How satellite connectivity bridges the digital divide

15 March 2017

Rupert Pearce, CEO, Inmarsat

  • broadband

On 16-17 March, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, of which Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce is a commissioner, will be discussing the role of satellite technology in widening access to the modern digital world. Here he considers the incredible impact that reliable connectivity has on people’s lives.

At a UN summit in September 2015, world leaders signed up to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which included ending extreme poverty, ensuring healthy lives for all, and delivering inclusive, lifelong learning – and gave themselves until 2030 to achieve them.

Clearly it’s an enormous task. But by opening up access to the modern digital world we can give isolated communities many of the tools they need to grow and prosper.

At the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, we aim to showcase the power of ICT and broadband-based technologies by bringing together and leveraging the expertise of CEOs, industry leaders, government representatives and development organisations from around the world.

We all have one common belief – that the use of broadband networks and services can have a hugely positive impact on developing countries and communities – and I am extremely proud to be part of it.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was set up in 2010 by UN agencies the ITU and UNESCO to promote the expansion of high speed broadband in every country and boost its importance on the international policy agenda. Originally the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, it changed its name in 2015 after adopting the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.

My role with the Commission also includes chairing one of its four Working Groups – Space and Upper Atmosphere Technology. We look at how technologies such as satellite communications can help achieve the SDGs, both as the sole provider of connectivity and as part of an integrated solution that incorporates other wireless and wired technologies.

Satellite communication systems can help bridge the digital divide in three critical ways – they are global, resilient and reliable. With just a PC and a multi-user satellite terminal, people anywhere on the planet can gain instant access to education, healthcare, banking and business – all the essential building blocks of a sustainable society in today’s digital economy.

I’d like to share just a few of the incredible projects that Inmarsat is already involved in as part of our public service support to serve all areas where there is a need for mobile satellite communications.

An eHealth project run by the charity SOS Children’s Villages in Benin, West Africa enables rural community health clinics to send patients’ medical information to doctors in urban hospitals via our broadband data service BGAN Link. This one project is helping around 1,350 children and their families with health monitoring and early diagnosis of conditions.

Children caught up in conflict can join in internet lessons at mobile learning centres set up in refugee camps by our partner Télécoms Sans Frontières.

Inmarsat also works around the world supplying secure, encrypted satellite services to connect banks to remote and temporary branches. We helped the Equity Bank Group to deliver financial services to 200 sites across Kenya, where through local agents people can get quick, reliable access to internet banking and other data-based services.

This is just a snapshot of the ways that high capacity broadband satellite solutions are already making tangible changes to people’s lives.

I’m looking forward to working with the Broadband Commission, to continue our discussions on how broadband can be promoted for the greatest public benefit and what more can be done to support global progress on all the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • For more information, download Inmarsat’s white paper on sustainable development.

About the author

rupert bioRupert Pearce joined Inmarsat in January 2005 as Group General Counsel and, from January 2009, additionally held the position of Senior Vice President, Inmarsat Enterprises. He became Chief Executive Officer in January 2012. Previously, Rupert worked for Atlas Venture, where he was a partner working with the firm’s European and US investment teams. He was previously also a partner at the international law firm Linklaters, where he spent 13 years specialising in corporate finance, M&A and private equity transactions. Rupert received an MA (First Class) in Modern History from Oxford University and won the 1995 Fullbright Fellowship in US securities law, studying at the Georgetown Law Center. He has been a visiting fellow of the Imperial College Business School, London, lecturing on the school’s Entrepreneurship programme, and is the co-author of Raising Venture Capital (Wiley).

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