.
  • Digitization contributes significantly to labour and total factor productivity.
  • The development of digitization is driven by institutional and regulatory factors and not only by variables such as economic development.
  • Digitization accelerates when a country introduces structural changes in policy and institutions which are related to digital technologies – after a time lag.

Key recommendations
Developing countries should accelerate the development of mobile broadband to maximize economic impact.

In addition to putting a strong focus on mobile broadband, developing country governments should consider the following concrete steps:

    1.  Encourage policy and regulatory measures to boost infrastructure deployment in rural and isolated areas – for example the sharing of infrastructure, interconnectivity, and effective use of spectrum.
    2.  Promote emerging technologies that help provide affordable digital infrastructure and services.
    3.  Promote mobile broadband infrastructure in remote and rural areas through incentives for the private sector. Stimulate collaboration across private sector firms within your digital ecosystem.
    4.  Boost mobile broadband affordability of non-adopters through government initiatives that target the most vulnerable populations.
    5.  Reinforce the impact of economic measures with the promotion of Internet content that is meaningful and relevant to your population – and ensure this is in local languages.
    6.  Build the digital skills of non-adopters to address digital illiteracy.

Developed countries should focus on technologies that accelerate the digitization of production as well as:

  1.  Promote commercial and investment cases that combine the benefits of telecommunications infrastructure with technologies such as AI, AR/VR to grow infrastructure and ICT demand from enterprises.
  2.  Use regulatory sandboxes enabling enterprises to test emerging technologies free of regulation.
  3.  Spectrum allocation and new services. Launch 5G pilot projects to support the design of future spectrum allocations – at the same time stimulating the adoption of new services.
  4.  Balance new technologies with re-skilling. Recognize that advanced technologies can eliminate jobs – ensure digital skills requirements are identified and retraining put in place.
  5.  Maintain flexibility on regulatory rules and procedures (for example the use of spectrum) to foster innovation and new technologies.
  6.  Recognize that building infrastructure is long term and requires long-term policies for predictability and regulatory certainty.
  7.  Recognize that competition needs to protect consumers, while delivering returns to commercial players making the investment in a balanced way.

Get the regional story
Related to this report are six regional analyses that offer rich detail and important local insights for Africa, the Americas, Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Commonwealth Independent States (CIS) and Europe.

The report lays down important markers as we help reinvent and recast the shape of post-COVID-19 economies worldwide.

Learn more about the economic contribution of broadband, digitization and ICT regulation and discover the six regional analyses here.

For more ITU Publications on economics and finance, visit

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